Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Hope and Humbuggery: a Christmas tantrum.

This sucks.

I’ve just arrived back from my mum’s place and been greeted with a bollocking HUGE gas bill that we have only a slim chance of paying, plus a plumbing system that’s still buggered to the tune of having to wash my hair and essential parts in the sink, with a saucepan. All this, and scrabbling to prepare for a parental visit: clean, fumigate, hide the S’M posters, hide the ashtrays, hide the kingskins, hide our same-sex partners, and maybe, just maybe, we’ll make 2009 intact.

At this most magical time of the year, I truly pity the undeserving souls who work in call centres. Having been on the line to a dogged unresponsive pissed-off hack for half an hour, you could hear a festering note of impending armaggedon in the weary British Gas man’s voice when he asked if he could keep me informed of any new products and services.

Talking of festering Armageddon, does anyone else feel like we’re approaching the end times?

Maybe it’s just me. But in the latter months of 2008, it’s become far less easy to be a freak in this country. The black dog of recession is crunching us in its bloody jaws and, unlike the States, we don’t have any liberal saviour preaching change who we can clutch at, whispering save us. The government is clamping down on everybody, no matter where they live or why. The poor, single parents and the mentally ill are going to suffer under the new welfare plan. The atmosphere in Whitehall is one of stunned denial, with ministers emerging over the ramparts to frantically fire desultory, mean sallies such as today’s announcement that bailiffs will be given new powers to enter debtors’ homes at will, physically restraining or pinning down the occupants if necessary.

Will Monaco and Jersey swarm with smart-suited Scrooges wearing knuckle-dusters?
Will hired muscle be sent to collect billions of pounds’ worth of debt from Britain’s richest tax-dodgers, like Philip Green? Will members of the treasury, recently found owing £645bn which my generation will have to stump up for in our middle age, be turfed out onto the street in their scanties? Nah, thought not. Once again, it’s the poorest and most vulnerable who are being targeted by this supposed people’s government, this government that promised us change, transparency, a new world order. Maybe that’s why Obamania is failing to cheer us up: we’ve heard this line before.

Meanwhile, in Vatican City a nominally celibate former Hitler Youth member in a dress has a Christmas message of goodwill and peace in our time. Yup, Ratzinger wants to defend holy heterosexuality from the despicable ‘gender blurring’ perpetrated by gays, bisexuals, transsexuals and women who don’t sit with their knees together in church:

‘We need something like human ecology, meant in the right way. The Church speaks of human nature as 'man' or 'woman' and asks that this order is respected.

"This is not out-of-date metaphysics. It comes from the faith in the Creator and from listening to the language of creation, despising which would mean self-destruction for humans and therefore a destruction of the work itself of God."

I would like, at this point, to swallow the greater part of the Fuck The Pope tirade that was going to be my inevitable next outburst and instead point Herr Ratzinger towards the roll-call of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Christian saints recently enumerated by activist scholars, amongst them Saint Joan of Arc, Saint Sebastian and ooh, wouldn’t you credit it, Saint George, patron of this blinkered isle.

I apologise for the unseasonal amount of bile and hatred in this post. Believe me, behind this cold, hard exterior twitters the pink and fluffy heart of a perpetual six-year-old who bounces out of bed at 5am on Christmas morning and dreams in sugarplums and fairy lights. But behind that is the chill adult realisation that we’re going to have to take the long road home. 2009 will be a hard, hard year, we didn’t need the IMF to tell us that. The rest of this beautiful, broken, brilliant decade is going to entail threats to socialism, liberalism and freedom of thought and action from all sides, with governments offering no quarter and giving none. Those of us brave enough to weather the distance, those of us with the strength and temerity to hold on to our liberal ideals, will need everything we’ve got to keep the hope in our heads alive.

The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks;
The long day wanes; the slow moon climbs; the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends.
'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are,--
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield. [Tennyson, 'Ulysses']

And that’s my Christmas message. Hope, if nothing else: hope, because that’s all we’ve got, that we will come through this with our sanity and our integrity, everyone: the poor, the young, the mentally ill, the geeks, the freaks, the queers and their allies, the feminists and race-activists and socialists and war protesters and those who dare to dream of a better and a fairer world. When we have nothing else but hope, we will have to find the energy from somewhere to keep on getting out of bed, keep on striving, keep on thinking for ourselves. I’m certainly going to keep on writing; I hope you’ll keep on reading. Thank you all for keeping up with this blog over the past year, and please believe me when I wish you, whatever your faith, a merry Christmas.

12 comments:

  1. Hi, I've been reading your blog for a while and just set up my own, which contains a post on the Pope's speech (http://directionlessbones.wordpress.com/2008/12/23/homosexuality-will-kill-millions-leave-billions-homeless/)

    I was wondering if you'd mind me putting you on my blogroll?

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  2. Stop seeing red, Penny.

    I have enjoyed your blog and see a spark of light in you that is wholly admirable in my opinion. As a festive present I can do no better than to offer you this quote from Rainer Maria Rilke:

    "We have no reason to mistrust our world, for it is not against us. Has it terrors, they are our terrors; has it abysses, those abuses belong to us; are dangers at hand, we must try to love them. And if only we arrange our life according to that principle which counsels us that we must always hold to the difficult, then that which now still seems to us the most alien will become what we most trust and find most faithful.

    How should we be able to forget those ancient myths about dragons that at the last moment turn into princesses; perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave. Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless that wants help from us.Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless that wants help from us.

    So you must not be frightened if a sadness rises up before you larger than any you have ever seen; if a restiveness, like light and cloud-shadows, passes over your hands and over all you do. You must think that something is happening with you, that life has not forgotten you, that it holds you in its hand, it will not let you fall."


    Cheer up kiddo. You are pretty much correct in almost everything you say online but I fear you may be too perceptive and too intelligent to ever be truly happy.

    Put aside your militancy for a few weeks rest and recreation, then gird your loins for the coming battle in 2009 and beyond.

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  3. You know, I'd never thought of Saint Sebastian as a queer icon before. Thank you - you've added an extra element to my seasonal cheer.

    S.
    xxx

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  4. Sebastian: you've not come across Derek Jarman's film?!

    Laurie: Thanks for the posts, and (pace Momus) stay angry: it's a welcome antidote to the apathy of the rest of the world

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  5. "The black dog of recession is crunching us in its bloody jaws and, unlike the States, we don’t have any liberal saviour preaching change who we can clutch at, whispering save us."

    On the plus side, unlike the US, we do actually have a welfare state so, rhetoric aside, the UK will be a slightly more pleasant place to live through a recession in a material sense.

    I feel a bit sorry for the Pope. Eighty-year-old conservative priest has traditional views on gender surely isn't the world's biggest news story. What did people think he thought about these things?

    "The rest of this beautiful, broken, brilliant decade is going to entail threats to socialism, liberalism and freedom of thought and action from all sides, with governments offering no quarter and giving none."

    Well, I think the remnants of Western social democracy are less threatened now than they have been at any point since 1979.

    Neo-liberalism is in retreat, it has to be replaced by something and the challenge for the left is to make sure it isn't replaced by something worse.

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  6. "On the plus side, unlike the US, we do actually have a welfare state so, rhetoric aside, the UK will be a slightly more pleasant place to live through a recession in a material sense."

    Floyd you've got it all wrong. Part of the problem is the welfare state. We can't afford it no matter how much we tax the rich etc, etc.

    Also Penny I'd like to know what you mean when you use the word 'liberal'?

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  7. I agree wholeheartedly with TBRRob.

    The welfare state must go!

    In my opinion we should scrap the "welfare state" altogether and let nature take its course. The "nanny state" is keeping too many of the unfit alive for too long: it is natural for the old, sick, disabled, stupid and unlucky to die out and not pass on their genes to the next generation. Wouldn't this country be much better without the elderly, blind, deaf, mute, weak, retarded and other physically disadvantaged sub-humans cluttering up the place and bleeding the nation's already merge resources.

    I would also advocate some kind of licensing in respect to human reproduction coupled with a programme of genetic screening (with compulsory abortion enforceable by law as necessary) to prevent women giving birth to obviously imperfect children and, as they used to do in ancient Sparta, discard babies who slip through pre-natal screening who have not been born up to specification.

    I would also advocate bringing back the death sentence and construction of detainment centres where criminals, miscreants and other undesirables could be confined and made to do hard and productive labour for the country as part of their punishment. I would also like to see a programme of compulsory castration enacted in respect to the worst and most recidivist male criminals to prevent them from reproducing if/when they find themselves in the civil community.

    The sooner we move into this more enlightened age the better.

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  8. "Floyd you've got it all wrong. Part of the problem is the welfare state. We can't afford it no matter how much we tax the rich etc, etc."

    We can afford it.

    Once people have actually got the cash, welfare benefits are one of the most productive forms of government spending in that most of the money goes to people who spend it quickly, putting money back into the economy creating more jobs and employment.

    In a wealthy or moderately wealthy country, there is no sensible alternative to having a welfare state for working age people (pensions is a growing question as people live longer).

    The USA do without one by having more than 2.5 million people in prisons - a cruel variation on the workhouse system we finally got rid of here in the early 20th century.

    Ultimately, it's a choice about the kind of society we want to live in.

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  9. "In a wealthy or moderately wealthy country, there is no sensible alternative to having a welfare state for working age people (pensions is a growing question as people live longer)."

    You are quite wrong in everything you say, sir. What you suggest is no solution to the problems this country faces. TBRRob and me are right. Our ideals and policies as per the complete abolution of the welfare "nanny" state represent the final solution essential to Britain's success in the twenty first century. Bleeding hearts like you went out with the ark my friend.

    Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow belong to the likes of TBRRob, James Purnell, John Hutton et al. James Purnell in particular is attempting to make worthy advances that I personally approve of and find wholly admirable; the Conservative party is now too soft and compassionate to initiate the necessary reforms that I envisage.

    This is why I will be voting New Labour in 2010.

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  10. "it is natural for the ...stupid ... to die out"

    What high-tech gadgets are keeping you alive then?

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  11. My dear Neuroskeptic.

    (Are you sure you shouldn’t omit the “k” from your moniker?)

    I need no help whatsoever to maintain my existence, least of all from the NHS, since I am privately covered against all contingencies and acts of God. I am willing to bet that a substantial portion of taxes levied against my own professional earnings, property and investment portfolio are however instrumental vis-à-vis keeping people like you and the likes of you alive! I already contribute 40% of my income to the nation's coffers - soon to be 45% if the perfidious (New)Labour Party, aka neo-Conservative Party, wrecks it's wicked way upon me fiscally blast their eyes!

    The bald fact is that you and people like you never contribute anything worthwhile to the world either creatively or destructively. You are born to live like parasites in the bowels of superior specimens of humanity, consuming enormous resources in the process, before begetting further by-blows like yourself and eventually dying in absolute obscurity. For all the difference you make to the world you might as well have never have existed at all.

    Three cheers for James Purnell and Christopher Grayling! Between the two of them – whoever is in power - they’ll put some stick about and people of your ilk back in their natural places.

    To me the future suddenly looks considerably brighter!

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  12. You do know if they abolish the welfare state you'll have to pay for your own medication & straightjackets right Patient 94...I mean Mr Wilson?

    Until you stop these bizarre rants about parasites in your bowels sucking out your money you're going to have to stay locked up.

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