Friday, 18 April 2008

Schandmantel

Bit of a dearth of inspiration this week, I'm afraid. I did promise myself I would try to write once a week, just for the practice, you know, but after a week of worrying about hockey results and writing lectures, I've been caught short. I haven't really need to use public toilets, either (how does that happen?), so I haven't even been able to poach others' little scribblings of wisdom.

BUT, I've been no less angry. And I've been thinking about punishment -- that is, how to get at those who deserve to pay for their transgressions against decency and justice. And not those for whom mechanisms -- feeble, insufficient mechanisms -- already exist and whose crimes should, in theory, not go unpunished. Like Osama Bin Laden or George Bush, for whom benches in war crimes courtrooms are simply being kept warm. I'm thinking about those people who will otherwise escape justice, those people whose crimes, to be fair, aren't on that scale, but by god they deserve something. Those people for whom a simple slap just won't cover it, you know what I mean?

And then I think we've missed something when we moved to our carceral society and our more 'Enlightened' conceptualisations of punishment. And then I learned about the Schandmantel. Now this is an ingenious little device. In case you can't be bothered to follow the link, it's sort of like a lighter version of the iron maiden (which apparently -- and this I didn't know -- was just an eighteenth century invention... those silly Gothic writers!). Coming into use in the 13th century, the schandmantel was simply a barrel, made of wood, that convicted prostitutes and poachers were forced to wear as corporal punishment. People would tease them and throw rotting fruit and vegetables at the wearer.

Now what a great idea, I thought. And I got to thinking that it's the modern day poachers and prostitutes that we'd really like to punish: not real prostitutes, of course, but real poachers, fine, and anyone of that ilk. Let's leave the categories open; we don't want to limit our scope here, we might be on to something.

Now, I realise that with this glorious new idea I'm going to disappoint you with my first conviction, but I think we need to fit one of these for boy-Tory and Downing Street loiterer Nick Robinson. Evil? No. But a prostitute? Most certainly a self-aggrandising media whore if ever there was one, always happy to serve the establishment and trying to set right-wing political agendas -- his opinions -- rather than do real political journalism. A poacher? Absolutely. And I don't mean that he has hunted and brought down the Big Game of the political jungle. No, I mean that he has plundered our world of its natural resources -- reason. He has killed intelligent political debate, carved-up the carcass and turned it into the in-demand commodity of gossip and tittle-tattle. (Come back Andrew Marr; all is forgiven.)

A soggy carrot up each nostril and a wet, browning cabbage over his head. I think that would do it. Maybe stick a leek in one ear, pull it out the other, and see which end turns to compost first.

Please let me know if you have any ideas for who might look nice in one of these schandmantels. It might become the in-thing to be seen in this season. Remember to include what fruit, or vegetable, and in what state of decay, you think appropriate.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Great Book of Bathroom Graffitti, Chapter 1

I'm hanging out talking Tom Stoppard and Travesties
Lenin, James Joyce, Tristan Tzara and me
We're smudging the line between the workers' calls
And the petty bourgeois with beer, graffiti walls...

The Lowest of the Low, 'Beer Graffiti Walls'


I love that song.

Anyway, I found this today on a bathroom stall at my University (Sheffield... the men's toilet near Coffee Revolution, if you're in the area). I had to share it with you:

Are you Satisfied with Satan?

To which I found this response was thoughtfully added:

No. Not really. Many people say I do the Devil's work; so far I have had zero pay and the hours are long. Meanwhile, he minces around, all cloven-hooved, giving it the big 'I Am' (Satan) when he is supposed to be preparing the Armies of Darkness to take over the world. I haven't received so much as an unholy water pistol yet!

'The Devil makes work for idle hands'. Well, he should start with himself, the bone idle cunt.

Sir, I salute you. ('he minces around, all cloven-hooved'. Brilliant.) And to which list of complaints we can add that is not an equal opportunity employer, quite obviously favouring (like all other organisations) white Über-men.

Though I hear the dental plan is not bad, actually.

