"Overhead a rainbow appeared, in black and white..."
Like many in London, Iíve spent the last couple of weeks in riot-postmortem mode. What happened in our city, and subsequently in several English cities and towns, has come in for some of the most bizarre and ill-conceived media and political scrutiny that I think most of us can ever remember. Those traditional guardians of the nationís morals, namely the Church, the state, and the media, have been scrambling over the bones of recent events in order to lay blame and say ďI told you soĒ. But we donít need anyone to tell us so. Itís perfectly obvious to anyone with half a brain what caused the riots: this is what happens if you fill peopleís heads with materialism and then deny them the means to attain it. The only questions that need answering are how did this situation come about and what do we do to solve it?
Itís time for a reality check. So, letís get weaving.
They tell us that the nationís spiritual health is in crisis. I completely agree with them. But letís define ďspiritualityĒ: Spirituality, in its simplest terms, is the opposite of materialism, ďspiritĒ being a catch-all name for the indefinable parts of ourselves that respond emotionally and intellectually to life. Love, passion, creativity, humour, inspiration, tolerance, all those things that depend only on our connections with others, the things that fulfill us emotionally and therefore actually make life worth living. Without meeting these needs we cannot be spiritually satisfied.
Historically, religion attempts to step-in and plug the gaps in our spiritual welfare with promises of pan-dimensional activity and supernatural well-being. It boasts that satisfaction is guaranteed after death in return for doctrinal obedience now. It offers us a service: we abdicate all responsibility for our spiritual welfare to it, by following a few simple rules, and in return we receive an eternal reward in the form of everlasting life, either in a place called heaven, or by means of reincarnation, and so forth. And we are required to take it entirely on faith that this will happen.
Now, letís define ďmaterialismĒ: Materialism is the pole opposite of spirituality, as we earlier defined it. It is the bastion greed, rather than need. Ego, self-gratification, vanity, megalomania, control, self-righteousness, insecurity, dishonesty, and violence. It hungers for glory and rewards, it is propelled by objectification, jealously and entitlement.
Think about it. Which one of the two templates, spirituality or materialism, better fits religion? Well, on the whole, itís quite obvious that itís materialism. In fact, the promise of any reward, let alone the eternal jackpot of everlasting life, is utterly materialistic and about as far away from spirituality as it is possible to get.
As Iím applying this to the current state of affairs in England, letís take Christianity as our example. If you know your history of Christianity, you will know that originally, indeed for three hundred years or so, Christianity was a philosophically based school of thought, influenced in part by Hinduism, which was dissipated across Europe and North Africa from the Middle East in secret as it initially attempted to escape Roman persecution. It drew many parallels with existing European pagan beliefs (which themselves had previously influenced Hinduism), and the common enemy of all these tribal belief-systems was Rome, whose imperial empire had fallen across many of the lands wherein these systems were practiced. By AD 300, a great many of them had united under the banner of Christianity, whose scriptures taught that the kingdom of heaven was within each human; it was not some strange land one went to after death, but a metaphor for the human spirit, those things defined above, those needs which all people seek to meet. It was about liberation of the mind and the heart from the pursuit of materialism, of worldly goods that failed to satiate the desires of the spirit. As such, it was tolerant and inclusive, and it became big, too big for the Romans. In the end, Emperor Constantine realised that Romeís only hope was to join Christianity, and then attempt to co-opt it into a tool of imperialism. Constantineís plan succeeded, and the Roman Empire was rebranded as the Catholic Church. The Council of Nicea invited all the various tribes of fledgling Christianity to join the new church, and those which did not were hunted, persecuted, and murdered exactly as they had been by the old Roman Empire, only now under a flag of Catholicism. The scriptures that were ďon messageĒ were collected together as the Bible, and those that werenít, such as the Gospel of Mary Magdalene (Jesusí wife and the mother of his daughter St. Sarah), were discarded, and only later compiled as the Apocrypha, a book which the Catholic Church has always been at great pains to discredit, for obvious reasons. (By the way, these are all historical facts that are only disputed by the Catholic Church itself, which also disputes the fact that condoms can help protect people from HIV infection. Historically, if the Catholic Church disputes something, that thing is probably correct.)
