Picture of a judge's wigThe Judge RANTS!Picture of a judge's wig

Date: 02/02/15

"Anemones Of Flame And Smoke"

When I read stories like this:

Iraqi libraries ransacked by Islamic State in Mosul

...I remember a book. A book about what happens when those who rule or otherwise dominate a society deem unsanctioned knowledge and ungoverned ideas unmediated by the interests of power to be a threat, and so seek systematically to destroy the ideas by way of destroying the medium of their conveyance or even the ideas' authors.

It has always been popular with a certain type of ruling élite and tends strongly to occur both whenever a religion becomes a State and when a State becomes a religion.

The root of the impulse to destroy books is, of course, fear. The fear that - however righteous you may deem you and your 'cause' to be - it can be threatened simply by people being able to communicate freely with one another, even if (viewed more objectively) those communications may consist of the semiotic equivalent of the orgasm-grunt of a wild beast; expressive, but devoid of any wider meaning.

The cycle repeats itself in age after age, but in age after age ultimately it fails. Which is why the more clever and cunning of such rulers don't do anything quite as obvious as burning books. Instead, they arrange by more covert means to prevent the ideas from reaching the eyes, ears or minds of The Great Overruled. Either it will be 'made known' within the right circles that such-and-such a trouble-making author should not have his works reviewed; or that he won't get invited onto radio or television programmes to talk about his work - or indeed anything else; or (in particularly stubborn cases) 'open season' will be declared whereby the gatekeepers of our public communications are given free rein to dismiss and belittle the author as a way of excusing themselves from ever having to address the author's argument altogether.

And if you can't do it in quite that way, it is easy for those with the rusting levers of power in their sticky little hands to invoke the spectres of 'national security', 'public safety', or even (and increasingly) simply the possibility that some people might be offended by something: giving offence has now become one of the worst offences in existence, despite the total impossibility of any sane system of justice (which definition rules out most such systems nowadays) measuring guilt or innocence - or determining punishment - on the basis of something which is totally and irredeemably subjective.

It goes on in the most supposedly 'free' societies: hence a recent bleat from an idiot parliamentarian (an objective assessment, in that he is a Labour MP in Scotland) that Mein Kampf should be declared "too offensive to be made available".

(I hereby declare that Mr Thomas Docherty, soon (one hopes) to be the ex-MP for Dunfermline And West Fife, should be declared "too offensively stupid to be paid a large salary and expenses by the public").

So we have had the sight in recent weeks of senior politicians from the Untied Stoats of America and the United Kingdom of Greater Austeria parading their credentials on freedom of speech whilst thinking it no issue at all that - in the lands that they either rule or aspire to rule - people have been subjected to prosecution, conviction and lengthy terms of imprisonment either for something they've put on Twitter or Facebook, or for something they have downloaded from an already-public source.

And the whole debate regarding L'affaire Charlie Hebdo on what self-describes with ever-decreasing accuracy or sense of shame as 'The Left' has been depressingly predictable, based as it has overwhelmingly been on seeking to divert blame from the mediaevalist thugs who carried out the massacres (of the same stamp as those burning books in Mosul) onto 'imperialism' or 'orientalism', or any other passing 'ism' that can be lured down a darkened cul-de-sac to have whatever virtues it may have arse-fucked out of it by charlatans, dilettants and outright ethical cowards.

Let me declare myself clearly: all ideas (even the ones I might hold most dear) must be open not only to challenge, but to ridicule; all ideologies (and religions are as much ideologies as are political positions) must be laid bare for having the piss taken out of them without mercy (and without fear of being gunned down or beheaded for daring to do so); and all sacred cows must be liable to being led to the abattoir of contumely and derision and thereby turned into the diseased hamburgers of failed quack nostrums. To accept anything less than this is to allow ourselves - adults capable on at least three days out of five of rational thought - to be trapped in an eternal nursery, where the windows have all been bricked up for fear of our seeing what a couple of randy labradors might be up to on the lawn, lest we lose our delusions of Eden. Let us - with all its possibilties of laying us open to shock or offence - be grown up about this.

(Thanks to Hemant Mehta for the lead)


Actually, all of the foregoing merely acts as an excuse for posting a Hawkwind video. Here, from their 1982 LP Choose Your Masques (not one of their best, truth be told: the use of drum machines makes it sound horribly sterile), is Fahrenheit 451. Music by Dave Brock - proving that he was ecologically minded in that the tune is a clear re-hash of the title track of 1977's Quark Strangeness And Charm album - and lyrics by the late, great Robert Calvert. As the visuals on this clip are minimal, you can concentrate on following the words.

YouTube logo

"In Lexington they're going to burn
The Library of Congress for charity
Round it's funeral pyre the flames will churn
As night and winter's darkness spurn
And threaten with their clarity, ah ha
See the flames they're burning up
Burning so bright, it's Fahrenheit
Fahrenheit 451
Fahrenheit 451
The fun has just begun, of Fahrenheit 451

"Oh see the pages all catching fire
See the building shimmering now
It was like this when witches reared
Against the stake, we stood and peered
At such Aladdin's caves of air
I wish you could have seen us there
Spreading all around that funeral pyre
Watching the flames burn higher and higher
Fahrenheit 451
Fahrenheit 451
The fun has just begun, of Fahrenheit 451

"Fahrenheit 451, Fahrenheit 451
The fun has just begun
Of Fahrenheit 451

"Fahrenheit 451, Fahrenheit 451
The burning has just begun
It's like a mushroom cloud on the sun
The fire's fierce theatre draws herds of folk
All willing to be hypnotised
Anemones of flames and smoke
Enchant us so we gladly choke on
Fahrenheit 451, Fahrenheit 451
Fahrenheit 451
The burning has just begun
Of Fahrenheit 451"

© The Estate of the late Robert Calvert