Thursday, 19 October 2017

Autumn: A Dirge - Percy Bysshe Shelley



The power of seasons changing in the following poem by the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley nicely evokes the overall power yet grace the natural world consists of. Here, the elements themselves seem to be moaning about the injustice that is corrupting the society.  

Autumn : A Dirge - Percy Bysshe Shelley 

( from Posthumous Poems : 1824 )


The warm sun is falling, the bleak wind is wailing,
The bare boughs are sighing, the pale flowers are dying,
And the Year
On the earth is her death-bed, in a shroud of leaves dead,
Is lying.
Come, Months, come away,
From November to May,
In your saddest array;
Follow the bier
Of the dead cold Year,
And like dim shadows watch by her sepulchre.

The chill rain is falling, the nipped worm is crawling,
The rivers are swelling, the thunder is knelling
For the Year;
The blithe swallows are flown, and the lizards each gone
To his dwelling.
Come, Months, come away;
Put on white, black and gray;
Let your light sisters play--
Ye, follow the bier
Of the dead cold Year,
And make her grave green with tear on tear.

Here is link to earlier post about Shelley:

https://teifidancer-teifidancer.blogspot.co.uk/2017/08/percy-bysshe-shelley-august-4-1792-july.html

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

A Beautiful Resistance


following poem inspired by attending rally in Haverfordwest 14/10/17)

A Beautiful Resistance

Among tides of wild currents
Freedom spreads beautiful resistance
flying strong on winds of existence,
some will try to steal our thunder
tempt us into  places of fear and hate
but like the breezes that blow with persistence
mighty are minds that follow this source,
with compassion will help deliver tyranny's end
for the lives of the many, not the hands of a few
beyond the darkness of our current days
there is strength in a crowd of solidarity,
with people's power the future looks bold
we can create and build a fairer world,.
following  paths of love and equality
our desires can continue to be shared,
carrying rainbow flags of diversity
refusing to be silenced or usurped
each night and day dreams will live
sowing hope in  hearts, seeds of change
onwards we rise,never to  disappear.


Monday, 16 October 2017

Fela Kuti ( 15 October 1938 – 2 August 1997) Afrobeat pioneer who used his music as a weapon



Fela Kuti (born Olufela Olusegun Oludotun Ransome-Kuti), also known as Fela Anikulapo Kuti or simply Fela, was a Nigerian multi-instrumentalist, musician, visionary composer, pioneer of the Afrobeat music genre, human rights activist, marijuana smoking icon and incendiary political maverick.
Fela was born into  an upper middle class family in Abeokuta, Oguri State Nigeria..His father was the strict Rev Canon Israel Oludoton Ransome Kuti an ordained minister grammar  school principal and first president of the Nigerian Union of Teachers. Fela's  mother Funmilayo was a leader of the country's nascent socialist, nationalist and sufragette campaigns. As a teen , Fela was already playing the role of a rebel against authority.At school he formed a club called the Planless society, he said "the rule of the club  was simple : we had no plans. You could be called upon to disobey orders at any time. Disobedience was our law."
Like many children of the Nigerian  middle class, Fela was sent to London to study at university. But Fela now a trumpet player wasn't interested in the professional careers in medicine and law and instead  enrolled at the London Trinity College of Music.
Fela  would marry his first wife Remi in 1961, and with some West Indian and Nigerian friends , started a jazz band called Koola Lobitos. He had his first two children, daughter Yeni in '61 and son Femi in '62, and graduated from Trinity with certificates in practice and theory.Fela and his family returned to Nigeria in 1963, where got a job with the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation.
When he first started in the 1960's, his brand of music was the Highlifw which he performed with other artists in the many night clubs of Lagos. In the late  1960;s to early 1970's he went to the United States and became influenced by the Black Panthers, and the ideas of Malcolm X and co.In line with his Pan- Africanist identity  he would change his surname, Ransome- Kuti  a hybid of a slave name to Anikualpo - Kuti, which is completely African. Anikulapa literally means, ' he that has pocketed death.' Fela developed a reputation for openly amoking cannabis, and sleeping with a large amount of women,but  his influence on contemporary music  is incredible. A true original and innovator, one of musics most skilled agitators. His songs could stretch to over an hour, filled with passionaae lyrics, about military corruption and social inequality. he conveyed both a radical indignation and a radical message.
In Nigeria he founded a communal  compound and rehearsal space he called the Kalakuta Republic, and a night club the Shrine. The musical style he created was called  Afrobeat  a wonderful fusion of Jazz, Funk, Ghanian/Nigerian High life, psychedelic rock  and traditional West African rhythms  characterized by a fairly large band with many instruments, vocals, and a musical structure featuring jazzy, funky horn sections. A riff-based "endless groove" is used, in which a base rhythm of drums, shekere, muted West African-style guitar, and melodic bass guitar riffs are repeated throughout the song. Commonly, interlocking melodic riffs and rhythms are introduced one by one, building the groove bit-by-bit and layer-by-layer. The horn section then becomes prominent, introducing other riffs and main melodic themes.
Fela's band was notable for featuring two baritone saxophones, whereas most groups were using only one of this instrument. This is a common technique in African and African-influenced musical styles, and can be seen in Funk and Hip hop. Fela's bands at times even performed with two bassists at the same time both playing interlocking melodies and rhythms. There were always two or more guitarists. The electric West African style guitar in Afrobeat bands are paramount, but are used to give basic structure, playing a repeating chordal/melodic statement, riff, or groove.
His songs were mostly sung in Nigerian pidgin English, although he also performed a few songs in the Yoruba language. Fela's main instruments were the saxophone and the keyboards, but he also played the trumpet, electric guitar, and took the occasional drum solo. Fela refused to perform songs again after he had already recorded them, which also hindered his popularity outside Africa.
Fela was known for his showmanship, and his concerts were often quite outlandish and wild. He referred to his stage act as the "Underground" Spiritual Game. Fela attempted making a movie but lost all the materials to the fire that was set to his house by the military government in power.
It is of note that as Fela's musical career developed, so too did his political influence, not only in his home country of Nigeria, not just throughout Africa, but throughout the world. As his political influence grew, the religious aspect of his musical approach grew. Fela was a part of an Afro-Centric consciousness movement that was founded on and delivered through his music.
In the 1970' and 80's his rebellious  song lyrics established him as a political dissident. He became associated with making political , social and cutural statements about greed and corruption.
In an  interview  he once said  "Music is supposed to have an effect. If you're playing music and people don't feel something, you're not doing shit. That's what African music is about. When you hear something, you must move. I want to move people to dance, but also to think. Music wants to dictate a better life, against a bad life. When you're listening to something that depicts having a better life, and you're not having a better life, it must have an effect on you."
Playing constantly and recording  at a ferocious pace, Fela and his band. who were now called Africa 70 became huge stars in West Africa. His biggest fan base were Nigeria's poor. Because his music tackled issues close to the Nigerian underclass, he was more than just a simple pop star, like Bob Marley in Jamaica he was the voice of Nigeria's voiceless, he was there cultural rebel. This is something Nigerias military junta tried to stop, and from the moment he arrived back in Nigeria he was hounded and harrassed. Rebelling against oppressive regimes through his music came at a heavy cost to Kuti who was arrested by the Nigerian government 200 times, and was subject to numerous beatings that left him with lifelong scars and nearly killed by a government intent  on silencing him..In one of the most awful acts of violence committed against him, 1000 Nigerian soldiers attacked his compound in 1977. Fela  suffered a fractured skull as well as other broken bones, his 82 year old mother was thrown from an upstairs window, inflicting injuries that would  be fatal  she died from her injuries a year later.
The soldiers set fire to the compound and prevented firefighters from reaching the area. Fela's recording studio, all his aster tapes and musical instruments were destroyed.Rather than abandon his cause, he used these experiences as inspiration to write more lyrics recording more uncompromising songs about the incident in the aftermath.  He produced roughly 50 albums over the course of his musical career.

