This Is Not A
Excrementum Est Vera Facti Sunt (*)
(* "Shit Just Got Real")
Just a few remarks on current events. I can't be arsed putting them in any sort of logical sequence; these are just TINPO (Thoughts In No Particular Order). So:
- I have just concluded my fifth week of working from home. Some of my colleagues had done some home-working prior to that solely for their own convenience, but I had resisted that on the grounds that if I did it once, the Depratment would expect me to do it more, and I was trying to keep my work and non-work lives as separate as possible.
But I had to bow to the inevitable and I'm very glad that I did now because - frustration at the technological and practical difficulties aside - it has so far kept me safe. A dozen or more of my colleagues - out of a total of about a hundred and fifty or so - continued to go into the office (partly under management pressure), and last week two of them became confirmed COVID-19 cases (the latest is that both appear to be well on the mend, I'm glad to say). This caused the building to be closed completely and anyone who had been in there during the preceding two weeks advised to self-isolate. Following a promised 'deep clean', the place re-opened on Tuesday. However, the thought occurs to me; if everyone who was in there last Wednesday week (or for a fortnight before that) is having to self-isolate for up to a fortnight, who the hell was left to actually go in (the answer being about five bods, no more)? A couple of dear friends of mine (who have not - yet - shown any symptoms and are in good health) were among them. This was much against my urgent advice, but you can't live other adults' lives for them, can you? One can only hope for the best.
- Those difficulties: I have only one table in the house which is remotely suitable for me to plonk my official-issue Surface Pro 4 upon and work. The trouble is that this is in the kitchen, and the only chairs which are the right height for the table are the hard dining-room chairs which where bought with the table many years ago. The Surface Pro's screen is considerably lower than I am used to having with full-size monitors in the office (and is, of course, a far smaller screen to read in any case), so I am getting a rather more than dull ache in the neck and left shoulder after six hours a day, even allowing for more breaks than I would usually have.
I also - unlike most of my colleagues - do not have wi-fi here (I have never trusted the safety of wi-fi; even supposedly 'secured' with a password it is a potential entry point for the unwanted), so am having to connect out to the Depratment's networks using an office-supplied iPhone as a tethering point. This would be all well and good if the Surface Pro recognised the iPhone. Often it won't, even though the phone is a couple of centimetres away. It can be five to ten minutes before the SP realises what's sitting next to it, thus leading to much expanded (and expansive) vocabulary on my part.
The last week or so, I have been unable to get into Microsoft Teams. This means (for reasons I won't bore you with) that I can't make or receive phone calls. Part of the underlying process of this means that my Skype For Business has been all but removed from me; I can join someone else's Skype call, but I can't make or receive any on my own account. This is particularly annoying because in my rôle as Digital Ambassador (unpaid), I am supposed to be supporting 'users' as they try to get their own home setups to work. I've sent this to our IT Service Desk and am still waiting for a meaningful response after a fortnight.
- Speaking of the Depratment (which I increasingly have to do through gritted teeth), I shall be brushing its tainted dust from my garments at the end of June. The building itself is closing permanently at the end of September, and all those deemed not within what the Depratment deems to be 'reasonable daily travel' were offered voluntary redundancy terms at the start of the year (there's a bigger story behind that, which I may reveal when it is safe to do so). There was a loud scream from our HR department when over a hundred of us tried simultaneously to bite their hands off, and so from June 30 an office which once was the place of sustained suffering for over four hundred wretches will be staffed by scarcely a couple of dozen, these being the ones who will be transferring to Liverpool or Telford and the ones who are hanging on until the end because - due to age-discriminatory compensation arrangements - compulsory redundancy will give them a better deal.
I won't miss it. Well, I won't miss the work, most emphatically will I not. The people (most of whom have become my friends over the twenty-nine plus years I've worked with them), they I will feel the loss of, and the one slightly beneficial side-effect of having to work from home has been to acclimatise myself to not being in constant daily proximity to those who have been ninety-five per cent of my social contact for all that time. It's still going to feel as if I have been disconnected from everything I knew, though.
- The only times I have ventured beyond the front gate during my semi-isolation have been to go to Sainsbury's, to go to the shop along the road for the odd thing, and to pay three visits to the village pharmacy. Oh, and I had a chat with a neighbour the other afternoon. Being of solitary mien anyway, I may find the pseudo-temporary phenomenon of not having regular contact with my colleagues less dislocating then many of them do, but the prospect of that state becoming permanent is one which causes me to become pensive.
