Beyond Bedford

Oh hiya! my name is Gill McClinton, I’m known as the Boffin of the team due to my legal background, catching smart arses out that try to pull the wool over people’s eyes and halfwits that need to know better. Sassy, volatile when stirred!

 

Can’t We All Just Get Along?: An apolitical response to

political events in Belfast

 

 

A Belfast comrade writes…

On 16th December 2012 about 1000 people gathered at Belfast City Hall in the wake of 2 weeks of demonstrations, some of them violent, by Loyalist protesters angered by the City Councils’ decision to fly the Union Flag only on ‘designated days’ rather than the full 365 days a year as it has done up until now. The gathering at City Hall was billed as being ‘about peace’ and ‘to show that Northern Ireland has moved on’. Leaving aside the facts that the approximately 1000 attendees were 1000 out of about 3500 who had proclaimed to be ‘attending’ on facebook, and the fact that a Loyalist demonstration the previous day at the same location was able to attract roughly similar numbers, we have to ask, ‘moved on’ to what?, and for whom?

So assured were the organisers of the undeniable righteousness of their cause, that any comments on the facebook page for the event that did as much as raise reasonable concerns over safety and security (due to chatter on Loyalist websites) were deleted as being ‘fear mongering’ or ‘trolling’. People who talked of Buddah and Ghandi got lots of ‘likes’. Some described themselves as ‘The REAL people of Northern Ireland’ ; are the flag protesters figments of the imagination? Their agenda may be utterly reactionary, but they are certainly to be taken more seriously than this ‘gathering’. The organisers of the protest are, of course, beyond criticism by virtue of their ‘doing something’.

The event was also billed as being ‘not about politics’. This chimes perfectly with the liberal sentiments behind it, and is perfectly in line with some of the more nauseating criticisms of the protests and protesters. Lacking not only a political analysis, it lacks a class analysis. Time and again, unable to articulate a proper political critique of the events, nice liberal people who ‘just want peace’ have inadvertently very much allowed the issue of class to intrude on the debate, as they denigrate the protesters for being unemployed, for dressing like ‘chavs’ or worst of all, for disrupting Our Wee Economy. The middle classes in the form of local business people are losing money and it just wont do. The Continental Market might not come back for your other arm and leg next year. One might think that the protesters real crime was to come from the sorts of areas that have most definitely not ‘moved on’. The word ‘flegs’ (a phonetic spelling of the way a pleb with a Belfast accent might pronounce the word ‘flag’) has become something of a meme.

We need to talk about politics, not to be ‘non-political’. We need to state clearly that the ‘politics’ that have resulted from the Good Friday and Saint Andrews Agreements have copper-fastened a sectarian carve up of society and led to more physical and ideological barriers being put up between communities. Working class communities, that is.

We also need a proper political critique of the protests, beyond them being nasty and violent and not very xmas-like. Of course the protests and the ideology behind them are utterly reactionary and the naked sectarianism often on display is revolting. But more than that, it is depressing to see working class people demonstrating, often violently, their loyalty to a state, a ruling class, a monarchy that cares nothing for them except perhaps as cannon fodder and perpetrators of barbarism in its overseas adventures; revelling in their own and their forefathers willingness, then and now, to volunteer to be that cannon fodder. “We’ll fight anyone to stay British – including the British” said Harry Murray during the Ulster Workers Council strike. The lack of evolution in thinking is laid bare.

Rather than hope that we can just all get along, we need to state that Unionism/Loyalism and Nationalism/Republicanism are reactionary ideologies all the time not just when they ‘turn violent’. Of course a detente between them in terms of armed action is preferable, but ultimately they offer nothing to the working class except more division; division that impedes the type of united action that is needed if these communities are to start to turn around their disenfranchisement.

Obviously Loyalism and Republicanism are easy to critique; their agendas are in the open, clearly stated. What makes ‘The Peace Gathering more pernicious is that we need to dig deeper, below the surface of the seemingly apolitical fluffiness to analyse what it really stands for. Really it amounts to no more than a call for capitalism as usual. It may not be the intention of the organisers to make it so, and probably plenty of people attending might consider themselves to be socialist or left wing in some way, others probably individually share the criticisms of our political institutions; but that is not reflected in the messages coming from the event. The most constant is the criticism of the protesters for the effects of their actions on the xmas trade (nobody seemingly wondering why people would give a fuck about disrupting an economy in which they have no stake, which in fact actively works against them). People were urged on the event page to make sure to go and spend, spend, spend in the Continental Market after the rally, to make up for its loss of trade over the past two weeks. The ‘new Northern Ireland’ right there, xmas consumerism run rampant. The irony of course, is that capitalism as usual will not bring these good people the peace they so earnestly desire. As capitalism continues its current heightened attacks on the working class, we could remove ‘sectarianism’ with a magic wand tomorrow, yet the worst off communities would still explode in anger as they did in UK cities in August 2011. As the state sheds more and more functions of welfare (social security, housing provision, health care) it retains one thing; the necessary armed force to contain the inevitable responses from people denied these basic needs.

We can’t all just get along and we need to be clear about the reasons why, not let them be obscured by something as vague as this rally. Attempting to clap away over 30 years of historical fact and material reality so you can do more shopping is ridiculous. As anarchists and communists, we very much want the removal of sectarianism from society, but not so that everybody can hold hands and go shopping, but so that some genuine class politics might emerge.

As if to underline the futility and irrelevance of ‘The (first) Peace Gathering’, it was followed on the very next night by some of the worst and most widespread disruption and violence that had happened up to that point (worse still has happened since). Undeterred, another ‘gathering’ took place on Sunday January 13th, right after a night of violence that has now become ‘the worst yet’. The people behind it are seemingly oblivious to all evidence that it will end when the protesters want it to end, or the police forcibly end it (leaving the underlying causes untouched) or it simply fizzles out gradually. There wouldn’t have been 30+ years of sectarian conflict if standing in front of city hall could stop it.

 

The Match!

(The below was written by Fred Woodworth who writes an excellent magazine called The Match. Based in Arizona Fred has been writing for what I guess must be decades and like The Cunningham Amendment you won’t find The Match online, its hard copy printed on rescued kit, stamps and dollars. I like it very much and howe Fred won’t mind us putting this article on line as it sums up our position of anarchy far better than we could!

How to Smash the State!

The sentiment is widespread – the slogan has been tirelessly repeated, but almost nothing has been said about what actually can be done to “smash the State”. Here are a few practical suggestions:

Refuse to work for any agency, department, or bureau of government. Disaffiliate yourself from any employment that furthers coercion, no matter what form. Forget about trying to “change from within”; sure you have to make a living, but if you’re working in a government research laboratory or a Selective Service office, your efforts aid, not hinder, government control. Remember – the State desperately needs to co-opt your talents. If you and thousands like you resigned, far more good could be accomplished than by furthering authoritarianism in fact while opposing it in theory. Build alternatives to the present form of society.

Actively resist the State’s domination over you in whatever ways you are able. But don’t feel guilty when you find there are too many injustices for you to fight them all. The State should feel guilty, not you. Do what you can.

Continually improve your ability to express yourself in at least one language. Strive after perfection in the usage of your native tongue. Learn it well and use it often. It is your one friend, your basic tool, and your fluency and persuasiveness in it will ultimately determine whether or not your ideas are accepted by the people.

