People

Mixed Media

Netflix is excellent for all the reasons you imagine it isn’t.

You can never quite find the thing you’re looking for; there are films like the one you want to see, but they aren’t that like it; there are only the last three seasons of the TV programme you love, never the first two good ones; you only realise your favourite series is there a week before it’s taken down, or your favourite film is there a week after. You’d therefore imagine Netflix to be the ultimate Boulevard of Broken Dreams. But no! Because, in those dead hours, whilst you flick through the bizarre categories it’s come up with for you on the TV interface, and you find out just how many 1980s Arthouse Gay and Lesbian SciFi Movies with a Strong Female Lead there actually are, you can find some absolute gems that you would never, ever see under any other circumstances that didn’t involve time travel back to the actual 1980s and a visit to a very specific video rental shop and its remainder shelf.

This is how I found ‘Rescue Mediums’.

Of course, I was always going to find it. Netflix and I are old friends by now, and it knows what I like. It knows that I have a higher than average tolerance for the worst of US ‘psychic’ ‘reality’ ‘TV’ ‘shows’. (Honestly. Having put one term in inverted commas, what could I do?)

I love paranormal bullshit. I always have. I grew up in the 70s and 80s; prime schlock ghost era. I read all the King, Herbert and Barker I could, and all my dad’s Dennis Wheatley, before getting a bit esoteric and discovering Crowley, Wilson, Lovecraft, Forteana and associated weirdness. The thrill of finding a Pan Book of Horror Stories in a second hand book shop is still a wonderful thing. I yearn for dramas as good as the odder ‘Tales of the Unexpected’, or Nigel Kneale’s ‘Beasts’, and I even have a vague remaining fondness for ‘Rentaghost’. I compare every ghost hunt I see on TV to ‘Ghostwatch’ or ‘This House is Haunted’ and they all come up wanting. Yes, even ‘Haunted Collector’ and his Museum of Evil. Even, EVEN ‘Most Haunted, these days – although once it was glorious, when Derek Acorah was in full, insane swing with his many voices and his utter lack of awareness of his own gullibility*.

There has been an upsurge in cheaply made Most Haunted-lite imports from the US in the darker recesses of the free cable channels, as I’m sure anyone who works shifts, has young children or can’t sleep will realise. Most of them are not even awful enough to be any good. They’re just a bit rubbish, and rarely bother putting enough effort in to try varying the formula. A team of twenty somethings with one syllable names and an important sounding but ultimately meaningless role on the Team, will usually turn up at an impressively large and ominous building.

North America seems to have made up for its lack of actual ancient buildings with a plethora of abandoned asylums, murder hotels, follies built by mad millionaires, entire abandoned towns, forgotten settlements, money pits, plasterboard castles, roadside legends and other places where you’d think if ghosts were anywhere, then surely…?

There’s the ‘background’ to the show, which will often mislead you into making it sound vaguely interesting. A recreation (why??) of a video call comes in to the team from an anguished couple or young family who have made their selections from the haunted bingo card: cold spots, feeling like they are being watched, items being moved from where they were left, mysterious noises in the night, strange feelings, food missing from the fridge, odd sensations, etc, etc. One of the team is sent off to do enough research about the area that they are absolutely bound to get a hit of some kind – god bless the internet and extrapolation! – and the others set up their equipment.

This is where most of them leave me cold. They get their night vision cameras, their EVP recorders, their EMF meters, their whistles, bells and monitors galore. I especially love if they are recording outside, and are surprised that they capture sounds or movement. We get an hour of fuzzy background noise and static, ‘orbs’ (its dust, guys. Dust and insects), electromagnetic signals from the environment and shrieking from the team, with lots of shaky hand held camera work and shots of huge dilated pupiled eyes in night vision mode. All of this is given great import, and tied into the one unsolved murder or disappearance that their research monkey has found. The end.

Sometimes, it’s like they’re not even trying, honestly.

So, I started watching ‘Rescue Mediums’ without much hope of anything new. I’d been pleasantly surprised, and then bewildered, but sadly, ultimately bored by the Weather Channel’s ‘Super/Natural’, shortly before this. I was prepared to be let down again.

My first surprise was that this was no team of dynamic young people in a Mystery Machine full of pseudo-scientific equipment. The series opened not only with two middle aged ladies, but two middle aged ladies from the North of England. Be still my beating heart! And surely it wasn’t just their endearing Northerness that made them seem so familiar. And indeed, Jackie had previously been on the excellent Ch4 programme ‘My Psychic Life’ in 2015, which I encourage you to seek out and marvel at. I would of course remember her from that, having seen it several times. (ahem)

But, back to ‘Rescue Mediums’. On Netflix, we’re starting from series 6, and so I shall assume there are previously established reasons behind the format choices. On each new case, for example, our two intrepid Rescue Mediums turn up in a different (and frequently bizarre) vehicle. Maybe I’ll have to find series one and discover perfectly good story arcs for all these odd quirks.

We open with our two intrepid ladies, off on their travels to their previously undisclosed location. I assume they just drive until the spirits tell them they’re there.

