Plastic Paddy of the Universe

krozruch

I aim to return to the longer piece, my reaction to the election in the UK, and currently have the last (though perhaps not the final) section copied into Emacs where I have worked on it only a couple of times over it for the last couple of weeks. For now though, hungover again, I would like to return to my previous idea of using Plastic Paddy to simply throw out some ideas as I mentioned in a post some time back. We got back from a spa town, Mariánské Lázně, on the West last night, having gone over by train the day before to see Woodstock's grandparents. As is typical (and necessary), we got out for a while both days, walking around the woods she knew as a kid, and sampling the famed spa waters. The woods remind me of North Wales. The climate of Mariánské Lazně is fairly wet for and there is a thick covering of vivid green moss on the ground beneath the spruce trees. Mushrooms grow in the late summer and autumn and Woodstock's grandparents go out to collect them. Having got back we went out for a walk and a smoke, I put on some records and then Woodstock got out a couple of shot glasses and began to pour us some slivovice. On the train home, she had listened to Bandcamp weekly and read a magazine, Full Moon, I had organised a subscription to as a present from my mum. I had read a Czech newspaper, Deník N, an interview special, spending much of the two hour journey going over an interview with Czech jazz musician, Dan Bárta. We had seen Bárta in concert at the Akropolis in Žižkov when I had come back from a summer in Britain back in the late autumn. He is a thoughtful type and recently studied applied ecology at Ostrava University. In recent years he has earned himself a reputation as a plausible expert on dragon flies and, aside from a couple of sentences in the final paragraph on the subject of a forthcoming album his latest tour was intended to promote (at the packed Akropolis gig he admitted it had been delayed), he spoke about entomology. This gave me plenty to reflect upon, and many words to look up. I have mentioned elsewhere that I have a sourdough baking habit. This now led Woodstock to mention that we should have brought back some of the spa water and that I could have used it to feed my culture. This was a good point, of course, and, though I did not dismiss it, I reacted by saying that the culture could do something to process any impurities. This is possibly true, though not necessarily so, and it must surely depend upon the impurities. It was, however, a natural first reaction which reflected some of the doubts I have about spa waters. Woodstock reacted to it, equally naturally, by taking offence. The waters are pure, she said, and the various outlets, many of which are found in the forest, are straight from the source. I did not so much defend my reaction – I said repeatedly I know nothing about the purity of the waters – but I did say that all of these sources were very close to built-up areas with a high turist throughput. There are hundreds of people staying in hotels often high up on the hill. In addition, however clean the air and environment may be in the region, the forest seemed dead to me. Mushrooms and trees aside, there was no discernable life there. Only once while we were out for several hours did we hear bird song. I talked about Barta and his comments about the decline of insect life in the Czech Republic in general. I also mentioned the Christmas address of the president Miloš Zeman in which he dismissed the idea that humans cause climate change. In this he echoed the thoughts of his predecessor, Václav Klaus, though not that of Václav Havel who himself preceded Klaus's two terms; Havel, according to Jacques Rupnik in a dispiritingly penetrating interview in Tvar magazine on the subject of democracy in post-communist Europe, first spoke of the dangers of the West's fixation on “growth of growth” back in the 1970s.[^1] Some of Woodstock's favourite memories from childhood are from this town and this was for a time too much for her to confront. She cried before acknowledging that she had noticed the forest, though beautiful, was hardly teeming with life. One of the questions posed in the interview with Bárta mentioned monocultures and, alongside the rapeseed often linked to prime minister Andrej Babiš and certainly promoted by the European Union (Wikipedia has it that 17% of agricultural land is given over to the crop), was spruce. The question related to the alarming decline in insect numbers and diversity that has been witnessed recently. It touched upon the belief of Czech Entomologist Vojtěch Novotný that this collapse of biodiversity due to the change in the environment through monocultures and intensive farming inving the use of pesticides is currently a more pressing issue even than that of climate change. Bárta agreed with this and had already mentioned that he had, with a colleague, observed such a decline in Borneo where huge areas of rainforest have been given over to palm oil plantations. In Vietnam and China, he noted, it was truly dead. While the same might not be said to the same degree of Mariánské Lázně, these tendencies are literally global and so if the waters are anything like as pure and as curative as they were believed to be in the city's long gone heyday (a statue of King Edward VII and emporer Franz addorns the square near the empty plot where the synagogue stood until Kristallnacht), then it is a miracle. Bárta is no fool. Though he evidently has sufficient grounding in his pastime to pursue it as seriously as did Nabokov he dismisses with a laugh the idea of studying ecology further by remarking that had he wanted to substitute a career as a below-average scientist for his career as an above-average singer, he ought to have thought of it sooner. It is to be expected then that he has a greater grasp of where we are now than the vast majority of Google-whacking hacks banging out Facebook-friendly think pieces on how the presentarion of any plausibly realistic scenario is an instant turn off for the majority of the adult population in the Schumpeter-style transactional democracies we know today. And so it is. He talks of the wetlands which have suffered in the Czech Republic, the places he used to travel to and which now have little to offer. “It is something I genuinely regret. To the point of despair. I am sad about it, truly[...] I imagine a way for [these creatures] to live but right now I am sceptical.” “Why?” “If we cannot demostrate that a certain creature is directly useful for people or that in nature something prevents it from living which is poisonous to people – or, more to the point, children – nothing will change. Most people, and this does not surprise me, are not at all interested in hymenoptera. If somebody says, off the top of my head, that [a number of species of heteroptera as yet unknown to Czech Wikipedia] and who knows what else, have definitively disappeared from Českolipsko, which will have a pernicious effect on the the growth of Forking larkspur, what should the layperson do about it when it doesn't change the price of a bread roll by a nano-penny?” “But”, counters the interviewer, “when somebody such as yourself knows how to appealingly and urgently talk about it, emotions may be raised.” “I don't think so,” he replies, at first in English. And then comes the kicker. “But fine, in theory then it could have a kind of influence on responsible people, local public servants, politicians; that kind of information ought to resonate with them so far as they are not uninformed blockheads, which they often are, but I cannot want from a mother with four children to torment herself with the news on page seven of a regional newspaper that [a specific type of miridae]'s days are numbered.” And this is more or less where we end up. It is in the public interest, he says, to build motorways that create jobs and connections between regions. It is also in the public interest to not build motorways, to preserve the countryside and not create barriers. We have known this conflict for decades. In the end, he says, there will be neither nature nor motorways. The public interest is trumped by the private interests of proactive individuals who don't worry their heads about either rules or the public interest. There will be a plantation. A Chinese plantation. It is not only the de facto festival of capitalism that is Christmas that has put me in a bad mood this last few weeks. The British general election of the 12th of December that was a culmination of the generalised cybernetic anarcho-capitalist putsch of the last decade helped. I am blessed and cursed by a nature that prevents me from choosing a fairytale (and especially that default neoliberal fairytale that prevails in the post-communist lands of Europe) over the brutal fact of the decline of nature and the systemically-related decline in liberty. Still, and if I am certainly guilty of the kind of hopelessness Bárta discusses, I would like to attempt at least to defend myself against the charges of pessimism I might be charged with. To do so, I must, I suppose, tell something of my own story. For years I was in a bad way. Differently than I might be thought now. For similar reasons (though we tend with the hubris that is common to humans to overlook these similarities), that the elusive klopuška zelenoškvrná, modroškvrná, nohatá are in a bad way, I did not thrive. I suffered from depression, from a lack of the powers of executive function which could help me adjust to my environment.[^2] Moving from one environment to another, so far as it was possible, did not do much to help my situation. I found the energy and resources to confront my situation. This was hard, as my situation, objectively, gave little grounds for hope. By degrees and over two decades I changed my environment. I took pains to change my diet from the standard one available to me, so full as it was of neurotoxins and chemicals pernicious to my nature, and so distant from the nutrients that ought to be present in the earth we live from. I turned myself around. Having done so, I confronted a different difficulty, one of finding a living for myself. I am still confronting this, and it gives little grounds for optimism. I found the right path, but few people wanted me to succeed, and few people believe in it even now. Still I believe that the only way to change a situation is to confront it fully. To cry about it, yes – this is healthy – and then, in seeing it, to move forward based upon what we know, and what we thereby know to be right. If few of the powers that be have deigned to reflect for even a moment on what we are doing to the planet and the world we are passing on to our children; if then those who claim to give a damn claim to be doing something about it primarily by placing the burdens on individuals who are scarcely able to make a living in this increasingly hostile world and whose cumulative financial power is nothing compared to those who would have us burn fossil fuels until the whole world goes up in smoke; and if those who know most about the living world are the most depressed about its condition; then still, the objective odds I once facd that I could one day write even so infinitessimally impactful a piece as this, were at least as short. Now that I am where I am, now that I have made myself who I now am, and though that looks little enough to most people who know the facts of my life and the miserable chance I have to make a living, and though I have zero pragmatic reason to believe that I could make any difference in the world, we have all of us sleepwalked through the Silent Spring and find ourselves in a silent winter, our Earth is dying and burning and it is precisely because I know precisely what can be most beautiful in this world and because I believe it is worth preserving, that I believe that we as humans have a responsibility to imagine the way out of this. Here and elsewhere I will not hold back from attempting to meticulously describe precisely how utterly discredited are our current systems. Nor, though, will I evade the duty I feel I have to search for the people and ideas I believe to be capable of making the right kind of difference. I have been doing this work for some years. I have received not a penny for any of it. In 2020 and beyond I hope at least to persuade a small but, I hope, increasing number of responsible people, to donate money so that I can continue to do so. I do not always believe that this will happen any more that I always believe that we will succeed in defunding oil and surevillance capitalism. This, however, is a version of Pascal's wager forked for the a variant of the Gaia hypothesis and since all of the fairytales and utopias on offer will, like Fentanyl, have diminishing returns, the alternative to it is grim indeed.