Write write write write write. Constantly write and speak to get your thoughts before a wide audience. Set forth what you have to say in as understandable a form as you can contrive. Don’t be afraid to reiterate; the diffuse genius with scores of ideas he expresses once only, will be overlooked and lost in obscurity. The persistent man who expresses, restates, enlarges upon, and expounds his single thought – he stands a chance of being heard. Incessant repetition and doggedness elevates mediocre or false ideas to the stature of truth, and low, mean men to high positions. Now let’s use the technique to get rid of them.

Do what you're told!

Do what your’re told!

If you oppose authority, you are an Anarchist. The implements of your trade are the typewriter and the printing press. Ignore the secret police provocateurs who will try to persuade you to take up bombs and guns against the State. If every Anarchist in the world killed twenty government agents and dynamited $100,000 worth of government offices, all that would happen would be that every Anarchist in the world would be sentenced to death. The State would not be deflected even an iota from its normal patterns. But with the typewriter and the printing press, you can manufacture articles far more deadly and effective than bombs. Buy a mimeograph machine and learn how to use it. Long after the smoke and destruction of a bomb is forgotten, products of your imagination and creativity can live on, making tiny explosions inside people’s minds.

Running through the streets screaming unintelligibly; giving the clenched fist salute and yelling “power to the people” – are superb gestures. For the insane. But if you think about it, the very thing we want to end is “power”, at least power of people over other people. So a slogan like “power to the people” (What power? Which people? Power to do what? To whom?) essentially has no meaning. Too inexact. And even if it did have any meaning, shrieking and howling it through the streets at night in a mob would be a next to worthless way of communicating that meaning. It might be even worse than worthless, because some individuals who might have taken you seriously will now dismiss you and your ideas as idiocy. Who knows? Maybe they’re right. Reject the pigs who call for trashing and looting. Nine of ten such episodes end in punishment for innocent people, while the pigs who caused it all get safely away. Even if anything does come down on the guilty, they just rip off their friends to pay the fine, or bail or whatever. They never suffer. In fact, they’re probably chortling all the way to the FBI office. Keep away from such people if you really want to smash the State.

Never neglect your education. Learn as much as you can about as many subjects as you can – avoid writing or speaking in ignorance. If you have no idea what’s inside a computer, don’t spout reams of theory about what computers can do or you may be wrong. If you can’t produce a coherent explanation of how an electric doorbell works, don’t extol the virtues of technology, or you may be made to appear ridiculous. Talk about subjects you know, otherwise you will only do harm.

Thoroughly dissect and expose the numberless inconsistencies of governmental theory. Hammer away at the State’s lies, false assurances, mistakes, stupid errors and injustices. The time hasn’t quite arrived when back numbers of newspapers and magazines are altered daily to conform to a legislated view of reality; hence, though politicians strive frantically to maintain an air of infallibility, we can still point out how their hasty, expedient prognostications of yesteryear have not yet been borne out by subsequent facts.

Oppose religion wherever and however possible. When at long last deistic superstition vanishes from the face of the earth, the States of the world will have lost their principal mode of effecting and enforcing subservience and abject humility. Erasure of religion’s mind-befuddling contradictionism will enable individuals to live without fear and psychosis, freely interacting and accepting responsibility for their own actions.

Always fight on your own battlefield. Refuse to be drawn into disadvantageous conflict planned and stacked against you. If pigs stop you when you are alone and push you and call you names, flash a glassy smile and say nothing. Why fight when and where they choose? Wait till you get to the place of your choosing – the typewriter, printing press, or microphone, for instance; then hit them with all you’ve got. If they try to beat you at your own game, they will be as much at a disadvantage as you were in theirs. Basic logic patterns and language fluency you have developed can cast pigs into ridicule and annihilate them.

At some time you will discover that an associate close to you is a secret police agent. People you thought were friends will slowly reveal themselves as latent politicians or thieves trying to rip off movement funds. Don’t tremble or become discouraged – fight on – write on.

Never trust anyone. Nobody but you can be depended upon to carry out projects you conceive, so learn how to do everything yourself. That way, no matter if everyone abandon you, all will continue as before. Propaganda will roll on with no lessening of intensity, and the Anarchist idea will be broadcast without even a moment’s dead air.

Intensify your life. Struggle to cut down on the amount of time you lose by sleeping. Naturally one must rest, but an extra hour of working time a day adds up to more than a whole extra day each month, more time available than most so-called “anarchists” put in during a year of do-nothing ego-trips. Using time wisely, a single fanatic can equal or surpass the efforts of an entire organization of whimps.

Worth reading!

Worth reading!

Work selflessly and untiringly, give everything you can, do whatever is in your power to aid those unjustly imprisoned by the State. Know, however, that when you are imprisoned, inevitable in this totalitarian society, you and your efforts will be forgotten, and you will languish abandoned.

So live every day as though it is your last. Save time out to look at the trees and stars; to consider what you are doing; to reaffirm your committment to the world of ideas, to propaganda, to non-violence – to Anarchism!

The world will be little changed for what you do. Your work will be misunderstood and grossly misrepresented. You will be detested. But you are smashing the State.

Don’t ever give up.

Trying to Get Your Head Round the Situation in Syria?

The below is taken (i.e. nicked wholesale) from www.schnews.org  to which we direct you for high quality weekly commentary that shows what’s going on in the wider anarchist world. With a leaning towards Brighton!

IT’LL BE ALAWITE ON THE NIGHT?

FEATURE: Schnews’ take on the syrian uprising

In the year and a half since the immolation of a Tunisian street vendor sparked off a region-wide revolution, the Arab Spring has gone from a wildly utopian, broadly secular hope in Egypt’s Tahrir square, through to a mess of Byzantine politics and bloody armed uprisings and foreign interventions. Despite the bloodshed in Yemen, Bahrian and Libya, the most lethal chapter in the history of the Arab Spring is undoubtedly the Syrian Uprising.

A series of popular mass demonstrations brought forward horrendous repression by the Ba’athist security forces, who saw Western spies, Al Qaeda Operatives and Mossad agents behind every protest. By responding with massive brutality, the Syrian state helped make its own paranoid prophesies come true – today CIA agents and Saudi funded Salafi jihadists work side by side to overthrow the Syrian Arab Republic.

The Syrian Ba’ath Party has form when it comes to massive repression. The infamous Hama Massacre cemented former leader Hafez al Assad’s reputation for brutality. To quell a Muslim Brotherhood-inspired revolt, in 1982 his forces massacred between ten and twenty thousand people in the city of Hama, where the revolt was strongest. Hafez al Assad, current president Bashar’s late father, was said to be particularly pleased that not a single photo of the mass killings and near destruction of much of the city made it out to the press. Such is the ruthless nature of the Syrian Ba’ath party.

BLOOD BA’ATH

But how things have changed since the ’80s. Not only do we now live in the age of camera phones and Youtube, but media in the Arab world has been revolutionised by the rise of Al Jazeera – the Doha-based news outlet funded by Qatar’s king, Emir Hamad Bin Khalifa al Thani. Founded in 1996, Al Jazeera has been a breath of fresh air into an Arab media world previously dominated by near-identical state propaganda channels that specialised in dictators’ puff pieces. Post 9-11, Al Jazeera’s coverage of the US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq made Al Jazeera the last word in speaking truth to power. When CNN and the BBC were busy showing planes taking off and landing, Al Jazeera showed the devastation they wrought on the cities they bombed. Despite US protestations, it was not an accident that their offices in both Kabul and Baghdad were blown up by US missiles.