- With reference to Sainsbury's, things seem to be easing a little in there. The ridiculous, panicky shelf-clearing of previous weeks now seems to have abated, although there are still particular items I haven't been able to get - small tins of garden peas, for example, or my favourite Wensleydale cheese (the only alternative to which has been a more expensive brand of Lancashire which - as I discovered when I opened the pack - is not merely what my brother calls 'soap cheese' but is ridiculously salty). That apart, the only difficulty last Saturday morning was having to join a queue stretching right across the car park in order to get in. I presume the Dorises had spent too long reading the labels again.
- Our bus service has been cut from five buses an hour to three, effectively running an expanded Sunday service. The buses go right past JudgeCo™ World Headquarters, and it's a remarkable indication of how things are that there is hardly anybody on any of them. But then, why travel when there is nowhere for you to travel to?
- You have to be careful what you travel for, as well. As I very strongly suspected from the outset, once additional powers are given to the police, councils and other professional busybodies, they tend immediately to mis-use them. And so we have had instance after instance of the bizzies - be they in Cambridgeshire, London or Scotland - not merely being pettifogging in their application of either the law or the current guidance, but being apparently ignorant of what that law and that guidance actually permits them to do. This has enabled some career-bent coppers (or should that hyphen be there at all?) to exercise their ignorance, their arrogance and their bigotry simultaneously.
And so we have had numerous examples of The Filth harassing people in parks (where said parks are still open, of course) who are observing 'social distancing' perfectly adequately and trying to make them leave; we have had them telling people (usually poor and/or having enhanced melanin content) that they can't use the communal gardens which are their only release from being cooped up in their flats (which are probably clad with lethal materials); we have even had some (Northamptonshire Plod being most notorious) trying to force shoppers to put items - which they would of course have handled - back on the shelves on the grounds that the putative purchases were 'not essential', despite the term 'essential' being neither defined nor delimited in either law or guidance.
- Not that the general citizenry can pride themselves on their 'common sense', especially when they are being provided with telephone hotlines so that they can squeal on their neighbours (or anyone else within curtain-twitching distance). And in this, just as the essential racist bigotry of the English in particular has been laid bare by the Br**it process, so the fundamental mean-spiritness and backbiting of the Great British Public® has been exposed. The Brits (that is to say, mainly the English and those in the colonies who would seek to pass as them) have long deluded themselves that - in the event of the imposition of a Police State - they would not grass up their neighbours, oh dearie me no, we leave that to Nasty Untrustworthy Foreigners, when in fact, given barely half a chance, they have shown themselves willing to denounce anyone against whom they have a perceived grievance. Erich Mielke would have been so proud.
- Not that public watchfulness doesn't have its proper place. For example, here in England's Oldest Colony™, lacking anything resembling a functioning government (we have instead a clique of inadequate and spineless middle-managers who are incapable of taking serious decisions without peering down the M4 to see what their masters in London are willing to allow them to do), the people are having to defend their own interests. In this case, this means trying to protect their communities and families from the waves of second-home, holiday-home and caravan-owners who have - every weekend since the lockdown began - been scuttering merrily in to our coastal and mountain towns and villages like a horde of plague rats. I don't shy away from that description, because that is what in literal effect they are; given that they have come from the conurbations of England (even as far away as London and Kingston-Upon-Hull) it is inevitable that a significant proportion of them will be carrying COVID-19, even if they don't know it. Their arrival into areas where a significant proportion of the surly natives are of advanced age and sub-optimal health, and which moreover are only funded for health provision on the basis of the size of the permanent population, is a time-bomb which will go off under those communities any week now.
But, being English, they behave as if they have an undeniable right to travel to 'their' colonial possessions in contravention of official advice (even from their own government), even unto claiming that their second (or third, or fourth) 'home' is in fact their first, since that is where they've registered their address for the purposes of getting cheaper insurance for their bourgemobiles; or driving by night through the back lanes to avoid the police checkpoints intended to turn them back (our police are doing as much as they can, given the lack of support in terms of legislation or public statements from our politicians); or even driving sans luggage to their pieds-à-terreur and having their cases delivered by courier the next day.
And when confronted by justifiably aggrieved locals, the attitude displayed is that of the frontier administrator, the memsahib and the football hooligan, of arrogance, pig ignorance and violent intent all combined, which has led to signs going up all over the western half of our land which - when reduced to their basic semantic content - read along the lines of, "What part of "Fuck off home!" don't you understand?". The reverberations from this will continue for years to come, and perhaps may even cause the scales to fall from the eyes of many who still believe - in stark contrast to observable reality - that London Knows Best For Us.
- Which brings me nicely on to that home of Imperial Blether™ ("The Soap Which Lets You Wash Your Hands Of All Responsibilty"), the Mother-abbreviation of Parliaments.