[^1]: Some have connected Havel's thought to the Club of Rome whether or not this is so, it is evident that the intellectual cleavages we see today (the densely-monied “gravity wells” we tend to accelerate towards, clumping arbitrarily with our fellow travellers), that is the clusters of PowerPointable mental maps we can find in newspapers or distilled into memes as concentrated as tabs of acid, are more or less backwards compatible versions either of the outputs of the Club of Rome, or of the lesser-known groupings Klaus and others involved themselves with. One of these strains is straightforwardly authoritarian, the other is straightforwardly elitist, both are differently utopian and each proffer a manner of packaging the results of a process of thought so that it may be distributed for mass consumption. It may be wise to acknowledge this.

[^2]: It is common in some quarters to talk about being well-adjusted. Surely by now we can see that many people adjusted too much to a system that has rarely given us fewer grounds for pride in our powers of judgement and invention. To my mind, many children who are variously dismissed as being more or less ineducable, as having “special educational needs”, are in fact victims of environments that are hostile to humanity. The environment of the majority of contemporary schools are optimised for a tiny subset of human temperaments. This subset is then optimised for in the job market. This leaves millions marginal and, in the parlance of our time, “unproductive”. Increasingly, I believe that the Rudolf Steiner types I once worked with are, though they may be bonkers, absolutely correct about the impact of a society that has all but done away with the crafts and trades which once permitted humans to flourish in ways we have long forgotten. I am personally done with adjusting to systems I consider dangerous. That these systems are all powerful and though I constantly have the feeling they would rather I were dead does not change this fact since in the decades I attempted to adjust to them, they never considered me sufficiently well-adjusted to provide me with a means to live my life.

Continued from the last post

Slowing it Down and Doing Your Thinking With Your Hands

Bohumil Hrabal once wrote, in Amor and Psyche (1952) “We unlocked Europe in Prague, in Libeň”. A week or two ago, I walked back from a Libeň Hrabal would not recognise and would struggle to love, to Stromovka Park and then Bubeneč with Woodstock, a friend, dita, and the two dogs, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, she has been regularly sitting. On the way to the ferry that has replaced the footbridge that collapsed a couple of days ago, I saw a kayak slalom on the side of the river. It had been drained and beneath the vertical metal tubes draped from the wires running over the river to make the gates the normally submerged solid blocks used to create eddies and rapids in the flow were visible. These gates, and the whole artificial concrete channel alongside the river, seem to me now to symbolise what passes for thought and conversation in the age of surveillance whose rapids we are descending through. Yes, some handful of adepts can master the strokes and wield their paddle skillfully, recovering with an “eskimo roll” when they make an error, but if you the gates you are navigating have been set up for you, then the route you take through it – if you should do so successfully – is more or less all determined.

I came to smoking a pipe a number of ways. By something I read from Tony Benn years ago about how, though he does not drink, a pipe has been a comfort. By an utterly revealing interview I read with the pipe smoker, George Simenon, in a collection of Paris Review interviews the other day. Via the recollections I have of an essay I once read by William Styron on cigarette smoking, but, crucially, specifically cigarette smoking. It came on as something of a compulsion and I found myself, perhaps on a day I had something of a hangover, going to a shop by Naměstí míru to buy a pipe I could barely afford and, from there, and just as Christmas silly season and its many confected duties of consumption was piling on the pressure and stress, buggering about trying to light the thing while walking back to Národní divadlo through an area of the city I used to know and love when I was really finding my feet in my own little appartment in Vršovice by Bohemians football club. It was on account of that air of compulsion about all this that I would later feel defeated and “autistic” and would trigger a handful of those cerebral auto-immune responses I have where I curse myself for a hundred failings including an incapacity to handle money. But in truth this was not so much a compulsion as something that had bubbled up over a number of months, returning periodically with recollections of, for example, Jaffa, a guy who used to work on the steel in the West Midlands when that was a thing, who had been a bouncer and a Hell's Angel, and who I had worked alongside in a forest in the West Midlands with young adults with what the bureaucrats call “special educational needs”. He used to smoke a pipe as he was handling his chainsaw. What did he used to do there? Falconry for one, but then also bow making and archery, which we will get onto in a minute though it has been with us from the very beginning of my day as we will see. The forest, defunded now, and its artificial skansen-like interdependent craftspeople and routines of woodland maintenance, cooking on a log burning stove, pottery, blacksmithing, charcoal making and the simple act of sharing toast and tea around an open fire, did a great deal for those vulnerable people. Jaffa is now struggling to make a living in Wales working a chainsaw in the Age of Austerity David Cameron inaugurated before he shafted the whole country, condemning it to fall apart in a fit of self-sabotage and various mutual loathing and buggered off to put “his trotters up”.

Rolling a cigarette or a joint involves something in the way of manual dexterity and that, as many a smoker will tell you, is one of the most addictive things about it. Smoking a pipe is more sensorial still. The pipe must be prepared, which is something of a process, and one involving at least something of that essential and too-often overlooked interaction between the hands and the brain; essential, that is, to thought, not merely to some second-order good like the craft of making a bow, one which might be refined, that is, rendered more efficient, by cutting out much of the skill and substituting plastics. William Styron shows precisely what the shift to cigarettes did in the way of sterilising and rationalising an activity which, though it has been the number one all-round winner of all things that have been sold on the FTSE 100 in its history, is, whatever way you look at it, utterly irrational. You walk with a pipe and reflect for a while. You bugger about with it and nurse it. You feel the heat from its bowl in your hand, or you may feel its stubborn refusal to catch. And then you savour the taste and sensation (though you may well be told you stink) rather than inhaling it “deep into [your] lungs with bladelike, rhythmic savagery”.

I went through a brief period of thinking of the pipe as a failure, a capitulation to a needless need of the kind capitalism throws up for us all the time, but I have more or less by now figured that the pipe may be a way of smoking less, since I have been smoking of late and using marijuana more than meditation and the like to try to handle the industrial mental pollution of our current age, or equally, it could be a habit I take up, which gives me routines of mental digestion. Either way, it doesn't seem to hurt and the bigger picture is this feeling one's way back into the senses and getting further away from the equally bladelike, rhythmic savagery of the gestures and addictive more-is-more stimulation of what we have built up as the current winner in the winner-takes-all of the FTSE and the Dow Jones Index: that ubiquitous evil, surveillance capitalism again for the most part, but more generally the way we interact with the world through our screens and ear buds.

Anyway, I was around the park with the statues to forgotten heroes of the forgotten and long-lost South American independence struggle when Woodstock rang. This park, with its statues of Simón Bolívar, Benito Juárez, and Bernardo O'Higgins had been one of the influences as I was thinking over Marginálie, the conceptual precursor of the forthcoming reboot of the web zine; below the bust of Juárez, one of his quotes, one worth reflecting on these days: “Among individuals, as among nations, respect for the rights of others is peace”. Typically I would go for a walk without my non-smart phone but I had had it to speak to her father. I said I was trying to puzzle through my day. I had archery in the evening over on Střelecký ostrov, which is near to my office at her friend's place, but could equally travel by tram from home in the evening. All of which is fine but that there was no food at home. At the disused Bubeneč station where I walk by sometimes watching the freight trains go by, I had texted her suggesting we go for a meal in the evening after archery. She would not make it to archery, she said, as has been typical of late. And so she suggests we go for lunch. I'm getting better but sometimes I need a little help getting my day straight – I am autistic after all and these things matter – and this sounded just about right. I head back home, pack the shoes, shoe lace, and padlock I need for archery in the evening (the shoe lace is placed around the bow, tied to thumb and forefinger of the bow hand to train one not to grasp it), pack up my laptop, charger and oversized headphones, and head back out.

Reading Lao Tsu

I took delivery of two copies of Lao Tsu's Tao Te Ching maybe three weeks ago and have been travelling with one or both ever since. I first read the book in a Czech composite translation compiled by a non-Chinese speaker with rather heavy-handed annotations back in 2014. I had come to it via Bohumil Hrabal who had written almost all of his life outside of the considerations of the market whose distortions Simenon discusses in his interview in The Paris Review. I know it must be two or three weeks before this Friday 13th because, fortuitously, Woodstock picked it up at the Post Office on a Friday and brought it to me in a tea house ran by an English guy not far away. I had chosen to start my day with a tea house because I have been approaching archery in part through what I have picked up of zen buddhism and taoism, my having read about archery and its connection to zen in Zen and the Ways by Trevor Leggett back when I was living in a Buddhist Meditation Centre in North Wales, the last place I lived in Britain. I find that the longer I spend trying to slow down and be in my body through cooking and baking and walking and reading, the more able I am to shut out everything but the target while I am shooting. While this may be bullshit or all in the mind, I suspect it isn't quite – the “mindset”, for want of a better word, of archery is closer to what people think is the mindset of yoga than yoga itself as it is most often practiced judging by the classes I have been to where I have therefore often been disappointed – and then besides everything is more or less all in the mind from a certain perspective so if it works it works. Fridays now for the last few weeks, have been all about closing in on this mindset as you may close in on a target. I can feel the weeks where I get all of this right – with the right balance of yoga, good posture, cooking, baking, using and being in my body, and slowing down my mind – and though as a beginner that is not the main determiner of the success of a given session (the problems and the knots in the grain of my shooting tend to skip from, say, my shoulders, to one or the other of my hands, and an adjustment of one element of posture can throw one I had began to nail the session before) but there again if I hadn't got it straight it might be. In any case archery, being on a Friday evening, had been exceptional for helping me to slow down from the frenetic pace of the working week digesting concepts of liberty, Europe, democracy, the limits of free speech, surveillance capitalism, value pluralism, and fascism alongside the skills requisite for web development.