Fela Kuti - Coffin for  head of state


After experiencing this tragedy he briefly lived in exile in Ghana, before returning to Nigeria in 1978. In 1979 he formed his own political party, MOP , Movement of the People and at start of decade renamed his band Egypt 80. From 1980 to 1983 , Nigeria was under civilian rule and it marked a peaceful time for Fela. He would record and tour non stop, However military rule returned in 1982, ad in 1984 Fela was sentenced yo ten years in prison on trumped up charges accused of currency smuggling. With help from Amnesty International he was freed in 1985.
At the end.of the 90's he recorded  blistering attacks against Nigeria's corrupt military government, as well as broadsides aimed at Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. most abrasively on the album Beast of No Nation.Never what you would call a progressive when it came to relationships with women, or patriarchy in general , in fact he was a bit of a sexist , strange considering his mother was one of Nigerias earliest feminists. Fela was also a polygamist, in 1978 he married 27 women in a single wedding ceremony. He would eventually divorce them all.
Fela died of Aids related complications on August 2, 1997, at the age of 58  in Lagos, Nigeria. Roughly 1 million attended his funeral procession. A press release from the United Front of Nigeria at the time of Fela's death said " Those who knew you well were insistent that you could never compromise with the evil you had fought  all your life. Even though made weak by time and fate, you remained strong in will and never abandoned your goal of a free, democratic socialist Africa. " this was the esteem in which he was held.
 His musical legacy is a strong one which continues to have influence on the musical scene of Nigeria and across the world. For many one of Fela's major sources of attraction was and is the rhytymic,, melodious and danceable form of his renditions. And no one can deny his constant and consistent quest for a better life for the masses. Fela constantly challenged the military rulers of Nigeria and portrayed the plight of his people who laid his life on the line in his struggle against injustice, corruption and the abuse of power, whose spirit was never broken.
 I was most fortunate to see him play at my first Glastonbury festival in 1985, under the influence like him of cannabis, his performance was powerful, a memory I will never fail to treasure. And has left me many brilliant albums that continue to stand the test of time,who remains for me as one of my biggest musical influences. Fela Kuti maybe no more but his legendary music still moves with much resonance. Lets continue to hail this Black President , his courageousness and musical genius. Today his sons Femi  and Seun  are still carrying his musical torch.