And so, in early 2011, when the Arab Spring erupted, Al Jazeera had the credibility and the experience to cover the twin revolutions of Tunisia and Egypt better than any other major news channel. But despite an officially hands-off policy, Al Jazeera has never been independent of the Qatari royal family. Al Jazeera doesn’t just support Qatari foreign policy, Al Jazeera is Qatar’s foreign policy. For a long time Qatar was akin to a Middle-Eastern Switzerland- friendly with Iran, yet host to a major US base, part of the Saudi-dominated Gulf Cooperation Council but hosted Taliban negotiations, and even held some contact with Israel.

With a population of less than two million (of whom some 80% are foreign guestworkers) and with perhaps one-third of the world’s readily available natural gas, they’ve become very, very rich, and have used their wealth to turn Doha into a world financial hub.

Much like Saudi Arabia, the Qatari monarchy claims legitimacy through its support of Islam and traditional Arab values (not that those traditions go back very far – Wahabist puritans did a thorough job of destroying most evidence of Arabia’s religious plurality in the 19th century). However, unlike Saudi Arabia, Qatar is very supportive of the international group of modernising Islamists known as the Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwan in Arabic). The Saudis hate and fear the Brotherhood as the only force with a reasonable chance of toppling their monarchy. Yet Qatar has embraced the Brotherhood, offering money, training and, crucially, airtime to Brotherhood movements and supporters around the world. Qatar’s own Muslim Brotherhood dissolved itself in 1999, arguing that the Qatari state had fulfilled its obligations. Many now have senior positions in Qatar’s government.

HEAVY QATAR

But with the Arab Spring and the Libyan conflict, Qatar’s Al Thani monarchy has turned its back on its former policy of neutrality, and has used the uprisings as a chance to try and gain greater power through a combination of military force and big stick diplomacy. Al Jazeera gave the oxygen of publicity to the uprising that toppled Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak, with the (successful) gamble that the post-Mubarak government would be dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, and thus ideologically and politically allied to Qatar. The most visible shift of Al Jazeera from pseudo-independent news organisation to full-blown Qatari propaganda machine was the firing of longtime AJ chief, Palestinian Wadah Khanfar in late 2011 – his replacement was Sheikh Ahmed bin Jassim Al Thani, a member of the Qatari royal family.

It was highly unlikely that Gaddafi’s regime, the politically repressive yet financially generous Libyan Arab Socialist Jamahiriyah would have fallen without military intervention. So the Qatari leadership squandered Al Jazeera’s credibility on spreading the stories of rape and mass murder that helped green-light NATO’s military intervention. Qatari officers and weapons spearheaded the rebels’ military on the ground, whilst the Qatari state used major oil deals to financially underwrite the rebels’ Benghazi leadership.

After an ‘easy’ victory in Libya, Qatar and its Islamist allies tried to pull of the same trick again against the Syrian Arab Republic. The second time would not prove quite so straightforward. Two major obstacles prevent Syria from becoming a Libyan rerun. On the international scene, Chinese and Russian intransigence has definitively blocked any UN Security Council resolutions authorising military force. Both these independent powers feel justifiably tricked into supporting a limited ‘protection of civilians’ mandate, one that has before become immediately a legal figleaf for regime change. And just as importantly, the Syrian Ba’ath party has proved to be a much hardier beast than the former Libyan dictatorship.

ASSAD STORY

Hafez al Assad (current leader Bashar al Assad’s father) virtually destroyed the Muslim Brotherhood’s Syrian chapter in the 1980s. Even though Bashar al Assad has been a little more liberal, tolerating mild criticism and some cultural / religious diversity, membership of the Muslim Brotherhood warranted the death penalty. Like father, like son.

Qatar’s former neutrality has been replaced with membership of an ‘Axis of Bullies’ – along with the neo-imperial powers of the USA, Great Britain, Turkey and Saudi Arabia – whose interests have all converged on destroying the Syrian Republic. Most of them share an interest in taking down Iran’s most important ally, but for the Islamic states (i.e. Turkey and the Gulf monarchies) the replacement of an apostate regime for a Sunni Islamist one is a prize worth killing for in and of itself. Commentators who claim intimate knowledge of Qatari relations have said that the formerly close Qatari-Syrian relationship soured when Bashar Al Assad refused to consider bringing in the Muslim Brotherhood into the Syrian political system. Ever since then Qatar has sided with the anti-Syrian alliance.

But this regional great game is being played with grave risks. Syria is a complex mosaic of faiths, religions and cultures with origins that go back millennia. Just as happened in Iraq and Lebanon, sectarian conflict could tear the country apart. To give just a flavour of Syria’s diversity: not only are there villages in Syria that speak Aramaic (the language of Jesus) but there others tucked away where Satan (Shaitan) is worshipped – just as in pre-biblical times when Jehovah was just one god in the pantheon. Yet some 70% of the population is Sunni, and the Syrian Ba’ath party is dominated by people from the minority Alawite sect. Sunni grievances at being ruled by a minority faith has become the backbone of the resistance to the Syrian state. The more the conflict has been militarised with Saudi/Turkish/Qatari money, weapons and fighters, the more that the sectarian Sunni tendencies of the uprising have come to dominate. And within that the Sunni bloc, the most extreme Islamist groups are becoming ever more prominent. The same groups of jihadist fighters that were previously killing Shi’ite civilians and American troops alike in Iraq have now turned their suicide vests on Syria. And not only on the Ba’ath regime but also the minority faiths that are perceived as Ba’ath sympathisers.

KEEPING THE FAITHS

Syria’s Christian, Alawite, Palestinian, Jewish (Damascus has a sizeable Jewish population – they tend to keep their heads very firmly down), Kurdish and Druze groups all fear repression from the Ba’ath party. But more than that they fear potential genocide and ethnic cleansing, Iraq style, from an empowered religious majority forcing its hegemony on Syria’s minorities. Knowing this full well, the Ba’ath party have perfected the divide and rule game that the French attempted during the colonial period; the Baathists have been very effective at giving rights and preferences to minority groups as a counterweight to a potential Sunni bloc forming. Judging from the massacres and extrajudicial killings that have been committed in the rebel areas, Syrian minorities’ fears are very real. One of the prime movers in the Syrian uprising, Sunni cleric Adnan al-Arour, said of the Alawites that Sunnis “shall mince them in meat grinders and feed their flesh to the dogs.”

The downfall of the Syrian regime has been predicted for over a year now. But it is possible that the game is changing. The battle of Aleppo (possibly the world’s oldest city) has, for the moment at least, reached a deadly parity of violence. Government forces have arrested the military push by the Free Syrian Army that looked like it would take Syria’s second city and then march on to Damascus, but have so far failed to advance into the key rebel zones. Despite desertions, the Ba’ath Party has retained the loyalty of the Syrian military, and the overwhelming power of regime tanks and warplanes that have inflicted terrible casualties on rebels and civilians alike. The battle has raged in country’s the population centres, and, in the typical fashion of 20th/21st century warfare, has made little or no distinction between combatant and civilian.

Syria has long been seen as the fulcrum of the wider Arab world around which everything else hinges. Chaos in Syria was never going to stay in Syria for very long. During the early phase of the rebellion, organised Kurdish groups generally stayed out of the conflict. As the rebellion turned into a full-scale military conflict, Kurdish groups (specifically the PKK-affiliated Syrian Kurdish Democratic Party and the Kurdish National Council) declared that they had broken away from Ba’ath authority. What at first glance seemed to be a siding with the rebellion, has turned out to be a much more Machiavellian move.

WHAT’S A KURD?

With the tacit agreement of Bashar al Assad, the Kurds declared an autonomous Kurdish region, not unlike Iraqi Kurdistan. In one move Assad had been able to score a double victory – firstly, he freed up his armed forces in the Kurdish areas to throw at the Free Syrian Army, pushing the battles around Damascus and Aleppo in the government’s favour. But, perhaps more importantly, this move has also thrown Turkey’s own plans into complete disarray. PKK (Kurdish Worker’s Party) allies now control a swathe of territory on the Turkish state’s Kurdish populated border, emboldening PKK forces in their armed quest for autonomy in the Kurdish third of Turkey. The Turkish military now has to divide its time between its proxy war in Syria and its efforts on quelling its own insurgency, forcing it to attack allies of its allies in the process. It seems that Bashar al Assad is a devious political schemer after all, and not just a hapless optometrist with a bizarre career twist.

If Turkish foreign policy was for a short, sharp rebellion and a new friendly government they have sorely miscalculated. Syria used to cooperate with Turkey on its ‘Kurdish problem’. Now Turkey have handed their mortal enemies the PKK the greatest gift that an insurgency can have – an ally across the border, an area to which they can escape, re-arm and plan, out of sight of Turkish warplanes.

There are signs the uprising’s international supporters may be backing away ever so slightly from the rebellion. In a symbolic gesture at the recent Organisation of the Islamic Conference meeting, regional adversaries Ahamdinejad and Abdullah (Iran’s president and Saudi Arabia’s king respectively) sat side by side, even as the toothless body voted to expel Syria. The message, ambiguous as it is, may be that even as the region’s powers meddle in Syria, they may not be willing to risk turning Syria’s conflict into a full-scale regional war. However, as recent events in the Middle East have proven, the wishes of authoritarian leaders are not guaranteed to translate into facts on the ground. Reality has a way of undoing even the best laid plans.

Over to my “bro” for a sad word about Chumbawamba! Seen them a few times most recently at the Hat Factory down Luton!

Goodbye to Chumbawamba!

I feel a little like when my pal Ian and family went to live in Australia. Sort of bereft. I’ve been a “fan” of Chumbawamba for knocking on for 20 years. It goes back a bit further. Manchester in the late 70s saw an anarchistic bunch of mickey takers called Albertos Y Lost Trios Paranoias. Basically a bunch of musicians that didn’t take themselves too seriously, most of the bands that supported them went onto better things i.e. The Police but the Berts just carried on until Les Prior dies of leukaemia in 1980 after which they did their best but ran out of steam as part of what made their heart beat was no longer there. Chumbawamba formed in 1983, whether they were aware of or even inspired by the Berts I don’t know but what followed was close on 30 years of fun, rants, good music, inspired stunts and the bucket of ice. No ambitions of stardom or not that you’d notice! I first encountered them in the early 90s through an album called Slap! A few years later another release called “Anarchy” deserved far better coverage and a much wider audience but those that bought it loved it! It was as much about what they were saying than the music!

I was painting a ceiling at the RSPBs HQ in Sandy in 1997 like you do when Chumba turned up on Radio 1. Bemused at the fact that they were achieving national airplay after recently being dropped by their label One Little Indian they delivered Tubthumping to the nation and finally they went stellar and good that the tune was I don’t think the core fan base nor the band for that matter were overly happy with things. Up till then it was relentless low key gigs and the odd festival appearance including a performance of their corker “Dog” at Glastonbury a few years earlier. They joined they mainstream music profession almost by accident!

Everyone owned them for a few years until a fickle public went off in another direction leaving the old faithful to fill decreasingly sized venues. They never sold out, I saw the EMI business as legitimate given that they carried on supporting those that needed help (Liverpool Dockers) and although each album was the same bunch apart from the odd change in line up each offering came with its own unique direction. Readymades (2002) was a total stunner, a work of art and so apart from praise from Folk Roots magazine it was for the most part ignored. For me I couldn’t see how they could better it, so they didn’t. No longer able to sustain an eight piece band with all the wires, tour coach and support staff they kind of split, more slimmed down with several key members going off all very amicably to do other things leaving Boff, Lou, Jude, Neil to carry on as an acoustic version with newcomer Phil Moody. More witty pithy lyrics! Enjoyable but you were aware that something wasn’t quite the same

And now they too have opted to call it a day as of some point later this year as, if I’ve interpreted their web announcement correctly, they’ve become something that they never wanted to be, a touring recording band going through the same motions every year! I don’t think we’ve heard the last of them as only last year they merged  or morphed into something called Red Ladder and took to the stage, Boff’s followed his band history book (of sorts) Footnote with one about fell running! Earlier retiree Alice Nutter pops up on Radio 4 and Dunstan Bruce lives down in Brighton where he supports the local autonomy centre. Danbert Nobacon of ice bucket over Prescott fame lives in the US producing his own music and it’s a wonder they let him in to be frank given his views aired on the website ten years back!

So all good things come to an end. I’ve seen them more times than I can remember both pre fame and then the slimmed down line up. I’ve introduced others to them, as recently as the Luton gig and being a bit OCD about music ephemera I have ticket stubs scattered about! Maybe they might come close enough by for one last gig, maybe not, we might be able to travel up north if need be. Either way we’ll be singing!

Sad hobby!

Sad hobby!

Here playing Puck from Midsummer Nights…some years back!

On this part of the site, I’ll be writing about things not particularly Bedford based but of wider interest.!

The below is from Schnews, well worth a weekly peek and as we get ready for next weeks tete a tete in London with the EDL here’s a report from Brighton!

FASH, BANG, WALLOP

UPDATE: 23/04/12

Quote of the day – “Well who thought it was a good idea to organise these two demonstrations on the same day? Surely it was obvious there would be problems” – random Brighton theatre-goer/by-stander

Yesterday’s counter-protest against the March for England exceeded all expectations. Although the fascists did march they did so inside a mobile police kettle continuously surrounded and occasionally bombarded by counter-protestors. Their march route was cut short and for once the chant “Police protect the fascists” was 100% accurate.

Last year the police successfully kettled most of the anti-fascists, allowing the MfE free rein through the city. They took full advantage of the opportunity to hand out racist abuse and attack alternative looking types. Brighton anti-fascists were determined to avoid a repeat.

Aware that the cops plan was to push the march straight down the road from the railway station to the sea front, the anti-crowd was encouraged to spread themselves thinly along the route. This prevented a pre-emptive kettle.

