Saturday, 9 July 2016

Saturday Evenings: Stay In, Sit Up and Switch On

I read one of your magazines this morning. Which one? I asked her. The one with Boris Johnson on the front. Ah, The New Statesman. What did you think? I think we should put politicians to the test before they are elected. Like a run-through or rehearsal? Yes, kind of.

My daughter and I were on our way to London’s West End. Like many families in the last few days we were trying to make sense of the outcome of the European referendum. I appreciated my daughter’s comment and her interest in an issue that will define her generation for years to come. I did explain to her, though, that society cannot work on trials and errors like science experiments. A society is made up of human beings and like it or not, we all have a stake in the way our country is governed. Better than having a dry-run whenever a politician comes up with a “brilliant” idea, we ought to ensure that the mechanisms through which that politician is elected work to their full capacity. Like hold said politician to account when they fail to produce the £350m-a-week they pledged for the NHS a few weeks before.

However, as we crossed Oxford Street en route to Tottenham Court Road, the popular Dominion Theatre on our right hand-side, I could not stop thinking about the theory put forward by my precocious fifteen-year-old. In my head I began to tweak her “experiment” a bit. Only that this time I was planning to use the arguments of the “other side”. Those who say they have no voice, that they cannot talk freely, that it is all “political correctness gone mad”. I wanted to see my adopted land through the eyes of those who hate what I represent. What if they took control of their country for a year? I sometimes feel like telling them, “Fine, go ahead, go as far as you possibly can. There will be no limits, no hurdles, and no objections. We will pave the way for you and your compadres. Go far, really far.

2016 is turning out to be an annus horribilis. I would like, then, to start 2017 with a wipe-the-slate-clean attitude. Please, any pessimistic views expressed in this post are completely intentional. Do hold the blog owner responsible for them.

First off, as of the 1st January 2017 every single immigrant, non-British citizen, EU or non-EU, with or without a British passport will be given 24 hours to leave the country. Only for a year, mind. It is an experiment, remember? Have family here? Tough, me too. I’ll see you at the airport. What’s that you’re saying? You’ve lived here ten, fifteen years? Look me in the eyes, son, I have been for almost twenty and I packed my suitcase last night. Anyway, the experiment is only for a year, remember? We’ll be back in twelve months. Well, we will be back if they don’t build The Wall, if they don’t pull up The Drawbridge, if they don’t create an Unbreakable Barrier around the British Isles. We will be back, but only if…

And now that we’re all gone (by the 2nd January, remember), the real work begins. For starters, get rid of all the other "undesirables": the community activists, the feminists (or Feminazis, as they are more commonly, and pejoratively, known nowadays), human rights campaigners, disability rights advocates, anti-homophobia groups, pro-ethnic-diversity supporters, etc. Banish them all to a little island on the Outer Hebrides. Those smug Scots will probably welcome them. It should be easy to achieve this because for a whole year Parliament will cease to function. Instead the world’s oldest democratic institution will outsource all executive decisions to private companies. At the end of the day it is not as if corporations are not already running the country, is it? With Parliament silenced, the path to a free-market-driven, full privatisation will be clear. First it will be the turn of the NHS. Break it all down into tiny, little pieces and put each to tender. Make sure that the company that wins the contract(s) (why stop at one? What happens if a company wins all the contracts) is not the more transparent one but the one with stronger links to members of the government (who happen to be, lest we forget, the CEOs and managing directors of the biggest corporations). In the modern world we need to wrest control from those pesky EU bureaucrats. That is why for the next year your local hospital's A&E will be run by one company, the ambulance service by another, the admin and operations department by a third one, staff recruitment, including doctors and nurses, by another company, catering by another one and so on and so forth. Best case scenario, all these departments will be run by the same business entity. Because, nothing says “long-term friendship” like a politician making sure his mate (they go back years, did you know?) is well served by the state. Oh, and the patients, I hear you ask? Well, they are the lucky ones (no, seriously, they will be). If they get left behind and forgotten in a hospital ward in pain, they can always blame the ambulance person, the doctor, the nurses (alas, no Filipino nurses. Remember, we, immigrants, are all gone now). After all, these companies may be private but it is the taxpayer coughing up for the service so the taxpayer still has the right to complain (To whom? Do not ask! Look, it's only a year!). Yes, I know that this patient is in agony and that no one has come to see them in two hours and that if they do die in the end everyone will start blaming everybody else, but, patience, please. After all, it is only a twelve-month-long experiment.