The Protestant Church was a distinct rebellion against Catholicism, largely because of what it saw as the Catholic Churchís penchant for materialism and control. Yet itís initial success was soon tempered by itís own control issues, and whilst it freed people of the dogma of the Catholic Church, most notably itís unnatural and dangerous sexual pathology, it did itself fall prey to the hierarchy of the haves over the have-nots. Elizabeth Iís religious tolerance laws, the English Civil War and the Enlightenment eventually wrestled much of the Churchís power into the hands of the state, since which the Church has remained socially inert, tolerated as an increasingly quaint artifact that has little if anything to say about the reality of life in our time. But in truth, it never had anything whatsoever to say about the reality of life, in any time. It was always just a big old power play, with its roots firmly planted in the vulgar and proto-fascistic lusts of Roman imperialism. Ergo, the Church, and the organised religion that it represents, came about through the persecution and cooption of true Christianity for imperialist ends, and is therefore, by definition, the exact opposite of spirituality.
One of the most exasperating things about living under a Conservative government in the United Kingdom is having to listen to their endless stream of socially inept gobshite. This was the case throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, and is the case again now. Iím not suggesting that Labour has any answers. I will deal with them momentarily. Iíll start with the Tories simply because theyíre the incumbent political status quo.
Firstly, David Cameron himself. Iím not going to plumb for any mileage out of the Bullingdon nonsense. I will allow him his follies of youth, we must all make allowances for our past. Iíve no desire to character assassinate him for his alleged wealth, or for his privileged background and his opportunities. None of it matters if he can rise to the challenge of being a compassionate, thoughtful, inclusive, understanding and tolerant human being, which is the minimum requirement of anyone who takes the job of Prime Minister in this country. Unfortunately, he has yet to display any of these character traits, and indeed is speedily creating a profile of himself that projects anything but a compassionate, thoughtful, inclusive, understanding and tolerant human being. Indeed, he has talked a great deal of the aforementioned socially inept gobshite since coming to power. More worringly, he has actually acted on it like he believes it to be true. The socio-political damage heaped upon the poor and needy of this country in the last 18 months is without precedent in modern times. The justification for this has been spending cuts and economic instability, but it ultimately doesnít matter. Adam Smith, the father of Capitalism, made it quite clear that in order for the system to work you have to keep an equilibrium of happiness among the populace; the way to achieve this is help them meet their needs, as nothing creates stress and worry like an unmet need. Cameron has completely ignored this, and the inevitable effect has been the destabalising of our society from the bottom up.
But what of the gobshite? The other day he laid the blame for the riots squarely at the feet of ďabsent fathersĒ. This is, frankly, one of the stupidest things any British Prime Minister has ever said in public, and ranks right up there with Neville Chamberlainís piece of paper. Where to begin explaining whatís wrong with this? Firstly, not all absent fathers are absent through choice. Secondly, not all single mothers do a bad job of raising their kids, and to suggest that they could have done it better with paternal help is pretty darned insulting, actually. Thirdly, the vast majority of single mothers and absentee fathers are caused by relationship breakup, and the vast majority of relationship breakups happen for very good reasons. To suggest that an unhappy relationship is somehow a more stable and less dysfunctional environment for child welfare is absolutely crass ignorance. As for the call for a return to 1950ís style nuclear families, this is just as bonkers as John Majorís back to basics Victorian values gobshite was before it. The Sixties have happened. Punk has happened. The pill exists. Feminism and post-modernism exists. The Cold War is over. Equality is a war worth fighting for all of us. You canít turn back the clock sixty years, and only a fucking maniac would want to.
What happened to ďcompassionate conservatismĒ? Well, simply, it never existed, because conservatism and compassion have no social overlap. And whilst socialismís compassion is utterly fake and forced, at least it exists, if only in a forced, fake way. Is that better. Marginally, perhaps.