Fela Kuti - Suffering and schmiling



Fela Kuti - International Thief ITT



Fela Kuti - Water got no enemy



Fela Kuti  - Sorrow tears and blood



Fela Kuti - Colonial mentality



Fela Kuti - Army arrangement




Finding Fela , biography film from 2014, looking at life and  music of Fela Kuti





Sunday, 15 October 2017

77 years ago: World Premiere of Charlie Chaplin's Great Dictator in New York


This was not just a film,  this was  a message from Charlie Chaplin's deep humanity.   One of the  most inspirational speeches in recorded history.
This from a man who was ridiculed and demonised for simply telling the truth in his pure authenticity.The world still needs to stand still and listen and stand against the forces of fascism.

An earlier tribute  of mine to this great man can be found here :-

http://teifidancer-teifidancer.blogspot.co.uk/2012/02/charlie-chaplin-b1641889-251277-citizen.html 

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Sam Kelly and the lost boys - Chasing Shadows



Got  lift earlier with friend over the magical Preseli mountains, listened to this track and found much solidarity and hope  in Haverforwest's castle square.in rally with aim to unseat Tory MP Stephen Crabb. Together we can chase dark shadows  follow paths of unity. Awakening together we are strong, determined to get what we want for the many not the few. Rising mightily like lions,  deep with consistency  the sustenance of anger will deliver to us victory. This beat of resistance will guide us, as we move forwards to better days.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Indigenous Resistance Day/ Dia de la Raza

(image: 1992 poster by Seth Tobocman to counter 500th anniversary celebrations of Columbus first arriving in the Americas and to celebrate 500 years of resistance)

Columbus Day marks the day when Christopher Columbus and his crew were lost at sea and arrived in the Americas on October 12, 1492, beginning a process of colonization and genocide afainst Native people, which represents one of the darkest chapters in the history of this continent, that commemorates a chapter full of genocidal murder, human trafficking and unimaginable brutality against the indigenous people of this continent.
For oppressed people this day is a constant reminder that many of their ancestors and their suffering simply did not matter. As a result many countries in the Americas  now celebrate October 12 as Día de la Raza and many indigenous peoples and other progressive people celebrate it as Indigenous People's Day or Indigenous Resistance Day. Because this  so-called “discovery” of the America caused the worst demographic catastrophe of human history, with around 95 percent of the indigenous population annihilated in the first 130 years of colonization, without mentioning the victims from the African continent, with about 60 million people sent to the Americas as slaves, and only 12 percent of them arrived alive.Therefore, Native American groups consider Columbus a European colonizer responsible for the genocide of millions of indigenous people. Not an individual worthy of celebration  because he helped contribute  to the Europeans Colonization of the Americas which resulted in  slavery, killings, and other atrocities against the native Americans
As a counter to official celebrations of "Columbus Day"  with indigenous people increasingly demanding their rights, in 1992 the United Nations declared October 12 as the International Day of Indigenous Peoples, ruining thereby the determination of Spain and other countries to call it International Day of America's Discovery, this was then followed  by Venezuela which was the first country of the region to grant the demand under Hugo Chavez's administration, accepting their suggestion of “Day of Indigenous Resistance” in 2002. Chavez described the previous name “Day of Race” chosen by then President of Venezuela, Juan Vicente Gomez in 1921, as “discriminatory, racist and pejorative.”​
Nicaragua and Daniel Ortega´s Sandinista government  has been the only country going as far as Venezuela until now, also choosing the name “Day of Indigenous Resistance” in 2007.
With several exceptions, such as the conservative governments of Paraguay, Colombia and Honduras, for instance, many other countries of the continent have nevertheless changed the infamous name “Day of Race.”
It became the “Day of Respect for Cultural Diversity” in Argentina, after the failure of a legislative project in 2004 to change it to “Day of Resistance of Indigenous Peoples.” Argentina has more than 1,600 indigenous communities, and over a million Argentinian people who claim their indigenous identity according to the National Institution of Indigenous People.Yet the indigenous communities of Argentina organize counter-marches to protest against this name, recalling the damages caused by the conqueror Julio Argentino Roca to their ancestral lands at the end of the 19th century.
In Chile as well, where the Mapuche community are still fighting to claim their native lands in the fertile south of the country, the day was renamed even more weakly, “Day of the Encounter Between the Two Worlds” in 2000.
In Ecuador, President Rafael Correa changed the name to “Day of Inter-culturality and Pluri-nationality” in 2011. That same year in Bolivia, President Evo Morales, the first indigenous leader in South America, changed it to "Day of Mourning for the Misery, Diseases and Hunger Brought by the European Invasion of America." The diseases were indeed the main cause of the indigenous genocide, as the invaders brought viruses and bacterias the indigenous peoples were not immune to.
Last year, Salvadorean and Uruguayan indigenous peoples began demanding a name change of their governments. The Charrua community of Uruguay for instance has made the demand since 2010, but has faced strong opposition by conservative sectors. In 2014, the National Assembly approved a legislative project, but only changed the name to “Day of Cultural Diversity.” The ruling party Broad Front (Frente Amplio) had pushed for the same name as in Venezuela and Nicaragua, but the legislative commission then chose to modify it.

In El Salvador, social and indigenous organizations presented a legislative project before the parliament, for which the congresspeople of the governing Farabundo Marti Front (FMLN) expressed their support. In June 2014, the congress finally approved a constitutional reform recognizing the existence of indigenous peoples in the country.
Indigenous peoples in Latin America account for about 13 percent of the total population – about 40 million, with around 670 different nations or communities, according to the CEPAL. Most of them are in Mexico, Guatemala, and Andean countries. They all face some level of racism, discrimination and poverty, suffering more than the rest of the population from an unequal access to resources like employment, health and education services, but also deprived of their ancestral lands and natural resources – about 40 percent of rural populations are indigenous, according to the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs.https://www.iwgia.org/en/
Today is not about declaring one celebration more important over another. It is about honoring the rich history of resistance that Native communities across the world which has been inspiring  and  it is also about a deep commitment to intergenerational justice .May we spend this day, and all days, honoring Native Peoples’ commitment to making the world a better place for all. Reflect on their ancestral past , celebrate their sacrifices and celebrate life whilst.recognizing the people, traditions and cultures that were wiped out because of Columbus’ colonization and acknowledge the. bloodshed and elimination of the cultures and groups that were massacred..Transforming this day into a celebration of indigenous people and a celebration of social justice  allows us to make a connection between this painful history and the ongoing marginalization, discrimination and poverty that indigenous communities face to this day.

...

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Linton Kweisi Johnson - Poems of shape and motion


Linton Kwesi Johnson  is arguably the most influential Black British poet. Born 24th of August 1952 in Chapelton, a small town in the rural parish of Clarendon, Jamaica. He came to London in 1963, attended Tulse Hill secondary school, and later studied Sociology at Goldsmiths’ College, University of London (graduating in 1973), which currently holds his personal papers in its archives. While still at school he joined the Black Panthers, helping to organise a poetry workshop within the movement. In 1977 he was awarded a C. Day Lewis Fellowship, and was the writer-in-residence for the London Borough of Lambeth for that year. He went on to work as the Library Resources and Education Officer at the Keskidee Centre, the first home of Black theatre and art.
Much of Johnson's poetry is political, dealing primarily with the experiences of being an African-Caribbean in Britain. "Writing was a political act and poetry was a cultural weapon", he told an interviewer in 2008. He has also written about issues such as British foreign policy, and the death of anti-racist marcher Blair Peach. His most striking and celebrated work was arguably produced in the 1980's, with Johnson’s spirit of anger and protest finding its ideal subject and opposite under Margaret Thatcher's Conservative government. Poems such as 'Sonny's Lettah' and 'Di Great Insohreckshan' contain accounts of police brutality upon young black men, and capture the period’s unwritten attitude of resistance and antagonism in their empathic descriptions of rioting and imprisonment. Told via the uncompromising, yet generous and inventive use of  Jamaican patois, the poems are alive with Johnson’s relish of the tics and rhythms of spoken language.
The 'world's first dub poet', he coined the term dub poetry in the mid-seventies to describe Jamaican DJs 'toasting' over the instrumental B-sides of reggae songs. It stuck to his own work, which blends reggae's bass rhythm with his spoken voice.
 Johnson's poems first appeared in the journal Race Today, who published his debut collection, Voices of the Living and the Dead, in 1974. His second collection, Dread Beat An' Blood, was published in 1975 by Bogle-L'Ouverture, and shares its title with his first LP, released by Virgin in 1978. That year also saw the release of a documentary film about Johnson’s work of the same name. Inglan Is A Bitch, his third book, came out in 1980.  In 2005 he was awarded a silver Musgrave medal from the Institute of Jamaica for distinguished eminence in the field of poetry. Johnson is the second living poet, and the only black poet, to be published in the Penguin Classics series: Mi Revalueshanary Fren in 2002, with a Selected following in 2006.
 Music, politics and poetry what more could you ask for. Johnson's albums have sold more than 2 million copies, he commands huge audiences worldwide, and his poetic artistry is now praised in the Poetry Review. His best known records include his debut "Dread Beat An' Blood", "Forces of Victory", "Bass Culture" and "Making History". Across these albums are spread classics of the dub poetry school of performance - and, indeed, of reggae itself. A people's poet of much passion who is still thrillingly subversive.