Education is the next biggie. Ensure that all schools go down the academy route, namely, privatisation by stealth. Did I say stealth? No, no need to be secret. Remember, it is an experiment. You can do whatever you like for a whole year, in the open, and if you are really pleased with the outcome, then, make it permanent. Put the contract to build new schools or refurbish existing ones out to tender, but, please, please, please, ensure that the contract goes to the company that has links with the chairman of the trust that runs the academy. It is only fair, isn’t it? After all, academies are investment and all investment has a built-in return component in it. Please, spare no opportunity to make money: brand-new uniforms, after-school activities, half-term and holiday programmes. Charge premium for everything. And when the education budget runs dry because there is no money left in the kitty, start charging parents for the lessons their children were receiving gratis before.

Regarding climate change, tear up all the agreements. There is no climate change. It is all a conspiracy. Drill, baby, drill! You only have twelve months. It is not as if our planet will suffer if you stop talking about global warming and concentrate instead on the car industry. Promise more roads, more motorways, better and bigger automobiles. Come on, dare to dream! There is no one around now to oppose you.

Where else can you make changes? Do not worry; there are myriad issues that need urgent attention. Human rights, scrap them. For these twelve months only Darwin’s theory, survival of the fittest, will rule. Same with women’s rights, race relations act, disability laws, gay rights. We do not need them. Women, especially, will learn their place. If you get raped when wearing a short skirt, it is your fault. If, on the other hand, you were wearing a neck-to-toe long dress and you still get raped, it is still your fault still for provoking lust in a man. As for abortion, do not even mention the word for a year. No abortion, under any circumstances. No exceptions. There were only exceptions before because you had to compromise with the PC brigade. Speaking of which…

No more political correctness. Now, with no immigrants and "undesirables" in the country one does not have to be careful anymore with what one says. Bring back the Jim Davidsons of this world. At last people will stop prefacing their sentences with “I’m not being racist, but…”. Now it will be fine to say “I am being racist and I am loving it and this is what I want to say and this is what I really, really mean”.
Imagine this lot or similar in charge for a year

Foreign policy will be as hawkish as possible. The word is “sell”. Sell weapons, as many as possible. Go around the globe, visit each arms fair, Flog as many weapons as you can. And start as many wars as possible. These weapons need to be tested and used. Do not worry about those annoying, hippie-looking pacifists. They can be neutralised easily now. Remember that you removed Parliament. The people running the country are a nameless, faceless corporation.

All this was on my mind recently following the conversation with my daughter. Imagine the United Kingdom like that for twelve months. Elderly people being sponsored to travel to a certain clinic in Switzerland. All expenses paid for by one of the ruling corporations. Euthanasia on the sly. After all it will still be a Christian country so morality will still be important. Black- and brown-skinned Britons being told to go home (what home? They were born here. It does not matter. Go home!). Children being brainwashed into believing that a dog-eat-dog world is the only option out there. Normal job contracts would cease to exist in their current form. Instead, there would be a zero-hour culture for everything. Voluntary work would be made compulsory to compensate for unemployment. Paul Dacre and Rupert Murdoch being asked to be in charge of the media department for that whole year with porn baron Richard Desmond their loyal deputy.

And then, on the 1st January 2018, I would arrive in Gatwick or Heathrow airport, desperate to see my family and finding a different nation. A better or worse one? One that has finally taken control of its own destiny or one that is sinking slowly without anyone noticing it?

I will be checking your answers from now until mid-September when I will return. In the meantime, thank you for your cyber-friendship. I really appreciate it.

© 2016

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Urban Diary

The shout of the dying rays of the sun echoing in the long tunnel, bouncing off the walls. A deep red flooding the floor of one of the exits for an instant, its intensity lasting long enough to remind me of the verses: “Your hearts know in silence the secrets of the days and the nights/But your ears thirst for the sound of your heart's knowledge.