The problem is benign autocracy. This is what we actually have in the UK instead of proper democracy. A partisan system with no written constitution. Partisan politics doesnít work. It failed in France, when everyone had to vote for the hated Chirac just to keep the even more hated Le Pen out of office. It failed in America in 2000, when a tied election due to an apparently faulty voting apparatus resulted in a hugely questionable recount, and the subsequent election of a regime of mismanagement that in eight years turned the biggest budget surplus in US history into the biggest budget deficit the world has ever seen, one which almost bankrupted the whole fucking planet. And it failed big-ass style in the UK last year, with the Liberal Democrats holding the balance of power and then handing it to bigger of the two evils, even though no one who voted LibDem thought in a million years they were helping sweep the Tories back into power, and most of them would probably have voted Labour if they had known.
True democracy has no partisan affiliation. You simply try to elect the best person for the job, based on their skills, experience and ideas. If they screw it up, you get someone else, you donít wait to see if they screw it up more or not. Democracy is a committee based service structure that works on a variable mandate, it has nothing to do with partisan politics, sloganeering, or manifesto. Itís a self-regulating system of governance as express through conscience and consensus. It is very open, very fair, very easy to implement and very hard to manipulate, which is why itís the best system. Modern technology would make it fast, cheap, efficient and highly interactive too. It actually involves people in its process, and makes living with tough decisions somewhat easier, as grievances could be aired, and could even influence policy. Likewise, the inevitable mistakes would be forgiven and the lessons duly learned, adding to the sum of wisdom. This is not objectivism. This is not materialism. This is Platoís Republic, this is Adam Smithís Wealth of the Nations. This is true democracy, and I believe we will have it within our lifetime. The partisan choice between Pepsi and Coke, the system of first-past-the-post followed by four years of benign autocracy is in itís death throes, and we will soon dance and piss on itís grave.
Aside from the current scandal (in which we discovered that the last great, self-styled guardian of British morality was, in fact, tapping peopleís phones, betraying personal trusts, and deleting the voicemails of murder victims in order to manipulate a story) there is a more pending, obvious reason not to place any stock whatsoever in the media. Peter Hitchens. I rest my fucking case. Since my attention was drawn to this utter peon of opinionated pondlife, I have been both exasperated and illuminated. This man knows nothing. Absolutely nothing. His brother is the great Christopher Hitchens, one of our most inspired and valuable polemicists. Christopher has gone on record as saying his brother is an idiot. And he is, too. An absolute moron, who, for some reason, is employed by a British newspaper in order to express ill-informed viewpoints on subjects about which he has no personal frame of reference whatsoever. And he, Peter Hitchens, is symptomatic of a great many media voices in this country. Let him serve as an example and a warning, like Hitler before him.
I donít read newspapers, so this is all news to me. Hence my simple view is that no more should we listen to the materialist status quo, with itís paedophile priests, expenses-grabbing self-serving politicians, and arrogant, shallow, facile media. Nor should we react to them. We should, instead, start treating each other as we would want to be treated ourselves, with dignity and respect. We should express understanding and empathy, and look for new ways to communicate positively with each other. Theyíre not going to save us, we have to save ourselves now. Weíve spent our lives reacting to this system over which we had no jurisdiction, or so we thought. The time to react is over. The time to listen to our hearts and make choices based on our personal truths and needs has begun, to live within our spiritual means, which is not limited by any doctrine or law or system or opinion, and isnít enslaved or threatened by class or race or past mistakes or bad decisions, but which always has an impulse for good, and a momentum of truth and self-forgiveness. Who knows, we might even put Half Man Half Biscuit in charge for a while, they always seemed to know how things really were.
WEDNESDAY 17th AUGUST 2011
Wishing a very happy birthday to two of my most very favourite people, Dot Allison and Maria McKee...
Like many, over the years I've experimented with platforms such as Blogger and MySpace, and in doing so I've learned that, in blog terms, if you want something done properly, do it yourself. So from now of stuff's just going to get posted here. But in case you can really be bothered to trawl through the cobwebs of my past bloggings, here are the links for to do so: