Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Barely quantifiable anger

So I was reminiscing today about last year's student protests, and how a largely peaceful and passionate movement was hijacked by a few vandals, who of course got all the attention from the conservative media. While a pessimist might note that the protests entirely failed in their aims, that seems a fairly pointless conclusion to reach given that a majority of the population supported the protesters (who did include me, though on a school-level protest, not the main London one - we got on the local news though!) and the disapproval rates of the government have stayed high all winter.

Last Saturday, the March for the Alternative in London brought together 400,000 people opposed to the irrational and ideologically motivated cuts to public services introduced by this government. (Let's be clear - no-one voted for this, me because I was too young (!) but most people because even the Tory manifesto said "no frontline cuts" and "no top-down reorganisations of the NHS".) Once again, there was sporadic trouble but this time literally only 50 or so people did anything criminal at all. The Daily Mail's resident bigot, Melanie Phillips tried to tar the legitimate protest group UK Uncut with the epithet of anarchists, but, y'know, they aren't. However, it emerges that the UK Uncut members who occupied Fortnum and Mason were tricked into arrest by the police, who, a video released on the Guardian website makes clear, said they would be free to go when they left the store. They then walked out... straight into a police kettle where they were immediately arrested. Ho hum.

So this brings me back to this blog's title. Anger is a relative concept. It's possible to get astoudingly angry about tiny little things, while allowing capitalists to get away with paying only a pittance in taxes to a country which gives them everything. Anger must be directed if it is to achieve anything. The March for the Alternative and the UK Uncut movement are all legitimate harbingers of anger, but we must be so careful not to let vandals and wreckers destroy them as they did the tuition fees protests. An irresponsible and biased media is clearly not going to help here. Therefore activists must keep making their case eloquently and passionately in the British democratic tradition, so that the barely quantifiable anger against the government of the country's progressive majority can be refined into a real popular movement - a movement with the power to change.

Phillips: http://bit.ly/fK7Pe7
Guardian footage: http://bit.ly/fto02l
My point made better: http://bit.ly/iaxIEH

Tuesday, 22 March 2011


I made a list of good national anthems. This is good revision. Oh... wait. No, the other one. A complete, albeit satisfying, waste of time. I waste time frequently.

The official top seven.
  • Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit - Germany. This is the best cos it's nice, int'it? *
  • La Marseillaise - France. This one fits best the country's national stereotype. There's something about letting impure blood water your furrows that can only be French. Maybe it makes the garlic grow better or something.
  • Advance Australia Fair - I won't insult your intelligence. Some Aussies don't like this. They say it's too dull. But believe me, guys. You were right to choose it over GSTQ, which is simply the worst dirge ever written.
  • O Canada - best used to make ironic statements about the United States. **
  • Fratelli d'Italia - aside from an introduction that sounds like a fairground ride's music, this is absolutely brilliant. You just can't help but love it.
  • Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau - inspiring and beautiful. This is why the Welsh often beat us at rugby. ***
  • Het Wilhelmus - possibly the only anthem to be written in the first person. The reference to the king of Spain is admittedly odd, but this does sound wonderful, although I totally understand that it is slow and reverent and suffers from the two problems I always attack GSTQ for, being, a praising of God and a monarchical sentiment. Also, ik hou van hoe de Nederlanders spreuk woorden. (Sorry. Google translate.)

*Some stupid people think it's Deutschland über alles, which hasn't been true since Hitler and is totally at odds with modern German liberalism. They're not crazy militarists, you idiotic British racists.
** How many Americans know that their anthem's tune comes from an old English drinking song called To Anacreon In Heaven? The song was commonly used as a sobriety test: if you could sing a stanza of the notoriously difficult melody and stay on key, you were sober enough for another round. Haha. I'd buy a drink for anyone who could recite Francis Scott Key's lyrics after a couple, though.
*** Except this year!!! Yay for England. Boo for the Grand Slam fail. :(

Honourable mentions.