The Tao Te Ching was important this last Friday not only because of the above but because, to return to the theme we have forgotten about largely because the work is all about forgetting about it, it was going to be important for me, if I were not to waste months to existential crisis, to forget or at least contextualise the election in terms of the genuinely timeless, something I have got from Bohumil Hrabal and from his Lao Tsu.

I was describing some of this with a couple of friends in Nusle a couple of weeks back. I had travelled there with my two copies of the Tao Te Ching, one translated by Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English with Toinette Lippe and the other a version by Ursula K Le Guin which I was to lend out and have missed since. Sadly for me, we had been talking about Jordan Peterson, an eddy in the polluted class VI waters running down to us from the sluices at Google, Amazon, and Facebook. I have come across Peterson, who is certainly impressed by himself. I have seen fan boys label videos of him “destroying” female journalists. My friend is impressed by him, if not for this reason. I say I'm not going to devote time and attention on him because everything that is trending is subjected to what I called lensing. Even if it were the case (I was being very generous here, granting a possibility I do not in reality give much credence), that Peterson is on to something, I said there was almost no chance of my getting anything from it because of this lensing that takes place with trending topics, where money and power and influence are used to manipulate our opinions of the things everybody is talking about.

More on that another time, no doubt, but as I opened my copy of Gia-Fu Feng's Tao Te Ching on the number 26 heading to Dlouhá třída, the intention was to use this text, a version of a text that is two and a half thousand years old, to get a kind of a bearing. This text is time worn and proven both in our own era (Toinette Lippe tells the story of how she came to edit the work in 1971) and in all of those that preceded it up to that imprecise bookend where Lao Tsu whoever he was or was not, first wrote it sometime between the 4th and 6th century BC.

I have a talent for scepticism. Many a bible reading, almost all homilies I have experienced, perhaps all but a fraction of one per cent of newspaper columns throw up something I find it hard to metabolise. A good edition of the Tao Te Ching seldom throws up a passage that triggers my usual antibodies in this way. Instead, there tend to be passages I puzzle over, wondering if they hold wisdom or only tricksy koan-like paradoxes which, though they may throw us out of the arbitrary convictions of our age and experiences, do not replace them with anything coherent. Of course, this was a day of reeping a harvest of crops grown up on neonicotinoids and the humanure of some tens of millions of kebab munchers and some few hundred gourmands with a penchant for Russian beluga caviar. I didn't struggle with it as such, but, though it was pure, I felt myself off balance. I did not fully believe it was enough.

Give up ingenuity, renounce profit And bandits and thieves will disappear

There are many threads of ruminations Lao Tsu can set me off on relating to Hrabal and his short twentieth century, the possibility of my working on a vineyard, consumerism, gentrification, and capitalism. Ursula K Le Guin, who astutely tells the reader to ignore her annotations if they get in the way, follows one key passage with the note “so much for capitalism”. The essence of the thing is in the passage above and the following:

Ever desireless, one can see the mystery Ever desiring, one can see the manifestations

Boris Johson, that self-styled Great Man of History, is a manifestation. I got that much, at least. So I get off at Dlouhá some ten, fifteen minutes later and there are Christmas decorations everywhere and the streets are busy. I see around me all of the nonsense I frankly despise about contemporary capital cities and, on the short walk to the restaurant, I'm getting notifications pinging up in my mind relating to all of the miscellaneous crap I still have to do to be on top of things. Woodstock has been wrapping countless parcels full of trinkets for friends. Her friend, who I work with throughout the day, has recently published a Christmas book on Minimalism and has been going on morning television to talk about how to have minimalist Christmas. Good luck with that. I have twelve hundred tasks listed in a multiplicity of org-mode files to get to the point I can finally launch an ambitious media project optimised for ethics more than the exigencies of the market. I have brake fade going into every corner and I'm aware how hard it's going to be not to slam into the back of the safety car when it pulls out on me, and I've been reading Lao Tsu with his leitmotif that “Precious things lead us astray” while seeing all the Masaratis and BMWs and motorbikes in the garage at Dita's place in Libeň some few hundred metres from where Hrabal lived his beatnik in an old blacksmith's forge. I want to push on with my project to do my thing to fight fascism, and also to finally find a way to use my talents and temperament to find a role for myself in this world at the age of 41 as I will be in a few days' time. Winter is coming. Christmas is a mindblock I don't need.

I get to the restaurant, a Korean place we used to go to a lot. I ring Woodstock who says she's going to be late. After lunch I will have little enough time to work and whatever Lao Tsu said in the fourth or sixth century B.C. about doing without doing, he doesn't count on the time and motion bastards condemning Amazon workers to death by dehydration and the way things go at the current moment where we are on the one hand obliged to fill our lives with bullshit and then attend compulsory weekend bureaucratic Davos-approved courses on mindfulness to detoxify our minds and get ourselves ready to produce again in what little time remains to us. I see a little shop and go in.

Talking to People

I could go in and read over a cup of green tea but on the way I have been looking in the windows of the little shops that surround the joint and waiting makes me nervous and irritable, especially if I begin to read something only to be interrupted as I get into it. I know this about myself. Across the road is a little boutiquey place selling what look like handmade clothes and, as I see looking in the window, jewellery. The Tao, as I understand it, is about letting things flow, and so there seemed every reason to believe there was a choice I could here manage to sort a little additional present for Woodstock in the time I had rather than writing down another task in overengineered task management system.

I am nervous about little shops. They always seem to demand something in the way of interaction, and that is something I have not always been gifted at.

You're certainly here for Zásilkovna” says a young woman sat behind the counter as I greet her on my way in. Zásilkovna is a company that handles distribution for e-shops, permitting people to pick up goods at small shops. I have seen them all over the place, and once with characteristic guilt picked up a boxed set of Futurama Woodstock had ordered from what I assume to be a struggling fashion shop down the road.

The only person in the shop, I tell her that, no, I'm just looking around and, rather surprised that a shop full of what looks to be tastefully handmade goods should struggle to attract customers, ask her if it has been quiet at Christmas. Apparently so. I express my hope that she is at least getting some money from it. Not so much is the predictable response. I tell he I am looking for some jewellary or something for my girlfriend and she comes over to open up a cabinet. A handful of pieces have taken my eye. They are made of achát, she tells me. I tell her I don't know what it means, that I am from Britain, but that there is a good chance I don't know the word even in English. She looks it up and it is “agate” which, though I know the word, has no specifics for me.

I look around some more and a guy comes in in medieval garb: a fleece smock, some solid wool-lined boots, and a sturdy leather bag of sorts by his side. He asks if she has boxes for rings. She finds one and suggests another place in a mall not far away. He takes two. She asks him if he makes things. He does, in leather for one, but he also runs a blacksmithing stall in old town. He is a kind of renaissance man, he says, and leaves.

“Dobrý týpek”, I say, which I would struggle to translate into English. Google, with its feeling for nuance, offers “good guy”. Seznam's dictionary suggests “dude” for “týpek” which is at least the right register if it fails to capture the demographic.

I vacillate between a bracelet which seems a little too bulky and a necklace and finally go for the latter which seems a little oversized for Woodstock's build but otherwise seems her kind of style.

I hear you've had an election.” she says. By now she knows my girlfriend will be coming to the restaurant across the way and we have chatted a little about the shop and who runs it – a couple of sisters who make things.

Yep,” I say, “the place is, excuse my French, absolutely fucked for the next fifty years.” I talk about food banks, how there is one in every town, depended upon by the working poor. I tell her about child poverty, which may soon reach 40%.

Isn't it in a better state than over here, though after all?” she says. I tell her it is all connected, and that Johnson and his band of ideologues has been supporting Orbán and the illiberal authoritarians of the V4 for years.

She sorts out a box for me, I put a business card from the shop under the necklace and she puts a ribbon around it, asking for my finger to tie a knot. Were I single, this one, I might think of her as my type. As it stands, I put the same thought in parenthesis. Now that we are talking politics, she puts the giftwrapped box in a kind of wrapping paper made from a current affairs magazine I occasionally read and periodically disdain. Woodstock rings having failed to find me in the restaurant, which is full. I tell her to close her eyes in thirty seconds and watch for her in front of the restaurant. Which is when the till, which runs on Android, refuses to print out the receipt that will permit me to exchange the necklace if Woodstock doesn't take to it. I say “EET”, which is the name of the controversial compulsory system of on-line registration of every transaction in the Czech Republic pushed through in 2016, currently operational in ten European states. She laughs. It works and I bid her good day and creep up on Woodstock who has her eyes closed outside the restaurant.

(Continued from the previous post.)