Jackie and Alison chat to each other the entire time, be they on or off camera, as only two people who have been told to constantly explain what they are doing can.

“Do we know where we’re going today, Jackie?”

“I’ve no idea, Alison. Do you?”

“No, me neither, Jackie. I hope we don’t get lost! Wouldn’t that make for a very boring show for the viewers?!”

“It really would, Alison!”

But, before they arrive at their ‘entirely unknown’ location, they always do a bit of precognition work, and some ‘psychic art’.

(I would draw your attention at this stage and throughout the show to the amount of paperwork and general background produced but not referenced. It’s always worth considering with any ‘psychic’ show just how much stuff doesn’t make it to screen. Particularly on shows like those with the execrable John Edwards, James Van Praaaaaagh and their ilk, there are hours of misses for every ‘hit’ you see that makes it to screen. For every ‘Karen’ – which is the name of that lady’s dead daughter, and how could he possibly know?? – he’s gone through Katie, Kylie, Kevin, Keith, Kora, Cathy, Camilla, Clothilda, Caroline, Claude, Chenille, Cosmo, Cumin, Martin, Table… You get the idea. And even so, you will still only remember the bits that are relevant later, not the bits that aren’t. That’s how this stuff works. Sorry. It’s a very similar deal with a private sitting, or reading your palm, or your cards, or even your horoscope.)

Jackie is, amongst her other talents, a Psychic Artist. And, having seen examples of psychic art before, she’s actually not that bad, comparatively. Whether her psychic art looks like who it’s supposed to look like during later revelations is another matter entirely, but when you’ve only got one fuzzy black and white photo to go from, it’s kind of a moot point. So, they write down some key phrases, dates, do some drawings of random stuff and off they go in their Very Random Vehicle to this week’s troubled family.

There’s a quick meet and greet, then they compare their random phrases from their precognition session to the family’s random phrases about their experiences. They are often pretty much the same, oddly enough. Still, these ladies are psychic!

I bet, having been reading this far, you’re feeling pretty psychic too, and can guess the sort of phrases they come up with. To be honest, I bet you could guess some of the dates, too. This is set in the US, after all… But wait! We spotted that this series had a markedly different feel to so many of the other imported US psychic shows, and it took us a couple of episodes to realise that this was because it is actually based in Canada. No wonder everyone is so polite!

But, I digress. Being set in North America, the date range for spooky events and historic figures is usefully limited, research-wise. Anyone can happily play Psychic ‘guess the year’ with US shows, and get a fair to good hit rate, and ‘fair to good’ is enough for anyone with a bit of moxie to make a living at. QED.

Having impressed the troubled family with their precognition and drawings, along with their gentle Northern British accents, (which, according to the opening credit illustrations, make them posh upper class ladies, by the way) the Rescue Mediums proceed to explore the location. They don’t have any fancy electronics, or any strange equipment. They might burn a bit of sage or fetch a crystal out of a pocket if the atmosphere isn’t very nice, but that’s it.

It’s all delightfully friendly. Maybe it’s the combination of Northern British straightforward, nice-cup-of-tea homeliness and Canadian polite practicality.

They wander around in their comfy but stylish, classy catalogue clothes, looking like one of your Auntie’s mates who she sees down the pub on Fridays. You know the one, she works part time as a receptionist, and has her hair done every month, gets lowlights in autumn gold, and actually is a good laugh, and you should have seen her at Julia’s hen night… I think I’m in love with their ordinariness. It’s no surprise that they’ll be on a Psychic Cruise. I can see them on a cruise.

Anyway, they do a bit more chatting about how they’re walking around and how they’re feeling as they’re walking around. Once they find the problem area, they’ll agree they’ve found the problem area, and probably have a bit of a sit down.

Usually, they’ve spotted a spirit by then, too. Sometimes, more than one. To help the audience relate to this, we get a bit of camera trickery, which would seem to be one of the crew in reverse image (to look more spooky?) playing the role of the spirit. It’s usually one of the same three people, anyway; a man, a woman or a smaller person/child as suits the spirit they’ve spotted. Jackie and Alison decide between them what the spirit’s problem is – maybe it’s sad, or confused, or lost – explain things to it, and send it into the light.

If it’s an angry spirit, they put it in a ‘Crystal Cave’, then give it the choice of going into the light, or staying in the crystal cave. The episode I saw with an angry spirit, the spirit chose to go into the light. Again, it’s quite a simple process, and took about as long as it took me to type that. Luckily, spirits aren’t too cunning, and it didn’t say it was going to go into the light, then snuck away at the last minute or anything.

I’m being facetious here, and have no understanding of the complexities involved, I readily admit. Maybe spirits can’t do that, and it is that simple.

But there we go. Job done.

They take a deep cleansing breath, have a little smile and get up and let the family know how they’ve fixed everything. They show them how the history of their house or the area match some of the specifics they noted in their (extensive) precognition papers, everyone hugs, and then the Rescue Mediums go off and have a cheeky drink at a seemingly odd and random location chosen PURELY so that they can end on a very bad pun!