  • Auferstanden aus Ruinen. So yeah, this isn't an anthem anymore, and yeah, it was kinda the anthem of a repressive totalitarian regime... but come on. It's lovely. It's sweet and fluffy, like clouds and sheep in springtime and hummingbirds and pillows and the Stasi. 
  • The Internationale and The Land. Two anthems here, each not to a nation, but rather to political ideologies, socialism and liberalism ( the latter is more specifically for land value taxation, but let's not overcomplicate things). Regardless of your political inclinations (I sit uneasily between both these camps) these songs are magnificent anthems for what they claim to represent.
  • Jerusalem. So this isn't actually the anthem of anywhere, but it should be. The only important patriotic song which actually mentions England, a progressive anthem to unity and a theologically and politically radical song (no, it isn't a hymn and the mentions of Jesus are deliberately ambiguous and ultimately negative) which is nicely complex and affords many potential interpretations, this is the only possible anthem for England. 

I hope you enjoyed that. Procrastination over.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Dream School?

British people will no doubt be aware that chef-cum-Superman Jamie Oliver, who in earlier series has saved us all from the evil Twizzlers of Turkeia, who zoomed down from outer space to defile our children and destroy the nation's health, only to be vanquished by the Crepe Crusader, has recently turned his attention to the failing education system, and has taken to trying, in his own inimicable way, to solve its problems.

Oliver's plan basically rests on the idea that celebrities can teach subjects they claim to know about far better than so-called professionals. Predictably, however, most of them were catastrophic failures - David Starkey alienated the entire section of the population that Oliver had earlier tried unsuccessfully to humiliate and segregate by calling a boy "fat", and then proceeded to carry on with the ensuing argument for so long that I had to check he wasn't actually one of the children. After all, as Connor reminded us, he is "only four foot tall". Alastair Campbell gave splendid advice as to how to follow in his footsteps: to become a lying, sycophantic apologist for a war criminal, and, rather imaginatively, simultaneously aroused the homophobic sentiments of some of the class, leading to an outright brawl of words of the kind not seen on Channel 4 since Brookside was cancelled.

As far as I can tell, the kids seem about as interested in this scheme as Nick Clegg is in listening to the electorate, judging by the amount of time they spend on their gadgets, hiding away from doing any work and wearing the now-patented gormless hangdog look that has become so associated with Clegg over the last year. This whole programme seems like a propaganda exercise for Michael Gove's Free Schools project. No, you don't need specialist or trained teachers, any old C-list celebrity will do! I can only imagine the sequels:

Jamie's Dream Hospital, where Hugh Laurie carries out emergency heart surgery while Ducky Mallard sets 80% of the commissioning budget...

Jamie's Dream Forestry Commission, where TV's Robin Hood Jonas Armstrong carries out the demanding task of keeping ramblers off land that is rightfully theirs while Bear Grylls and Ray Mears show us all the proper way to tend to 5% of our national area...

Jamie's Dream Foreign Policy Crisis Unit, where Ross Kemp solves the Libyan problem by having a mealy-mouthed shouting match with Gaddafi from the top of a Chinook while Jack Osbourne tells the search-and-rescue operatives of the day how to correctly throw yourself out of a plane at thirty thousand feet.

(Although in that case I still might consider them over William Hague.)

There is a real issue here. We seem to have been sucked into the vacuum of assuming that "celebrity" equates to "worthy", that fame and fortune and everything that goes with it are substitutes for training, hard work and a real focus on doing your job properly. In their continuing war against the state and what it stands for, the coalition government seem to be following a very dangerous paradigm that suggests that anyone who actually does a job for money (in the capitalist tradition) is some kind of scrounger off the state - hence why we apparently need to cut all the real staff at libraries and post offices and run the bleedin' things ourselves, in our spare time. I'm not sure whether this is stupidity or arrogance, because the two are never too far apart within the Tory party.

It seems that in this age of 24-hour news and instant gratification, we only want stories that can be tied up neatly into bundles. No-one wants to hear about the teachers who work day-in, day-out to slowly improve the standards of less talented kids in their schools - we'd all much rather some televisual superhuman waltzed in at the eleventh hour and saved the day with moments to spare. So this is the real message of Dream School for me, and I hope the producers will be honourable enough to make this their ultimate conclusion too. Very little outside the goggle box happens in a scripted order, with climaxes before the ad breaks and a neat conclusion at the end. Life is messy and inconsiderate, and so our TV companies, and, more importantly, our elected representatives, must stop looking for elegant and quick solutions to our nation's woes and concentrate on what really matters - helping people to live their lives in a better, fairer and more understanding society.

CREDITS: The idea for this comes from Charlie Brooker's Guardian column and commentators thereon. It's alright.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Pretentious philosophical post

The insoluble problem of human existence is defining its goal, its direction, its purpose. The great minds of our species sparked with electric impulses, neural pathways connecting in hitherto unnoticed ways, as their owners wrestled with their membership of this elite caste called humanity, and the consequences of such an association for the activity of the independent brain.

What separates our cognitive biology, in tissue terms, from that of the so-called lower animals, is well known to our psychologists. We have a larger brain in proportion to body size. This, from a purely biological perspective, tells one all there is to know about the mystery of human consciousness. Darwin tells us in The Descent Of Man that “No one, I presume, doubts that the large proportion which the size of man's brain bears to his body, compared to the same proportion in the gorilla or orang, is closely connected with his mental powers.” That, then, may well describe why we have intelligence. We are even beginning to learn from which segments of the brain certain actions and ideas are controlled; the prefrontal cortex, to take a simple example, governs the prediction of outcomes, expectation based on actions, and complex decision making, it is hypothesized. These are known as executive functions: an ironic title, given that they seem all too frequently absent from our senior businessmen and political leaders.

Nevertheless, there is much we do not, and, many would say, cannot, know about the human consciousness. What is inbuilt, what comes from the environment outside – are we at source as bees in a hive or the empty hard drive of a shiny MacBook? Whence comes compassion, whence hatred, whence love? In what sense is there a target for our existence – service to a higher conscience, devotion to an ideal or ideology, or the elimination of worldsuck, perhaps? These questions can be assessed, say the scientists, by their emotionless, empirical method. But there is, it seems, a deeper meaning under the purely measurable, further complexities that underpin the human psyche. Here exists the difference between merely electrocuting flesh and bones, and creating what Mary Shelley’s tale calls “the modern Prometheus”.

A newly created true Man, were such possible, would have more than cells, tissues, blood and mucus – as hidden within the physical cage sits the metaphysical other, the unknowable soul, the undistillable essence of humanity.  Such a concept cannot be understood by a rock, or a table, or a pencil, for precisely the reason that such objects lack a soul of their very own. Without any way of attesting that one lives, one cannot live. Cogito ergo sum, it would seem. When the writers of the Enlightened Age told us that the new extra-human science could explain away superstitious notions of love, God, spirit, they gave up understanding what life means to those that live it. Our goal must be to die without wasting the brief span of breaths and heartbeats on impossibilities; to drive forward the boundaries of understanding, yes, but always to understand that at the centre of our humanity lies a thing, an idea, an essence, that elevates us into sentience, and, as far is it is possible to tell, into a position of free will, of power over our biological instincts, and of liberty to live as beings, and as thinkings, within this universe of our own minds.

NOTE: I am not a psychologist, nor in fact any kind of academic. If the science is wrong, so be it; the philosophy is mine and mine alone.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

The monarchy, parts two and three

Last time on "antmoorfield rants incoherently", we discussed the issue of that august British institution of the Parliament and how its members are somehow unable to criticise that other august British institution the monarchy.

You may know, unless you herd goats in Mongolia for a living, that next month is this country's first real royal wedding for 30 years. (Chas and Cam don't count, cos he's a divorcee and she's a dog.) Oh the atmosphere is electric - the coverage on the media gets ever more hysterical and faux-patriotic, and TV presenters shriek such absurdities as "everyone wants an invitation to the royal wedding" (Kate Galloway) at such soul-splitting volume that dogs up and down the land have been known to run around their gardens yelping. (By dogs here I of course mean middle-aged female conservatives.)

There is a surprising lack of response to this media infatuation with two privileged toffs tying the knot. This is despite the fact that absolutely no-one I know is the slightest bit interested in the event, apart from middle-aged female conservatives. Everyone else knows that the wall-to-wall Kate and Wills (what a ghastly nickname) coverage is just a front for savage Tory cuts and the imminent double-dip recession. But still, a nice day out for all the family. And you'll get the time off if you've just lost your job....

Media orthodoxy scares me, as a liberal, as whenever someone (even when that someone is Sky's resident harridan Kay Burley) proclaims that the whole country is in favour of something, and overjoyed at the prospect of our future king and his beautiful queen having a fairytale wedding, I have to ask when we emigrated to Nazi Germany. I wasn't aware that free speech was forbidden. (Well, at least before the Bryant affair. Ref part one...)

Finally, it must be said that although I totally acknowledge that republicans like myself are a minority in this country (the figure's remained constant at around 20% since the 60s) there does seem to be a massive shock whenever someone says they are one. I don't know if this is just the rural naturally conservative area in which I live, but everyone I've told of my republicanism seems totally surprised and, even, kind of concerned. (You see? Why do I have to couch this in the language normally used to describe gay people coming out! This is a political belief, you know, not a sexuality!)

The apathetic majority, around 75% if figures can be believed, are not being allowed to consider both sides of the argument. When people bumble on about tourism, time and tradition, it seems to me that there is a wilful desire to cut off debate at source. Now the pressure group Republic have a brilliant denunciation of all monarchist arguments, so I have no need to go into the answers here. All I'm trying to say is that this country thrives on debate. There's no sense in refusing to talk about something because you think you'll lose the argument - children do that. Most people have grown up, on the whole. (Notable exceptions including Boris Johnson, Richard Hammond and the son and heir, Charles Windsor.) This is a debate that we need to have. I'd like to see a referendum on the monarchy, probably when the current Queen dies, and with both sides given the option to present their opinions fairly and without the media bias that currently existed. To me, this would give people the chance to talk about what it means to be British, what it means to respect traditoin and what, ultimately, is the point of democracy.

Signing off,


Vive la Republique!

The monarchy, part one

It is a common misconception, among non-British people, that we're all fascinated by, and in love with, the monarchy. Many (by which I mean a very small number, because my internationalism is something that I need to work on) non-British people have said to me something along the lines of "do you go and drink tea with the Queen at Buckingham Palace? Have you seen the Crown jewels? Isn't it a fairytale?" The answers to these questions, by the way, in reverse order, are, "no, not really", "yes", and "of course not, you blithering fool". (It's worth pointing out that this is actually made up, but go with it. I'm going somewhere, you'll see.) However, to a great extent this is cultural assumption and stereotype, and so there isn't really anything significant to read into it. Furthermore, the extent to which this is meaningful is very little - to most foreigners, the importance of the monarchy as a concept stretches about as far as tourism and some dollars and yen for the Exchequer.

On the other hand, it is rather more disturbing when the great British people seem to be wilfully rejecting any kind of rational debate into the issue of whether having a monarchy is actually appropriate, democratic or even legitimate. Three facets of this debate infuriate me. Let's deal with them in turn, by the process of male-dominant primogeniture if you insist.