The MfE were due to start their procession at midday, but due to the geography of the area no-one in the counter-demo had a direct view of their meet-up point at the station. A strange High-Noon quiet settled over the town centre as the counter-protest shuffled and waited, watching police movements for a clue as to what might happen. Numbers gradually built up, serenaded by the bizarrely soothing tones of dub from a punk- soundsytem.

For a while it looked as if the cops were going to throw the towel in and refuse to allow the MfE out of the station. At half-twelve jogging lines of cops and the arrival of horses let everyone know that the fash were on the move.

One eyewitness at the station told SchNEWS “From where they were mustered, they could only see a tiny part of the counter-demo, mainly the UAF contingent. They were very cocky. As soon as they turned the corner and saw the opposition their faces fell”. By this point there were around 500 anti-fascists on the streets.

The nationalists had only mustered around 100, a third of what they had predicted. Yesterday SchNEWS reported that “there was little if any English Defence League insignia actually on display”. Since then we’ve been told that EDL banners and an Essex Infidels flag were unfurled at the station. In reality this was a moot point as the main body of march consisted of known EDL faces, including virtually all of Brighton and Portsmouth EDL with the addition of various unsavoury characters such as Jeff Marsh of Casuals United. Despite the presence of a few token women and kids the march was overwhelmingly male, bald and fat.

It didn’t take long after the march set off before the first few antis were in the road behind a banner. From then on the march became a rugby scrum as the cops used horses, truncheons and pepper spray to force the MfE through. Every time the cops broke through an anti-fascist line, another would form ten or twenty metres down the road.

BATTLE OF CHURCH ST

The pressure only intensified as the police decided to abandon the planned high-profile route and try to smuggle the nationalists down the back-streets. Anti-fascists got ahead of the game and running around the side got in front of the march on Church St to build barricades. Fascists and police came under attack with bottles. It was at this point that some-one set a bin on fire, irritating everyone, right and left, with the acrid smoke.

What was totally remarkable was the level of solidarity for the counter-demo by folk from all walks of life in Brighton. There was no support for the MfE. Pensioners and kids shouted abuse at the fash. The UAF stood shoulder to shoulder with Antifa punks.

Eventually the MfE, numbering around a hundred ended up in their pre-prepared pen, – unfortunately for them so did almost the entire counter-demo. They then had to put up with two hours of being jeered at by the surrounding mob before cops rushed them back to the station to be dispersed. Their march was dogged every step of the way but as they were leaving the crowd was happy to let the cops rush them along. Anti fascists went on to enjoy a pint in the sunshine.

MARLBOROUGH LIGHT-WEIGHTS

Despite the usual online japery the few EDL who tried to make a stand outside the cordon were quickly seen off. Joel Titus, self proclaimed leader of the EDLs youth wing was spotted skulking with a crew of half-wits in the Marlborough pub, one of the few bars that would serve them on the day. A handful of anti-fascists were able to send them packing. Virtually no other pubs would serve the MfE and they failed to maintain a presence in town after they were dispersed.

Is this the end of the March for England in Brighton? Watch this space!

Final word to Brighton Anti-fascists “Brighton showed the racists today that their brand of hatred isn’t welcome in our city. Brighton has always historically seen off the fascists, in the the thirties , the seventies and now today. Big thanks to all who turned out! – Up the punks!”

SchNEWS has heard of at least one public order arrest on our team got nicked- If you were arrested and require support then please contact stopmfe@ymail.com

For more http://brightonantifascists.wordpress.com/

Bring on the Clones: Chaplains, Pastors for Peaced, BBC 2 Mondays!

Here to save you!

Here to save you!

Here at Bypass HQ we have a fascination of sorts with religion, not in the “wish we were in on the secret” sort of fascination, more the way you find watching a squirrel clambering around the bird feeders funny!

Television took a turn for the worse on Monday with a BBC2 programme called Chaplains: Angels of Mercy, a general poke into the activities of various people ranging from the comical to the worrying.

The comical element came in the form of a group of Pastors roaming around Bold St in the McClinton homestead of Liverpool, at midnight surrounded by high heeled “stilt” walkers and various inebriated goons pulling faces into the camera. A typical Saturday night on the lash however the good folk of Liverpool have a secret weapon, in addition to the various churches such as Weatherspoons and Yate’s Wine Lodge with their blessed congregation a group of Pastors have turned the main road down to where the docks were into an open air place of love and peace.

Doling out spiritual advice to the lost and wobbly, and giving free flip flops to the very very wobbly “stilt” girls these people seem to be acting as a sort of team of paramedics of the mind and heart, having a group prayer session with one pissed up teenager who must have wondered what he’d drunk to have ended up surrounded by such “Jesus in me” types.

According to the pastors the lord was very much with them that night. Also escorting them and the film crew was a solitary police chap who as much as less stated that he was there to protect them all from the serious side of urban nightlife. Pleased with their success at if not saving soul then at least putting a number of under experienced and underdressed drinkers into registered taxi’s , the pastors had a little sing song, clambered into the Pastormobile and darted off at about midnight. Now Liverpool really kicks off (as do most big cities) between then and 4.00am and flushed with success the pastors looked forward to coming back and staying the full course although for this particular night as they had a flower festival the Sunday after they had to pack up early.

Next on the pathway to heaven was a very amiable Jewish chap, I didn’t catch his qualifications but he was hanging round the freshers fair down at what was once the Polytechnic looking for those of a similar faith offering to be their buddy, mentor, guide and whatever else they wanted. This came with a price and despite being a big huggy bear of a chap, all smiles, he made it explicitly clear that his own mission bordering on a crusade  was to ensure that none of the young people that had been indoctrinated into the Jewish faith by birth dared contemplate falling in love with or over associating with anyone that might have been indoctrinated into another line of mumbo jumbo or book based nonsense. Contamination of the line was to be fought, resistance futile.

This part of the show centred on a Jewish get together termed a Freshers Party in Huggy’s back garden together with kosher sausages which looked nice and a crowd of equally attractive young kids who will experience a strange form or freedom, this being that they can do whatever they want in life, but the lineage must be secured. At all costs.

I’ve no truck at all with religion. It takes young children who need to learn essential life skills from their parents and at the same tame as instilling communication skills and those necessary tools of life, it forces them to adopt belief mechanisms without question and no real ability to propose or consider an alternative. I’ve focussed on the Jewish aspects of the TV show because I needed to however as a natural balance a less voyeuristic Radio 4 programme a few months back featured young kids from insular Islamic enclaves in deprived inner city areas being forced to leave school each afternoon and head to the local madrasa, a sort of after school club where such entertainment as endless hours learning to recite the Quran by heart keeps them happy. And well away from any other kids that might enjoy kicking a ball or having a go on the swings. A pretty good way of ensuring social divison and mutual mistrust!

