Friday, August 30, 2013

Sorry Syria

Well, in the last dregs of summer's freetime I have given a little time to listening to the debate on Syria. I managed to see something of the Parliamentary debate, the relentless drumbeat of retreat from action which emanated from the back benches, but I hadn't heard Cameron's contribution until today. Meantime I had listened to John Kerry's rationalisation of the case for action against Assad, specifically his chemical weapons use.

First of all I must say that Kerry clarified the claim- 1429 dead, he said, at least, as a result of the attack. Until tonight I hadn't heard it so unequivocally put. Yesterday there was barely a mention except when Cameron briefly claimed 300 and something as a number drawn from Medecin sans Frontieres hospitals. That was always (I considered) going to be a fraction of the real number, assuming that the hospitals which treated the victims weren't all run by a French charity. 1429 is a different ball park- it's mass murder rather than warfare.

The number of dead leads necessarily to reflections on the scale of the attack.

What Kerry also added very clearly was the data on launch points of the attack, and targets. He said clearly, again and again- the launch points were multiple and all in areas controlled by the Assad regime. The targets were multiple but all were either in the hands of the rebels or of disputed control. The attacks had launch points in Assad territory (they were delivered by shelling) and targets which were rebel or disputed. The scale was massive and multiple in origin and target.

Did I mention 1429 people were killed in the assault?

What Kerry did that Cameron didn't was put together a sustained argument with key details which were repeated for emphasis and to allow them to sink in.

One aspect that he emphasised was the sheer number of videos of the aftermath which had come to light. So multi-sourced and spontaneous its as if ordinary people in Damascus might have smart phones with video capability. Oh.

Kerry spoke consistently and methodically, Cameron kept adding listed factlets in between interruptions from the House during which he repeatedly simply said 'I want to make some progress'- and then took another interruption. It all sounded very Parliamentary but for the 'Ă­nformation poor' House of Commons there was no chance to let key facts sink in. Moreover, Cameron was at such pains to point out that he was doing things differently from Blair, he didn't permit the facts to speak for themselves.
It was almost as if Cameron wanted to lose- he was so gentlemanly to opponents and sceptics that he felt it indecent to even try to bend their ears with facts.

Well, it's early days in this particular conflagration in the ME. There will be time,

'There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;                               
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions
And for a hundred visions and revisions
Before the taking of a toast and tea.' 

But I still wish that Cameron had made a proper speech.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Mick Philpott, existentialist, rascal

Far as I am from the UK, I find that the story of Mick Philpott, guilty of killing six of his children, somehow encapsulates all that is wrong with the sceptered isle. His appearances on daytime tv, his status as archetypal layabout, with an origin intriguingly including a period spent as a soldier in the army; his previous convictions being of such serious crimes as aggravated attempted murder, but so underpunished as to teach him all he needed to know about the malleability of the values of the society he leeched from; all these and more suggest, in a kind of odiferous compot, the precise elemental excretia of the body politic in the era in which we live. 

In fact Philpott's life history suggests a man who acted entirely on his desires and behaved with an almost poetic sense of freedom, insofar as whatever he could get away with, he did. He may well have known what good behaviour was, in the abstract- he could certainly impersonate it when he wanted to-, but in reality he was committed to doing whatever he was able to get away with at the given moment, and in the process imposing a Philpott-shaped indentation on the society through which his antics cut a swathe.

The details are oh-so-very tabloid, to such an extent that it's clear Philpott understood and even lusted after placing himself within the tableaux of selfish extremity which is their constant emanation. We learn, for instance, that Mick Philpott and his wife Mauraid went to a karioke evening in the days after they had caused the death of six of Philpott's children, and that he sang 'Suspicous Mind' by Elvis Presley, including the lyric 'caught in a trap'. The macabre dark humour of the Philpotts is an element of the artist of the moment trying to impose his will on reality.

Murder, as Dostoyevsky illustrated in his work Crime and Punishment, is the ultimate assertion of the will. Thus did Philpott consider the deaths of his children: as the assertion of his will. He considered himself, and forced others to admire him as, one of life's winners, one of life's survivors. He considered it his role to dominate: women, children, even society itself. He dominates the headlines today, and that itself is a form of continuing victory. For this, Philpott can be considered one of the world's great existentialists. Dostoyevsky's Raskolnikov would have agreed, and this latter day rascal shows how the world has advanced since those times.

Sunday, March 03, 2013


Matthew D'Ancona:

'Ukip is not a party but a state of mind. It recoils not from Europe specifically but from change generally. It fuses the twitching of the suburban net curtain with the anti-everything spirit of Screaming Lord Sutch: the party of Monster Raving Rotarians. The rise of Ukip reflects not Conservative failure so much as the hectic pace of contemporary life. This is a bad era in which to live if you like uniformity, continuity and predictability. '

This statement makes me rather angry, which either self-identifies me as one of the no-change brigade, or suggests that D'Ancona's blanket smears are infuriatingly smug.

On the contrary, I would say, first of all, plus ca change, plus ca meme chose. Generally speaking those who menace for 'change' are those who suck like leaches from the status quo. 'Change' as a mantra is unchanging among the movers and shakers, of whom Ancona is a notable example. This is the same D'Ancona who was far up the New Labour posterior and is further up the Cameroonian one. This D'Ancona seems to be a Vicar of Bray minus the challenging era, needlessly and gratuitously ever-present. In the devil's words one wishes that he would just F-off.

D'Ancona mistakes imposition for change. Change, when it is authentic, comes from below. It comes in waves from the positions of lives coordinating spontaneously. Imposition imitates change but only superficially and its effects are like interference rather than waves. It comes sporadically, when conditions are permissive, imposed by will and vanity.

Change is always happening, and the challenge for all people of whatever age and place is to adapt to it. Therefore it helps if you are free from the imposition of fantasists. Such are political obsessives, currency fanatics, opinion-leader writers and european politicians.

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