I chat to Woodstock a little in the morning – more than the night before. She understands how I feel now and has spent the previous evening with her friend who had described just how depressed I had looked on election day at our domestic co-working space. I forget now if I had been planning to go to that office – a room at her friend's place she organised when I was in Belgium on my way back from Britain to Prague by train – but she then rang to say that her grandfather had died in the West of the country, in Mariánská Lázně where her father had grown up, and that her father would be swinging by at ten-ish when he would need a hand moving a load of bottles of wine to the cellar. Her father, a hotel manager, bought a wineyard in Moravia a couple of years back. I work there periodically for bed and board and it's possible they will be moving me there with a tractor and a typewriter once there is a place to live. There is an irony or two in there somewhere since her father fancies himself as an enlightened monarch and, liberal constitutionalism being presently thoroughgoingly broken, I am increasingly becoming something of an anarchist, but we have by now bonded over beer he has paid for and I have earned through my own graft, and the older I get, the more the West coast Irish blood in my veins makes itself felt and all this makes a kind of sense. Still, autistic, temperamental, and an irascibly impractical creative type, the smallest interruptions in my day can throw me, breaking the flow that comes when I get my day right. Still, part of the reason I need an office and a short commute perhaps three days a week is because the days I work at home can see me kick around not showering and barely moving from the futon in the living room or the easy chair in the kitchen and on this day in particular, a day my worst fears of the last three intensive years, but indeed a day that summed up the fears I had had for Britain and the world at various intensities for ten and twenty years (on September 11th, 2001, I was about to enter my last year as a politics student and I had had my eyes opened about politics to an unusual degree around the time I started at secondary school) and it seemed an effort to change out of my fleecy penguin pyjama bottoms and the long grungy yellow plaid shirt I had bought in Utrecht some months back with burns from cigarette ash and the like.

Keybase where, for the moment, I work on a Creative Commons publishing platform using Flask, has a record of that still-groggy morning. I must have put on a sourdough ferment the night before and, though my memories of this part of the day are a little vague, the chat record I have, beginning at 8:19 when Woodstock got to work (she has the application on her Android phone, I have it on an iPod Touch and my laptop) are clearly linked to the kitchen and I can picture myself writing some of the responses stood by the easy chair where the iPod Touch was on charge.

“[Dave] from [Claire] is also depressed and totally furious”, she wrote soon after getting in. Claire asked her about me first thing. Dave is or has been a journalist, though he's not working in that field now – he's doing marketing. In his case this is in part because he lives in Prague and I have not met him and don't know the particulars but it is germane to the moral collapse of Western civilisation that we have successfully defunded journalism and closed it off to all but a tiny class of people at the same time as we have slipped down a Blaenau Ffestiniog-style quarry moonscape scree slope where the publishers that matter, those that define what people think, are mining the id of the collective consciousness in order to throw up everything that prompts in human beings a visceral reaction in what is often simplistically referred to as the “reptillian brain” (our publishing systems and engagement-led filters have ensured that this descends at times into defeatist neurobabble relating to lobsters). Anyway, he is politically engaged and relatively informed.

I had been reading Mastodon the night before and the Scots I follow were as much an exception to the despair being expressed elsewhere as they had been during the English riots of 2011; one guy who lives up in the highlands and posts about independence from time to time was reacting to the results as they came in overnight and, though I only caught up at some point on Friday when the scale of Labour's collapse was evident, he was, as a supporter of Scottish independence understandably pleased as even the austerity-indifferent Jo Swinson, leader of the Liberal Democrats, was ousted by an SNP candidate in East Dunbartonshire (you'll see no tears from me on this point). Dave had lived with Claire up in Scotland somewhere and I had assumed him to be Scottish. And so, at 8:20, I wrote*:

He's got the SNP at least. Scotland has a semi-viable way out of this mess.

Which is possibly true, though it will be a tall order for Scotland firstly to navigate independence and then also not to succumb to at least some of the cybernetic feudalism, insecurity, and aggro that will be only accelerating with Johnson et al's plans South of the border.

I continued with some of the themes I had handled over the last few years:

England is looking at fifty years of pain – and the regions have already suffered for decades.

I’m telling you, this is as big, for us but not only for us, as 1948, 1968 etc.

But since the tories prop up Orban and other “illiberal democracies” of the V4, this is huge for Europe and the Czech Republic. Britain has gone with Putin. Horrific.

It means nothing less than a species of British fascism having gone mainstream. At the same time as the same is true in America. With China very strong, very powerful and influential here, helping with Russia to divide Europe (we are here in the Chinese bit) while using surveillance to suppress dissent.

It is catastrophic for freedom in Britain for certain but also marks a point in the declining fortunes of liberalism and democracy worldwide.

I am also essentially now stateless as I doubt I could ever return but feel increasingly out of place and unwanted here.

And the payoff:

I am going to graft. Anti-fascism will define me. It cannot be another way. It is what I am here for.

I believe in freedom. I believe in humanism.

I hate these people.

When we say Tory scum, we mean it.

They are not capable of fellow feeling for humanity. Fuck everything they stand for.

I could go on, and, elsewhere, I likely will. The thing about all of this was that it was not a surprise. Additionally, and though life had always got in the way, I had been consistently working hard to understand precisely what was going on for years, and to try to do something to confront and counterbalance the trends I had fingered as being the most dangerous. Naturally, this had left me as marginal and as broke as the many and varied circumstances that had permitted me to see half of what was going on in the first place, but since much of the work I have had to do in my life has involved taking myself apart and putting myself together again in order to confront emerging situations when I have little enough in the way of energy and resources to rely upon, I can surprise myself, and others, when the chips are down.

I write:

I'm baking bread and preparing for the launch.

Sourdough and Automat Svět

The fact is that anybody who thought the Labour Party was going to get Britain out of the mess it's been in doesn't have the tools or the capacity or the courage to confront quite the depths of the mess it has got itself into, still less the geo-political context. It would be akin to thinking an Instagram Revolution on Letná accompanied by a Google Docs petition and Facebook mobilisation is going to help the Czech Republic J-turn back to its rightful place in a largely mis-imagined “West”. To hope against hope for a spell, ok, but when literally nothing had been done in Britain to address the vulnerabilities discovered in its electoral systems from abuse by sociopathically unscrupulous data-resourced millionaires, when Jezza has been living in the 70s, occasionally writing blurb copy for anti-semitic history books, and when, frankly, he has not had the moral courage to go with his instincts and against right thinking opinion and overtly echo, say, Yanis Varoufakis' broadly social democratic / socialist criticism of the European Union, then “the duty of hope” of Barrack Obama and Guardian centrist columnists is nothing but a resolution to be bootlessly naive and then paralysingly crushed. I had to open my laptop that morning and check the results, just the same as I had had to sleep the night before, and then I had had to close it again, within a minute or two. And now I had to get my shit together and get back to work; work I had to believe in.

Baking with its rhythms and its sensorial input had done a lot to help me settle over the last few months, and, once I had switched from broadly traditional Irish-style soda breads to breads with a short ferment, to those, more recently, with a long ferment, had helped to ground me. Though on the day of the election I had beenn out of control and out of shape in the evening, I had put a mix on. Currently, this tends to involve making a mix of water, sourdough starter, spalt and rye flour, and oats, letting it foam up a little overnight, and then mixing in more flour, salt, some seeds, and, depending on the kind of bread I'm after, the timeframe, and the strength of the starter, some bicarbinate of soda, working it into a dough, and placing it in an oiled bowl to rise. Time was I might not have been able to do this without an audiobook or a podcast. Over the last few months, the clutter and noise of my mind has died down and, despite the formica and the plastic of the kitchen, I let my thoughts flow with little interaction as I am doing some of this; it's a kind of meditative state.

Shaving can be much the same. It must have been past nine o'clock now and, with the enforced rest of Christmas fast approaching (something I experience every year like a racing car driver must experience the imposition of a number of laps with the safety car), I am desperate to get some work done. But I am in my penguin fleece pyjama bottoms and the “second hand” day-glo yellow plaid shirt from Utrecht that has thrice now died half of our laundry, and so I lather up, shave, get showered and dressed, and finally settle at the futon where I write this now.

Now until a few months ago, I was sabotaging myself with a lot of negativity, with the imposter syndrome of internalised hostility and doubt from two decades of trying to make one's way in the world while being neuro-atypical. More recently, I have been making headway. Still, I have chosen a field and a project purely because I believe it to be the right thing to do; I have chosen, perhaps foolishly but more probably with a certain temperamental inevitability, to cleave to the maxim attributed to Aaron Swartz in the film The Internet's Own Boy “What is the most important thing I could be working on in the world right now, and if you are not working on that, why aren't you?” My answer to this question is idiosyncratic, now doubt, but in the last few months, I have been doing it, and over the last few years I was laying down the foundations. Indeed, there are times – many of them in the three months I was back in the UK over the summer, periodically looking over manuscripts I wrote as a seventeen year old on an Imperial typewriter – where it seems like I have been working towards something for the past twenty-odd years. Whatever anybody may think of any of this, I have, as a rank amateur, been putting together a web application where I am hoping I may someday soon host and publish my own writing, printable zines, and variously remixable “content”. It is ambitious and high-concept, drawing from literary magazines, punk zines, and Czechoslovakian samizdat, and the likelihood of it ever making me a living in a society grown used to the convenience of axiomatically evil monopolies and culture and content you pay with with your soul, leaving your wallet intact, is next to none, but for the first time in my life these months, I feel – when I get my head and my routines straight – that I am doing what I should be doing. And so I sit down, and though it's heard to get into either the writing or the coding when I will soon be disturbed by my bereaved father-in-law, I hone in on the one thing I can do in the time allotted.