When I was a wee bonny thing in Liverpool (1960s and 70s) we had the Jesus Loves You on a Friday Club. In hindsight I could assume that meant he didn’t love us the other six days. One of the few things to go to where parents felt us safe, we would pay a couple of pence and get to watch a cartoon, get a glass of flat coloured water with a hint of black current and a biscuit that tasted like it had been in the tin too long. That’s the way I remember it anyway. In exchange for this treat all we had to do was sing a few songs, one of which was called Deep and Wide (apparently there’s a fountain of love inside all of us)  and believe in all our hearts that someone had come to earth because his dad loved us, been grassed up by his friend, forced through the streets quite brutally and then pinioned to a stake, had his abdomen sliced open, died and then come back to life to show us all what love could do. And he lives on looking much like an American hippy, long blonde cascading hair and cuacasian features. To stay in the good books so to speak all we had to do was keep coming back each week, watch the cartoon and when we reached 14 we could go to the proper “love in” on Sunday. Something happened when I was maybe 11, I just called time on the whole charade. Best summed up by the Alabama 3 song that goes “We don’t go to god’s house anymore, saw the light and walked right out the door, we don’t go to god’s house, it’s more fun in the dog house”. I’ve been an atheist ever since. I’m a respectful atheist with friends and relatives with a totally contrary view. To get to the shop where I work I pass a mosque and I smile at them. They smile back. No talking, maybe it’s the peroxide hair, figure hugging black trousers?

I accept that religion has brought solace to people facing death, sometimes lingering painful death but as Richard Dawkins and others state,  religion is a virus. It defies the odds and survives. It mutates and find’s new ways of expressing itself. In its benign form it’s flower festivals and jumble sales, in its extreme form its mind control and brutalism, termination of life and carnage. But he loves you!

Going back to the Liverpool pastors, it was quite clear that the major beneficiaries of their Saturday night outing to the pavement outside Yates’s was them. A few drunk people would wake up with a hangover and a free pair of flip flops and a leaflet but the rosy glows of the lord  rather than the cheap cider was confined to the pastors.  Matey Huggy was on his crusade to make sure that his religion survives to attend another freshers fair in say a hundred years and the whole tawdry belief system rumbles on. I wonder if the Jesus Love You Club is still going?

Chaplains: Angels of Mercy continues BBC 2, Monday evenings.

Stephanie McMillan and Minimum Security!

 

Stephanie McMillan decided at age ten that she would become a cartoonist, and spent much of grade school reading Peanuts and copying the characters. She created a short animated film during the summer after high school at the film studio near Bonn, Germany that had been founded by her grandfather, animator Hans Fischerkoesen (Das Loch im Westen and Die Vervitterte Melodie). Awakening in high school to the dangers of nuclear war, she went on to work for many years as an activist against imperialism and for social justice issues.

Stephanie graduated from Tisch School of the Arts at New York University in 1987 with a BFA in film, studying animation under Richard Protovin and John Canemaker. She received an award for her student film.

In 1992 she was hired by the alt-newsweekly XS magazine/City Link as an editorial assistant and offered her first professional cartooning opportunity. In 1999 she began self-syndicating her cartoons, plus providing exclusive comic features and illustrations. Her work has appeared in hundreds of publications worldwide, from Iceland to Bangladesh to Canada to Saudi Arabia, including in the U.S. the Los Angeles Times, Daily Beast, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Yes! Magazine, Comic Relief, Amarillo Globe-News, Funny Times, yahoo.com and the San Francisco Bay Guardian.

Currently her daily comic strip Minimum Security is syndicated online at Universal Uclick’s gocomics.com. She also draws and self-syndicates a weekly editorial cartoon, Code Green.

Testimonials:

“McMillan’s expressive style, pared down to the basics and intensified over the years, allows for instant communication of thoughtful rage.”
Comics Journal

“Very talented.”
Washington Post

“This is social satire at its wittiest and most engaging.”
– Howard Zinn, author of A People’s History of the United States

“Her politics are perfect, her drawings sly and subtle, and her dialog funny as hell.”
– Derrick Jensen, author of Endgame

“Visionary and honest.”
– Ted Rall, president of Association of American Editorial Cartoonists, author of Anti-American Manifesto and To Afghanistan and Back

“Minimum Security is like oxygen for our suffocating times.”
– Vandana Shiva, author of Soil Not Oil: Environmental Justice in an Age of Climate Crisis

” Razor-sharp critique packaged as cute-kid-and-funny-animal cartoon.”
Booklist

“The cartoon generated a huge amount of filth, intolerable filth.”
– Senator Bill Napoli, sponsor of abortion ban, South Dakota (Rapid City Journal)

Books:

  • 2010— Mischief in the Forest: A Yarn Yarn(children’s book with Derrick Jensen), PM Press/Flashpoint
  • 2010— Pendant Que la Planète Flambe (French edition of As the World Burns), La Boîte à Bulles
  • 2009— Excessive Force(anthology), Last Hours, UK
  • 2007— As the World Burns: 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Stay in Denial(graphic novel with Derrick Jensen),  Seven Stories Press (Nominated by National Library Association as a Great Graphic Novel for Teens, 2008).
  • 2005 —Attitude Presents Minimum Security(cartoon collection), NBM Publishing
  • 2002— Attitude: The New Subversive Political Cartoonists(anthology), NBM Publishing
  • Various textbooks, and several books in the Opposing Viewpoints series by Gale Publishing Group.

Group Exhibitions:

  • April 24-May 6, 2010 — There Is More Than One Truth: International Cartoons on Press Freedom, GO Gallery, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  • Feb. 4-May 16, 2010 — Lines of Attack: Conflicts in Caricature, Nasher Museum, Duke University, Durham, NC
  • Oct. 18-Nov. 22, 2008 — Viva La Propaganda: Political Art, Bear and Bird Gallery at Tate’s Comics, Sunrise, FL
  • May 20-Nov. 6, 2006 — She Draws Comics!, Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art, NYC
  • Sept. 25, 2004 — Got Democracy?,Red Pearl, Fort Lauderdale, FL
  • May 27-July 4, 2004 — Human Rights Day Exhibition, Mantova, Italy
  • Jan. 17-19, 2004 — Recontre Internationale du Dessin de Presse, (International Convention of Editorial Cartooning), Carquefou, France
  • Nov. 17, 2003-Jan. 3, 2004 — Patriot Art: Cartooning and Free Speech in Wartime, Philadelphia Free Public Library; and June, 2002, Institute for Policy Studies, Washington, DC
  • Oct. 18, 2003-Feb. 1, 2004 — Too Hot to Handle: Creating Controversy Through Political Cartoons, The San Francisco Cartoon Art Museum; and June 15-Aug. 31, 2003, Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, PA

Films:

  • 2011—  End:Civ, Franklin Lopez (interview)
  • 1987—  Set in Motion,  Jane Aaron (intern for stop-motion animation and brief appearance)
  • 1986 —  Huggies animated promotional film,  (cel painting)

Other:

  • 2010-present — Editor and designer, The Notebook, Association of American Editorial Cartoonists
  • 2009-present — Book interior and cover design, PM Press/Flashpoint

Awards:

  • 2010— Sigma Delta Chi Award for editorial cartoons, Society of Professional Journalists
  • 2010— Press Action Cartoonist of the Year
  • 2008— Press Action Dynamic Dozen
  • 2005 and 2003— First Place, Excellence in Postal Union Journalism, APWU National Postal Press Association
  • 2000— Honorable Mention, Creative Resistance Contest, Adbusters
  • 1997 and 1994— First Place, General Excellence in Editorial Cartooning, Florida Press Club
  • 1996— Second Place, General Excellence in Artist Illustration, Florida Press Club

Organizations:

  • 2011-present — Society of Environmental Journalists
  • 2010-present — One Struggle
  • 20109-present — Cartoon Movement (Amsterdam)
  • 2007-present— AAEC (Association of American Editorial Cartoonists
  • 2006-present — Cartoonists With Attitude (founding member)
  • 1980s-’90s— Refuse & Resist!, October 22nd Coalition Against Police Brutality, U.S. Hands Off the Haitian People Coalition, One Struggle
 

Here’s an interesting review from The Guardian from (we are up to date) 11 years back and its a book by William Taylor a CofE vicar who went on a pre-training sojourn to the East End of London, Spitlefields area. It featured in another more recent book called Suggs and the City (Madness frontman) and both are just wonderful reads. This Bright Field wins out because even though it’s just over a decade old covering Taylor’s time there from 1988, it comes across as much older only because he writes of a Spitlefields that has all but gone more so since the fruit and veg market vanished. I got a hardback copy from Abe books, £7.99 and a full weekends pleasure from it!

