Creative Struggles and Synthesis

Poetry, Prosaic, Pulpit

This is a follow-on from a post that helped me find my blogging voice again. You don’t need to read that one though. It was more thinking out loud where this one is basically the same but slightly better structured. The continuing theme is that we all get into a rut sometimes, overthinking or letting our emotions run away with us, or both.

Writers block is about disconnection, because writing, and even art generally, is about leaving the boundaries of your own body. Heck, all communication is about that. It’s probably what defines humans above all else – our ability to empathise with things. Empathy is a relatively new and very accurate word. It’s about putting yourself in the shoes of someone or something else. Not just sympathising “oh it must be hard” but realising “oh, it is hard. It really is.” Also I suppose knowing when you know nothing. “That’s just way beyond anything I’ve experienced, but here’s my sadly academic attempt at describing it. Because an attempt is better than ignoring the possibility of truth.”

Words are referring to and so trying to make you think of, and partly experience, things which are not immediately happening to you. Even if someone else is talking about you as you do things, they’re talking off-point. You’re drinking and they say “Ian is drinking”, it doesn’t describe the sense of thirst, it describes the sensation of drinking, or it could be a sarcastic reference to your alcoholism. It pulls you into the speaker’s perspective and away from your own. And that’s incredibly useful.

Empathy is like having a soul or a spirit, you know. Because empathising is extending whispy non-physical energies than can interact with and generally access physical things. Empathy is magic, and so art is magic. Talking a bit like Alan Moore here. Your ability to accurately understand someone else and so tailor an interaction to them, is magical. Or can seem so when you do it proper, because it’s so subtle and yet so powerful. The perfect gift, the manipulation into something, or the feeling of love and safety and acceptance you read in a friend snoozing on your couch. That’s magic, okay. That stuff is pure brilliance.

And that’s art. When successful it takes you somewhere. Teleports you or possesses you or releases you. All these phrases for the same sort of process. Someone else connecting with your experience through and/or despite theirs…powerful.

There’s a good old movie called Excalibur. Proper Northern-European. Yeah, that manages to be a cultural thing. Merlin the magician helps by creating symbols, by helping with masquerades, and by creating fog. He doesn’t shoot lightning bolts from his arse, he appears in the right place at the right time and says the right thing to people who don’t understand the world in the way he does. This is no Gandalf fighting the Balrog. This is the man who taps into the power of the Dragon – pure life energy – in his sleep. He quietly glows while Gandalf desperately struggles. He gets how things connect. He empathises. And he only turns up when he thinks it’s appropriate. Which is why he’s only struck by something as fictitious as ice magic – being turned into a block of ice – when he loses his power to empathise in a fit of madness, caused by deep betrayal. The only time when he loses his aura of mystery is when he stops empathising, falls into despair, and lets his own emotion overwhelm him uncontrollably. It’s like when Spock panics, but much cooler. (Sorry Spock, you’re still really cool, which is why I’m mentioning you out of context.)

So, let’s look at a poem.

The Curly Auburn DJ

My nostalgia for you

Particularly, hugging me at work when you’re tired
Sharing sandwiches and mugs
Because you don’t like too much cheese
Being okay with my saliva
Dirty fingers from polishing your shoes sometimes
Because I want to
Sonorific MTV memories
And your little unexpected gifts
Always

Especially, innocent shameless on tired weekday evenings
Warm, rainy nights behind open doors
Lonely blue guitar rockstar singalongs
And romantic pointings beloved of Elvis
Lookalikes of lookalikes
Staggering
Striding through streets
And being alone with our lagers, hands

Specifically, kissing me with your hat on
At home, in private, with no-one to see though windows open to the night
With moonshine and lamplight on the sill
The felt catching on my forehead but sliding over, not down
Silently looking into your eyes
Feeling your body, privately, for the first time
Through softened wool or cotton and layers
You watching as I hold you and touch you
You would want to understand
And you would
A little, or more
Us dancing t
o your quiet music

I don’t like this one. I don’t like most of, if any, of my poems. They’re all trying to describe pristine moments or feelings, and they only get there part of the time. It’s like Stonehenge maybe. You only see the brilliance and utility when the sun shines just so, what like once a year. This one, I’m not sure if it makes it to communication proper. It’s basically only going to work – maybe – for the one reader who can catch all the references. Maybe you can read it and like parts of it, or maybe like me you read through it and see flaws that need correcting. I’m trying to present something for you to empathise with. I’m trying to make some magic. I need to try harder. Problem is, emotionally sensitive area. Ice block time.

Whereas another poem I’ve showed you and talked about before, I’m working on an update that’s tasty. Tasty because it’s honest, communicative.

EDIT: I’m cheating a bit as this is an old post that I hadn’t finished, until now. So, the first of what may or may not be many updates to Consul Orange is already here. I hope it’s as tasty as I suggested. Probably not, but I’m a pessimistic guy when it comes to this stuff. So maybe.

It gets ice block because I unfortunately enjoy being in love with people I’m not supposed to love. Nothing weird. Jane Austen, Darcy, -style nothing bad. Just stupid really. And if the love succeeds, if the hunt concludes, if the chase is done…well…not exactly what’s the point but…chasing is fun. Heck if I could just write beautiful love poems, no issues, no questions asked, wouldn’t that be a bit boring? Well, maybe not. But that’s how the grass looks from this side of the fence. There’s always a struggle therefore, there’s always an emotional vulnerability, there’s always the chance that I’m fucking up by saying what I’m saying. It’s a bit of a gamble you know? And I do enjoy a bit of a gamble, well, within what are really very safe boundaries.

How does this tie in with empathy and writers’ block? You may well inquire. Well, on the loving from a distance thing, I find myself becoming good friends with people, and one day I realise I know them really well. Basically from loving them in a mostly non-sexual way (love seems to play a huge role in my life) I get to learn a huge amount about them, what they like, how they tend to act. I get an insight into how they think. I get strong empathy. Sometimes. These are people who can then pull me out of any block or depression because just being with them hooks me up to the 230V and suddenly I’m ready to go again. That’s like art/communication but with very low distribution. I mean it’s putting all your effort not into a single work, but into another person.

Specific acts and methods are all well and good, however: what you need in life is a balance between your means of emotional satisfaction and your ability to pull yourself away and analyse stuff. You need those two seemingly incompatible sides of your being to interact regularly, and help you achieve what you want. The good friends I love are a microcosm of that. I’ve got to a place where there’s balance – albeit tentative – and so I can get the most out of what’s happening. And, you know, just feel good.

So, two sides: the distant, analytical empathic effort is great but you can’t drain all sense of self, you can’t become some distant contemplative creature like a transcendent god, because you’re not that. And you’ll just get really sad. Some writers fall into this trap I think, hiding away in the shed in worlds of imagination. You can’t really know what other people are feeling if you’ve not explored your own emotions and interpersonal interactions. Basically, you don’t want to spend so much time flying out somewhere that you forget your way home, run out of fuel, and other metaphors.

On the other side, you’re asking for trouble if you just go all emotion and all running around activity. You’ll end up stuck somewhere doing something you don’t understand, and eventually you’ll not feel great about it. Some writers become celebrities and get so busy with gala luncheons they forget how to make decent work, or they plunge into alcoholism. Any emotional excess – pretty self-explanatory why it’s bad, no? Charles Bukowski says he did a lot of his sexy poems for smut magazines because he had to pay the bills, which included bar tabs and booze money, but then he’d still manage to sneak in a grander theme somewhere in each of those poems so he could still express something more meaningful. Even in what some might call the depths of degradation, the man basically held it together: maintained a kind of purpose/perspective/balance.

This is fucking dualism, mate. To some extent. Mind and body are separate in some ways, but are also connected, must also work together. It’s not a contradiction, it’s a complicated web of biological and nervous connections that we don’t fully understand yet. Mind-body. Two separate things, connected. Balanced, hopefully.

Now, after that inspiring talk…can you feel the creative struggles fading away? Can you feel that Hegelian synthesis pushing its way up through the hole left by flawed arguments assuming contradiction? If not, I’ve got an off-the-wall suggestion: read the Great Gatsby (again if you’ve already done it) and try and work out who the characters are, what happens to them. For example, who’s responsible for the big murder at the end? Is Nick actually a massive gay? Is Daisy the victim of ceaseless manipulation, or a ruthless social climber? Or anything in between…

It’s a great book for refusing to give clear, straight answers about what happens. And it’s got a pretty beautiful setting throughout. It was a contradiction 101 for me: I learned, well, realised, that contradictions generally aren’t final. They’re a sign that something is more complicated than it seems.

 

I Lost My Guitar

Personal, Poetry, Stories

I lost my guitar a few months ago. To be honest, I never played it much. I learnt the whole of Nirvana’s “Polly”, but it’s not the most complicated tune. I learnt riffs from White Stripes songs, like “I Smell a Rat” and “Sugar Never Tasted So Good” and “Cannon”. I learnt some Arctic Monkeys. They all felt pretty good, but I’ve just never been persuaded to put the hours in. As a kid I had lessons in classical guitar but I barely remember any of that. Maybe my fingers do, I don’t know. I imagine that’s the kind of thing fingers might do.

It had a sheen like pearls
And every time the strings
Rusted it was like the stone
Had swallowed the clam
All those times I dropped it
To the seabed, it evolved.

So I lost my guitar. Stupidly, while moving. I left it in the rental van and didn’t notice for days. When I finally realised what had happened, I just thought about going to the rental place to collect it. I mean, this place is an hour and a half walk for me. I think we rang and they said I’d have to come in person to check through lost property. I didn’t.

One dark winter it ran:
Away I guess, message in
A bottle floating along
That sea of roadways, well
A guitar in a case. Now
The case comes back as
Black velvet, the stone
Guitar impossibly gothic
Impossibly desireable –
It’s valuable now it’s gone.

Things like this really cut me up. Just neglect. Plain, simple, lazy neglect. My own I mean. Other people gotta do what they gotta do. And my attitude when playing wasn’t always great either. Like with “Polly”, that’s why I went for it: maximum impact for minimum learning effort. Still a lot of psychological going into the performance though I guess. It’s not easy singing the words of a sadistic torturer, words imagined by the late and great Kurt Cobain, last sung in what might have been his carefully staged goodbye show in New York. But fuck. It really stings to know you’ve been …consciously inadequate.

Somewhere, the velvet now
Unpacked, she sits on a lap
Singing to more cultured
Fingers and her player’s dulcet
Tones entwine with hers,
Newly-tuned, in some kind of
Loving symphony, or at least
A charming folk tune.

I lost my favourite plectrum too. This skinny yellow thing I found on the street and that I’d been using for maybe two years. You know, on-and-off, picking up some songs then forgetting them through lack of practice. But man, I realised more and more as time passed that I had a serious connection with that guitar and plectrum. The guitar had been bought for me years past, because people thought I cared about playing. The plectrum had travelled, like the coin in No Country For Old Men, through so much to get to me. These things, I mean just objects sure, but I’d just let them fall through my fingers as though they were sand. They’re not sand though.

So descend a thousand
Smoothed triangles pushing,
Prodding, poking into creases
And as I move the sweat
Sticks them deeper, their
Bright colours shining off
As I struggle with wrists
And hands, the noise
Rising above my own.

Bit of a sad one today, sorry. Some allegory here. From back years ago, learning what love and sex are. One time in particular a girlfriend left me and I was stuck with all sorts of thoughts about how great a love it had been and how certainly she’d become a sexual possession of someone else. Like how badly ruined the whole thing would be, like imagining the other guy fucking her, how it was obviously my fault. How only I failed, and continued to fail in imagining her as any kind of sexual object, in any context. I mean I was denouncing the short-lived “love” as hard as I could, as infatuation, as lust, as demented possessiveness. My whole sense of things had been so fucked up, I realised, and was still being fucked up. Until dealing with this shit, I’d not been the most social of kids. Love for me was built way up there – I didn’t look at porn, I didn’t masturbate, I didn’t do the evil thing in video games. Well, except Elder Scrolls. In that all bets were off for some reason.

And this break up and failure just…ugh. I mean it makes me a bit disgusted with myself, so much wallowing, so much thinking. I tried to ring her to talk, I sent her an angry facebook message asking her to take me back. That was it. Every time I saw her something in me died. Fuck, man, I was just done. And so I started pulling myself out by finding a place in the world of romance that would eventually become empowering, I started making my bisexuality an active thing, I started to build another identity. Basically as a sub. Like submissive. Because you know, being a sub can have such strength to it – it’s not about self-abuse, or doesn’t have to be. I started to teach myself properly about love, romance, people, the world. Oh yeah. Sex, too.

I have to go over this here because losing my guitar gave me a tiny glimpse back into how I felt then, and so the poem I wrote about it reflects in part my mindset from back in those times. The feature picture too. Not so much who I am now. But hey, if it gives me a poem and an opportunity to be real with y’all then I guess I’m not going to look a gift-horse in the mouth (or something).

Oh man it feels so much better to be me now. Not just because I could go to Soho and try and pull a guy anytime I want – and stand a pretty good chance at it for the next decade. It’s because I feel confident enough to do shit like that and know that I’m not going to crumble, or in some old patriarchal way try and own the person I want to fuck me. My heart can sing now – as cliché as that is – where before it was just giving me notifications like in Dead Rising, in those big, red, screen-spanning letters “Brian Reynolds is Dead”, “Your own sense of self respect is dead”, “Your sense of self-worth is dead”. Haha, sorry again everyone. I feel like a total mess talking about this stuff. We have more poems incoming. I’ve got a stock of oldies that need review, and I want to do some stories about ex lovers and stuff, partly fictionalised to protect the innocent. So maybe that’ll happen too. More tender, less real. Maybe. Oh and another essay en route though I feel like those are going to be less popular, but what the hey.

Yeah, so, uh, stay tuned. (see what I did there – guitar, tuned, eh, eh?)

Sleep, Waking and Work in Progress

Personal, Poetry

I can see this becoming a common theme here – I struggle with sleep. Like I struggle letting go of the waking hours, I don’t want to give up on all that stuff I’m supposed to be doing. Stuff that’s always on the cusp, that I seem always to be about to do. Plus the dreams are really weird, which I like, but which can also be unsettling. The other night I dreamt I was sleeping on a bench and then a seagull came down and nestled behind me, like in the bend of my back, and it wouldn’t go away. I told it to go away and I tried to lift it up, but it wouldn’t go. It just kept all closed up and sleepy like those pigeons you see hiding in small spaces. Weird.

But back to reality, struggles. It’s late. I’m sitting, staring at my lava lamp thinking whether to try and write something big and proper. Well, proper at least. But fuck it, like. It’s well late.

