Psychic Unrest: Forces Defending Human Rights and Forces of Destruction.


Hello Good People who read this blog ( and thanks for still reading)

I find myself in a curious state of mind at the moment, as a result of the protest against the excessive rise in students fees/education cuts in London on Thursday, which resulted in destructive and strange events that burst out amid a background of peaceful and reasonable protest.

More than that,on a personal note I find that as well as the continuing student protests there are other things such as panic for my future, the future of relatives and friends that all seem to be pressing upon me and disturbing my psychic equilibrium. I am sure most people are also experiencing this on some level, so much change has occurred, with ordinary people and politicians behaving in forceful ways.

I think a lot of these forces that have laid dormant for a long time are on the one hand very creative and liberating and on the other, especially those illustrated in the news coverage, very destructive but undeniably powerful.

Before I carry on , some music, and in order to maybe bring about a bit of equilibrium I will find something peaceful. This is a song about how winter changes our frame of mind. Joni Mitchell “Urge for Going”

This unusually cold winter in the UK is another factor to affect the psyche here, violent protests usually happen in the heat of summer, but for those thousands of young people to come out in sub-zero temperatures and to keep coming back and protesting even though they know they may be kettled by police for eight hours or more, that’s the depth of feeling and determination among them. If the police used water cannons, the water would turn to ice after so many hours, but the enthusiasm of youth cannot be frozen so easily, their anger blazes like the bonfires they make to keep warm when hemmed in, at least for the time being.

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My experience of the protest. Although I am a student I hadn’t managed to get to a protest until last Thursday due to other commitments, but when our lecturers were emailing us to go for the future of our own courses, and knowing it was the date of the vote in the House of Commons, I decided to get there somehow. Unfortunately I was delayed, so I was only able to join the demo around 3 pm and missed the march. I carried no water or food in case I got kettled but went anyway. I had no idea of the route of the march but for some reason I was convinced it was to finish inParliament Square. It was hard to get there, Westminster tube station was closed so I went to Embankment, Trafalgar Square was unusually empty, I resisted a strong urge to go to the National Gallery and look at the Impressionist paintings. One of the many strange things that day, I later found out that there had been a student “sit-in” at that very gallery and if I’d followed my instincts I could have joined in.

Whitelhall and  other main roads leading off from Trafalgar Square were all sealed off by police. I took  a  little side-street  I knew and walked almost intuitively towards St. Jame’s Park, ending up in Victoria Street. I walked past sixty or so riot police, but I felt safe in spite of that and carried on until I reached the “kettling” police line that surrounded Parliament Square. To get a better view I went up onto a piece of grass in front of the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre. Along with other buildings in the area it was full of police.

Where I was, everyone seemed very calm, cheerful, holding their placards, some chanting gently,news reporters and  ordinary people taking photgraphs. From where I was standing, the events in Parliament Square sounded and looked fairly peaceful.I was there for two hours and apart from two fireworks going off, it seemed calm, with a party atmosphere.

I saw a woman around my age who was standing on her own behind me, she was holding up a notepad on which she had simply written in biro :” Parents Against Student Debt”. I stood with her and we chatted for a long time. Many other young people took photos of us.It was such a simple thing she had written, but effective and drew lots of attention.

I don’t go on many demos, but whenever I do, I meet wonderful people and it’s the only time in London where you can go up to a stranger and make amazing friends as you have an instant rapport through supporting the same cause. She worked in adoption and had two children,one about to go to Uni and the other already having to pay a substantial student debt from their studies.  We both were pretty passionate about education and the future of our society. We talked about how education is the route out of poverty. I said how much confidence in myself my first degree gave me, otherwise my life would have been quite different. My father came from a very poor background but worked hard at school and managed to get a degree and a very good job unlike the rest of his family.

Due to my “Arts and Humanities” University  education, I am able to express myself and have confidence in my thoughts. I believe that education, partlicularly education in the arts, is crucial to our society. Science is profitable and the arts and humanities seen as a logical waste of money, but to be able to express yourself and come up with new philosophies,  new points of view, and to understand the ethics and processes of other writers, artists, musicians,philosophers,cultures and historical events, that is as important as science. Of course you can do all those things without a degree but I cannot emphasise enough that without mine, this blog would never have been written.

Scene from Parliament Square. Most people seemed cheerful even though they were being “kettled”.

We talked at length about various issues in education,society and politics and I will not go into them all. I guess one of our most basic points, having experienced  parenthood and life’s various expenses, was that it was fundamentally wrong for a young person who might, for instance, one day want to get married, buy a house, have children, for which they would need a well paid job, which would then require a degree, to start their lives in a massive amount of debt. However they rephrase it with ” oh well , you only have to pay £7 a week” etc.. the bottom line is that you will start your adult life in debt and may finish your adult life in debt, unless you come from an over-priviledged family.For parents who have their children at Eton, at nearly £10 000 per term, University fees will not seem that bad,  for a parent with their child in private education in general, it won’t be a huge step to pay £9000 per year. But for an average family, who struggle to pay their rent or their mortgage, and fuel bills, food, council tax, TV license, water bills, internet bill etc…how could they possibly allow themselves or their children to borrow that amount of money and pay it back with interest? Since employers require a degree for many basic jobs, young people are in fact “kettled” within the system.

As we discussed these issues, on our patch of grass overlooking Parliament Square, a smartly dressed woman  came up to us and said in a well-spoken voice and in a terribly British way :”Excuse me , would you like these mince pies? We brought them with us in case we got “kettled””. Looking around me there were many similar women,it was a bit like being at a Women’s Institute fête, to which the mothers had brought along many smiling, chanting, teenage children holding placards with witty slogans, few made made by socialist worker for a change. It was very white, middle-class, British and “terribly nice” at our end. Apart from being kettled out of Parliament Square, and the heavy police presence, the atmosphere was calm and party-like.

As it got to five past five o’clock ( according to Big Ben) , we decided to leave as the vibe changed, I speculated that as we got closer to the six o’clock news, that some more militant protesters might do something to get on TV. Although there was lots of space around us, and we felt very safe,we saw a group of maybe 60 people come out of nowhere, dressed in black carrying a black flag running towards a police line and trying to get into the square. I guessed they were anarchists who had been playing cat and mouse games with the police all afternoon. I didn’t see that much of a scuffle between them and the police but it was a sign that things could get agitated.

So in a boring way, I went home , saw no trouble and was anxious to watch the remainder of the protest and the vote on TV.The demo I saw was peaceful but the protest was hemmed in with people unable to leave in single or other numbers.

Next some more Joni, this time a song she wrote about lying politicians. Well have you ever met an honest one?

” The Way It Is ” Joni Mitchell ( I can’t embed this click on it then to link)

This is her  performance live on TV New Year’s Eve 1968 (I think, please correct me if I am wrong), a coded political song, but hauntingly effective:

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and now for the other side of it all:

(apologies for advertising! for using a news channel but at least there is no commentary, just footage)


Once I got home and turned on the news, I was expecting some level of trouble as the evening drew in, partly because it was there were bound to be some people wanting to cause a ruck , and  because all those trapped there would be wanting to get home. But I didn’t expect so much chaos across central London.

How did this transformation of British Youth happen so rapidly? Of course there will always be some more extreme political groups and within them, some people who want to riot, but the majority were peaceful protesters. What I am slightly susrprised by is the turn around in the thinking of young people in such a short time.

Leaving the rioters to one side for now, let’s talk about the newly politically motivated hippies…When I started my University course back in 2008, the head of our  Student’s Union gave a talk where hippies were completely ridiculed. Now the president of our student’s union has long hair and seems like a hippie to me. I am very happy with this, but such a turnaround in so short a time! There were so many long haired young men on the protest, that I wondered how I missed the announcement that being a hippie was cool again.How did they get the time to grow their hair so long? Until recently “Cheech and Chong” was how most students mentally represented hippies, but this seems to be replaced now with the cooler image of “Che Guevara”.

Bob Marley – Burnin’ & a Looting

The worst casualty Alfie Meadows, looks to me like a peaceful hippie from this photo, and not a violent thug. Also he is a philosophy student who was protesting with his lecturer mum, and we all know just how violent they are! There was probably no reason at all for his injuries apart from being forced to stay in the same place and someone hitting him with something over the head, somehow,whoever they might be. It should be on camera somewhere, the place was filmed from every possible angle.

There are many stories to be told within that one day of protesting and rioting, from different points of view but whatever pespective you take, it will be a day remembered in history. Not so long ago I was trying to encourage young people to protest as is their democratic right, but I never meant for anyone to be injured or any violence of any kind to occur. My heart goes out to anyone who was injured especially Alfie.

Once I was watching the news events unfolded that seemed weirder by the minute.What kind of constellation was present to cause even the royal family to blythely drive into the middle of  the protest? I can’t help but think it was fate aiding and abetting a bit more chaos.

A few months ago I was encouraging young people to go on protests and was dismayed at their political apathy. Now I would implore some calm. Smashing things up violently is couter-productive and  in the long-term, the violence and aggression will rebound on those who caused it, whoever’s side they are on.It’s one thing to smash down the Berlin wall, it’s another to go on the rampage and just smash things because they are there. In the end it’s like smashing up your own home, your own future, there’s got to be a better way to demonstrate, and there’s got to be a better way to police the demonstrations. There’s also get to be a better way of dealing with any problems in our education system. If they have to cut down the number of students, why not raise the academic entry level but make it free, and why not create  jobs that don’t require a degree?

Students have been a nice little earner for the banks lending them money for too long.

Bob Marley again

I have worn myself out now from ranting and no doubt the reader too.

So as always

Love and Peace

Born2rant

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From the Sixties to the End of the Noughties..did it match up to expectations?


Hello Good People who read this blog

I am listening to music over the headphones while I write this, to keep me focussed and calm,so I might as well start by sharing what I am listening to. Some English sixties folk, Sandy Denny with an acoustic home recorded demo version of Who Knows Where the Time Goes?

Across the purple sky, all the birds are leaving…

Well everyone on TV and radio seems to be reviewing the noughties. I can’t believe a decade has gone by.

I feel a sense of foreboding in broaching the subject of the “noughties” as I think for me it was a decade that started with high hopes and ends in doubt, fear and disappointment. In my personal life that is not the case but in terms of an alternative type of person living in London, it has not been a great decade.

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I guess for me this decade started in the sixties. As a child, the year 2000 seemed like an impossibly long time away. I wondered if I actually would live to be that old.

In 1968 , this is what we thought could be happening in 2001:

At school in the sixties,one of the favourite essay topics of teachers, was to ask us write about how the world would be in the year 2000. We all wrote about world peace, wearing silver suits, having robots to do all our housework, going for holidays in outer space, an absence of disease, poverty and famine and extraordinary futuristic and sophisticated pop music,together with the occasional time machine and transporter room ( in the style of Star Trek). It is hardly surprising that we were so optimistic, the sixties was an amazing time of progress, with the peace movement, breaking down of many prejudices,new fashions made of new synthetic materials, amazing ground-breaking pop music, advances in medicine and the proliferation of science fiction which speculated on how new technology would affect us all in the future.

Some of the predictions made by scientists were very misguided.

Tomorrow’s World (BBC)  in the late 60s

At other times the predictions were petty spot on. Here is a clip I found called Britain of the Future . It features mobile phones, CCTV in banks, luxury short plane journeys to Sydney, computers and the internet, how we will select our children for mathematical ability, flatscreen TVs  and more.If you play it 5 minutes in, you will find some predictions for 2000. The population figures quoted must be for Britain only. In fact according to the National Statistics office the UK population in 2008 was 61 million and not quite the 65 million that they anticipated for 2000.

It is hardly surprising that in the sixties, a time of great creativity, invention and hope, that we looked to the future with great excitement. Could we say the same now? How do we see the future in these fearful times where every TV programme seems to warn us about some threat : climate change,  terrorist attack, or timeless pleasures that are a danger to our health, as well as the possibility of financial ruin or new diseases that will wipe us all out unless we wash our hands 20 times a day.

Do you know any teachers who ask their class to write an essay about how exciting life will be in the year 2050?

Poor kids today!

In 1969, western consciousness was full of hope. Everyone with access to a TV,remembers the day when Apollo 11 landed on the moon.  The music of The Beatles, Hendrix and others was so new, young and exciting , we hoped that with new technology  we would be creating the most amazing music ever by 2010…OOPS! We didn’t account for those forces that kill creativity: trying to make money by trying to appeal to all, trying to look perfect, marketing, advertising, selling your soul to Satan Cowell etc..

I remember sitting with some friends back in the eighties, after listening to all four “sides” of  Electric Ladyland and saying:  “Just imagine what music Hendrix would make if he’d survived until the year 2000 , with all that technology!” and others agreeing and imagining this amazing music with  new synthesizers and effects and even computers.

Now I think:”Yep…if Hendrix had survived, I bet his record company would be re-issuing all his old stuff. Maybe having gone through a brief “Unplugged” tour during the nineties.” Cynical me…

But technology has brought some interesting new music, even if it is sometimes rehashed old music from the sixties. Recently this was recommended to me by two people in their twenties. DJ Shadow’s “Endtroducing” ,first released in 1996 and re-issued in 2005.This album is created entirely out of samples. D.J Shadow combines these skillfully to make a totally new, and some would say,genius, classic album.

Is this the future of music?

Building Steam with a Grain of Salt  by  DJ Shadow.

I like it, but I prefer Dark Side of The Moon which uses samples of speech but where  the music is less repetitive and  the lyrics have a message.( Or do I have a case of middle-aged “They just don’t write tunes like they used to and don’t police officers look young”etc.?)P.S. 3/1/2010 However this track has definitely “grown on me” in the past few days. I find a lot of good music plays that trick.

Another PS!!!!

I recently interviewed Andy Leung for another  little radio documentary, he is the keyboard player from the band “Introducing” a nine piece band who play “Endtroducing” live at gigs and festivals. Now  this has become one of my fav tracks , here they are playing “Building Steam with a Grain of Salt” and other tracks for the album at the Skylarkin, Carling Academy Oxford in December 2008. What do you think?

I hope that the future of music in 2010 and beyond goes back to live performance, more thought-provoking contents, and originality. Unlike in previous decades, the music business is no longer the only way for independent minded musicians to get their music aired. The internet has liberated us and trapped us at the same time.

As far as file sharing goes, my feelings are mixed. The musicians I know,mostly don’t mind file sharing, they also like using open source materials and all the free things on the internet to help them, from myspace, to music lessons on youtube. But the musicians I know don’t make a whole lot of money. Internet file sharing is nothing new, ever heard of cassette recorders and photocopying machines? As a child/teenager I had very little pocket money. We used to record the entire chart show on Radio One on an old reel to reel recorder. I still have the tapes!

Here is Kraftwerk being futuristic in 1978.Will music in the coming decade be progressive or retrogressive? It all depends on what our collective consciousness or fashion dictate.

The Robots ( nevermind playing synthesizers, will they design robots to do the bloody housework next decade?)

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Like the Apollo 11 Moon Landing, there have been some moments in life, commonly shared with others, where I remember where I was and who I was with, and every feeling and thought impressed  up there in my memory.Preceeding the beginning of the nougthies, there was the eclipse which I saw on Hampstead Heath in London, together with several hundred others.Each one of us forwarned eternally by the media not to look straight up at the sun. It was a special and spiritual moment, I spoke to many Londoners who I didn’t know there, and strangely I bumped into all sorts of music people I knew,but who were equally surprised to see me there. The eclipse reminded us that day, that we were only on a small, rather vulnerable planet, I felt united with others, but for some reason it made me feel sad too.