Poems of shape and motion

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

World Mental Health Day 2017


World Mental Health Day is observed in more than 100 countries on October 10 through local, regional and national World Mental Health Day commemorative events and programs. First held in 1992, today is the 25th day dedicated to raising awareness of mental health issues, and to fighting the still-associated stigma.
Mental illness is now recognised as one of the biggest causes of individual distress and misery in our societies and cities, comparable to poverty and unemployment. One in four adults in the UK today has been diagnosed with a mental illness, and four million people take antidepressants every year. This can have a profound impact on the lives of tens of millions of people in the UK, and can affect their ability to sustain relationships, work, or just get through the day. What greater indictment of a system could there be.
The issues of mental health and mental illness are complicated. Experiences of social isolation, inequality, feelings of alienation and dissociation, and even the basic assumptions and ideology of materialism and neoliberalism itself are seen today to be significant drivers . And of course there is also persuasive evidence that human biology plays an important role in determining each person’s likelihood of contending with particular mental health conditions. 
Many of us increasingly experience daily life as a battle. Emotionally, our heads are only just above water. I personally have a trusty black dog that  calls regularly that  I unfortunately  have no control  over, it just happens. It suddenly  creates sadness , fear, and all those turbulent feelings that drives one to self destruction , and nights with no sleep. I also  get so angst ridden that I cannot leave my house, let alone phone a GP to seek help, because I fear I will be judged and blamed somehow, embarrassed and ashamed for something I have no control over. A tendency to affix blame and leave me  feeling even more unworthy.
It should be noted  that many  people believe that our Governments policies are actually fuelling the current  mental health crisis. Budget cuts to mental health services combined with no genuine support are driving  many people to the edge. As a result many young people and adults are left isolated facing long waiting lists for mental health therapies and diagnostic assessments. Prime Minister Maggie May herself said   "On my first day in Downing Street last July, I described shortfalls in mental health services as one of the burning injustices in our country.
Despite these gestures the Tories have not delivered on their promise to give mental health the same priority as physical health. They have not offered  no extra funding and have consistently raided mental health budgets over the last seven years. There are now over 6,000 fewer mental health nurses than in 2010. The number of psychiatrists employed by the NHS has fallen by  four percent since 2014 , with a 10 percent drop in those who specialise in children's mental health and a similar drop in those working with older adults. Seven years of Tory Government have left those with mental health problems without the support they need. The only thing that the Tories deliver are empty words and actions  that are shaping a society that does  not help to tackle the injustice of unequal treatment in mental health. Also because of how dire the times are getting: not only are benefit cuts driving people to think of killing themselves, but low wages and welfare sanctions are making people ill, shortening people's lives. For many insecurity  has become the way of  life. You simply can't trust May and co on mental health.
Too often mental health is swept under the carpet and ignored ,either because of the stigma and taboo surrounding it , so we have to keep battling to destroy the negative attitudes and stereotypes that is directed towards people with mental health issues that disproportionately affect people living in poverty, those who are unemployed, people living in isolation and those who already face discrimination, so we also have to keep challenging policies that  exasperate these problems. In the meantime I will try to keep fighting and surviving, and hope that one day mental health  becomes  a genuine Government priority that would help reduce peoples pain and suffering. And who knows one day might come when I will become strong and stable.
Capitalist society plays its part on  people’s mental health: the anxiety from attending job centre appointments, the depression when you get sanctioned and have to live on the breadlines for weeks on end, the paranoia when you get another one of their dreaded Department for Work and Pensions brown envelopes through the door etc etc. Additionally, we live in a culture which exploits people with  low wages, zero hours contracts and zero rights .It is difficult to function in a society that seems to continually put obstacles in your way and causes huge stress.
Among the most menacing barriers to the social progress we need around mental health are the profound levels of guilt, shame and stigma that surround these issues. Mental illness scares us and shames us. Those who suffer are often, like me, ashamed to speak of it. Those who are lucky enough to be free of mental illness are terrified of it. When it comes to mental illness, we still don't quite get how it all works. Our treatments, while sometimes effective, often are not. And the symptoms, involving a fundamental breakdown of our perceived reality, are existentially terrifying. There is something almost random about physical illness, in how it comes upon us , a physical illness can strike anyone – and that is almost comforting. But  mental illness seems  to fall into that same category, the fact  it too could strike any of us, without warning should be equally recognised..
But more than simple fear, mental illness brings out a judgmental streak that would be unthinkably grotesque when applied to physical illness. Imagine telling someone with a broken leg to "snap out of it." Imagine that a death by cancer was accompanied by the same smug headshaking that so often greets death by suicide. Mental illness is so qualitatively different that we feel it permissible to be judgmental. We might even go so far as to blame the sufferer. Because of the  stigma involved  it often leaves us much sicker.
Capitalist society also teaches us that we are each personally responsible for our own success.  A system of blame that somehow makes the emotional and psychological difficulties we encounter seem to be our own fault.  This belief is such a firm part of ruling class ideology that millions of people who would never openly articulate this idea, nonetheless accept it in subtle and overt ways.  People are often ashamed that they need medication, seeing this as revealing some constitutional weakness.  People feel guilty about needing therapy, thinking that they should be able to solve their problems on their own.  Millions of people fail to seek any treatment, because mental health care is seen as something that only the most dramatically unstable person would turn to. An ill-informed and damaging attitude among some people exists around mental health that can make it difficult for some to seek help. It is estimated that only about a quarter of people with a mental health problem in the UK receive ongoing treatment, leaving the majority of people grappling with mental health issues on their own, seeking help or information, and dependent on the informal support of family, friends or colleagues.
We need to break the silence around mental health.  These are issues that all of us should have some basic exposure to.  The proportion of the population that will experience an episode of acute emotional distress is extremely high.  Those of us who have never been depressed probably know and love several people who have.It  should be no more shameful to say that one is suffering from mental illness , than to announce that one is asthmatic or has breast cancer.  Talking about these issues is part of the solution.  Breaking the silence can be liberating. Mental health care should be part of what we demand when we think about solutions to the economic crisis, we should keep  fighting for the best mental health care to be the  natural right of all designed to meet human needs. Until then, engaging in the struggle toward such a society can be a source of hope. That is a world surely worth fighting for.
If you need to talk to someone, the NHS mental health helpline page includes organisations you can call for help, such as Anxiety UK and Bipolar UK. or call The Samaritans on 116 123.