Firstly, it came to my attention this week that it is actually forbidden to criticise the royals or their institution in Parliament. Now, OK, this takes some getting used to. There's this building, right, where people go and discuss matters of great urgency to the nation in order to get their political views into legislation. Excellent idea! One of the few things we Brits can be proud of is the exportation of democracy to the rest of the civilised world. But there's an issue. This week in Parliament, former Foreign Office minister Chris Bryant MP asked whether the disgraceful conduct of the Duke of York (porcine bloke, arrogant, loudmouth, altogether an arse) would be grounds for calling for his resignation as the UK's Special Trade Representative, a job which involves going round the world buttering up diplomats and politicians so we can flog stuff at them. Perfectly legitimate question. I'll let you guess what happened next, based on the normal rules of parliamentary procedure.

a) The Speaker took note of his comment and promised to arrange a debate on the subject
b) The Speaker took note of his comment and promised to deliver Bryant's concerns on the matter to the relevant minister.
c) The Speaker took note of his comment and promised to allow other hon. Members to talk on the issue.

Taken your guess?

No, you're all wrong! It's actually d) The Speaker took issue with his comment and forcibly told him that all references to the royals in the house should be "brief, sparing and respectful" and refused to let debate continue. I'll let you digest that.

This is a democratic house where people discuss social issues. Check. Free speech is a right in a civilised society. Check. People are elected to try to make the world a better place. Check.

So why in the name of all that's liberal can't we even debate this issue in a democratic house! This is a national disgrace - all that talk of liberty and equality is just arse-gas, it seems - us poor plebs should know our place and not question our betters, gawd bless 'er Majesty.

Good Christ! (Let's not forget that the established church is headed by the Queen herself. It doesn't take an Archbishop to work out the problems that causes...)

So. We have this situation, where 20% of the British people are unable to express their concerns about the monarchy in the elected House of Commons. OK, so. Where next? Yeah, the media.

In part two of this angry rant, we consider the role of the newspapers and telly in this national shitpile. Until then, keep warm, keep happy and keep well.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Why do thoughts evaporate when you're trying to write a blog?

This is a ridiculous thing that keeps happening. I have so many witty, urbane, observational thoughts in my head during the day but whenever I get down to writing here they all disappear.

I could write something fascinating about sociology or politics, which are my main foci (oh don't be ridiculous with your vocabulary, you utter blancmange) but the most I could muster would be some feeble done-to-death tirade about Tory cuts or some attempt to pretend I understand the complexities of Middle Eastern geopolitics by talking about Gaddafi or some such rubbish.

Sollte ich vielleicht Deutsch sprechen, weil das eine andere Interesse ist? Nein, glaube ich. Kann nichts interessant sagen. Schade, weil diese wunderbare Sprache so schön ist, dass mein Blog viel besser aussieht.

I could go to bed. It is, after all, midnight. The witching hour. Maybe if I don't, though, a Big Friendly Giant will whisk me off to save the Queen. But then again that would offend my republicanism, so maybe I should sleep.

But beforehand, I'll leave a list of things I could write about in the future. Like a totally uninteresting version of a time capsule.

The Daily Mail
Tory cuts
British people
Pointless lists
Self-conscious entries in lists which illuminate the artifice of the construction in a postmodern way

I remain your good and faithful servant,


Monday, 7 March 2011

30 Day Song Challenge

One interesting way to learn things about people, so I'm told, is to look at what music they like. With that in mind, on FB (Visigoth as I am, I do use it) I'm doing this 30 day song challenge. I'll post up the songs here, partly so I don't forget, but also because it will be jolly illuminating, I hope.