He is expected at ten and, being on the spectrum, I struggle to settle, but, looking over my git history – a record of “commits”, composite versions of the software project, I see that at 10:18 and 10:22, I made commits, breaking up some of the changes I have recently made into comprehensible chunks and describing them. A friend of Woodstock, a guy who plays in and writes songs for her band, has a company working in IT security and last month, he set up a server and gave me the credentials to freely administer it. This gave me the confidence and the solid community foundation to rethink the publishing project I have been working on since I went to the Logan CIJ Symposium in Berlin in 2016. In that time I have done a great deal of work and, though I have been battling again with my mind and self-belief, something I go through, and most often lose as I reach the last stretch of any given campaign, I have been winning that battle and doing the work I need to do both in the technical field and with my writing. It is just that I have been doing the work of a team of ten or twenty and burning my self out as a result. Doing a couple of commits, categorising and systematising the work I had been doing, was precisely what I needed at that time. And then the telephone rang and I went down to wait for my father-in-law, prepare the half-remembered Czech phrases of consolation I learned when the husband of a Ukrainian cleaner and dinner lady passed away some years ago, deploy them in a manner that would connote respect, and then accept a delivery of maybe thirteen boxes of the various wines I helped gather and process back in the autumn of last year.

Having done so I take a walk with a pipe I bought some days before. Which is another story. And the thing is here that, though this day was simple enough – perhaps it could not have been simpler – the story of how I made it so takes on themes that are so far from the high-carb snack culture we are living in that I will find it impossible to write that simple blog post that could go out into the world over the networks and default habits of thinking and living we have created over the last couple of decades as I have been growing up. It is the story about how I have been living my life, and the kind of choices I have been making, and the kind of habits I have been nourishing to give myself space to think and to live and express myself, and, since my mind works so very differently to that of the defaults the world has been optimising for, I have reason to fear I will lose most of you, whoever you may be, just at the point that I find my theme. But then, if we have to get out of this mess and the clamour of its tens of thousands of manifestations, we have to go deeper, to the root of it all, and that is not something we are going to find in a tweet or a headline-driven news article, or a daily or even a weekly column. To give myself space to think meaningfully, I have had to close off my firewall to many of the interactions and the inputs we have been filling our days with for fifteen years. On to some of that in the next post.


* The lines in italic are translated from Czech. I change from English to Czech throughout the exchange, as is typical in conversations with Woodstock. We will often speak to each other for long periods, each of us using a different language, and not necessarily our own.

Getting steadily drunk on Ukrainian vodka (one of a number of gifts from a proud and resilient cleaning lady who works with Woodstock), I spoke animatedly about how fascism has gone mainstream, not only in Britain. This was the end of the evening of that unluckiest of days, Friday 13th December. We will return to it, but, sat here hungover, I will begin at the beginning and set to making a handful of notes from the day.

I had been nervous and depressed throughout the previous day, election day. They say this was the biggest election of a generation and that seems true enough, though for various reasons we may already and perhaps long ago have had the last one that counted in the sense either that there was a chance of it going the way the propertied classes may have most feared or where there was a chance of actual change. I worked fitfully on a web application I have been putting together for a year or so, starting with a handful of hours' worth of Python experience, and talked periodically about the election. Woodstock had been irritable in the morning and I had returned what I got with interest – I had been making breakfast when she came in, checked the washing machine and discovered I had left a wash in the thing the day before after she had gone out annnouncing she had put it on – and then I had been preoccupied and depressed at her friend's place where I have an office in a spare room. The two of them were out at a Tata Bojs concert in the evening and so I was left to myself, smoking a pipe in the kitchen, watching a little of Michael Winterbottom's film version of Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine, reading and periodically posting on Mastodon, and generally failing to settle into anything or find any way to reliably relax.

Woodstock had rang at lunchtime and discovered me to be irritable and edgy. I told her this election would leave me as good as stateless. Already I had thought it unlikely I would ever choose to go back and live in Britain. We live in Prague, where I will have been living for seven years at the beginning of January, and just after I came back, Miloš Zeman was elected as the Czech Republic's third president and its first directly-elected president. He was re-elected two years ago and, though he has a more liberal and nuanced approach behind him, he has been consistently pro Russia and pro China. The Czech Republic's current prime minister, Andrej Babiš, is a Slovakian former secret police collaborator who owns the lion's share of Czech media including a portfolio of newspapers and a radio station. Foreign Policy dubbed him Babišconi. The historian Anne Applebaum counts him and Zeman both as among a number of powerful agents of influence for Russia. The Czech Republic is one of the states involved in China's controversial 17 + 1 initiative sometimes viewed as a way of dividing the countries of Europe. Chinese president Xi Jinping visited Prague in 2016, with key thoroughfares prominently decked out in Chinese flags. I sometimes hear or read that at this moment the Czech Republic is experiencing something like a Normalisation 2.0, that is, a closing of the Central European mind that echoes the period following the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 in which Marxist-Leninist norms were reasserted. Normalisation was a purely Czechoslovakian affair and, whatever is to be made of the Russian backing behind the current wave of “populism” in Europe and elsewhere, I find this argument compelling in its succinct encapsulation of an atmosphere it is possible to feel in the air here and which differs so much from the residual optimism and openness when I first lived in Prague for two years from the end of 2003, a period when the Czech Republic joined the European Union.

The boundaries of the EU at various times

As I mentioned in the preceding post, I was barely capable of speech when Woodstock returned. The results were not yet in and it would all be decided overnight, but the exit poll had been announced, and it looked bleak.

At various times in my life, I have suffered from depression. I have also tended to find social demands gruelling and have always been underemployed. If I had regular readers, they would know I have, in familiar contemporary terms, Asperger's syndrome and ADHD. Consequently, I have worked hard to develop habits of self care. Sometimes they work and sometimes they do not. Some days it feels as if you have to get everything right to merely exist; the work you have is primarily work on yourself, getting yourself into the right frame of mind to function. For a couple of decades this was all I could do. I went to work – a variety of jobs I found demanding, boring, and unrewarding – and then cooked, did exercise, and involved myself in various cultural and intellectual activities to quieten my mind. More recently, I have been working on my own project, involving writing and programming, and though I have not been earning any money, and though I rarely permit myself to switch off, I have been functioning as a human being, expressing myself, and living for the first time since I was a child. A week from the day I will describe in this and another post or two, I will turn 41. I am still trying to find myself a place in this world, and this election, and the current political climate in general, does not help.

If you want to sum up where I am at at this point, and where I have been, you could do worse than to listen to a song by Liz Lawrence called None of My Friends Are OK. I won't link to YouTube, though the video is apt, but if you wouldn't go out to buy it in a shop, you could always look it up, and the title gives something of it away. To summarise, life for many of us has been so shallow, so lacking in meaningful contact, and we have not always been coping and sometimes it has been too much for us even to catch up with the few real friends we have in the real world. I heard it on BBC Radio 6 Music on election day and had to listen to it over and over.

I'll book end this for now with my morning and carry on in a second post. I woke up, groggy and tired from what I call, and what may be, Candida die off. Woodstock is making breakfast and has left me in the dark to sleep but I open my laptop and check the results. It's worse than I had feared, and much worse than I had hoped. Then I closed the laptop and set about planning my day. I was going to have to put in a lot of work to turn it around.

I have been re-reading Janet Burroway's Writing Fiction recently, possibly for the third or fourth time. It's full of excellent (because basic) advice. One such is to get into the habit of writing first thing every day. That is, absolutely first thing, to the degree that if you need a coffee, you should make it the day before and put it in a thermos: the idea (and most often, the reality) is that your mind is clear first thing and can surprise you. I cannot now think of the times I have managed to do this – my life has been a story of needing to write and everything getting in the way – but I have a feeling that every time I have done so, it helped a great deal.

I didn't manage to do this today because the server here where I run Write Freely has been down since I went to Britain for a few months without access to the password (my focus was on another couple of servers and I had been doing a lot of writing). Still, I have a hangover and finding the passwords and reprovisioning the thing took no time at all and so I still have the basic effect.

Burroway tells it that journaling is effective at this time even if you don't structure the writing at all. Indeed, you can sit down and just pour it out as automatic writing. Now for this kind of writing, a typewriter for ms is best, and it may be that despite my horrible writing, a notebook would be a close second, but it's about compromises here (I don't have anywhere to retreat to here in Prague on getting up in the morning where I will not disturb people with a typewriter). It struck me that write freely could be a place for this kind of writing. I don't know yet if I federate with anybody or where this appears, if indeed it appears anywhere, and if ever I write anything interesting, I can start looking into importing things into a kind of slushpile in DandyLion.

So, I'm hungover. It was Friday 13th yesterday and Boris Johnson won the election. My girlfriend came home from a concert on the night of the 12th sometime after the exit poll came in. The poll is released at ten-ish in Britain and I'm in Prague. I was devastated, felt broken. I spoke a handful of monosyllables in response and barely took her in.

The next day, yesterday, I set about putting myself together again. In the next post, or the next handful of posts, I will try to put a handful of unstructured thoughts together about some of this, and about what I have been working on and what I feel is going to be important to continue to work on in the current climate, which is honestly far far worse than anything known in the twentieth century. We are going to have to work hard, work constantly, work on ourselves, and work with each other in communities we build and maintain, and we are going to have to look after ourselves to get through this. Not everybody is going to get through this. Yesterday I did this. As in recent months I have been doing this more or less every day. I intend to continue and will try to maintain something like a habit of writing here to describe how.