This Bright Field: A Travel Book in One Place! by William Taylor.

No sooner had William Taylor started his first job with a fruit-and-veg wholesaler in Spitalfields when he realised that the mother of all inner-city regeneration muddles was engulfing the historic London market. There were plans to relocate the traders, and big property developers and small community groups were squaring up to claim the territory.

Taylor was a gawky graduate hoping to dilute the influence of three years at Oxford with a dash of experience from the streetwise east end. He quickly saw that, as well as the £160 a week for the sweat of his brow (this was 1988), there were truckloads of material for a book about a low-rent area that lay within the grasp of the high-rolling City but was, historically, a haven for waves of refugees.

Fast forward to the present. Spitalfields is still in flux: a gifty, crafty organic market has replaced the old fruit-and-veg sellers. The regenerators, the Spitalfields Development Group, has a lease from the owners, the City of London Corporation, but economic fluctuations have slowed their progress. Plans have been modified to include more residential units to appease community anger, but protests continue.

Taylor, 36, is now the chaplain at Guildhall University and today publishes a book about his experience of how far a committed Christian can go in grappling with mammon. It is called This Bright Field and has been a decade in the making.

While Taylor says he wouldn’t label himself a “slum priest” of earlier times, his position is a modern update of that. “I’m in the Anglo-Catholic tradition that recognises social action as being very important.”

At the time he moved to Spitalfields, he was considering the priesthood but had been told by the Bishop of Oxford to go away and “test your vocation a little”. He found his belief in social action being tested in a part of London under threat: an area where different religious faiths, economic imperatives and social and racial factors all mingled.

Spitalfields had a vicar, but Taylor began to think of it as his parish. “I wasn’t ordained but it was a place where I could think through what it meant to be a priest.” There were great contrasts between rich and poor. He was bemused that some council tenants survived without electricity when they were cut off, while some of the more well-heeled chose candlelight to give their homes a period atmosphere.

The fusion of market gossip, meetings with Muslims in the local mosque, tea with artist neighbours Gilbert and George, and Chardonnay and canapés with the develop ers, was heady stuff for the book.

Given that Taylor was gaining the confidence of several residents’ groups, it seems odd then that he asked the developers to commission him to report on local opposition. As he puts it in the book: “I would provide a worm’s eye view of the area in exchange for an inside track on their development dilemmas.”

But whose agent did he think he was? Taylor now says he thought he could could help all parties. “But in the end, you can’t. You have to decide whose side you’re on.” He insists he was always “open and honest with the community groups about what I was doing – and some of them didn’t talk to me”. Indeed, one stalwart booted him out of a community group “because she thought I would be compromising them to the developer”.

Taylor is as angry as ever about the development. For him the partly built mammoth project has become a 1980s dinosaur. It is now being opposed by a coalition of interests (churches included) grouped under the logo Smut – Spitalfields Market Under Threat.

Taylor’s first appointment after clerical training was in Chingford, Essex. He reflects on the fact that, if he had been vicar of Spitalfields, he would not have had the same freedom to get involved.

“It opened my eyes. I think the church doesn’t engage sufficiently with power when it’s being used. It doesn’t use its influence to promote the position of the poor or vulnerable sufficiently.” He is quite sure there is a role for the dog collar, even though it sometimes closes doors as well as opens them.

NOW or NEVER (reproduced without asking, they know where we live if they want to object)

A wonderful little bit of pokey fun from Now or Never Magazine, borrowed without permission, we’ll ask them later! If you like this, there’s plenty more to be found at their new website. I’m on a train at the moment so I’ll put the link in later and as I seem to have ADHD expect this in late February.

Give Your Kids Speed – A Look at ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder)

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This may be a strange question but do you actually like doing the washing up or cleaning the house? If you don’t you may have a problem. If you are also forgetful; find it difficult to start or finish a project (that’s me I’ve been putting off writing this for months) or avoid some tasks all together; get distracted (well yes mostly by the TV); are forgetful or don’t listen when being spoken to (me again especially if the TV is on) then I hate to break it to you but that problem is not being lazy or male but ADHD.There are other symptoms but you only need to have six so if you can tick the above list you have just been diagnosed for Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. If you don’t believe me you can always get a proper diagnosis done, in the UK we are lucky enough to be able to get a diagnosis over the phone in thirty minutes. But if you want to go to the GP they can go through the whole checklist, add up the ticks ask if it’s affecting you or, if you are a kid, if your behaviour is affecting your parents or the school and diagnose you instead. Don’t let the diagnosis worry you though, you are in good company, some estimates say one in every four people has it and if, like me, you are quite partial to speed then luckily the drugs for it (eg Ritalin) are chemically similar to speed and coke. However if you don’t like drugs, well tough really you are not going to get another option from your GP but then you shouldn’t be so straight edged, just take the damn drugs. They will work because they work on every body ADHD or not, it’s a bit like taking coffee to give you a short burst of concentration, but it can also give you heart disease, stroke and psychosis.You might be feeling like I’ve rushed you into taking drugs, after all you only got diagnosed in paragraph one and here you are on Ritalin when all you’ve done is tick some symptoms. What about a blood test or something to prove you have got it? Well there we hit a problem, despite being the most studied disorder in recent times there is no chemical, biological, genetic or electrical brain scan test that has been found to show that you have ADHD. ADHD purely is that list of symptoms. If you check the boxes you have it if you don’t then take it to someone else who will probably tick the boxes on the list differently and you should be able to get the diagnosis you want.So where did the list come from? Well there are two: one from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and one from the hugely influential American Psychiatry Authority called the DSM (Diagnostic Manual, also known as the Psychiatrists Bible), they are fairly similar. What happens is psychiatrists are brought together in committees to see if they have any new disorders that need to go in the book and they come up with the set lists for each disorder. On the face of it that seems a good idea as it could help stop bad diagnoses that were locking sane people up. Unfortunately there are two draw backs to making standard diagnosis lists – it reduces mental illness to a checklist and despite its pretence it isn’t actually that scientific. After all what is a mental disorder? Psychiatrists often don’t know any more than the rest of us: they pretty much are making it up as they go along.It does not take much digging to find disorders that were added or taken off the list due to lobbying. For instance the first DSM had homosexuality as an illness – that was lobbied out of the manual. Lobbied into it by Vietnam veterans was Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. While both changes make sense to me they were obvious campaigns that changed supposedly ‘medical’ opinion. What is not so obvious is the affect of drug companies on the diagnosis in the manual because here is a worrying thing: All of the psychiatrists involved in compiling the diagnosis of ADHD in the DSM manual have had links to the drug companies who have ADHD drugs. And if you think you are safe with the WHO list – it was funded by Eli Lilly one of the drug companies.