Day 01 - your favourite song. Procol Harum - A Whiter Shade of Pale.
Day 02 - your least favorite song. The Gummy Bear Song.
Day 03 - a song that makes you happy. The Monkees - I'm A Believer.
Day 04 - a song that makes you sad. Miles Davis - Blue in Green.
Day 05 - a song that reminds you of someone. Elvis Costello - Red Shoes.
Day 06 - a song that reminds you of somewhere. Buena Vista Social Club - Chan Chan.
Day 07 - a song that reminds you of a certain event. Gil Scott-Heron - The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.
Day 08 - a song that you know all the words to. Devo - Jocko Homo.
Day 09 - a song that you always sing along to. Hank Green - A Song About An Anglerfish, a.k.a. The Anglerfish Song Regarding the Human Mentality In Respect To How to Interpret Perpetually Felt Emotion While Educating You on the Subject of Anglerfish.
Day 10 - a song by someone you want to see live. Villagers - On A Sunlit Stage.
Day 11 - a song from your favorite band. Led Zeppelin - Misty Mountain Hop.
Day 12 - a song from a band you've just discovered. Lone Wolf - The Devil And I.
Day 13 - a song that is a guilty pleasure. 10cc - The Wall Street Shuffle.
Day 14 - a song from an artist you think none of your friends have heard of. The Mountain Goats - Love Love Love.
Day 15 - a song that no-one would expect you to love. Kenickie - Nightlife.
Day 16 - the song that contains your favourite lyrics. The Magnetic Fields - All My Little Words.
Day 17 - your favourite instrumental. Wipe Out - The Ventures.
Day 18 - a song you wish you heard on the radio. Television - Marquee Moon.

Day 19 - a song from your favorite album. The Beatles - She Said She Said.
Day 20 - a nostalgic song. The Kinks - Days.
Day 21 - your favourite cover. Traffic - Feelin' Good.
Day 22 - a song you'd listen to in your car. Driftless Pony Club - House of 1982 Built Like A Ship. 

Day 23 - your favourite song with an animal in the title. The Bees - Chicken Payback.
Day 24 - your second favourite song with an animal in the title. Genesis - The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway.
Day 25 - a song you play air guitar to. Pink Floyd - Comfortably Numb.
Day 26 - a song that makes you laugh. Tom Milsom - Catsongs II: Livia Deliberated.

Day 27 - a song with a great music video. Ultravox - Vienna.
Day 28 - a song that you wish you could play on an instrument. Focus - Hocus Pocus.
Day 29 -  a song that reminds you of your country. PJ Harvey - The Last Living Rose.

Day 30 - a song that is worthy of being last in the list. Simon and Garfunkel - The Sounds of Silence.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Introduction to antmoorfield

Hello world. I'm takin' you on, y' hear me?

And with that out of the way, maybe I should talk about myself like the conceited egotist everyone seems to be on this entity we like to call the Web of the Wide World, which sounds suspiciously like a Christian popular hymn / sermon. "Oh Lord, blesseth thou the nerds that do inhabit this place. Give them eyes to see that their emotional retardation, paling skin and sexual starvation affecteth not their ability to be human beings or to engage in civil society. And keep a place in heaven for lolcats."

OK, so I'm in my final year of school, furiously studying to get to Cambridge uni (at least when I'm not wasting countless hours on youtube watching people talk about their oft-insignificant lives, in a bizarre parody of communication which suggests only that the plum species may in fact be human beings' evolutionary goal. Oh, we're getting there).

Things I like: comedy novels, music that doesn't celebrate hegemonic capitalism or war, comfy chairs, obscure things that no-one else has heard of, cats, Harry Potter, oranges, literature, reasoned political debate, sociology and the usual peace, love and mutual harmony between all people.

Things I don't like - irrationality, music that celebrates hegemonic capitalism and/or war, those awful chairs that have holes in the back which as far I as can see can only be used for oh-so-amusing fart pranks, blind adherence to something, romantic fiction, Jeremy Kyle, Glenn Beck, Rupert Murdoch, the institution of monarchy and when people are cocks.

I suppose I'll try and update this blog with something interesting once in a while, at any rate.

Give it a whirl, at least....?


PS. Oh, and I was kidding about the oranges. Me and green apples have a thing goin' on.