Sassify zine 2

I come from Stourbridge, on the edge of the Black Country and on the commuter belt for Birmingham – trains go regularly and typically the town is the end of the line on a route to Dorridge, apparently an “affluent village in the West Midlands borough of Solihull, England”. I never took to the place. I got out as soon as I could. The more I see, the more I realise, I got out in the wrong direction, to a “Russell Group” (read 'optimally corporate') university in Nottingham. Society in Britain is set up to move “up”. You get out of where you come from and find somewhere “better”, somewhere higher in a socio-economic ladder. You become “productive”. All the people on my corridor were pro fox hunting. University having been a terrible mistake (one of a number of forced errors, I'd say in retrospect, but none the better for that), I got out again. It was 2003. I was stacking shelves with my politics degree, living in a steadily gentrifying area of Nottingham. I had ADHD. Next door was a young girl in her teens who would scream herself hoarse at her young child (example, verbatim: “EAT IT OR I'LL SHOVE YOUR FACE IN IT AND MAKE YOU EAT IT!”). I had moved back to my university town having come home. Back in Stourbridge I'd be greeted in the pub after the march against the Iraq war with “hugged any trees recently”. Prague was a relief. Prague was hard.

Twitter rant:

I was autistic. I had ADHD. I figured this out slowly. (At first it had looked like manic depression. Perhaps it had been. Perhaps these diagnostic categories don't map as well to human experience as we think and they are merely good enough predictors when made into self-fulfilling prophecies with mainstream medicine.)

First exhibitor, Steven Fraser.

Steven Fraser

Steven Fraser makes comics, does illustration, theatrical events. He has a number of zines, dealing with topics that immediately reverberate with me.

Steven Fraser's Zines

“How To Make Friends as an Adult”, “Uncomfortable Sex With Total Strangers”, loneliness. I pick up the one about making friends and look through it, introducing myself as autistic. One page talks about pretending to like things you hate / which make you feel uncomfortable (I can't recall the wording), and pictures necking back a pint. My memory of all of my years of living in Stourbridge in one image.

Actually, Triple One Five was the first exhibitor I spoke to. They make zines by cutting out text and images from the Metro newspaper. Here, the paper is owned by The Sun. In Prague, the same is owned by the prime minister, along with most of the rest of the press. In both places, such a technique is highly relevent, giving back context to all the bullshit that assails us everyday. Respect.

Triple One Five zine 2

People could be found drawing. I didn't because “I can't draw”. Zines show us this is bullshit and help to erode the preconceptions we have about what art and making art has to be. In fact, I can draw passable well. Not to be an artist as such ie. one who makes their living from drawing and illustration (though few enough do), but to communicate an idea in, say, an English class, or make a visual joke or something. This wasn't the day for that, for me, which is reasonable enough, but I heard conversations around a table where people who said “I can't draw” were challenged, constructively, about why they would think this, and pushed themselves a little.

Getting sketchy

I got chatting to a few folk as I rarely do. One of them was Lizz Lunney who will be launching a book today at ImpactHub. I met her years back in Prague through a friend when we went to a huge comic exhibition. We have chatted occasionally since on Twitter about Brexit, getting an Irish passport, etc. This time I was back from Prague, she was back from Berlin, and we talked about trying to survive as a creative type under late Capitalism / neoliberalism, living abroad.

Zines were always about marginal people, and this feels like what they call a safe space. I tend to set myself to fail by trying to pass as neurotypical and dismissing the impact autism and ADHD has on me (most people around me in Prague do not accept any of this kind of talk and most of my lived experience is something of a taboo with most of the people around me; see the Twitter rant above for more details.) Today I don't do this so much. Only occasionally do I feel embarrassing and unacceptably fringe for this. A number of zines touch on mental health issues: ADHD, autism, depression, social anxiety. I talk about this once or twice. One exhibitor said they had not had the executive function to put a zine together until the last couple of years. I said I was gradually getting there. They said they had started taking stimulant medication a few years ago and that it had helped a lot. I tried them once, I said, and it hadn't been all that. I wondered if I ought to try them again. Nutrition, meanwhile, has done so much.

It's odd being back. Social function is about so much. It is about the individual, of course, but, at the same time, it is about the environment. Stourbridge was wrong for me back in the day. However much it may be the case that I have been hard on it, it was wrong for me; my environment did not give me a chance to thrive. Prague right now, where I am, is much the same. My Czech is good enough that I manage most social situations on a linguistic level, but there are others. It helped me to be away back in 2003 – 2005 when I first went away and found myself on the periphery in Prague because people ascribed my difference to my nationality rather than my being 'weird', but there were fewer Brits among my set back then, and Prague has change since. That and I have moved to a posher area where I really do not fit in. It is odd being back in numerous ways. One, I find that my social skills have improved immeasurably in the last few years. Teaching helps. Nutrition has helped. Getting the right medical advice for me has helped. And now that I come back and find the kind of people, even the kind of community, I feel most comfortable around, I feel that many or most of the impairments and deficits that have affected me over the years are particularly pronounced only because of the kind of environment I have languished for much of my life.

Maybe such people exist in Prague. I don't know them yet. It could be that I am doing the place a disservice. Damn all of this is needed there right now.

I have been working in a co-working space in Digbeth. I said liked it in the sense it had a kind of punky feel to it. One guy I spoke to about these places and their character said he doubts how much they want to “stick it to the man”. I haven't figured out how I feel about these places yet. The people making money and able to work there are doing graphic design and web design, tend to be close to Silicon Valley one way or another, or close to advertising. I am not so keen on any of these areas. Google or Facebook have no reason to fear from these people. I once worked in a co-working space in Prague. It was full of anarchocapitalist types and I felt as marginal and as defective and as much a loser as I have anywhere. We'll see how I feel about it in a few weeks. In an email to the place I chose I made a comparison to another co-working space which felt like a Microsoft-style open source office and seemed to be all about “sucking neoliberal willy”. They didn't reply to that. Perhaps they shouldn't have. Perhaps I don't know how to behave.

Lizz Lunney introduced me to Dan Berry. He talked about how it was working for a university (it wasn't great), and we all seemed to either regret having gone to university or getting involved with them. Lizz said she learned nothing at university and seems to have had similar experiences to myself related to writing to the Student Loan people every year. In any case, one of the things that had worked out well for him was Patreon, which has Lizz spoke up for as well. He spoke about doing a podcast and he has found the experience very positive. He gets a decent amount of money for each episode.

Dan's podcast is called Make it Then Tell Everybody. That seems to sum it up. I am not there yet. I have not tended to believe in myself, and have not always had the exective function to get things finished. When I do then, I have not tended to talk about it, thinking it far too fringe for anybody to care. It's a chicken and egg thing, of course: if you don't have an audience, you don't have the deadlines to get things finished, the motivation to push towards getting something out there. Perhaps getting a co-working space will help me towards this. Certainly getting out among people who are trying to make things, some of whom are successful financially, many of whom are showing how to make things and tell everybody, each in their own way. I'm getting there. It's been quite a journey so far. Not an easy one. I'm starting to figure out how to talk about it.

Thanks to everybody at the zine festival, wherever you are coming from, and whatever it is that makes you fringe to somebody. I may catch up with you later.

Ratchets / Too Loud a Solitude

A couple of things do change at this time. I make a friend at work. That friend is autistic. Though his interests don't much overlap with mine, I have always been an experience completist and so I start going with him to watch the hockey at Sparta and the now defunct Praha Lev who played for a while for the KHL. I start working hard on trying to eat well, find a new butcher which bankrupts me but gives me a long-delayed enthusiasm for cooking that had been hit by the surprisingly enduringly bad food in Prague those long years after the country had entered the European Union. So I am dosed up to the eyeballs, my expenses for food and medical bills are high enough to eat into my new higher salary, and I am getting up early in the mornings to write as far as I am able.