I start going through old poems and things, adding a few lines here and there to unfinished pieces – I might really have made some progress on a few of them this way, actually. Sometimes you’ve just got to spurt out those words and worry about the mess later, since clearing up the mess might just give you the stain you need. Ahem.

I’ve got this little dedication for you. Related to our Consul Lactarius back there.

When I met you you were walking dreams and fears woven
You had a glare like bemused coffee or cats and lizards
Framed by your windswept jaw cutting cheese cheeks
You live the less known parts with anonymous condoms broken on your fingers,
Flappy rubber rings making silent hilarious finger puppets
You fix the orange gloom of dusk while lazy eyes drink sleep bubbles
Breezy chest bird, you surprised me with a like mind gone for a film of a sculpture ticking
And poetry in pages as sheaves of grass innumerately knotted with pictures

With a few of these I get the feeling that I’m in cutesyness overload. I had a poem once called little perubird or something like that. I’d post it but honestly I think it’s borderline insulting to the subject, though that’s not what I meant at the time. It’s the dainty phrases like “cheese cheeks”, “finger puppets”, “drink sleep bubbles” – they’re the verbal equivalent of dancing tippy-toed. A ballet maybe, but a childish one. I don’t know my ballets particularly well, just searching for activities that fit the descriptor “tippy-toed”.

I mean I’m someone who likes dresses and heels and pink nail polish, so the cutesy is to be expected, but I really struggle to pull it off. There’s too much soldier culture in me through all the movies and the military history, like I’m obviously not a soldier but that kind of manly masculinity has got me needlepricked. It’s floating around in those veins. I try though. I’m searching for a kind of balance really and just not entirely sure where to find it. Occasionally it’ll show in the poetry, I think. And the other writing. Hey, we’ve all got to aspire to something, haven’t we?

Here’s a piece I’m working on. I don’t know why it’s in Acts, but until I’ve got a clear reason to change it, it’s staying that way. Posting now, before it’s finished, because I might not be blogging anything for a few days. We’ve got people round. So I figure I want to give you something to be getting on with (and not just that fucking dedication, that’d be cheating). Working title is “My First Dress”. Obviously the kind of thing I’m keen to write about, but don’t worry: this isn’t all I do.

Prologue

Your unicorn smile: smooth cornucopia Inserting
Real, the coca-cola room receeding, burning
For your hard hand-on-heart pushed past processional
Ribs, the flaming licks, flicks, knicks, and babbling rum
Incenses quietly forlorn young girls

Act 1

You’ve got some jam on your lip and
I
Don’t say
You’re making me new to your eyes –
They could be yellow –
And you gave me your ‘slut dress’ so that I could
Give
Myself
At home in the quiet I jut my hips and
Massage my lips
With clay and
Wandering fingers edge my tips and
Because you believed me without being told
Because
You didn’t slip under me or over me.

Act 2

I miss that slick prick
Pushing through skin
Dredging up thick weaves
The sinful sighs
Come again
Solicited and moaning
“but you’re not gay”
And I’m silent about my dress
And he’s laughing and smoking
And I’m sucking

I think “Act 3” (if I carry on with the frankly random theatre referencing, well, life is a stage and men and women merely players) is going to be about this wonderful man who I can never get off with, but we keep seeing eachother all the same.

If you’re a romantic, I think it’s important to keep these things going. Love isn’t all bodies, okay, and a personality is way harder to get to know than a body. Way more interesting in the long run too, way more dominant. Look, even “Platonic love” becomes beautiful and wildly emotional. So those friendships are worth keeping, and more than that: the friendship is the real content of a romance. It’s the exchange of emotions that give all that physical theatricality value, man. So when you fall in love with someone but the usual sexy thing doesn’t seem like the right move, or is literally the wrong move, just be friends. Do the sexy minds thing. Plus, that way you can go fuck other people too.

Love and sex – totally not the same thing. But sex – totally worth doing.

Now, before I go there’s a night band you really should listen to. Yes, night band does in this case mean that you should only listen to them at night. Probably after 1am. It’s Hungry Ghosts, an Australian group whose album “Alone, Alone” I got into while living in a flat off Brick Lane. They’re top for mangled morning sessions of whatever really. I tend to end up writing on ’em. The album really has been like a drug. Any other time I seem to find it less than inspiring, but in the wee small hours it transforms to a near-perfection. I guess it fits with the concept of a hungry ghost (at least the Chinese traditional/buddhist concept outlined by wikipedia). Also, the Hungry Ghosts I’m thinking of – who can be found on youtube – aren’t the supercool Hong Kong band of the same name. (Sorry.)


Attribution for original seagull pic: By Post of Armenia (http://www.armenianstamps.com/2003.html) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Consul Lactarius Aurantiacus

Personal, Poetry

I’m taking way too much time over this because it was for someone I really care about and I kinda want to get it right. But as ever that’s a bit of a self-defeating exercise – getting it right – and hey, I’ve not seen him for years anyway so who gives a fuck? This is the latest version of Consul Orange, now with a picture.

I can smell your flat Shandy Bass:
Crazy fresh open window Streathamings despite 4x4s
Maybe the glaucous seal,
Guardian of sheet seas and water-treading,
The glint and prickle of Sainsbury’s soave:
Demented cartoon solipsism and no
Questions, seeping into the night:
Some kind of pure morning sun feeling
Bursts November snow flow,
Their latex drops on the draught,
And on vague attempts at siphoning
The hairy gills embrace:
Oesophageal anticipation,
That exhausted Tadcaster blur moaning,
Bound eyes dour to the ceiling,
And white emperor armour self-inflicted orange
Somehow unjust, tearing and milk spilling
Like discarded lines sweat-patched,
Invader Zim acceptance, lonely perfumed
Shower soap irritating unknown orgasm:
A world set above the world claws
Your shiny glass skull, self-reflecting or alien crystal,
Talking fish singing penitent,
Discarded shirt, tie, lissom French letters,
Vapor boots neatly stacked with wine glass columns:
Your epic poetic resounding sweet chill pizza,
And the last hungry dribbles shared:
I could have laid the whole mo[u]rning through
No cold in the exhausted breeze cradling
Drowned sugar between sheets.

I performed this once, and the crowd looked at me as though I wasn’t finished. I’m not sure if it was just shellshock (I’m awkward and embarrassed about these things – I could get some kind of shock from performing I’m sure) but I think they didn’t do anything, whereas for everyone else including the people whose performance skills were as inspiring as my own, they’d at least clapped. I remember the host/MC saying, as I walked back to the masses cuddling their wine glasses, “That was great…I really liked the [and he misquoted a line]”. I thought, well, I’m glad you liked the version you made up at least.

Performing poetry is fucking weird. Also if they thought I wasn’t finished, they were right. This is still a work in progress. A labour, if not of love then of…labour.

For those of you keeping track, I promised you a poem about a pigeon that has a cold. You’re going to get it. Tomorrow. I just felt like putting this out today…it’s overdue really.

On an unrelated note, has anyone seen that Netflix series the Last Kingdom?  That Alexander Dreymon is what we used to call “a lovely bit of slice”. You have to say that with as much phlegm and spittle in your mouth as possible to show how tasty the person you’re talking about is. It’s an Essex/Saaaaf Lundon thing, don’t worry about it. 

Poison Coffee

Personal, Poetry

An oldie I thought had a hint of charm left in it…

Dans la fromagerie a londres
The scents of smelly cheese like happy rotting
There are cakes
Not cheesecakes
Normal cakes
And the waitress is poisoning my coffee.
Her eyes reaching up and down my face
As she fills the cup
With almost nicotinal pleasure
Words
Sugar?
Milk?
Kissing my ears
A smile that remembers,
Burrowing into my heart
And the waitress is poisoning my coffee.
I fear her touch,
Giving change,
Like a witch must fear salt or water or salt water
So soft her hands
Reminiscent of rows of young,
Painted
Sicilian cottages,
Melting in the sun.
I take and drink the poison coffee.

Democracy – a New Anarchism?

Political, Pulpit

We’re all humans and there’s no reason why any one of us should be able to rule over any of the rest of us.

I understand that not everyone accepts this as a given, and I’m a little exhausted by that: people unwilling to use or presently incapable of using empathy. It’s nothing we can help. There’s a fateful inevitability to human proceedings that doesn’t make our lives any less interesting, but that does wear on you.

If you want anything big – some proper change – you have to make a pretty huge push in that kinda direction otherwise, like a ball tumbling downhill, society won’t turn round and go back the way you want. And big in this sense means involving large numbers of people, which in turn means that it can’t be something you want, it has to be something that we all want.

All human progress is about co-operation. This is clear and obvious. Various day-to-day facts make it hard for us to co-operate sometimes. The fabric of our society has been knitted wrong. We mistrust one another, we compete for false standing and stolen wealth, but that’s just how it is – I’m not criticising you personally. We all have to do it. Born into poor structures created by dying fools.

So if you’re looking at a goal, a place to work toward, a method of organisation that might work better and more efficiently for all than what we have now, well, it’s a totally co-operative society.

It’s what democracy should be, and that’s why the word democracy has been hijacked – because it promises so much. Communism was hijacked in the same way. Neither idea has generally been expressed with much eloquence or clarity. Instead, the powerful rhetoric and easy-to-follow sound bites have been on the enemy’s side. I say that wearily – there are no enemies except maybe something like the seven deadly sins and they’re not so much enemies as potentially harmful practices that the individual ought to carefully control within itself. I’m going to refer to people as “it”s at various points in this. That’s only because of my place in the whole gender pronouns debate. There’s “ze” I know, but I’ve not encountered any real consensus on neutral pronouns except “it”, which I know works and can be understood even if it’s clumsy. We’re all its, and then you can subdivide within that if you wanna.