Monday, 9 October 2017

George Orwell ( 26/6/16 - 21`/1/50 ) - Prophet of our times


The British author George Orwell, pen name of Eric Arthur Blair, achieved prominence in the late 1940s as the author of two brilliant satires attacking totalitarianism-Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four. His  novels, documentaries, essays, and criticism he wrote during the 1930s and later have since established him as one of the most important and influential voices of the century and is considered by some to be an uncanny prophet of our times.
Orwell’s parents were members of the Indian Civil Service, and, after an education at Eton College in England, Orwell joined (1922) the Indian Imperial Police in Burma, an experience that later found expression in the novel Burmese Days (1934). His first book, Down and Out in Paris and London (1933), was a  moving non-fictional account  of self-imposed poverty he had experienced after leaving Burma. He published three other novels in the 1930s: A Clergyman’s Daughter (1935), Keep the Aspidistra Flying (1936), and Coming Up for Air (1939). His major works of the period were two documentaries: The Road to Wigan Pier (1937), a detailed, sympathetic, and yet objective study of the lives of nearly impoverished miners in the Lancashire town of Wigan; and Homage to Catalonia (1938), which recounts his experiences fighting for the Republicans against the fascists in the Spanish Civil War between 1935 and 1937.
Orwell’s two best-known books reflect his lifelong distrust of autocratic government, whether of the left or right: Animal Farm (1945), a modern beast-fable attacking Stalinism, and Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), a dystopian novel setting forth his fears of an intrusively bureaucratized state of the future. the pair of novels brought him his first fame and almost his only remuneration as a writer. His wartime work for the BBC (published in the collections George Orwell: the Lost Writings, and The War Commentaries) gave him a solid taste of bureaucratic hypocrisy.Throughout his novels, documentaries, essays and journalism Orwell relentlessly and uncompromisingly criticised imperialism, nationalism, capitalism, political dishonesty, power, totalitarianism, privilege and private education.The importance of George Orwell as a writer lies in his questioning of institutions, power structures and political statements. The state, law, religion, charity, public schools, political parties and the media all came under his scrutiny He claimed to be a democratic socialist, joining the Independent Labour Party in June 1938 until after the outbreak of the Second World War.
Many of the themes in  Nineteen Eighty-Four are compelling and contemporary, foreshadowing the state of our world today and contain remarkable foresight  given that it was first published in 1949. The novel is set in 1984 in Great Britain, known as Airstrip One.The world has suffered through a global atomic war, and there are 3 superpowers called Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia. The standard of living is relatively low.The media is run by the government, which is known as Big Brother and the written word is perpetually changed to suit what the government requires. People  are controlled into what to think, how to act and how to live .It uses telescreens, fearmongering, media control and corruption to control the masses.
One of the Party pillars in 1984 is endless war on a global scale. The war, however, is a fabrication accepted and treated as fact. For, unreal as it is, it is not meaningless. World powers become enemies and allies interchangeably simply to keep the masses in perpetual fear, perpetual industry, and perpetual order. War provides outlet for unwanted emotions such as hate, patriotism, and discontent, keeping the structure of society intact and productive without raising the standard of living. The state of perpetual war described by Orwell is also reflected in the wars  that have raged since 1945, across the globe from Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, etc etc.
Winston Smith the main protagonist is  an editor employed by the government and is one of many citizens responsible for rewriting history..In Nineteen Eighty-Four, government surveillance is constant and at the forefront. The state knows every move its citizens make, including their habits, whom they talk to, and what they are doing at any given time. Big Brother is watching and running the show. The people are sheep who are herded and controlled. Winston Smith embarks on a clandestine love affair with Julia, a party member, and joins The Brotherhood, an illegal organisation dedicated to the overthrow of Big Brother. He is caught,and taken to Room 101, alongside everyone else who offended had been taken and subjected to torture and brainwashed . He along with everyone ends up loving Big Brother.
Today across the world there are a lock-up concentration camp style jails where unconvicted, ostensibly innocent individuals are held and openly abused. Electronic surveillance in 2017 is a common and accepted government practice: cell phone listening, cameras on corners and traffic lights, and electronic toll payment system tracking are all everyday occurrences. By using our credit cards, shopping rewards cards, and even our driver's licenses, data are collected on all of us and sold and used daily, each of us daily profiled. Orwell’s book  was supposed to be a warning, not a guidebook on how to create a surveillance state. It really is remarkable how the many tools that were used to suppress in Nineteen Eighty–Four  are now part of our  everyday lives in 2017
Newspeak is the fictional language spoken in Nineteen Eighty-Four. It is a controlled and abbreviated version of English.  Also  known as “doublespeak!”. As George himself said " Political language... is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.. "  Politicians continue to  use language to deceive and manipulate, through concealment or misrepresentation of the truth, desperately and deliberately using euphemistic or ambiguous language as they have been doing ad infinitum. One of the objectives of Newspeak is also to decrease self-expression. With the  popularity of texting, it would be fair to say that there are similarities. And today we are so busy Facebooking, tweeting, etc,  the following line  from one of the characters that works for  Big Brother.  “The people will not revolt. They will not look up from their screens long enough to notice what’s happening.” is  still amazingly uncanny.Orwell may not have had a crystal ball, but  he did have was an understanding of the human condition and its weakness.
Orwell began writing the novel in 1944, and wrote the bulk of it while residing on the Scottish island Jura while battling tuberculosis during 1947-1948. Orwell  was recently widowed, his wife having died during a surgical procedure. He was left with his young son, and he was seriously ill with tuberculosis. There was not a known cure for TB in 1947, and physicians typically prescribed fresh air and rest. Orwell was given streptomycin, which was an experimental drug in the US, and after treatment, his TB symptoms disappeared. He raced to finish his novel, and upon publication it became an instant success. Orwell died shortly after of a brain haemorrhage in 1950 at age 46.
Nineteen Eighty-Four has been in publication ever since, has been translated into multiple languages, and is often heralded as one of the best novels of the 20th century. Still resonating in the times we live today., still worryingly reliable. Commenting on 1984, Orwell wrote, “I do not believe that the kind of society I describe necessarily will arrive, but I believe that something resembling it could arrive.”
In some cases, what is happening in the world today is more draconian and invasive than anything Orwell conceived. Despite Orwell's influence political journalism is as corrupt as ever. The corruption of language described in 1984 is widespread in the media today, with "Newspeak" terms such as democratic, socialist, fascist, war criminal, freedom fighter, racist and many other expressions being used in a deliberately deceptive, propagandistic way to whip up mass hysteria or simply to ensure that people can never achieve even an approximation of the truth.
We are today all living in a massive prison and George Orwell predicted it. The ability of Big Brother government to observe our every activity is increasing week by week and soon each and every car journey we make, every financial transaction we undertake, everywhere we go will be fed into a computer and if there is a slight variance from what they decide is the norm then we will be taken in and questioned. Give the wrong answers and you could well end up in room like 101, or Belmarsh Jail, Guantanamo Bay etc. We should continue to be on guard, raise alarms, be objective, keep questioning and hold our individual Governments to account.
In 2003 a docudrama was released by the BBC, detailing the life and works of George Orwell. The documentary contains footage from his deathbed, and his final words are certainly chilling. You can here them in the following video. We can't say that we were never warned.