Snowden, and Ratchets, as I would call it then, The Pwned Mind, as it would later become conceptually if nothing else, actually did nothing else but to throw me back to reflect upon one or two old projects. Call Them Soldiers, a novel that had gone to ground many years before had, it seems, existed in the form of a sleeper cell or two deep down in my mind. The novel came together when my town had first became such a hostile place to be, so full of mistakes and misunderstandings, that I had turned into a recluse, hiding away in my parents place to try to write. Fully paranoid at the time,1 the project had began as a spin off of a present-day story underworld dope dealer who worked in construction making a number of houses with unsuspected annexes optimised for the growing of marijuana. It swelled then to encompass my researches into and observations of what social media was doing to my more socially competent acquaintances as it took off at the time. “It's about decommunilisation,” said a straight-talking friend of mine, a former Hell's Angel (if there really is such a thing) in a pub that was about community as much as was any I have ever known, and, I think I can by now state baldly that time has only proven him at least partially right (it is about much more than that too). The novel took place in a claustrophobic Manchester in an England with a formalised social contract, renewed on The Day of the Covenant every leap year. There, thought is ably manipulated using the formal social network, The Eudaemon, where there are things it is seen wise to say, and things that it is thought unwise to say, and people will be moved up or moved down in a meritocracy (in its original, dystopian sense) which works with all of the brutal efficiency that Reddit ranks a speech act, to rank people. One of the ways people have of fighting back is one that was extemporised just as thing s were really getting locked down. Some families who were expecting twins at this time where encouraged to have them, and to manipulate things in such a way that one twin was registered with the state and others were not. That the unregistered twin in the family we are to follow in the novel lives like a latterday Anne Frank owes much not merely to the unenviable history of many a central european city in the short twentieth century but also to my suspicion at the time that all opposition to the government was being put into marijuana and subcultures, which could be marketed to and appropriated by the capitalist class, as opposed to counter cultures, which could not. The original arc of the novel left little room for optimism. My aim was to explore what could happen if methods of the manipulation of popular opinion were to become more sophisticated than they had in the last decades of Czechoslovakian communism, to examine how it would look if the state continued to move away from the brutal repressions of old and the Orwell doctrine to something that resembled more the carrot and stick style of both Aldous Huxley's Brave New World and Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. By 1989 the communists in Czechoslovakia had learned what could be achieved if people could be bought off with entertainment and consumer goods, with a handful of freedoms such as could be found at the weekend cottages conveniently freed up by Edvard Beneš's brutal expulsion of Germans from the Sudetenlands after the Second World War. Late capitalism, it seemed to me, had become so aggressively competitive, that any nation state which did not resort to a ruthless pursuit of what they believed to be their national interest would soon find themselves falling down a hierarchy so that they would soon be losing their competitiveness and, with it, their freedom. Government had become such a technocratic enterprise and so many of the most important roles of government had been given up or delegated to “the market”, that, if the people's expectations of government was not to be determined by the politicians, things could very quickly get out of hand. Adam Curtis's documentaries from the early to mid oughties seem as good a place as any to start to examine what any of this was to mean, though a comparison of Margaret Thatcher's favourite television programme, Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister, with a series occupying a similar role in the Blair age, The Thick of it, might eqully give the feel of some of it. John Gray seems to have nailed some aspects of it as well as any writer I have come across to date. In Ratchets I reflected upon all of the themes of the novel, which, alongside decommunilisation, surveillance, and manipulation, took on Gramscian myth. I was convinced fascism was coming, or, that it was already here.

My time at the new school was in many ways socially disastrous, though since it is possible I could choose almost any other period in my life to say the same thing, that might simply be how I have come to think about it because of how I view Britain, and how I would like to view the Czech Republic. I was, however, driven. Perhaps this is how I am when I am hiding away from something, building dwellings for myself to shut out all of the hostile forces outside so that I might step in and shut the door on the world. At any rate, Ratchets would itself go bankrupt when I returned to see the doctor in London sometime around October, 2013. By this time I was planning to publish the piece on the internet under a creative commons license. I simply felt it was what I had to write. I suppose that, despite all my problems at school, I had a flat to myself, a room of one's own, for the first time that felt stable, and the terrible pressure for quick fixes of impossible positions was off for a while and so I had been writing for the sake of writing, but the doctor reacted to this with what I thought of as dismissiveness (here was a harebrained scheme if ever there was one), and that stuck with me as much such criticism does. I remember how I used to get up early every day to write. I burned myself out with that, but whether it was the doctor or the ambition of the project, it slowly drifted into obsessive but unstructured research and, since I could not hope to write about technology without understanding it, a number of Coursera courses on things like interactive Python (a programming language), and Securing Digital Democracy (spoiler: good luck with that!).

It would be when winter was just starting to set in that I would come across the next project, a competition ran by the Czech Centre in London to translate a story of Bohumil Hrabal. About to turn thirty five, well beyond the age I might have expected, as a kid, to be solvent and stable (though in fact, I think I suspected, like a surprisingly high proportion of young people surveyed at that time, that I might one day be selling the Big Issue), I sent off an enquiry and found that I just qualified for entry.

An obsession controls your life but there are times when it does not feel like a constraint but a reassuring structure, and there are times when the right obsession (Python was a good one, cooking great, Linux not at all bad, Czech language and literature may give me a pain in the ass on a regular basis but it keeps on giving all the same, and running was good for me at times) would open up the world. Even people who are not, like me, predisposed to being possessed by one or another interest or activity, often make decisions that will constrain them, force them to limit their interests, and as regularly as I have had cause to regret, even to hate my temperament over the years, I am convinced that those few months which I obsessed over Bohumil Hrabal at a time I was not yet ready to translate him, for sure, but when I was ripe for soaking him up, straining to reach for what he was trying to say, gave me as solid a grounding as I ever have had in my life.

In those months I would travel to work every day reading one of a number of books on or by Bohumil Hrabal. I would sit in the staff room possessed by a large, fascinating, even beautiful biographical work on him by Tomáš Mazal. Things had got complicated, in the few days everybody was away for the Christmas holidays, after I had spent days watching the video feeds from the 30th Chaos Communication Congress in Hamburg where my friend lived, I had started a relationship with a woman at school, somebody whose intimacy issues went as deep as the ex I had once thought about while watching The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. By now on a new medication, Strattera, which lead to the unfortunate side effect of erectile dysfunction which compounded those memories of the times I had been insufficiently present to perform, it didn't go well. Meanwhile, my only friend, the aspergic teacher, had been sacked. I felt as marginal as I ever have done.

1 Since this is an old text from a notebook, I have not edited it, but the term is imprecise and highly misleading, though it does indicate a tendency I had to pathologise myself. I was suffering from social anxiety, certainly, though this was far from being irrational in the social context I was in. I was avowedly not paranoid but in the vaguest colloquial sense of the word.

Postmortem of an obsession

From Issue Zero git notebook

Every writer has a notebook full of thoughts, outlandish, uncharacterisable, and unmarketable ideas, observations, philosophical notions, overheard conversations and phrases, descriptive fragments, quotes and excerpts, clippings, found object facts and factoids that may one day come in handy. If ever you consider becoming a writer, or if ever you fear you may have become one unawares, you might save yourself a lot of time by picking up such a notebook alongside a good collection of interviews such as those from the Paris Review. The first I remember seeing was by Raymond Chandler, which I borrowed from Stourbridge Library. In it were the rules of craps, and the questionable observation that a left-handed man will shave their sideburns a little higher on the right side of their face. If you discover yourself to have become a writer, as I did, you may find that you have had a habit of keeping such a notebook for some years, that your unconscious somehow sold to you a concrete and pragmatic objective of writing down song lyrics or lecture notes or French words and phrases or ideas relating to the company you have dreamed of setting up every time your boss pisses you off, or to do lists, or whatever it is obnoxiously functional people do when they budget; you may have found that within anything from a page and a half to five pages, it descends or extends or transforms into something else, something as unsettling and private as a sexual fetish. Once you're there you will likely never go back.


In the command line of the Writing VM of my Qubes OS Laptop, I navigated to the directory and git repository where I had last been putting together ideas for Issue Zero of Marginálie. It was a notebook, as well as a collection of fragments and half-finished ideas. I felt sick, ill, taking on all of this now. I had committed to it, for sure. I had known that either Call Them Soldiers or Marginálie were on their own huge projects, let alone when they were combined, but I had made exactly that the moral foundation of both. I believed in it if I did not believe in myself. The work of the next few months would be working out just how all my life I had been looking for something that was bigger than I was myself, because I could not reliably believe in myself; here it now was. I was to grow into it, and fast.

The cold War cranking up again by now, there was one thing that could take it on. I opened the notes I had on a long-planned essay called What We May Be Judged On?. This file was first committed to the Radical Transparency git repository in June 9th, 2015. It had changed several times since with my adding a handful of notes here and there, and had indeed been copied from that repository to the one where I was developing issue zero which, hopefully, you see now. Sometimes when you plan too much you lock yourself up, and I wondered if this had not already happened with this long-planned essay, but there was a vigour to it still, it excited me, if I didn't know if I knew how to handle it, and as I read over it, sure that whether I wanted to or not, the part of me that was typically in control had already made up its mind and that I would from now on be compulsively trying to work it into shape, I could see that the various notes I had made into the file over the years might appear to be from two very separate worlds. I had been puzzling through my notion of what the essay form was to be for me but it was clear that the glosses which lay emphasis on its derivation from “attempt” would be foremost in my mind. For me it seemed to go a little further. An essay was a fight. With oneself. With the topic. It was, inevitably, a way of going through a topic into oneself, and through oneself into a topic.

The notes I came across in that cafe could be said to represent a daemon, a discrete process, that had been running in my mind since April 2014 when Respekt, the current affairs weekly, was printed with an illustration of Czech writer Bohumil Hrabal wearing a dog collar, a leash running out of the frame, casting his eyes back at the notional camera in angry vigilence. Beside this was a headline: “In the snare of censorship. How the communists controlled Czechoslovakia's greatest writer.”

I did not read the article accompanying the headline for several years. Looking at it, however, from the perspective of four months of a dwelling in which I had obsessed over Hrabal's life and work while translating a short story for a young translator's competition (having just turned 35 I was just eligible), the notion of Hrabal as a servile dog on a leash, of his having been controlled by the comunists, irritated me in the extreme.

