Monday, 5 December 2011

We can be heroes.

As the five of you who read this will have observed, I have been quiet on here lately. The explanation, like myself, is short and easy. I’ve been out — yes, you guessed it — in single-minded pursuit of fun, laughter and the dispersal of over-introspection, too engaged elsewhere to find the time even to gather my thoughts, let alone spill them forth onto Mac and out into the cyber-beyond. Indeed I have countenanced the possibility that to do so may simply be an exercise in deepening the burgeoning melancholy that passes so much more quickly for placing myself in carefree situations.

Since the days have become shorter, a powerful childhood emotion has arisen and remains, indelibly hardwired into my psyche. No, I’m not going to start talking about that funny feeling I get in my tummy when I think about girls. I’m talking about that curious blend of anticipation, renewal, reluctance and stark fear that comes with the arrival of autumn: “Back To School” time. I’m sure for this reason alone, autumn is a time of self-audit and stock-taking for many. For me, the occurrence of my birthday at the end of September brings with it a definite high-water-mark awareness of the lengthening nights and the concomitant realisation that summer — such as we get here for about three days at any rate — is truly over. This year I’ve felt it more than most: I started 2011 as a thirtysomething chap. With a cruel sense of timing, the autumn has conspired to remind me, as only this time of year can, that on top of everything else upon which to take stock, I am — at 40 — no longer a very young man.

Now, I have previously promised myself — and of course you, dear reader — never more to write an article about writing an article. However, it must be said that keeping a Blog so far has been an interesting way to chart the activity in one’s life. Never mind the content tho’ — the frequency with which I manage to write and post up these articles in particular is the part I find most telling. Consider that I started this thing, conveniently enough, in January — and the austerity of the New Year brought enforced evenings in on those so very cold winter days; consequently, the rate of mental activity increased. Talk is cheap, and blogging equally so, as I found out. As the year wore on and the days lengthened, so I noticed the rate of posting became more limited, restricted as outside events and social activities vied for my fickle, sybaritic attention. So may you forgive me if I have not been quite so active than in previous months. I suspect with the oncoming Festive Season and all its attendant carousing, this situation is not likely soon to change, but once the whirl winds down and Christmastide becomes that other thing — a good time when not to see people — I will find ample subject matter to occupy my idle hands and your time.

Out in the wider world, the news brings daily word of still more unrest, sadness and discord. There’s squalor in the air and protest on the wind, as David Bowie put it in 1977, his time reflecting and projecting onto ours with many similarities. Strike action, public protest demonstrations, racial tension (particularly with the police) and economic instability. We are reliving the Seventies — only much worse: the music’s rubbish this time.

Regarding the recent spate of protesting, I find myself divided on these matters in much the same way as I teeter perilously either side of the young/old meridian. Let’s start with the downside: I have occasionally viewed protest with disdain. I dislike this about myself as it makes me feel like I’m some kind of  reactionary, perpetually scared Daily Mail reader, but I can’t deny it is there. Fighting off the urge to start a sentence with the instantly detestable gambit, ‘As a tax-payer…’, I must confess a small part of me, upon seeing hundreds of people camping out in central London, creating obstruction and — here’s the part that really annoys me — getting in my way, makes me wonder sometimes where I mislaid my flamethrower.

I blame my personal experience of protesting, confined as it is to my student days and several events I attended in the mid-Nineties demonstrating against French nuclear testing in the Pacific. On all those occasions, I found a considerable percentage of humourless, self-righteous pricks among the worthy masses, who mainly demonstrate nothing if not their desire to get laid by making obvious show of their ‘commitment’ to whatever cause they think will earn a place in the pants of their heart’s desire. Consequently, I felt that no protest I ever attended furthered the cause one iota — what I actually felt was abject powerlessness, futility and a bit of a lemon. Nor am I entirely convinced that industrial action — make that ‘inaction — is the best way of negotiating better terms and conditions in one’s chosen place of work. Ask most people who work in London during a Tube strike and they’ll tell you exactly what they think of Bob Crow. Down to the same word, in fact.

On the other hand, I feel more strongly that I am entirely wrong on this matter and have largely been allowing my past personal experience to sway my judgement — and besides, this is simply not the attitude that wins, is it? David Cameron this week past described the Public Sector protests as ‘a damp squib — revealing, if you hadn’t suspected already, a despicable, blatantly blokeish, throughly cuntish contempt for the deeply felt concerns of thousands of honest, voting taxpayers. Not the way a gentleman should behave, Dave. Go to your room.

Some people may view the protesting as ultimately unproductive, a mere gesture that achieves nothing except aggravation — and sometimes this is true, sometimes not — but take a moment and consider that those who have grievance, having exhausted all other options, may find themselves having no sensible alternative given the eternally dull and tiresome tendency for companies to adopt a rigorous lack of imagination, compassion or interest in the plight of the individual on individual terms. Sometimes it takes a certain kind of courage to speak out when your personal lines have been crossed. Some of us will only complain when it is too late — if ever. Do we simply go gently into that good night? No. Why the fuck should we? It’s not even a good night out there.

Amidst my slightly conflicted opinion, I am mostly heartened by the conviction of thousands of people who believe — and it is to be hoped, quite rightly — that peaceful, organised, civilised demonstration is a valid way to effect constitutional change. Wherever your sympathies lie, compare and contrast the aggrieved thousands of Occupy London/Wall St or the Public Sector funding protests with the moronic, misguided, inarticulate and selfishly destructive actions of thousands of people across the country in the riots that punctuated this summer. I know which group deserve a sympathetic ear. Let’s just say if since August you’re one of those who seem to have magically acquired a flatscreen TV because you claim not to be happy with this country, then shame on you and a pox on your house.

I’ll say no more on the subject. I read this back and conclude that I really am not very highly politicised, given the wan wishy-washiness poorly concealed in the prolixity of my prose. Well, I have promised before not to let this Blog become too political. On that point at least, I’ll make some kind of stand.

 But first, a drink.


Currently watching:
The Black Hole (Gary Nelson, 1979)
Escape From New York (John Carpenter, 1980)
Escape From LA (John Carpenter, 1996)
Dragonslayer (Matthew Robbins, 1982)
Poltergeist (Tobe Hooper, 1982)
Poltergeist II: The Other Side (Brian Gibson 1986)

Currently listening to:
Oora (Edgar Broughton Band, 1973)
You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine (Death From Above 1979, 2004)
Wish You Were Here: Immersion Edition (Pink Floyd, 1975, 2011)
Quadrophenia: The Director’s Cut (The Who, 1973, 2011)
T*E*R*R*A*N*O*S*T*R*A (Paul Murphy & The Bishops, work in progress)

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