I think it's a funny day when even those worshipping the Lord of Evil, Prince of Darkness, become disillusioned. Doubtless Daily Mail readers (I just cannot stop reading the Daily Hate Myself -- see my previous post) will soon be writing in, complaining about how this Inferno of Eternal Damnation isn't the Great Force it was once and is going to the dogs because of the namby-pamby, work-shy, bureaucratic, anti-social Politically Correct, New Labour-voting ASBO-wielding celebrity paedophiles. (A new tag, J? 'severe disappointment in pledging your soul to Lucifer and His Evil Minions'?) I, for one, will toast the day, raise a champagne flute of blood and turn the lights out as the last one of them scuttles out the country.

No doubt this will become a new game for me to play here... I've always liked the wisdom one can glean from the bathroom stalls and beer graffiti walls, as the song goes. However, I appreciate that I then risk further confusing my purpose: the more I write about shit, the more I say shit, the more I talk about toilets and bathroom stalls, the more strange Google hits I'll incur and the more the casual reader really will think that this is a blog about poo.

Well it's not.

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Don't do it, London.

Now this is scary. (The Guardian/ICM poll, not the picture, I mean. The picture is courtesy of Beau Bo D'Or. Pure Brilliance.)

On the (very) off chance that anyone who is eligible to vote in the London mayoral elections is reading this blog, I feel compelled to inform you that, apparently, you are totally fucking mad. I mean screaming, head bashed around with a toxic stupid stick by a day-glo gorilla in a leisure suit MAD.

Well, no. Some of you think it would be a jolly good idea, that Boris Johnson is just what the City needs to push onward and upward into this brave new century of global financial challenges and enterprise. You are lost, and I have no hope of changing your mind. But for those of you that are thinking it would be a joke to vote for Boris Johnson for mayor, a real hoot, a rip-roaring laugh to have a floppy, dopey stuttering clown in such an important job, I appeal to you.

Incidentally, I'm calling him Johnson and not Boris because I think he's getting away with too much with this cutsie little 'Boris' moniker, like he's not really a dangerous, right-wing nut but only a harmless little cartoon character with a funny accent. Well he's not and Johnson can't be allowed to get away with it any more.

(What do you mean, 'What about Ken?' Ok, well... but he's earned it. Especially after that whole Thatcher-undermining-democracy thing. Apparently. I wasn't here for that. And besides, if you don't want to vote for Livingstone, for God sake's vote for one of the other real politicians in the race.)

But let me be clear: This is not fucking Eurovision, where you select some shit act who sing off-key about fast food to represent Britain so that you can have fun listening to Terry Wogan cringe and laugh as your nil point just shows again how you so get irony more than everyone else in the world. Johnson will not do irony when he gets into office, just shit policies.

If you want to know just how bad a decision electing Johnson would be, please let me share with you the case of my home city, Toronto. When Premier Mike Harris (proto-neo-con right-wing anti-democratic villain, for those of you that haven't had the pleasure) devolved more power to municipalities and created the Megacity of Toronto, Torontonians for the first time had the opportunity to elect a real mayor with critical importance in their lives. And we elected Mel Lastman, a former furniture store owner, because he was, I think the saying goes, 'a character'. And what was his first act as mayor of this Great City of Toronto? he launched a public plea for Geri to re-join the Spice Girls in time for their Toronto show on their World Tour.

Hey, don't laugh. That was about as good as it got. And Toronto suffered for a very long time. So now you know why you don't elect novelty candidates for important jobs. Johnson would probably pull the same Spice Girls stunt, given the opportunity (and might just), but he would also do much, much worse.

It's one thing to elect a monkey for mayor of Hartlepool, but this is London we're talking about. (Nothing against Hartlepool, of course.) Not only is it the capital, and the hub of the country, no, it's not just about being embarrassed by a charming gaffe. London is a vibrant, multicultural, modern city. It is also the home of the City, the financial juggernaut that, left unchecked, would force not only London but the whole country into a laizzser-faire, deregulated nightmare.

And Livingstone serves as a buffer again that. It's not just that Johnson would be a joke and an embarrassment -- though he would be that too, make no mistake. It's that he would bring disastrous policies that serve only that one part of London, that elite (an impressive, shameless,.... filthy elite it is too), but a tiny minority nevertheless.