That the Imperial Government has screwed up, and screwed up badly - and, more to the point, lethally - should not really be a point for debate anymore. That - even in the face of incontravertible evidence of the imminent threat - it stalled, clearly seeking to deny the seriousness of the peril or to downplay it either out of a desire to protect their donors' Boddom Line or out of a spirit of criminal delusions of exceptionalism (i.e., "We won't get it because we're British") is surely beyond doubt. The 'herd immunity' hypothesis (which, in so much as it is valid at all, rests in the case of all diseases upon the widespread use of vaccines which in this case haven't even been developed yet) was put forward to the gullible as a scientific-sounding placatory buzzword which would fit comfortably in the politico-media lexicon alongside other forms of denial of reality.
When that reality actually began to bite, and bite in ways which not even the willingly-servile orifices which constitute the media in Greater England could disguise or obfuscate (it is very difficult to dissuade someone from thinking that his house is burning down when he is standing inside it watching his soft furnishings merrily ablaze), then that Game was clearly Up.
No other remotely convincing strategy could be found however, even with the eager assistance of the aforementioned distractive industries; and so the harsh truths had to be faced, or at least faced down. This being Greater England, the façade consisted of an awful lot of appeals to the British x, the British y and the British z, spearheaded by a blustering buffoon and his nominal boss, whose own contribution to national uplift (apart from letting her oaf of an heir go to the family's bijou castlette in Scotland when he and a number of his flunkeys were already infected) was a homily so wrapped up in the musty spun-sugar of nostalgic sentiment that one would not have been surprised to see emerging from it a moth which looked like Winston Churchill. The wretched old bat even quoted Vera Lynn, invocations of Der Wo-Wah being absolutely de rigeur for those times when the ruling classes need to get the serfs to knuckle down to their diet of gruel and powdered eggs; it is one of the essentials of statecraft in Lower Gammonia, as it reminds the Union Jack-offs of the last time that their country (however defined) might have been globally significant - or, indeed, globally relevant.)
War metaphors (and always remember that schoolboy who defined 'metaphor' as, "an instrument for shouting through") and rhetoric have abounded, and if the shade of Erich Mielke can't be placated, then those of Captain Mainwaring and Warden Hodges emphatically can. The deep dottiness of the Great British Public® never does need much to let rip once off the leash, but even witnessing people standing at their doors clapping for the health service workers is tempered by the sure knowledge that a fair proportion of them would - at any time since the Spring of 2010 - have voted for parties which were committed to screwing over those same life-savers and comfort-givers, especially if they were of insufficiently pasty hue. Emetic hypocrisy is another pivot point of the GBP's character.
In which, naturally, the corporate and state media play their ample part. For we are told from various rags (in addition to the Orifices of State) that it simply isn't done to criticise the Government, m'dears. After all, they're doing their best in difficult circumstances, don'tchaknow? Indeed, if one of the Boris Booster Corporation's salty old dogs is to be believed (which has to be carefully assessed, given that his comments appeared in the Daily Non-Dom), senior management at the Castration have been whispering in the little shell-likes of its reporters advising them not to give even a light grilling to ministers. That ITV News and Sky are clearly following (or leading) this dereliction of journalistic duty carries a high probability, and so we are left with the bizarre situation where the only media hack seemingly willing not merely to grill but to sauté a smirking, evasive member of the régime is Piers Morgan. Piers fucking Morgan!
Such is the human-centipede nature of the nexus between political and media power, and such is the disconnect between that bizarre and loathsome creature and reality that few if any within the media itself queried whether this was the line which should be taken. For surely it is during times of crisis that those who wield power - ostensibly in our name - should be subjected to the most rigorous scrutiny, if only to keep them slightly more than passing honest? But, then, don't we know that there's a wo-wah on?
And so it is that not only do the Johnson régime's incompetence and arrogance evade critical observation, but something somewhat more sinister arises. For, like with Br**it, Westminster and Whitehall have seen the pandemic as a ready opportunity to re-shape the constitutional arrangements of this island by fiat. In just the same way that the mercifully brief rule of Madame May-hem brought the forcible removal of powers from the pretend parliaments in Edinburgh and Cardiff, so COVID-19 has provided the cover for a grand shafting of the non-English territories with regard to what ameliorating measures may be provided to said colonies. As a result, not only has provision and procurement of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) been grabbed back by London, but providers of the equipment based in the Untried Condom have now been told that they are not - under any circumstances - to supply the health services of the lesser lands, and that their products are to be provided solely to the care sector in England. It is the starkest example of colonialism one can imagine short of military occupation; although, in contrast to what happened to the indigenous North Americans, here the colonisers have not only given us the disease but are preventing us from accessing the means of protecting ourselves against - and ameliorating the effcts of - the plague.