Which I think is simply glorious.

I’ve no idea if the Rescue Mediums are the sort of mediums who genuinely believe in everything they’re doing. Maybe they are. Bless them. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit.

 

 

*See additional comments from Dr Ciaran O’Keeffe here, too.

Belief in Better

Human beings work on belief. The simplest philosophy that we all understand is Descartes’ “I think, therefore I am”. Beyond that lies chaos, and we instinctively fear chaos. We are drawn to order, to control, to knowing what will happen and why, and to good things happening to good people.

We want to be those good people. Nice people, in nice homes, with nice families and nice incomes, and nice things will happen to us and everything will be fine.

Good things happening to good people. British values. Strong borders. People like us. Safe people.

I mean, why should you support asylum seekers who have just arrived here, immigrants put up at our expense, someone who has never bothered getting a job, some teenager living at home, some bloke with anxiety, a woman who’s got a job but has more children than she can feed – has she not heard of condoms? Why should you, indeed? Why not withhold the few quid from your taxes that goes to welfare, and fingers crossed you never need it.

The problem with not wanting to support minorities is that you can actually become one at any time. It’s weird, and doesn’t really bear thinking about, but there are a million ways you can end up as a minority, and several other exciting way in addition that you can suddenly need the support of the state, as well. And, we will generally all one day become old, at the very least.

A party towards the right wing, like the Conservatives (and boy, are they right, right now) are marvellous, when you’re winning, when you’re on their team. Goodness me, they’re excellent for rewarding their good people for doing their good things. But if you slip off message, if you stop being part of the team…

People have died, under this Conservative government. They have died for being poor, for being disabled or ill. The numbers of children being treated for conditions related to malnutrition  have risen sharply, as have adults, too, especially the elderly. Schools are talking about working on four day weeks to stay open, our NHS, our beloved flagship NHS is sinking. Austerity has done nothing but drive people to foodbanks and despair.

And then, in the weeks leading up to this election, terrible things have happened. Awful, senseless things. They were the acts of misguided individuals, and we all mourn the innocent lives lost on those awful nights here in Manchester, and most recently in London, too.

Now, I have quite a partisan point of view, on this. I took issue with Theresa May’s speech, after London. But beyond the clumsy ‘Islamist’ xenophobia of it, the outdated ‘cyberspace’ phrasing, and the wildly inappropriate scare-mongering, there was one point I could not let go of.

“Enough is enough.”

At first, I was just upset that now, two weeks after Manchester, this was enough. London was enough, but Manchester was not.

And after all, she had been Home Secretary for six years, so someone should have just got terrorists to stab people on Tower Bridge ages ago, since that was all she had been waiting for. We could have had this all dealt with ages ago, guys. Fucksake.

But what really, truly rankled was that “Enough is enough!” was the final shriek of the parent who has not bothered to go and check what the hell their children are doing until they smell smoke or there’s a single, horrible thud and then silence; and they know they should have gone up to check hours ago, but, you know, they had an episode of Eastenders to finish and this gin doesn’t drink itself.

Right. Enough is Enough. No more terrorism. At ALL. And no more INTERNET for ANYONE.

And we’ve all been for too tolerant of extremism, apparently. So it’s all our fault. And not hers.

That’s the final part of her speech that got me. For someone that wants us to go back to proper British values, she’s taking down one of the few remaining ones we’ve got left.

Tolerance never drove anyone to harm. Tolerance never caused anyone to murder. Tolerance is one of our strengths, and she can’t take it off us. Tolerating and accommodating all points of view, all races and religions doesn’t stop us calling out extremism if it puts our way of life at risk, either.

And that’s what we need to do, now. We need to stop tolerating Theresa May’s bare-faced fascism. She’s right not to face the public, or even the opposition. She’s right not to answer any direct questions. She’s right not to even try to defend a direct attack on the competence of the Mayor of London from the President of the United States. Because she doesn’t have any answers. She should simply step down now, stop delaying and let the people who think they are voting for her see what they are actually voting for.

Oh yes.

I’ve got a point.

Please, please remember. Whatever your opinion of Theresa May, and whatever your opinion of Jeremy Corbyn, you are NOT voting for them.

You are not voting for a party leader, you are voting for a party.

It’s entirely possible neither of them will lead the country, come Friday. In the case of Theresa May, it’s extremely likely she will not lead the country on Friday, whatever the result. The fact that she’s done less and less press is very telling, never mind this whole damn election farrago and the fact that the Brexit bucket of shit was dumped on her. She’s off, Friday morning. Odds are, if you vote Tory, you could well be voting for Boris.

Yeah. Think about that. Boris, welcoming Trump to Britain. A true meeting of minds.

This is a very real possibility.

But the other side of this coin is that if you’re not voting Labour because you don’t like Corbyn, you’re a dafty. You aren’t voting for him, you’re voting for your MP in your constituency, and beyond that, for the party that best represents your interests with its policies. Leaders change. Become a party member and you can be part of the decision making process.

