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Date: 30/12/08

Once More Round The Plug-Hole

Time for one of those tedious end-of-year pieces, I suppose.

On the personal front, I've had better years. True, I'm still alive and capable of getting out of bed of a morning, but the impulse to do so is somewhat lacking nowadays. This is because I had my job removed from me back in September due to nothing more than administrative convenience and the desperate need by the higher-ups to make it look like they're meeting their arbitrary targets for cutting staff numbers. So, no matter that I was bloody good at the job (producing quantity and quality), I had to go and be sent to do a job which is a long way beneath my capabilities and which is subject to all of the wilder idiocies which can be dreamed of by management consultants.

And, of course, we're at the start of A Recession (of which more below), which means that alternative, more satisfying employment is all but impossible to come by.

The one saving grace (apart from the fact that I've ended up working on a team devoid of 'moodies' and whiners) is that I went part-time, so only have to waste six hours of my day rather than seven and a half. This enabled me to start putting the garden in some sort of order after years of unavoidable neglect. There's a fair bit still to be done, but I've made a good start.

It would have been a better one but for the really crappy weather we had this year. I don't expect long, hot summers anymore like we had when I were a lad, but I don't think it's unreasonable to expect more than two or three nice days between the end of May and the end of September. But that's all we had. As a result, I never got to go anywhere this summer - not even a six-hour walk - and so my photography opportunities were similarly severely limited.

Slightly on the up-side, I had three more pieces published at Transdiffusion. One of these was described by an editor as the most erudite piece they'd ever published, and another led to an interesting link-up which provided another outlet for what little creativity I'm capable of.

There were the standard number of sad departures during the year, and 2008 seemed to be The Year That Comedy Died. Apart from the humorous columnist Miles Kington (January), we lost the brilliant wit and timing of Humphrey Lyttleton (April) and the very different passionate and perceptive comedy of George Carlin (June). Add in 'Utah' Phillips (May) and Harold Pinter (December) from amongst those artists whose political and ethical philosophies informed their life's work, and the fact that such nonentities such as Russell Brand are now thought of as 'the cutting edge of comedy', and it's been a good year only for the conformist, back-scratching cowards in the artistic world.

Which brings me on to the subject of The World And Things In General.

Here at home, we continue to suffer under a régime of repressed and repressing morons, who will not hesitate to interfere with our rights to free communication, open exchange of information, and even our fundamental right to privacy in our homes and security from attack from state or corporate agents therein. Still, in the face of their imminent demise, these thugs continue to believe that you can make entire populations 'virtuous' and conformist by Act of Parliament (or, more frequently, by ministerial fiat which by-passes even the most cursory of democratic scrutiny), and that we poor, deluded, junk-addled button-brains must be 'protected' from anything and everything which the régime finds (or pretends to find) vaguely unsettling - be it public protest against high-level corruption and illegality, the dangers of finding out that large sections of the police are effectively out of control, or even pictures of consenting adults tying each other up with ropes and whipping one another. There is no corner of our lives which they do not seek to control, and that itch is being scratched every single day.

And of course, we now have the early stages of a recession. A recession which was caused by the greed of the private corporations up whose rectal orifice the régime climbed over a decade ago and from which it refuses to be excreted. So it is that those buccaneers of 'free enterprise', who believed that they must be allowed to hold on to every last penny of their profits and bonuses and that government - or even the ever-vaguer notion of 'society' - were merely obstructions in the path of 'wealth creation', having sowed the seeds of their own downfall by their lunatic practices suddenly became supplicants at the table of intervention. And they got it, of course. Tens of billions of pounds of it. Of our money; the money of those whom the bankers and their conspicuously-consuming friends had been lulling and gulling for over a decade. They couldn't be allowed to fail. Meanwhile, of course, tens of thousands of people are losing their jobs as what is left of the real economy is allowed to go screw itself. We already had virtually no manufacturing sector left worthy of the name, but now other sectors are closing down by the day. And the arse who sits on top of it all was the Chancellor Of The Exchequer who rumbled on about the benefits of having all those 'wealth creators' buzzing like flies around the Casino Of Shit known collectively as The City, who wittered on about the benefits of an expanded 'service sector' (i.e., call centres and burger bars) and the advantages of the glorious future awaiting us if we embraced the 'knowledge-based economy'. As a result, we import just about every physical good from low-wage, sweatshop economies and we can no longer even afford the imports, especially with an over-hyped currency now at parity with the Euro and only managing to stay there because the Yankee Dollar is suffering from the China Syndrome (i.e., it's only being held as high as it is - as low as it is - because of the Chinese banks' holdings in $$$s). The response of the régime - apart from throwing our money at the crooks and chancers who brought us to this pass, of course - is to start the blame game. The poor, the unemployed and the unemployable are once again being targeted as being responsible for everything that has gone wrong, and it is they who must pay as Labour and Conservative parties engage in a contest of dick-waving over who can 'crack down' on the 'workshy' and the 'scroungers' and the 'dependency culture' in the most brutal fashion. We have been here before. We are going there again.