Democracy is thought of as being a society in which leading figures within the state are elected on a regular basis by the majority of citizens. But democracy is simply “rule by the people”. No state, no elected representatives. What we have right now in much of Europe, America, the UK, for example, is elective oligarchy. That means rule by the elected few. Only it’s not entirely elective, since there are huge and influential business interests not subject to any kind of vote or other regulation from the mass of society. Hey, spending money on their shitty products doesn’t count. In fact there are huge and influential business interests that actively try to harm the mass of society, using societal corruption to feed their financial gain. But, like I say, we’ve all gotta make our way somehow.

Communism I believe is widely recognised by those who’ve read the founding texts as not being precisely defined. This is why it was so easy to hijack – supposed “Bolsheviks” took all the pretty semblance and cut the content. What content there was. Like disintegrating the person wearing a nice dress then putting the dress on a bear.

I’d just argue that the original sentiment with Communism, before disintegration, was peaceful co-operation and co-existence. The dictatorship of the proletariat thing is an old skool socialism off-shoot and well and truly fucked. It’s also something a lot of us run to in frustration “the benevolent dictator”. God, in one sense. Fucking Church. Don’t blame Christianity for that, it’s the Church’s fault. Supporting monarchs to further their own land grabbing and gold and silver plating. Scum.

I’ve styled myself as an anarchist for a few years now, believing that it was the purest expression of true democratic thought still widely available in the Western World, but even anarchism has had a really hard time staying true. Various nutters taking advantage of our peaceful ways and seeming love of chaos, turning that into excuses for terrorism and bomb threats. The only point to anarchism is not being organised like an ideology, not being some terrible thing happening in church halls and trade unions and over-attended rallies. The point is supposed to be that you just look at people as people, which really begs the question why do we even need to call ourselves anarchists at all? We don’t, and so I generally now don’t. It doesn’t add anything so we might as well cancel it out of the equation so to speak.

But in this very quick and likely unconvincing romp through a recent history of democratic ideas I’ve still not explained what democracy, what rule by the people, rule by individuals, rule by us…is.

Because the state exists we can’t start from a clean slate. We have to draw over what already exists. For the purposes of this metaphor, imagine the new drawing in invisible ink that will be revealed when the paper slips and falls in a puddle and all the state ink just fades away. Sounding too communist already? Well, I’ll clarify if the early commies didn’t. Revolutions don’t work. Take a history class in them: violence is not the solution. Society is built on peace, and if you take away the order that makes that peace, then you’re opening Pandora’s Box, right, you’re signalling to everyone that there is no law for a while and so they can do what they want. Being so accustomed to limits on their freedom, members of society will then tend to go fucking insane, torturing, stealing from, extorting those who haven’t yet gone insane. Just because they can. And for a lot of people it’s the first and only opportunity in life they’ve had to really DO something. The first moment of meaning. The first moment they’ve lived.

I’ve got nothing against a kind of order, and sudden ‘limitless’ freedom is overrated. Having a stable society saves a lot of lives – I think life is important – and for you capitalist scum it saves property. So we all like a bit of order.

Besides, you don’t win an argument by killing the person you’re arguing with, or by hurting them – you just make it harder for them to continue to argue a point they still believe in. As long as they want to keep arguing, you’ve failed. Winning the argument is about convincing someone else that they were wrong, so they might change to more or less your point of view on the topic. It’s resource management, you don’t kill your comrades and workers. Even if you’re a capitalist it’s bad business – much better that people willingly co-operate.

This is how we will have to bring about a democratic society: by convincing the state that it itself is wrong. And we won’t do that just by writing stupid little essays like this.

The democratic society has to be built over the oligarchical capitalist one, not with isolated communes of fellow travellers, but normal villages, whole towns, cities, counties changing their practices and methods of organisation to the democratic. And what does that mean?

Basically, legally, reorganising ourselves into co-operative groups capable of providing completely for themselves. At base level, given our present level of technological advancement, everyone could be living without governmental support or reliance on utility companies or outside farms. We could make everything we need ourselves. It’d cost money and effort, but so does everything else, everything we already have, everything we’re building. All those new flats and skyscrapers in London.

The only reason that any more of an advanced level of society than basic small-group self-reliance should exist is luxury. Luxury or possibly evolution. Yeah, I prefer evolution. Nothing wrong with luxury as such, but there’s a lot wrong with a merciless pursuit of it to excess. Same goes for anything pursued to great excess really – never turns out well. Evolution on the other hand – natural. We should be getting better and changing as a species.

Luxury, in a modern democracy, would be found both in what you can make yourselves in addition to what you need, and in what other people want to give you. If the way you acquire what you need for survival is streamlined to the point at which it requires minimal maintenance, you can spend a lot of your life on anything you want. And being human, you’ll want some nice extras as part of that. Entertaining fiction, drugs, artworks, extra tasty food and drink. Maybe a car if that’s your idea of a good time. What you want you could make for yourself – you’d have the time to do it. And a co-operative, democratic social setup would mean you’d be making plenty of pals with the other groups of people around, to the point at which you might want to give them things and they might want to give you things. Or where you might want to work together on a bigger project. Plus we’re not luddites, there’s a lot of brilliant tech around that means you can get more or less what you want. Maybe not a Porsche in just the right shade of black, but a fast car for example – you can make those at home mate, and do your own decoration rather than factory regular.