Citizens  today should support bona fide civil liberties groups and actively oppose government measures restricting basic freedoms. Freedom of speech is a basic civil liberty and people should fight to retain it. They should defy group pressure, think for themselves and speak out. The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.We should continue to be on guard, raise alarms, be objective, keep questioning and hold our individual Governments to account.

We  are the dead. Our only true life is in the future. We shall take part in it as handfuls of dust and splinters of bone. But how far away that future may be, there is no knowing. It might be a thousand years. At present nothing is possible except to extend the area of sanity little by little. We cannot act collectively.
We can only spread our knowledge outwards from individual to individual, generation after generation. In the face of the Thought Police there is no other way
.”    

- George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty- Four


Saturday, 7 October 2017

7th October 1955 , Allen Ginsberg's First Reading of "Howl"





On the evening of October 7th, 1955. Ginsberg's anguished hallucinatory tour-de-force .innovative poem Howl was performed  in public for the first time at a poetry reading in Berkeley, California  which had been advertised by a postcard  proclaiming  “Remarkable collection of angels all gathered at once in the same spot. Wine, music, dancing girls, serious poetry, free satori.”
Gathered together that evening were literary icons, though many had yet to have their talents realized by the literary community. The list of poets reading included Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, Philip Lamantia, Michael McClure and Kenneth Rexroth. Perhaps as impressive were those who merely observed, as  the likes of Jack Kerouac, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Neal Cassady and Ann Charters were among the large audience who had gathered together at Six Gallery in San Francisco. In fact, it was supposedly Kerouac who set the tone of the evening by taking up a collection for wine, which he then passed around the audience while demanding they “glug a slug from the jug.” Kerouac later described the audience as “rather stiff,” but the wine got them “all piffed so that by eleven o’clock when [Ginsberg] was reading his, wailing poem [“Howl”] drunk with arms outspread everybody was yelling ‘Go! Go! Go!’ (like a jam session).”
. Its opening lines :

"I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix,
angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night,
who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat up smoking in the supernatural darkness of cold-water flats floating across the tops of cities contemplating jazz,
who bared their brains to Heaven under the El and saw Mohammedan angels staggering on tenement roofs illuminated,
who passed through universities with radiant cool eyes hallucinating Arkansas and Blake-light tragedy among the scholars of war,
who were expelled from the academies for crazy & publishing obscene odes on the windows of the skull,
who cowered in unshaven rooms in underwear, burning their money in wastebaskets and listening to the Terror through the wall,"