Now, perhaps you look at your constituency now, and who you actually get to vote for, and it all looks a bit less exciting. I remember being a lot less excited when I first got to vote, that I didn’t get to vote Thatcher out personally. (Yes, I am that old.) Perhaps you live somewhere with a massive Labour majority, or Conservative, or LibDem, or Plaid Cymru, or SNP –  but not UKIP because nobody likes them. In that case, what difference DOES your vote make?

Look at who your next biggest party is. Look at what your individual councillors are offering. Talk to them, even. Heck knows, they’ll be keen to do so. You can also look at strategic voting and vote swapping. Your vote genuinely does make a difference. Every single goddamn vote makes a difference. Even if you draw a massive vag on it.

So,

Our points today:

Your vote matters, use it well.

You are not voting for a leader, you are voting for a party, and principles.

Theresa May is a bad person, but Boris is much worse.

Beware fascists.

Belief is important to all of us. It is an intrinsic part of being human. Belief is what keeps chaos at bay, belief in the good in others, and that things will be alright in the end. A lot of people don’t dare believe that things will be alright, right now, however. A lot of people are afraid of the result of this election, and they have every reason to be. Five more years of Tory government will be a mandate for oppression in the same way that Brexit was a mandate for racism. I want to believe that change can happen, that it’s safe to hope, mostly because I know belief and hope are catching, and they spread, and good god, wouldn’t that be a thing?

I know it’ll be really shitty on Friday if you have hope and actually, nothing changes. But you know what, it’ll be really shitty anyway. It’s better to have loved and lost…

If people have hope, they spread hope, and people with hope, with belief, do amazing things.

 

 

Buzzin’

 

You’ll hear me coming before you see me.

That noise, that sound, it travels,

Like the drone of a distant plane on a hot summer’s day.

It’s definitely buzzin’.

But then, there I am, larger than life and twice as unlikely.

Dressed for a party that never ends

In bands of contrast, banded together,

With no care for subtlety.

Those bright stripes of warning,

Black and yellow, like the pillars at Fac51,

They’re telling you danger, I’ll ‘ave you,

Don’t you look at me funny, or I might get all up in your face.

But you know what?

You’d actually have to push me so far, so very fuckin’ far,

That it’d kill me

To sting you.

Turns out, I’m here to pollinate your flowers, mate.

And I’ve brought you honey.

 

 

 

 

(Artwork via @lauriepink. She’s my wife. She’s brill)

 

Love From Manchester

 

Say something about this?

Ok.

No. I say No.

I say Fuck right off.

I say not in my fucking name. I say not in the name of my city. I say not in the name of fucking love either, you stupid twats.

Do you know what we send when we send love from Manchester? We send bastarding love, you thick cunts. Love.

And it doesn’t matter if this picture was phtoshopped or not, it just matters that it exists. No one at the other end of a bomb gets to read what’s physically written on it, anyway. But I’m pretty sure no one consulted the people of Manchester before writing that, whoever it was.

And whoever it was, they can fuck off. But not fuck off and die. Because you know what? No one else needs to die. No one. Not one single fucking tosspot of a person.

Not even bloody Morrisey.

Grow up, you daft apaths. Why not come and find out what love from Manchester actually is? There’s enough to go around, you know?

Love from Manchester

x

Voting for Dicks

You have until midnight on Monday 22nd May to register to vote.

Maybe you think you already have, but you’re not sure. It doesn’t matter, you can do it even if you you’re already registered, and check the data that’s publicly searchable on the electoral roll about you whilst you’re there. That’s worth doing, right? Five minutes of your time. You’ve got the option to vote, then, if you choose to use it or not. Choice is important. Don’t lose the option to choose.

Okay. That’s simple. You have to register to vote. There’s no sensible argument against that.

Let’s get on to the important stuff.

Your vote matters.

It matters far more than you imagine.

Maybe you aren’t intending to vote, don’t know who to vote for, hate all the parties, don’t see what difference it makes, feel it’s a waste of time, simply can’t be arsed or just don’t care.

I can understand why you might feel that way, but let me try to explain why you need to get down to the polling station anyway, and why it’s not just important but absolutely vital.

I’m not going to try and tell you who to vote for, or why you should vote for any particular party. That is between you and your conscience, and you’ll make that decision when you stand in the booth with a pencil in your hand. Whatever anyone says to you, whatever you say you’ll do won’t matter until you look at those names and make your mark. Maybe, at that moment, what you’ll actually do is draw a massive, anatomically correct, spurting penis with the word ‘anarchy’ written down its length. Then you’ll fold your slip, walk back to the boxes, post your vote and walk out with a smile on your face and a spring in your step.

And you, my friend, will have voted and I will congratulate you on a job well done.

In the last election, more people didn’t vote than voted for any of the major parties. Maybe you were one of those non-voters. Manchester, I’m looking at you.

Because those people didn’t vote at all, they are mostly disregarded as a useful statistic. We don’t actually know who they are, why they didn’t vote, or what kept them away, so there is nothing practical done to reach them because there’s no way to know how to do so. It’s assumed they simply don’t care, so they’re ignored.