I feel like evolution is still a better guiding principle at this point though. Even if we’re basically hedonists, we could be working together to make breakthrough medical advances, engineering advances and shit, thinking openly and (relatively) efficiently about making humans better. That’s all humans by the way. None of your racist bullshit here. It’s not even about race – we’re all the fucking human race. Racism’s about idiot people making gang uniforms out of skin colour and language. Like we ought to be able to see through Trump, we ought to be able to see right through those shitstacks. But as with all gangs, criminals – they’re just doing what they need to do to survive, as they see it. We’ve got to get in there and show them there’s a better way.

And veganism – veganism makes for much better land use, saving huge amounts of resources, nevermind the health benefits. And no-one has to go totally vegan as long as we stop the farming. I mean animals are going to hunt eachother anyway, so why shouldn’t we join the party on occasion? As we help ourselves evolve, leave them to their own evolution in pleasant reserves and parks and ting. We like nature – it’s pretty, vaguely mystical, vaugely dangerous.

Now, this is where we get to some kind of politics. Democracy doesn’t need voting, since everyone is involved in whatever decision is made. That can sound quite sinister, until you remember that there is no state in democracy. There is no legal power above you, the individual. You don’t need to vote for representatives if there’s no issue being decided elsewhere that you would want to comment on. However, the need would arise to organise bigger projects like hospitals, science labs, factories. Possibly farms. These would all need to be equally owned and maintained by all the people setting them up. No ‘leaders’ with administrative power. The administrative power would lie in everyone wanting to achieve the same goal, everyone recognising one another’s strengths, everyone being empathic. And I need to step out here for a talk about what it is to be human, because if you were interested before now, this is where you start to doubt.

I agree: “oh we’ll just love eachother” isn’t enough. Why won’t someone want to take all the power and fuck over everyone else? Well, before we get on to the philosophy, there’s something in the structure here. Organising society at its lowest common denominator, a group of people living together (NOT a conventional family) means that there is nothing to take over. All necessities being provided means there’s not much demand for most people to fight for survival or fight for the basics – everything is already there. All you could fight over would be luxuries. Not people. People you need to get things done, you don’t need people as objects. Some folks think they can have people as objects. For sex, for example. Or for entertainment. Not as labour slaves, since they’ll work better for you if they’re not slaves. Fact. Actually with all things, people do it better with consent, it’s fucking obvious. Agreement, co-operation. Not many of us want to own others. What most of us want is an excess of some kind of luxury, and a lot of positive attention from other humans. In a democratic society, you’d have loads of positive attention from everyone as a kind of baseline – mutual love and respect. And the luxury? Well, you’d have loads of people willing to work with you to achieve an abundance of it. Maybe not more than you could ever possibly use, as some people like to get now (fleets of cars, mountains of coke, impossible sums of money) but more than enough.

So okay, agree with me that maybe there is some slight quality to the organisation of this democracy, maybe, although it hasn’t been very well explained here. What about the baseline of mutual love and respect?

Well, you wouldn’t try and join and live in this democratic society without it. And you wouldn’t be able to work within democratic organisation without it. Co-operation and empathy being the key phrases. Without them, the whole scheme just doesn’t work. It only happens with people who are capable of such things. I think all people are, but even if they’re not, democracy can still work. It doesn’t offend anyone. It doesn’t break laws or harm people. It doesn’t try and dismantle the establishment. It just does life better for those who want to practice it. And working in small community groups as a baseline means, unlike now, you’ll get to know everyone around you, everyone who effects your core ability to survive. You’ll be aware if a problem’s likely to arise, you’ll have friends standing by to support you. Conflict just starts to be seen as unhelpful, unlike the current way of things where conflict is standard.

There’s a whole background of thinking built on human experience that leads you to democracy, and I have written and am going to write plenty on it. But basically, why do you want these idiots in, for example, McDonalds headquarters, changing how you live your life? Cut out from the society they dominate and exist in one that treats people as equal parts in a genuinely positive and beautiful whole.

“Oh, oh, but if this “democracy” you’re talking about is so good, why don’t we have it already?”

Well, imaginary detractor:

A long time ago, someone called Thomas Hobbes wrote a book about how life for humanity that didn’t involve kings and governments would be “nasty, brutish and short”. This attitude to stateless society has become somehow famous and widely accepted. Hobbes’ book Leviathan (he even openly recognises with the title that the state too is monstrous) was published in 1651. That’s a time when most people were dying young having lived nasty and brutish lives. Most people were farmers or other kinds of labourer working for a selection of ‘aristocrats’, nobles, priests, who claimed superiority. Hobbes managed to live a life much divorced from that of the masses who lived the kind of nasty existence that he claims the state protects us from. Basically, he’s saying in the book “I did well out of the state, fuck you all.” Diminishing his message to be simply: better to be with the bigger monster than one of the smaller ones.

But to be fair, that’s not all he was trying to say, and that’s not all his life was about. Like Machiavelli and Aquinas in their essays to princes and Kings, Hobbes has underlying points beyond defence of the establishment. Some points about liberty, social contract, mobility of a kind. Everyone becomes complicated when you dig deeper than a famous quote. Complicated doesn’t save the state though, just explains it.

We’ve reached here and now because the early stages of human existence were hard. We pulled ourselves up to what looks like the top of the world, but it only looks that way to the people who aren’t still fighting to survive. Since the beginning of humanity and even now, people are fighting for basic survival, doing all they can just to get food on the table, just to avoid taking a beating or a bullet, to avoid seeing their loved ones, their friends, their family, suffer and die. For these people still struggling – most of the world’s population – life continues to be nasty, brutish and short. The sort of leaders they produce are made by the experience of struggle, of a basic lack of human essentials. And once they’re leading it’s like celebrity, being catapulted from nothing into a position of seemingly ultimate power. More than that it can be like minor transcendence or deification. For example, becoming the person who controls exactly the force you’ve all been fighting against: death.

There’s an ocean of pain and suffering in human cultural history. Much of our culture still has its roots there: in that kind of miserable competition. Slaves killing eachother for scraps of rotten food.

It’s easy to get distracted by all that pain (especially seeing as it hasn’t been eliminated pretty much anywhere) and so think that humanity is somehow evil in its nature. No, our circumstances are hard. Nothing is particularly evil. The world doesn’t judge, the world doesn’t have morality. We made morality in an attempt to better organise ourselves against one another and the corruption wrought on us by our very existence. But of course, in a sense, corruption isn’t corruption. It’s just another response to every-day necessity.

Morality isn’t the world, it’s just a response to the world.

I can’t accurately say that the horrific shit we’ve done to get to where we are today is wrong, but I can say there’s a perfectly good alternative that we could just start using, start living. And if it is really better, then why not? It’s not even a matter of morality, it’s just survival efficiency. If we can eliminate the basic need to survive, we can evolve into the next thing as a species. We often act – in popular culture – like we’ve already separated ourselves from the animals and the rest of nature. No, we’ll never separate ourselves from the very fabric of our existence. But if we organised ourselves such as to remove the elements of our lives that lead to destruction and death, we’d be pretty damn close to classifying ourselves as something other than animal at least.

I mean, I don’t think I’ll have you convinced from this little attempt here. Maybe I’ve got you thinking though. Check out some more various sources, some old-skool counter-culture, see what’s been accepted and what was held back. Look at the rise and fall of Rome, the history of Western Christendom, the Industrial Revolution – it’ll probably only take a year’s hobby reading to get a decent span of European history. I’m assuming you’re European, you might not be. Find what you need to find, get your historical context straight, get your Ivan Illich, some weird Henri Bergson philosophy, some Marx, some Hegel, some Aquinas, some More, Machiavelli for practicality…or don’t. I mean the historical layout gives you the material you need to see what’s wrong now. But fuck, if you can already see what’s wrong now then you’re right where you need to be. Add an open-minded, primarily peaceful outlook on the world and you’re probably already a little democrat working for a better future.

We just need to talk to eachother, work with eachother. Man this is why I love wordpress as a blogging community. So much room for discussion and chat, much less desire for the filthy realities of dagger-drawn combat. I can just put this out here, and we can do the communication thing. It’s beautiful.

The Curly Auburn DJ

Poetry, Pulpit

My nostalgia for you

Particularly, hugging me at work when you’re tired
Sharing sandwiches and mugs
Because you don’t like too much cheese
Being okay with my saliva
Dirty fingers from polishing your shoes sometimes
Because I want to
Sonorific MTV memories
And your little unexpected gifts
Always

Especially, innocent shameless on tired weekday evenings
Warm, rainy nights behind open doors
Lonely blue guitar rockstar singalongs
And romantic pointings beloved of Elvis
Lookalikes of lookalikes
Staggering
Striding through streets
And being alone with our lagers, hands

Specifically, kissing me with your hat on
At home, in private, with no-one to see and the windows open to the night
With moonshine and lamplight on the sill
The felt catching on my forehead but sliding over, not down
Silently looking into your eyes
Feeling your body, privately, for the first time
Through softened wool or cotton and layers
You watching as I hold you and touch you
You would want to understand
And you would
A little, or more

To your quiet music

Howard and Vince Talk About Love

Poetry, Pulpit

Love is animal
Being willing to beak and be beaked
To curl inside eachother, to scratch in play
To stroke and tend hairs and furs
Flying together
Sharing resting spaces
Pomp and puffiness that comes out in cute
When the other creeps nearby
Love is basic
Essential
A knot of roots that snuff and howl and laugh
Sharp and clear, soft as pig skin
Hairy as sheeps
Because human isn’t love.
Human is appreciation, the better communication
Of animal things, the better understanding and use
of those things. Human is craftiness.
An ability to avoid pain or any emotion at all.
Love is gnawing on a leash.