 are well-known and oft-quoted. The words spoke evocatively and powerfully to the terrible political and social dilemmas of postwar America, those facing the younger generation in particular.
It quickly became a hallmark text of the Beat generation. Ginsberg’s text a jumble of images and buzzwords that vividly described the social, political and historic state of America in the 1950s, and its format emulates the chaos of affairs felt at the time.
The title of Ginsberg's poem prepares the reader for what to expect.  This will not be a quiet poem.  It will not be a sonnet or an ode.  It will be a poem of noise and unsettling images and themes. The title also expresses one of the major themes in the poem - that of madness.  To howl is usually associated with animals howling at the moon, an image that Ginsberg wanted to convey. The moon is also a symbol associated with madness.  Medical opinions from the nineteenth century and before believed that persons who were mad or evil would naturally manifest these tendencies when the moon was full.  To howl at the moon in poetic and artistic terms Ginsberg wanted “Howl” to express the pent up frustration, artistic energy, and self-destruction of his generation, a generation that he felt was being suppressed by a dominant American culture that valued conformity over artistic license and opportunity. To howl at the moon in poetic and artistic terms, then, is to suggest that  madness has entered into society and will not be silently put away.  This is a theme that Ginsberg would return to throughout his career. For a poet or the individual to howl, meant that that person was breaking from the habit of conformity to the virtues and ideals of American civilization and expressing a counter-cultural vision of free expression. Howl was also an eye opening work  in its explorations of sexuality , anguish and social issues in a non traditional poetic form , relying on a freewheeling range of influences.
Critics called “Howl” “a hymn to sincerity”, “a hymn to non-conformism”, “a hymn to nakedness in any form”, “a hymn to protest”. Incendiary but for many so necessary, Allen Ginsberg's anguished protest broke all the rules, with it's cry of consciousness and encouraged  a generation of artists to do the same. to cry for all exploitation, repression, and subjugation.
On March 25, 1956, 520 copies of the poem were seized by U.S. Customs and the San Francisco police. A subsequent obscenity trial was brought against Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who ran City Lights Bookstore, the poem’s publisher. Nine literary experts testified on the poem’s behalf. Supported by the American Civil Liberties Union, Ferlinghetti won the case, with the court deciding that the poem was of “redeeming social importance.”
Ginsberg and his contemporaries Jack Kerouac (On the Road) and William S. Burroughs (Naked Lunch) became icons of the Beat generation, and later, venerated figures in the burgeoning “counter-culture” of the late 1960s and early 1970s. They were painted as rebels who had done what they pleased in the repressed, monolithically conservative era known as the Eisenhower years.
Howl would subsequently  become  one of the most widely read poems of the century, translated into more than twenty-two languages, this  epic groundbreaking poem tore down the cultural barriers of the 1950s  it would also serve  to  launch Ginsberg as one of the most celebrated  and controversial poets of our time and also  paved the way for everyone from Patti Smith to David Bowie among  many others. Over 60 years since it appeared, its influence shows no signs of fading.
In 1965 Ginsberg was simultaneously crowned Prague May King, then expelled by Czech police and placed on the FBI’s Dangerous Security List.In the 1960s and 1970s, Ginsberg studied under gurus and Zen masters. As the leading icon of the Beats, Ginsberg was involved in countless political activities, including protests against the Vietnam War, and he spoke openly about issues that concerned him, such as free speech and gay rights agendas. He travelled to and taught in the People’s Republic of China, the Soviet Union, Australia, Scandinavia, and Eastern Europe, where he received Yugoslavia’s Struga Poetry Festival “Golden Wreath” 1986. A member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and co-founder of the Jack Kerouac School at Naropa University, the first accredited Buddhist College in the West, he was Distinguished Professor at Brooklyn College from 1986 till his death on  April 5, 1997, in New York City.
Starring James Franco in a career-defining performance as Allen Ginsberg, the 2010 film Howl  is the story of how Ginsberg's  seminal work broke down societal barriers in the face of an infamous public obscenity trial, in his  famously confessional style, and illustrates the poem in animation.

'Howl' by Allen Ginsberg (with subtitles)

Animation by Eric Drooker



In 1959, Gregory Corso and Peter Orlovsky accompanied Ginsberg to Chicago for a benefit reading for "Big Table" [named at Kerouac's suggestion], a newly established literary publication born as a result of censorship of the student magazine the Chicago Review. The reading took place on 29 January, 1959.



Full poem: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem...

Footnote to Howl - Allen Ginsberg


Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy! Holy!
The world is holy! The soul is holy! The skin is holy! The nose is holy! The tongue and cock and hand and asshole holy!
Everything is holy! everybody’s holy! everywhere is holy! everyday is in eternity! Everyman’s an angel!
The bum’s as holy as the seraphim! the madman is holy as you my soul are holy!
The typewriter is holy the poem is holy the voice is holy the hearers are holy the ecstasy is holy!
Holy Peter holy Allen holy Solomon holy Lucien holy Kerouac holy Huncke holy Burroughs holy Cassady holy the unknown buggered and suffering beggars holy the hideous human angels!
Holy my mother in the insane asylum! Holy the cocks of the grandfathers of Kansas!
Holy the groaning saxophone! Holy the bop apocalypse! Holy the jazzbands marijuana hipsters peace peyote pipes & drums!
Holy the solitudes of skyscrapers and pavements! Holy the cafeterias filled with the millions! Holy the mysterious rivers of tears under the streets!
Holy the lone juggernaut! Holy the vast lamb of the middleclass! Holy the crazy shepherds of rebellion! Who digs Los Angeles IS Los Angeles!
Holy New York Holy San Francisco Holy Peoria & Seattle Holy Paris Holy Tangiers Holy Moscow Holy Istanbul!
Holy time in eternity holy eternity in time holy the clocks in space holy the fourth dimension holy the fifth International holy the Angel in Moloch!
Holy the sea holy the desert holy the railroad holy the locomotive holy the visions holy the hallucinations holy the miracles holy the eyeball holy the abyss!
Holy forgiveness! mercy! charity! faith! Holy! Ours! bodies! suffering! magnanimity!
Holy the supernatural extra brilliant intelligent kindness of the soul!

                                        

                                                                                                            Berkeley 1955

Source: Collected Poems: 1947-1980 (Harper & Row, 1984)

Here is a remix of Patti Smith's Spell (Reading 'Footnote to Howl' by Allen Ginsberg), with samples from various artists & drone music. Photo : 'Exploding Hand' by Lee Miller (1930)