Three exits. Three gates to knowledge. Three ways “to touch with your fingers the naked body of your dreams”. One points at the still, life-sized Saurischia that once populated the Earth. The other one leads us down the path of pants and knickers. The third one celebrates the hundredth year of Einstein’s theory of relativity.

Three exits. Three gates to knowledge for which there cannot be scales, since knowledge is a treasure that cannot be weighed, as the poet said (more or less). I walk down the long, straight tunnel, the dying rays of a summer sun that has not been allowed to shine as brightly as it would have probably wished, screaming through two of the three exits. Exits that are gates. Gates that remind me not to seek “the depths of your knowledge with staff or sounding line/For self is a sea boundless and measureless.

I stop at one of the exits. A flash of pink hits me on the face and with it the last two lines of the poem, its verses enveloping me in the sticky, humid London evening: “The soul walks not upon a line, neither does it grow like a reed/The soul unfolds itself, like a lotus of countless petals.

© 2016

Photo taken by the blog author

Next Post: “Saturday Evenings: Stay In, Sit Up and Switch On”, to be published on Saturday 9th July at 6pm (GMT)

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Saturday Evenings: Stay In, Sit Up and Switch On

It turns out, Benedetti, that I will not “stay with you”. The reason is simple: I have already reserved a quiet corner of the world for myself. Of course, it was not a bloke you had in mind when you wrote “no reserves del mundo/sólo un rincón tranquilo” but a woman. And the core message of your poem “No Te Salves” (“Do Not Save Yourself” or “Do Not Play Safe”) was not a refusal to choose said corner but an invitation to take a chance. I understand that.

Still, I like my corner, or should I say, corners. I have two favourite ones at home. I bet most of my fellow bloggers and readers have one, too.

We are strange creatures, we humans. That phrase could well become part of my header one day, so many times I have used it. In fact, that phrase could well be my epitaph for, as a human, I, too, am a strange creature. We are almost symmetrically perfect physically speaking and yet, so asymmetrical when it comes to habits. We line up our lives with exciting adventures (well, some of us), occasionally seeking danger intentionally. But, still, we come back to our corner.

My little nook
I was thinking about corners recently because of the stormy weather we had in London a few weeks ago. I got soaked to the skin on one of those days on my way home from work. I still remember the feeling of putting my bike away, getting out of my wet clothes, taking a quick shower and sitting in my little corner to have my tea. This series of manoeuvres made me appreciate even more the privilege of having a space I can call my own. As I ate my meal and sipped my hot coffee after, I thought of an apposite metaphor for this situation. All I could come up with was the image of a person with big, long elastic bands around their waist and chest, pushing on, marching forward, advancing, getting to their destination… and eventually being pulled back to their little corner.

When did I discover the allure of corners? In Year 6 when I began to learn English on my own. It had always been hard to find a comfortable nook in the Lilliputian one-bed flat I shared with five other relatives, including at the time my mum and dad. But that all changed one day when I picked up “Basic English”, a book that belonged to my father. In between my parents’ bed and the wardrobe, a space so narrow that one could not sit with both legs side by side but crossed, one on top of the other, I discovered the beauty of a foreign language. From then on, whenever I had the opportunity I camped up in this little, tiny space, the length of which – or lack of it thereof – favoured me as I was rather short in those days, luckily.

Corners come in all shapes and forms. There are some that justify their selection with magnificent views outside. Others boast a practical layout. And then there are those that have a deeper meaning beyond their bricks-and-mortar composition. An emotional connection to a previous episode in the story of our lives.

Also, they are not just a home phenomenon, corners. No. Perhaps, your favourite nook is in your local café, a bench in a nearby park or the seat you normally occupy on the train on your way to work. Above all, this space allows you to become your own individual amidst a sea of strange faces.

You can see now why I dare to challenge one of my favourite poets and one of Latin America’s finest. But, Benedetti, I like my corner(s), I like the fact that I have reserved this quiet space of the world. If that means that I play safe, so be it. Personally, I do not think I do. Some of my more thought-provoking posts have been written whilst sitting on one of my favourite (two) corners.

© 2016

Next Post: “Urban Diary”, to be published on Wednesday 6th July at 6pm (GMT)


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