- I do not believe, please note, that Bloody Stupid Johnson was faking his illness. Even by the devious standards of the Prime Minister (i.e., Dominic Cummings), that would be too obvious a trick to try. I did not wish the wretch dead, mark you; there seems to me to be no point in wishing someone deceased unless you yourself believe in some sort of afterlife (which I, of course, do not) and that you think that your intended victim believes in it too (upon which, in this case, I have no knowledge).
No, I believe his condition to have been genuine (by the law of averages, something about the gallumphing twat has to be), and can only hope against hope itself that his experience will colour his judgement sufficiently to open his mind to the possibility that he has serious responsibilities towards all the occupants of an entire state.
- His assumed trauma at recent events in his life has, of course, been added to what looks increasingly like a personality cult being woven around him by his supporters and - in excelsis - by most of the print media (and more of the broadcast media than gives cause for comfort). It was bad enough when alleged journalists such as Robert Peston turned into fanboys during the last election campaign, but the neo-Churchillian adulation heaped upon this essentially undistinguished individual by that part of the press which also, you will remember, turned a grocer's daughter from Lincolnshire into a combination of Boudicca, Elizabeth I and Joan Collins, is now approaching Pyongyangian proportions. How else can one explain that - on a day when the daily death-toll for the soi-disant UK topped a thousand that that appalling information was placed somewhat down the running order so that the media could run (breathlessly) with the news that Al DePiffle was doing Sudoku in his hospital bed?
- The already-existing cast of 'strongmen' (which is Western-speak for, "bastards who are our bastards") - Bolsonaro, Orbán, Modi, Trump - have all been further emboldened by the crisis and have taken full advantage of the opportunity to further strengthen their reach and grasp, for a population made fearful is always a population which is easily manipulated by those who claim - always deceitfully - to have all the answers. That the consequence of this will be far-reachingly catastrophic need not be open to dispute.
- (Yes, I am sorry that I started this now. I've had to change the date at the top of this piece five times already. I can be utterly sure, however, that I'm not half as sorry as you are. Anyway, onwards...)
- What is clear - especially in the US - is that those who claim to rule us see us as secondary considerations beside the supposed 'need' to 'restart the economy'. This is all of a piece with the underlying presumption of politics over many decades (but particularly the last four) that, rather than the economy (however defined) serving the needs (however defined) of the people (however defined), people are deemed to be subservient to the perceived 'needs' of the economy. Just as millions upon millions world-wide had their livelihoods and their communities sacrificed in a global burnt offering to the moonshine ideology of the Chicago School of economic Visigoths, so now must not only those commodities but our very lives be held to be of severely limited value unless they are put at risk so that rapacious 'wealth creators' can begin amassing even greater rewards for themselves. We truly are - and in a very real sense - expendable if we cannot somehow be utilised for the benefit of party donors and campaign funders. So it is that there are ever more shrill calls for the lockdown to be eased for their benefit (characterised in their typical ignorance by the MAGA-maggots in Ohio demanding that the state governor rescinds the restrictions there, and calling the governor of Illinois a Nazi for the same febrile reason).
But to who else's benefit is it likely to be to lift the lockdown now (or, indeed, at any time in the next four to six weeks)? Just because the peak infection point may pass during that time, that still means that more people are getting COVID-19 and any relaxation of the restraints placed upon us now would simply lead to a new burst of cases. And that leaves aside the uncertainty as to whether it is possible to get re-infected. Cui bono?. Not for ours, for sure.
- (The thought occurs to me at this point that COVID-19 is the perfect neo-liberal disease. It stops people from getting together in any context other than the production of wealth for the already-rich-enough-as-it-is, it discourages any social interaction at all (except via methods which have to utilise technology owned and controlled by corporations and or their governments), and it makes people infinitely watchful and suspicious of one another; so much so, in fact, that once this is all over - in as much as it is ever likely to be; viruses mutate almost at will, and next year's will probably be just as virulent - there will not only be a marked reluctance for people to come together again, any such contact - except for economic reasons - will be categorised as 'anti-social'. We will become even more atomised than heretofore, and so we can be picked off one by one, group by group.)
For instance, today (Saturday), I was supposed to be taking part in something which I thought I would never see happen in my lifetime, namely a march in favour of our national independence and sovreignty in my own home town. It was, naturally enough, cancelled a few weeks ago, and who knows whether it will ever be possible to re-stage it?