If in doubt, ask the BNP: they've told their supporters to give their second choice vote to Johnson. And that's only part of the problem. Johnson would not only privilege his white constituents, but also the rich ones, as he'll inevitable turn out to be one of those lizard-faced capitalist masters of the universe (or a cross-dressing Thatcherite clown, which amount to much the same thing, surely).

It seems to me, looking at those polling statistics from the Guardian, that Ken draws more support from non-whites and women, and Johnson has more support from white males... so, if the white males want to have their little joke, or actually like the idea of a City-friendly Tory in the mayoral chair, then there's a simple solution: disenfranchise them. Take the vote away from white men. They've had it too long anyway, and if they're going to piss it away on a practical joke, they obviously don't appreciate it any more.

In the nineteenth century, when only white men had the vote, they used to argue that they couldn't extend suffrage to all women, because then they would use their votes irrationally, in their silly, feminine, childish way, and vote for sentimental causes, like welfare and education for all. I'm not kidding. (References on request.) So now, we can use the same logic -- the defence of our values -- to deny white men the vote: clearly, if we keep letting white men vote, we'll keep getting bureaucratic, sphincter-tightening politicians forming governments that represent only the narrow interests of capitalism and patriarchy.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Hate really pisses me off.

I have to share with you this terrific blog my friend Chris pointed me to. It's call The Daily Hate, and it -- simply, brilliantly -- posts readers' comments from the The Daily Mail (no link). That's all.

Just the readers' comments. I was suspicious at first, thinking that it would just be something awful, an intelligentista's guilty pleasure -- 'Oh no! I couldn't possibly read another... Oh. Go on then!' Something that we know we shouldn't indulge in, just for the short-term warmth, the feel-good bubbles, but can't resist just one more time laughing at the ignorance and stupidity of Daily Mail readers.

Well, there's a bit of that. But maybe that's not a bad thing. Remember, this isn't necessarily a minority opinion here; it's one of the UK's highest circulation papers. (Yes. I did research. But I couldn't bear spending too long on it because I found it painful and depressing. You can do the math/s for yourself here.) But the real genius of this blog are the labels: 'furious hatred of women', 'country going to the dogs', 'sponging off taxpayers', 'PC brigade', 'abolish the BBC', 'so-called "human rights"'... oh! I could go on and on. You don't need commentary. They damn themselves.

The 'furious hatred of women' label is the most popular by some stretch. It seems that Daily Mail readers are very vocal in their furious hatred of women. And any cursory glance anyway would show that they hate women furiously often. Which is an excellent reminder -- if any were needed --that there is a whole lot of patriarchy out there, and it needs crushing with a heavy, angry fist, ruthlessly, unapologetically and with severe prejudice against the assholes that talk such shit.

See, I get anger. It's maybe not the best way forward, all the time, but I get it. It's like Public Enemy say:
Flav: You sound hostile.
Chuck D: You're damn right I'm hostile! My people are being persecuted!
Like that. [Thanks Robert!] In fact, there probably is no where near enough anger out there, given everything. But we masses will have our opiates, won't we?

But what is really scary, reading these comments, isn't the dizzying level of ignorance, or stupidity, or squinting, in-bred irrationality, but the amount of hate that is out there. I mean nasty, spiteful, evil, shit down your throat, set fire to your pets while forcing you to watch kind of hate. We're back in Melanie Klein territory here (see the quotation under the title of this blog): paranoid, schizoid, splitting, cutting, ripping shredding, stick-it-up-your-ass and make you dance hate.

Where does it all come from? Fucked if I know. Well, I have my theories. But it's interesting how the tabloids -- and it's not just the Mail -- foster and positively encourage these vitriol. ('Hurrah for the Blackshirts' anyone? Just one episode in a long, unbroken line of hatred.) Undergraduates I was teaching in a psychoanalytic theory module (who are often cleverer and more observant than I am... but don't tell them) recognised this, and last term a few of them wrote some excellent essays about tabloids and hate, so there is hope.

Surely, though, this is the real reason this country is going to the dogs?