Spoiled papers, on the other hand, those are counted. Spoiled votes include penises, anatomical or otherwise, rude words, other comments on the electoral system and anything that isn’t one mark in the box against one candidate’s name.

Do bear this in mind if you aren’t intending to spoil your vote, too.

A high percentage of spoiled votes would be regarded as significant, and would raise questions about electoral reform. You can still make your voice heard, even if you don’t feel there is a party you can vote for. Don’t stay at home on Election Day.

In this country, there is no option for ‘None of the Above’, although there is a push to have one from one group. You may, if you wish, follow that lead and write NONE on your voting slip, but it is likely down to the individual teller if that is counted as anything but simply ‘spoiled’.

But however you choose to spoil it, a spoiled vote is counted, and if it gets people to the polling stations, if it gets people engaged in the political process, then it’s a start.

A start is good.  We need people to vote, for change to happen, and we need change to happen.

Do bear in mind that I will not accept that politics is all bullshit or boring as an excuse for not voting.

Oh, and you don’t get to be some sort of conscientious objector and fight the system by not taking part because they’re all bastards, either. In this election in particular, you can look at a vote not cast as a vote for the Conservative party, so well done you. Vote for a little party that has something close to ethics, vote for a joke party, spoil your paper, but make your voice heard and have some balls behind your rhetoric. Take some action whilst you have an actual opportunity to do so, or shut the fuck up.

And if you don’t care, then we’re going to have to look at exactly why you don’t care.

Not caring is a privilege, a massive, huge privilege. It means that you’ve not yet ended up with the shitty end of the stick. It means that you’ve not been genuinely poor, or out of work with bills to pay, or sick, disabled or old. It means you’ve not had first hand dealings with the justice system, or children who’ve had problems at school. You’ve never had to go to your MP, because you’ve not known who else to turn to. You’ve not marched, because you’ve felt you’ve had to, and shouted until you were hoarse.

It also means you can’t have had anyone you cared about who has had to experience any of those things. Or if you have, you haven’t cared about that, either. If that is the case, you might well be so selfish and self-centred that this is all wasted on you.

I hope that isn’t the case. I hope you think politics is boring simply because fate and fortune mean you’ve been lucky and just didn’t know why it matters so much, until now.

I’m not going to tell you who to vote for.

But, if you’ve been lucky to never be troubled by any of those issues I’ve listed above, you could say that you’ve always been strong, and stable. Which is lovely. I imagine there’s probably an ideology that prefers exactly that sort of person. I imagine that ideology really doesn’t like those who aren’t strong, or stable. I imagine that ideology would rather be rid of those people. The vulnerable. The weak. The damaged. The disabled and sick. The poor…

I’m not going to tell you who to vote for.

But I am going to tell you that five more years of Tory government will mean that people will die who would not otherwise. People with families, homes, lives. People just like you, but for a turn of fate.

So, vote for whoever you like. Draw a massive cock on your paper if that’s what floats your boat. Just make sure you don’t inadvertently draw it next to the Tory candidate’s name.

Oh, and vote Labour.

Damn. Sorry. It slipped out.

Trump is a Troll

trump

 

Trump is a Troll

Donald Trump is a classic internet troll, especially when he’s on the internet. His twitterfeed is a perfect example; you will check that there’s a blue tick and it’s not actually a parody. Everyone does. It’s unbelievable, and ridiculous, and then scary – just like Trump is in real life, and that’s how you know it’s him.

Internet trolls are simple creatures, and easy to spot with a little practice. There’s been an academic study, and several more user-friendly articles on the back of that, too. But these often relate to deliberate trolling in specific types of forums, rather than that annoying person on facebook who shares David Avocado Wolfe posts, angel wishes and calls you a ‘libtard’ for not hating immigrant children – and they’re trolls, too. Try asking them a direct question, especially about something they’ve just said. All you’ll get is another question – often the one you just asked turned around – accusations, or abuse. Post a statement contradicting their point of view, even with all the evidence in the world, and they’ll just say you are lying. Then, obv, more abuse. How dare you bully them like that? You fascist*.

Unlike a lot of internet trolls, however, Trump is also a troll in real life. This is because he’s basically a narcissistic sociopath**. Lots of trolls behave the way they do on the internet because they don’t see the people they are talking to or about as real people; the text barrier allows them to easily dehumanise the people behind the comments. Trump does this to real people, right in front of him. People whose angry, hurt and frightened responses are right there on their faces and in their body language – but he still doesn’t care. It doesn’t change him or what he’s saying in any way. Even when there is direct, well-founded, empirical evidence right in front of him that contradicts everything he says.

This doesn’t stop him contradicting himself, however. But, even when you can show him direct, empirical evidence of what he himself has said, he still just calls you a liar, and moves right on. He simply doesn’t care what you think, or even what you know. For him, you are just an annoying noise on the outskirts of Trumpworld, and what you believe, think or feel is of no importance. You don’t just not matter, you don’t even exist. This isn’t just you, tiny internet nobody. This is Crooked Hillary, The Lying New York Times, senators, political experts, scientists, even those at the shitty end of the stick he carries with him to beat on his rabble-rousing drum.

So, Trump is trolling reality. Ok, we all know the advice – don’t feed the troll. Smart people are advising this as well: don’t RT his tweets, don’t respond, don’t share facebook posts about him, or articles from the press. It only encourages him, he loves the publicity, and most importantly, you’ll not change the minds of his real supporters.

There’s a core of truth, here. Trolls just say that stuff to get a response, so by giving them one, by caring, you give them more power. Trump does speak for a section of the public, and they adore him. Like with him, there is nothing you can say that will change their minds or alter what they believe – you, just by trying to do this, are part of the conspiracy against him, after all.

But, whilst there’s often no point in continuing to feed a troll, there is a point in responding. Just once, just to say, ‘No. That’s not right, and please don’t say such unpleasant things.’ On the internet, in your local facebook group, say, you can see this with clarity. If someone posts blaming the increase in littering on a particular group of immigrants, then to just ignore it and leave it without any response at all might well mean that the person who posted it will eventually get bored and wander off again. That post will scroll down, and many people will probably not even see it.

But during that time, anyone coming into your group will see that post, and see that no one has even said, ‘Well, I’m not sure that’s entirely the whole issue…’ It will seem, to an outsider, that you’re all tacitly agreeing with it. Yes, maybe you don’t want the whole awful fallout popping up on your alerts, but hopefully a group admin will step in before then, or it’ll be reported and be seen to contravene the Community Standards***. Or you’ll just block them if necessary. There are tools there designed to protect you, and to allow you to say, ‘No, thank you. You’re being rude and hurtful, and I don’t appreciate it,’ without fear of reprisals or abuse.

I’m not in any way saying you need to go full on Social Justice Warrior, and take down anything hinting at bigotry wherever you see it. Please don’t, in fact, as it can be a very unpleasant and occasionally dangerous business. What I am saying is that there is a purpose in responding to misleading posts or sharing the truth when you find it; there is a group that you can and will reach – and that group is The Lurkers.

Look at any group or forum on the internet: it’s a good way of seeing how society works in microcosm. Look at how many members there are, then look at how many actually post regularly. The average can be as low as ten percent. So, what are the other ninety percent doing? They’re enjoying the show! Sometimes they’ll sneak out for a moment to like or reshare something, but often they just stay quiet, reading along.

Huge portions of society are lurkers. Entirely passive, they see everything, but they don’t interact beyond that point. What they see therefore, matters. They either don’t have or don’t wish to use critical thinking skills to look beyond what’s in front of them, and so they are particularly easily mislead by propaganda. Our politicians know this, and so are even less afraid of telling outright lies than ever before.

There was a dream that the internet would democratise information; that one day, everything would be there at our fingertips, and no one could ever lie to us again. Instead, we have the opposite – everything is there, in our eyeline, so we don’t need to make any effort to look any further. Brexit happened because a significant number of people believed what they were told, and voted accordingly. No one can blame them for that – at a pinch, you can even not blame the people who voted for Brexit because they ‘didn’t think it would actually happen’.

Let’s not have that happen, with Trump. Let’s address the people who think he’s just ‘a bit of a laugh’, a ‘character’, just saying ‘the stuff that all blokes think’ or not actually going to win, so it’d be funny to vote for him. Let’s address the people who still think he’s a successful businessman, that he always wins court cases, that the scandals around him have no basis, that he’s not a possible rapist and a definite serial abuser of women. Let’s make sure that the people who think he might speak for them hear what he’s actually saying.

Trump is a troll, but we are going to feed him. We’re going to feed him the bitter truth, even if he spits it back in our faces like the spoilt child he is. We can’t stop Trump and his supporters from saying the awful things they’re saying, and neither should we. Instead, what we can do is to shine a light on every contradiction, every lie, every abusive and aggressive post, every call to violence, every belittling, nasty, childish comment and soundbite. Find the truth, check the truth and then share the hell out of it, whenever you get the chance.

And let’s all do it, because we are a global community now, and our words can travel across national and cultural boundaries. Let’s all do it, because we care about each other as human beings, and because those of us who do care are the majority, and will listen to each other.

And because if that isn’t true, we truly are doomed as a society, whoever the next US president is.

 

 

 

 

*What is it with idiots calling left-wing rhetoric fascist? It happens so often, and it’s really odd.

**I’m not a psychiatrist, and bandying mental health diagnoses around is not a good or smart thing to do, generally. But I make a needful exception in this case.

*** Hahaha. As if…

At Sea

 

“My father’s house has many rooms…”

Well, mine has few, but they all echo with him,

In an endless cycle of lost expectation.

Everything here is soaked in it;

Every scent, every sound, every speck of dust.

And I, still listening in the dark

for the distant ebb and flow of his breathing,

Lie shipwrecked by the wash of the waves,

Caught in the tides called by the gravity of his loss,

The massive pull of the place where he used to be,

Endlessly empty, endlessly filled with his absence.

Everywhere here is full of him.

Everywhere here is where he used to be.

Everywhere echoes with the lost whispers

Of one last story, before I sleep.

Writing Won’t Let Go

I was in an interesting place for most of last summer. Aftet my father died, I spent a lot of time at my mother’s house on Anglesey, and the fact I was already off work was something of a godsend. To be honest, there were just lots of days, one after another, with me and my mum just getting on with living, watching tv, cooking food, idly chatting about something and nothing.

There was something of a distraction in the middle, with our wedding – which would never have happened if not for some of the best friends a person could ever wish for – but I was very much a bystander in my own life for quite a while.

But the world, ignorant bastard that it is, keeps on turning. Shit keeps happening. People live and die without so much as a by your leave. The pictures of the two little brothers washed up on a Turkish beach did send a spark of reality into my wooly haze. The reactions of the press and social media actually impacted on my thinking, and I started talking to people about it, especially on facebook. I undertstood the effectiveness of shocking images in creating a real public outcry, but that didn’t mean that all and sundry should share those pictures in their statuses like random clickbait. We couldn’t do much for those children, I couldn’t do much, but I could ask people sharing the pictures why they were, and if they would consider using another image, because maybe the one thing we could do was try to give them some dignity in death.

I had some really interesting, thoughtful discussions with people I hadn’t spoken to for a long time, and actually felt like I was starting to think again, in some small way. I lay in bed, still thinking over what had happened, and how people were responding to it, and also, the awful, horrible reality of what had happened to that family. I had an odd, recurrent image of an illustration from Charles Kingley’s book, The Waterbabies, of a small, cherubic child sinking down through the depths of the sea, and it wouldn’t leave me. More than the image, the words, ‘Oh my babies, my poor waterbabies…’ kept running through my head, and it took me a little while to recognise the process; I was writing. Writing like I used to. Writing a poem, by repeating and repeating word and rhythms until it would take shape. Part of me was watching myself do this, fascinated, as it had been so long since I wrote anything like poetry.

So, I wrote a few lines, slept a while, dropped them onto facebook for want of anywhere else to put them, and that was that.

I had some really nice responses and a few shares over the next few days, which was lovely. But much more importantly, I felt like I had something of myself back that I had been missing. Times have been up and down since then, but that part of me that wants to craft words into a shape and share them with other people is still there. I’ve written a few things since then, and I’ll share them here with a little bit of context around each one, as suits.

But here is that first one. It’s not perfect, and I think the rhythm isn’t ideal, but it’s the one that my mind wanted, and so it’s the one it has.

 

 

 

I was once told a story about Waterbabies,
And how they were lost, unloved and alone.
Til at last they found sanctuary under the waters
And were taught of the kindness from which love is grown.

But oh my babies, my new Waterbabies,
You were loved so much more than comfort and home.
But you have learned nothing but ruthless exclusion,
And how crocodile tears swell the morning tide’s foam.

Catch Up

There’s been a small gap in my bloggery.

Ok, a fucking huge, yawning abyss of a gap, and, by Christ, this one did stare right back at me.

First, I was busy. Then I was tired. Then, I was ill.

Labyrinthitis is a very odd condition, and more common than you might assume. Turns out I know a few who’ve had it, and several who’ve had it since. Every single experience varies, in pretty much every way. It leaves you feeling sick, dizzy and uncoordinated, and even shifting position in bed can be like a rollercoaster ride – and not in the good way.

Luckily, my experience only lasted around three months, during which I saw two different consultants, had an MRI, hearing checks, physio… God bless the NHS. But as those symptoms faded, I acquired a whole new set to replace them. At first, it seemed that they might be just the result withdrawing too fast from the prochlorperazine that had been so helpful. Sometimes, coming off it makes people anxious. But I got worse and worse, and ended up with a whole new diagnosis of anxiety and depression, the severity of which might have at last started to decrease, nearly 18 months later.

This all in the year that not only did we get married at last, but also my father died.

In amongst all this, work went from being unexpectedly supportive, to less so, to unsupportive, to firing me.

I’m sure I may get some further mileage out of several aspects of this, in time to come. I’ve moved slowly back towards writing over the last year, and feel more and more able to do so. I will start by making a few posts out of the things I’ve written in the interim, and then get back to posting properly, I hope.

There are plenty of things to post about, after all.

Fuck Hate

So, my mental meltdown started not long after I looked up the term ‘kyriarchy’, after doing some research into ‘intersectionality’ and discovering you’re not supposed to ask people what ‘CIS’ means, because your ignorance is NOT THEIR FAULT. Radfems, UKstraightPride and TERFs, oh my.

And my brain went ‘Excuse me?’

And then, ‘What the freaking fucksticks is going on? How in the name of all the fucking demons is this supposed to help anything??’

I mean, come on guys. Do any of you actually KNOW what you’re hoping to achieve? At all?

Now, I’m a lucky person. I have a home, a partner and children. I have a job, and I’m white and educated. I’m not disabled or marginalised in any particular way by society. Check MY privileges out, bitches.

I’m also lucky in that I have good friends from all sorts of diverse backgrounds. None of them seem to hate me for being who I am, and all are happy to talk to me about their experience of the world, and seem glad that I want to understand the way that life may treat them. I was under the impression that this was how we make progress, and live in harmony and all that shit. It’s also how we learn to adjust our thinking, grow as people and develop appreciation of life outside our own personal boxes.

I was also under the impression that marginalisation was a bad thing, and acceptance and understanding and equality for everyone was what we were working towards.

Now, if it’s not what you think we should be working towards, then… well, fuck off, frankly. Sorry, but – and I don’t want to sound like a hypocrite here (see below) – but bigots of whatever nature can just fuck right off. If you have a problem with anyone purely because of whatever subset of humanity they belong to, then you need to rethink your prejudices. I don’t really want you to fuck off; I don’t hate you, but I do question your beliefs.

You see, questioning beliefs is fine. Not just fine – it is important. It is vital. And the only way you can truly maintain your beliefs is by being open to having them questioned, and by being open to hearing the beliefs of people who believe differently to you. If you can’t do this, what you have is not belief, it is dogma, and it is bigotry and it is bad.

Don’t criticise a person because they are part of a group, or criticise a group because of the actions of only a few of its members. Don’t label people just so you can mush them all together and criticise them as a group. If you take away people’s individuality, if you dehumanise them like this, you are just making them easier to criticise, easier to blame, easier to hate and easier to kill. If you talk to individuals about their lives and beliefs and problems, if they then talk to you about yours, if you find common ground – hate goes away. Change happens. Understanding happens. Acceptance and love and nice things and ponies and sweeties and roundabouts and rainbows! Less shit generally.

Haters DON’T gotta hate. Haters have to stop hating, because all hate does is breed more hate. No, you can’t even hate the haters, because hate and aggression both come from fear and insecurity and ignorance. You can’t even silence them, because freedom of speech is important, and it lets us know who the dicks are. Only by communicating with them do we have any hope of changing them.

It’s really easy, and quite satisfying to tell someone who is being a dick to fuck off (See above). But whilst I admit to having done it myself on occasion, it achieves less than nothing.

If you feel society is marginalising you, then speak out. Speak loud, and be proud, and tell people. Fight for your right to be accepted, and to live your life as you choose – so long as you are not hurting or oppressing anyone else by doing so. But choose your words. Remember that other people can’t know what you are going through until you tell them, and if they ask you questions, it’s because they want to understand. If you’re speaking out, you are also putting yourself out there as an expert on your own life experiences. People may ask you questions that seem stupid, but the best way to defeat ignorance is through knowledge. Answer them. Use short simple words. Don’t roll your eyes, even metaphorically. Try not to patronise.

Oh god, and can I go off on a tangent here? Do not accuse anyone of ‘mansplaining’. You’re devaluing what someone says because of their gender. Sexism is a Bad Thing. It applies to anyone. Prejudice is prejudice is prejudice. Hating men counts too. Yes, even if they are being dicks. Being a dick is non-gender specific, non-anything specific.

If you are being mistreated, if you encounter injustice and abuse, if no one understands what you have to deal with on a daily basis – tell people. It’s the only way to end stigma and prejudice and ignorance. But make sure you are then open to hear other people’s experiences, too, and try to show some compassion. No matter what the wrong done to you, no matter how awful the oppression you encounter, and how minor anyone else’s problems seem to be in comparison, please don’t play ‘my pain is worse than your pain’. Pain is pain. There is no prize for being the most hard done to, and there WILL always be someone suffering more than you. There are people being killed and tortured every day, all over the world. People with no one to turn to, little hope and no voice.

You have a voice. Use it well. Use it to bring understanding and defeat ignorance. There is too much hate in the world as it is, so make sure you’re not adding to it.

Whatever someone’s ‘privilege’, whatever their material wealth or fame, whatever their race, gender, religion or level of disenfranchisement – if they are suffering and brave enough to speak out about it, OFFER THEM SUPPORT AND SYMPATHY. Don’t judge them, don’t grade their pain against your chart of worthiness, and don’t belittle or criticise their experience. You are privileged to have been allowed an insight into someone else’s life. That’s the only privilege that counts here. Be damn grateful for it.

Give one other person some hope, and you may find you’ve actually given it to lots of people. The actions of one person can grow and spread, and the only person whose actions you can directly affect is you. Make sure you are doing something for the greater good, when you use the beautiful, wonderful gift of being able to speak your mind and use your voice freely.

Don’t be a dick, dearheart. Be nice.

It works – and you know what, it confuses the people who are being dicks no end. Angry people have no idea what to do with you being nice to them. It wears them down, and makes them listen to you, and makes them rational against their instincts. Shouting is all very well, but a moment of compassion changes people.

Jesus. Did I just turn into the Giving Tree? Fuck. Sorry. I did start off being really pissed off… I’m going off to find some right wing, racist, sexist, ignorant gun-toting dickheads to abuse, now.*

*Not really

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