- Isn't it annoying that the weather we have had during the past three weeks or so - at least in the vicinity of JudgeCo™ World Headquarters - has been the most marvellous early Spring weather we have had in many years? Once the restraints upon us are removed, you may safely bet a pound to a pinch of powdered Wuhan bat that it will piss down for the rest of the year.
- That there must be a reckoning - both of individuals and of institutions and systems alike - is taken as being axiomatic. Indeed, when one considers solely the series of mis-steps, missed opportunities, evasions, arrogance and Greater English exceptionalism which has characterised the Johnson régime (placed into sequence in this timeline), then it should not simply be a case of removing and replacing those institutions from our lives, it ought to be followed by placing their current (and temporary) occupants and operatives on trial for criminal negligence and even manslaughter.
Similarly, it is deemed desirable - indeed, essential - that the whole way in which our economic and social systems are arranged must be substantially revamped, so that we can live in a more equitable world. And such ambitions are not expressed solely from those on the Left (such as it is nowadays) but also uttered in pious hope by those Missionaries of Mediocrity (in that word's original definition) who have been perfectly happy to accept The Way Things Must Be throughout all the years where such Ways have stood to their benefit regardless of how it fucked over several hundred million people who were deemed throughout to be too poor/ill/disabled/dusky to matter.
I have a saddening message for them (and, by extension, for the rest of us):
If you think this is too bleak a prediction, then I would drag your minds back a decade or so.
When the banks, financial services companies and other leeches tanked the economies of most of the planet in 2008 due to their negligence and criminality, we were assured that This Must Not Be Allowed To Happen Again. There then followed the creation of quadrillions of Dollars, Pounds, Euros, Yen and Flanian Pobble Beads in fiat money - something we had been told for a generation was the way to Gehenna - which was given...to the very same people and organisations who/which had created the crisis in the first place. And - in order to 'balance the books' - those who had been shafted in either their investments or their livelihoods were told that they, and they alone, had to foot the bill. In the name of that floozy called 'Fiscal Prudence', public services had to be slashed, public servants had to be made comparatively more impoverished by real-terms pay cuts (where they weren't kicked out of their jobs altogether), those parts of public infrastructure which could not be sold off (or, at best, sold as an eye-catchingly 'exciting' or 'ambitious' project) were to be left to rot, and we were left as an inevitable consequence with a public domain which has proven to be inadequate to deal with a major catastrophe.
And the same is going to happen again.
For there will be no re-alignment of our political or economic arrangements. At least, not in the way suggested in liberal/centrist platitudes, come they from Pollyanna Toynbee or Justin Welby (England's very own oil sheikh), or even from Gordon Brown (whom the Grundiad always drags out to tell us how much better he would have done things, in contrast to his actual record in power).
The question is already being bruited about; how on earth are we going to pay for all of this? As before, the greatest beneficiaries of the largesse now dropping from the branches of those Magic Money Trees which mysteriously manifest themselves at times of corporate need but which are equally strangely absent when we need them for, say, a properly-funded health and care service, will be the corporations which have been doing very well thank you out of an 'austerity' which was always an ideological choice rather than an economic necessity: a bank, therefore, gets a nine-figure sum to 'tide it over' its temporary inconvenience...which it then uses to pay massive bonuses and dividends; someone with his own island and his own spaceship (Jeff Tracy you ain't, Branson!) moans about how much of our dosh his airline needs; the deacons and bishops of the same corporate media which have spent years lashing out at the health service and all who sink in her (except when it became impolitic pro tem to do so) and generally behaving like a troop of those monkeys who fling their own shit at their observers beg not only for our money but our support, without which, they claim, that very democracy which they have spent decades subverting and suborning with impunity will perish!
And these will be the voices which will be listened to. Not ours; for our voices will once again be deemed unworthy of an audience.
So there will again be 'austerity', and it will be the same ideologically-determined choice which was made in 2010, for the same reasons and with the same results except more so.
Our public services will be not only cut to the bone, but the bones themselves will be cut up to make a nourishing repast for the circling jackals of 'wealth creators' who know a crippled, dying beast when they see one; what may be left of our social provision will be pared back so far that the slices left will be transparent where they are not full of holes.
And all this will be sold at marked-up prices to the public as being in the National Interest™ (15% if you're a lender, 0.005% if you're a saver), and presented preceded by a straw-haired oaf waving a red, white and blue rag which is several orders of magnitude bigger than he is. Any dissent (assuming any congregation of people is tolerated or even permitted by that stage) can thereby be portrayed as 'unpatriotic' and dangerously subversive. And so it all goes on as before.
There will be no revolt; there will be no revolution; there will be no change for the better.
And that's all I have to say.