New Year’s Eve 2000 itself was also a strange time for me personally,  I remember having ventured alone into Central London around the Thames surrounded by thousands of others.I have never felt so lonely! London can be like that. Luckily I went to a friend’s place later.

I guess the main events from the Noughties that affected everything else in our daily lives in London, was September the 11th 2001 followed by the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Both events completely changed the London I knew into a place where CCTV and police apparently took over. I also remember the bus and tube bombings of July 2005 and the further aborted bombings a couple of weeks later. My entire neighbourhood was cordoned off that day, and a friend had to stay at my place because the police wouldn’t let him go home.

Immediately after September the 11th , I was very interested to hear all the “ins and outs” of why the “plane crashes”  could have  happened.

I knew both Americans and Lebanese people at that time, who knew a lot about politics. Before the full story broke out in the news, it was pretty obvious from my conversations with them, that it was bound to be a group from the middle-east over Palestine.

The protest march against the invasion of Iraq in February 2003 was another day I will never forget. I have been on a quite a few protest marches, but this was exceptional. The political apathy of the British public was dispelled for once and to take part in the march was amazing. It was freezing cold and slow, but I was so pleased to see others of all ages and backgrounds united in not wanting a war.

I had written a detailed letter to my MP at the time, Michael Portilo, a month or two beforehand, giving him five well-thought out reasons why we should not invade Iraq. One of my main points was that London would become a target for terrorists if we got involved in America’s attack. I stated that we were still regarded as neutral until we committed to invading Iraq. I wrote that I thought that central London would become a less friendly, and more dangerous place with armed police, and that there would be a threat of terrorist attacks on the tubes.

To my surprise, and to his credit, Portilo wrote back me ( or maybe someone in his office wrote it for him) . It was a long letter, replying to each one of my five points in detail. The letter is somewhere up in my attic I think, I could not find it to quote here unfortunately ( I may add it later).

Portilo assured me that if we did not invade Iraq, that London would become a terrorist target and a dangerous place to live. Although a conservative MP, he  fully supported the labour government’s actions. I might have sounded hysterical in my letter,but I was right.  Our tubes were bombed and London did become a far more paranoid and fearful place, with new detention laws and the police, at times taking over tube stations with an aggressive and intimidating presence,compounded by stories of police torture at Scotland Yard, police brutality at recent climate change protests etc…

I have subsequently met Kurdish refugees from Iraq and Turkey, living here in London, who were extremely happy to see Saddam go. One guy I knew lost not only his family, but all his friends,school teachers and everyone he ever met in his entire life, through one of Saddam’s mass gas attacks of the Kurds.

I am still a pacifist and think we were wrong to invade Iraq, but these things are never entirely black and white.

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I guess my main worry for the next decade is the impact of climate change, I do think life for people will have to change whether we plan for it or not.

On a positive note, I am a great believer in Mother Earth. Before all the patriarchal religions ( and yes I know I will upset many by writing this!) there were religions in most parts of the world based on the concept of the great mother, the giver of life. The planet and all living things , and sometimes non-living things such land,rocks and hills etc. were sacred and respected.

If we don’t adopt a better attitude, then the forces of nature which are stronger than the forces of man, will take over.I believe the planet will be self-regulating. This is a very harsh image and of course I don’t want anyone to die or suffer. If we think of the planet as a kind of living being under threat (from billions of  little human parasites), then I believe that it could rebel and kill enough people so that it can restore itself back to health.

Well let’s see if we can prevent any great tragedy from happening by using  less, and thinking more about the way we treat our planet within this gigantic, wonderful and mysterious Universe. We must choose to either plunder or to care for this beautiful, delicate, live-giving planet Earth.

Happy New Year 2010,

May the next decade bring us Wisdom and Peace

Born2rant

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