In other developments, the Americans have elected a non-white person as President. However, they have elected someone who is as much a part of the standard pattern of Washington circle-jerking as any of his predecessors. His cabinet-in-waiting is a mish-mash of Clinton retreads (including the Marie Antoinette of Arkansas herself) and people for whom even Monkeyboy had no further use. Obama is going to disappoint all those liberals - especially in Europe - who seemed to think that positive, progressive change was possible in the terminally-corrupt cesspit of corporate favours which now constitutes 'business as usual' on the banks of the Potomac. We can adduce this not only from his stated commitment to continue the war on Afghanistan and extending same if necessary to Iran, but also from his response - which observers well-disposed towards him might call 'non-committal', but which the rest of us would view as the same old cowardice - to the ongoing atrocities being carried out under the sign of the Star of David on the hapless and defenceless population of Gaza.

This one has run and run, and will, alas, continue to do so. When the Palestinians conform with the demands of the world's major powers and hold democratic elections, only to be placed under sanction, embargo and siege because they had the temerity to vote for who they wanted; when the US and Israel connive at an attempted coup which splits the government of Palestine into a complaisant Fatah in the West Bank and a resistant Hamas in Gaza; when Israel then claims to be observing the terms of a truce with Hamas only to undermine it with an illegal blockade of Gaza and the continuing expansion of illegal colonies on the West Bank; when Israel nakedly breaks the truce by bombing Gaza when the world is watching the US elections and then accuses Hamas of breaking it when all Hamas said was that they saw no point in renewing a truce which wasn't being adhered to by the other side; when the State of The Self-Righteous People then uses a small number of attacks on it by puny rockets as a pretext for a rain of destructive ordnance from the safe distance of hundreds of feet up in the air which has, to date, killed hundreds of civilians and further degraded Gaza's precarious infrastructure; and when they've done all this and western governments make no more than mild tut-tutting noises and say it's the Palestinians' fault anyway, our tame (and tamed) corporate media parrot the Israeli line without even trying to present any other version of the catastrophe (other than to talk hand-wringingly of a 'humanitarian crisis' without describing the process whereby it has become one), and the soon-to-be-leader of the 'free world' says nothing for fear of offending the highly-effective lobbying groups he spent the whole of 2008 sucking up to; when, as I say, all this happens, you know that nothing has changed, nor is likely to change. The protégés of the planet's sole superpower will be given carte blanche to do what they will, whilst anyone getting in the way (either on purpose or by chance) will be silenced, be it by censorship (including that most insidious form, 'self-censorship'), bombs from 15 000 feet, or by having bullets pumped into your brain at point-blank range by 'security operatives' while you're taking the train to work.

In 2009 we, the people, will face many challenges. The economic bust will lead to civil unrest in many countries, which the powerful will seek to divert into setting people against each other and inflating xenophobia and intolerance, which they will then be able to use as an excuse for further restricting our right to hold those self-same powerful to account for their incompetence and criminality. Attempts at naked censorship will take another leap forward, despite the clear impracticality of doing it effectively for the officially-given reasons. The rich and powerful will seek increasingly to insulate themselves from all consequences of their actions in the past, present and future.

We must continue to be watchful, and continue to act wherever we can and however we can to defend ourselves from the increasingly aggressive and dishonest use of state and corporate power.

Happy new year...