 

 
 CATCH 22 – ASKING FOR IT The whole Diagnostic Checklist is a bit Catch 22: You are mad because you fit the list and the list is what mad people do, but diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) went one better.Borderline Personality Disorder is a diagnosis for ‘unstable personalities’, people that don’t fit into other categories, are ‘troublesome’ or are difficult to treat.A report in the American Journal of Psychiatry showed that BPD in females was used as an excuse by male psychiatrists as to why they had broken the boundaries and had sex with their female patients. Apparently it was the ‘neediness’ of the patients that caused the trained psychiatrists to have sex with them. It was not the psychiatrists’ fault because they ‘did not normally do this’.In one case BPD in the patient was the reason a psychiatrist decided to give naked anatomy lessons leading to sex. Others met their patients at 2 in the morning for sessions that turned into sex sessions, had patients stay at their homes or gave them medication prescribed to others. All due to the ‘ability of patients with BPD to seduce and provoke therapists’ into boundary blurring, not the fault of the psychiatrists obviously.It gets worse: If a patient complains of breach of conduct then that fits a particular part of the diagnosis – that they make up allegations. To top even that, Borderline Personality Disorder can be diagnosed after accusations have been made. So – sexual misconduct by the psychiatrist indicates the patient has BPD. Making allegations is proof of the diagnosis and as people with BPD are prone to accusations therefore proof the allegation is false.
 

 

 

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There has always been something like ADHD around and there are probably genuine cases for whom the symptoms are serious (which covers me if you think you or your kids have ADHD – you are obviously the genuine ones). I also spoke to a health analyst who has been doing the same tests on children going into secondary school for the past twenty years and has noticed an increase in ‘male dominant’ conditions such as dyslexia and autism. ADHD is also a disorder mostly in males so a small increase in this would fit. The drug companies did not make ADHD up but in the last ten years diagnosed ADHD has gone from 4,000 cases to 400,000 so could they have pushed the diagnosis and boundaries out beyond the serious cases into the wider population, turning character traits into disorders? Does the pope shit?Drug companies are also funding support groups to push the boundaries from below. These can be quite powerful voices, sometimes a diagnosis for you or your child can be a way of feeling you actually belong. It can be like finding religion – it may be nonsense and not based on anything substantial but it’s comforting. A diagnosis is also great if you expect kids or the rest of us to be perfect and conform to a set of social norms you should not deviate from. This does not just apply to ADHD, for instance another disorder is Oppositional Defiant Disorder which you have if you are defiant, disobedient, hostile towards authority figures or annoy people. Which is probably most of this paper’s readership. Again it has to be remembered that these disorders are the list of symptoms. There is nothing more to it than that. The check list of symptoms is set, you match a certain number (for ODD its 4) on the list and so you have ODD, kindly take the tablets.One ADHD support group, ADDISS, although initially set up by the govt. now gets funding from drug companies to promote ADHD in schools. Schools are also encouraged to ‘evaluate any child who has school difficulties (or…) trouble with teachers’. As the Chief Exec of Shire (who make an ADHD drug) was caught saying: ‘the market is ripe and moving in the right direction.’The market though is not growing fast enough, after all ADHD is a children’s condition right? – Not when the adult market is that much bigger. So if you did not fit the list above (hey maybe you like doing the washing up) try these for size: Are you often late; drift off in meetings; avoid work; forget appointments; tackle trainers/teachers if they are wrong; not very organised in personal life; or at work; always got something on your mind? Ok now you definitely have Adult ADHD.If you are some sort of freak and want to tackle your newly diagnosed ADHD without taking drugs you could have your work cut out finding any help. There is nothing on the NHS apart from drugs and only a couple of independent centres in the UK. One, the Cactus Clinic, has an 80% success rate using better nutrition and self control training – a mixture of Jamie Oliver and Supernanny.This also ties in with studies looking at why you might have ADHD. A 2002 report showed ‘behaviour and experience can alter brain structure’. Brains have been found to alter and ‘rewire’ in skilled musicians, taxi drivers and war veterans and so changing brain activity. For children this can happen much quicker. Up to the age of seven their brains constantly rewire as it finds the best way of dealing with its environment. A bit like the Jesuit quote of ‘give me the boy till 7 and I’ll give you the man’.ADHD can just be learnt behaviour: if flaring up or blanking people gets you out of answering questions you don’t know or doing something you don’t want to then it obviously works and can become your set response. It is interesting that families with beliefs that ‘misbehaviour is malicious’ are more often associated with getting their children diagnosed with ADHD. Other studies (by Galler & Ramsey) show that early malnutrition has ‘significant association’ with ADHD symptoms. This is not the only place to show the big impact of what you eat has on things like aggression and impulsiveness. A UK trial on the effects of good nutrition in a max security prison gave a drop of 37% in violence.

 

 
 PORRIDGE AND VITAMINS A trial took place in the mid 90’s at Aylesbury max security prison where some prisoners were given vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids (eg Omega 3) and others were given a placebo. There was a drop in violent offences by 37% in those on the vitamins etc and no drop in those on the placebo.Can you really eat so poorly that nutrition changes will have this much affect on the brain? Well this is the diet of one of the young offenders before prison:Breakfast – nothing (asleep)Mid morning – nothing (asleep)Lunch – 5 cups milky coffee each with 2 ½ sugarsMid afternoon – 5 cups milky sweet coffeeTea – chips, egg, ketchup, 2 slices white bread 5 cups milky tea with sugarEve – 5 cups milky sweet coffeePlus 20 fags, 4 beers, sweets and cakeAdd chocolate and swap the fags for spliffs and that is worryingly like my diet when I left home. Plus don’t forget it’s only the B6 in the occasional lentil soup that keeps the editors brain safe from his intake of twenty high strength lagers a daySo what happened when the prison trial stopped? The government has sat on the report for the past ten years, the violence returned to its original level and the room being used at the prison to give out the vitamins etc was turned back into a restraint room.

 

 
Another solution to ADHD is to live with it. It could be better to enjoy living as you rather than dulling it out. An over active friend of mine who was like the ‘I’ll nick it’ character from The Fast Show has told me how glad he was to get involved in protest actions as it put his energy and experience to a good use and when he gets nicked now at least he feels like it’s for a good reason. Drugs would have just knocked that out of him.And although I actually do think that drugs can sometimes be useful in mental health as in other areas, would you give the following person a drug like Ritalin or Prozac to save them from themselves?This guy grew up the youngest of ten kids from his dad’s 2nd marriage and when he was 7 tried to kill his older brother with a knife for bullying him; he suffered agitation and nightmares and ran away from home before being sent to a strict boarding school when his dad died and his mum could not cope; as an adult he continued his excessive and compulsive behaviour, leaving his wife and three kids and turning to hard drugs. It’s possible Prozac or Ritalin could have helped him but they certainly might have saved us all from overlong poems like The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner and the hippy Kubla Khan because these were the symptoms shown by Samual Taylor Colleridge. So if you want to save your kids from opium and poetry get them on Ritalin now.

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