I was not well to say the least. Many things irritated me. I must have had hundreds of such daemons in my mind, which was noisy and cluttered as a result. Some went back decades, others years, others again weeks, months, hours, or days. We live in a world where a lot of money changes hands to start up daemons in people's minds, to configure correctly an image and perhaps a coinage or a slogan that will puncture a hole through the conscious mind and unravel and grow in the mind until it takes the form of a process with at least one input and at least one output which may be triggered regularly, delivering up conscious thoughts and impulses, speech acts, purchases, interactions, clicks, social and sexual encounters. Our economy and our political process are optimised to deliver arousal in frequent doses. The most reliable forms of arousal are sexual, but it is also easy to arouse people to anger, fear, desire of every form. The best of these are, like Oscar Wilde's cigarettes, those that leave you unsatisfied. The daemon does not resolve. For myself, a successful daemon, ie. one that was adapted to its environment and yet stealthy enough to run in the background, making itself known only by its output, could run for years, throwing up everything from narrative to dialogue, to more or less urgent impulses to do one or another thing; it would also evolve in my restless, mutagenic mind. For any publication that does not make a substantial proportion of its circulation from subscriptions, a magazine cover is an attempt to get into your head as you queue at the checkout eyeing up the cigarette counter and grabbing some chewing gum. People may buy magazines, talk about them, and share them from all manner of states of arousal. Agreement may be the least of all of these. It is for reasons of the competition for attention that we see the psychological boom and bust of both magazines and television: we build them up and then we knock them down. In 2014, on the centenary of Hrabal's birth, that nobody in the Czech Republic really gave a shit about Hrabal had been clear for many years. Everybody felt that they knew him. Through the film versions of his books at least. He was a drinker, of course, a writer of pub anecdotes. It was time to knock him down.

The picture and the headline was enough, just the same as a picture and a headline can be enough in many cases to set up daemons on immigration or benefit fraud, war in Iraq or Iran, triggering speech acts and decisions many years into the future. As for the ecosystem it was so well adapted for that it lasted these four years, that is something I was to fight with over the next two, three months.

From Issue Zero git notebook

A structurally sound, coherent, and either mutually reinforcing or at least compatible set of habits, routines, and indeed, obsessions, is, for somebody on the autistic spectrum, akin to a house you built with your own hands, a log cabin, a family house, a cathedral. A fraction more literally if not less poetically, it is a dwelling. It gives shelter. It gives comfort. An ordinary day is full of threats, hurts, and discomfiture. All of my life, since I was a child, I have found projects that gave me meaning, a sense of identity, purpose. All of my life, since I was old enough to meaningfully reflect upon my own mental process, I have periodically known the anxiety of being without the same. Even if, or indeed especially because these projects had no meaning for anybody else, I needed them. This makes them sound rather more volitional than they perhaps are. I doubt that I could choose not to have a project, not to be inside a project, not to desperately seek such a project, but, were that possible, it would mean chaos, anomie, anxiety, entropy, a lack of direction, of a sense of identity: life would have no pleasure and many pains.

Many people on the autistic spectrum have a single mental dwelling place their whole lives. I have worked with them, picked up on them over and over again in literature, heard of them in stories told by friends, met them. A lad I used to work with at a college for kids with “special needs” had a destination roll from a bus or a tram, I forget which, set up in his bedroom.1 Another dreamed of running a laundromat and would watch wash cycles on YouTube. Fantomas, a friend of mine, is fascinated by analogue cameras, propelling pencils, and a particular brand of German air rifles manufactured in the 1970s. For me, such consuming passions have cycled around, sometimes returning, sometimes not. I have moved from one place to another, one job to the next, and these different routines and the different inputs and environments I have known, have led to my having to reconfigure my habits and routines like a boat that must be hauled up in a dry dock. I have sometimes tried to reconstruct these obsessions after the fact but, like zooming into a coastline, I can give up on an attempt to list and track even those in a single month, let alone a lifetime. Indeed, an essay I was developing for this issue, Sometimes a Month Means a Decade, became an attempt to track a series of obsessions in a period when I needed one more than ever but had not the time for indulge one.

1 He also used to listen to the John Peel show religiously so, though there is an analogous obsessive quality to both, it is not necessarily so easy to typecast him.

Hot air

You fire the burner in a hot air balloon and a change in your height begins to register several minutes later. A Parliament, another instrument powered, some say, by hot air, could be considered to be a similar beast. It is common to hear a present administration blaming the previous lot for the nation's woes much as Spinal Tap blamed the previous act for the crowd booing them. It is not uncommon for there to be a strain of truth to some of these claims, though the convenience of the plaint as a rhetorical strategy does to any reliable correlation. Short-term-ist fixes aside, however, it is often the cosmetic changes to a country that happen in the short period of, typically, four or five years between every significant national election, that could actually be felt and perceived directly without exaggeration, fabrication, or framing, by a significant-enough portion of the electorate to rationally influence voter's opinion for one of the various choices. These kinds of paparazzi-lens-framed shots from history are optimal for what we might perhaps, just, still be able to call deadline-driven written journalism, but also what we might perhaps, just, still be able to call television, where personality and gesture is everything. Panning out, like you might zoom out of the mountains of a graph of a dramatic ralley on the pound during a twelve hour period following the latest absurdly-improbable Brexit false ending to see it is merely part of an unappealing downwards slump lasting three years, it is not altogether often that historians see these trends predominate. There have of course been some. Churchill as “War Lord” in his finest years. Yeah yeah. Atlee? Mostly, though, it takes historical periods of time for significant discontinuities that will change a nation absolutely, or which will, given less flexibility, mount up like the tension in the San Andreas Fault until it, traumatically, shifts abruptly to adjust. No longer do most of us ask the equivalent of “what went on in San Francisco in 1905 for them to earn themselves the San Francisco earthquake of 1906?”.

There is a further problem of course, which will be noted by anybody who has studied either history or politics, which means, of course, to study both history and politics. It is not necessarily the case that it merely becomes a rather less rhetorically-convenient matter of blaming the other lot before this last lot, because they might not have had anything to do with it themselves. Historians, even those who trained as historians (rather than journalists and politicians writing some broad brush history blockbuster about a Great Man of History who might be made the embodiment and spirit of an age as a punt at a 'gong' or 'posterity' or 'the top job') and who adhere to most or all of the more judicious conventions of the discipline, tend often to find not only 'chaps' but various factors, acting at various distances.

Brexit as a response to David Cameron's wrongheaded and brutal Age of Austerity? Certainly. But then look deeper and David Cameron's Age of Austerity, for him and for others, was a way of delivering the promise of what? And what had to have happened for that even to be possible? Do not we already have the events of the eighties, from their very beginning, to their very end, and the nineties, same?

Go deeper. Look at the players. Eton was quite a player here. How old is that place? What is the focus of its syllabus? Who writes it? Oh, but some of it was short-term, look at Russia's interference in the election using social media. That could not have happened at any other time! Not in the same way (though the truth of what happened and how it happened, if it ever gets known with the approximate precision of the notorious fire at the Reichstag, will be figured out by the next historians to not be read or not be read in time or not be read by the right people) but there has always been interference between states. It only generally is said to be underhand or unfair when the victims have let their guard down or did not see something coming. Most or much of what we already for the most part do not know in terms of Russian interference, in any case, can be mapped in diagrams of interactions between people that can still, in fact, be found in documentary evidence before anybody calls in Belling Cat. It makes absolute party political sense, and almost naturally by extention, journalistic sense, but absolutely no political or historical sense, to render it 'controversial' to remark upon previous, permitted, forms of foreign interference, from the ruling over an empire, to the sponsoring of coups and foreign political campaigns, to the funding of proxy armies, to the training of foreign paramilitary groups no nation would wish to harbour in their own lands. When it comes to Russia in particular this is treacherous territory, full of landmines and gravity wells. Still, it may be remarked that, quite aside from the fact that the interference being described (in the most extreme of the descriptions) is in all but a handful of cases a distributed denial of democratic service which makes use of a number of willing domestic groups, many of which seemed to revolve around old money, tech money, tech, oil, celebrity, and all of the other styles of most prominant status we see in these times, it has been done, by all sides, regularly. That is, every Western state has been poking at Russia for years. Here we go, we'll expand here. Here you are, have the world's largest trading block on your doorstop, we loved that kind of game when you did it to us. Let's all write about this spontaneous revolution in a country that used to be in your orbit a full quarter of a century after, I don't know, as a for instance, Roger Scruton running an underground university in Prague in the communist days (he was today sacked from the current Conservative government for talking up George Soros's influence in Hungary while also sharing his line on muslim immigration to Europe). Mentioning such things in proximity to Russian interference is thought to be uncouth, or to be treacherous, or is accused of being an example of false moral equivalence. In this instance that latter charge would be hard to argue given that it is my intention that the reader should be left to make up their own mind about Roger Scruton, then and now, about Putin, Orban, and whoever. In case you are reluctant to believe me, I'll try to throw in a curveball. The Guardian once ran an influence campaign in a single state in the United States in an attempt to influence the curve of the US Presidential Election. Had they succeeded, I would have argued that that was morally questionable. Worse, though, would have been what it said about the resilience of the presidential election infrastructure in the United States (not that plenty could not have been said about this, and was indeed judiciously written about this then and before).

So what are the other long-term trends? What is it that has come up from the ground of the leave lands and has now threatened to break apart a union that has been around (kind of, like Trigger's broom in Only Fools and Horses, perhaps), for hundreds of years? What do you say? “There is no such thing as society”? (Yes I know the original quote is longer, no I don't think it matters.) Hold on, you get worried about your little darling not taking a year out at the Sorbonne but you don't want to talk about child poverty or food banks?

Is that all you've got? No, not far from it. Elite-led Orientalism from Tony Blair onwards, just like back in the day, but in performative cockney. Selling off the newspapers. Media monopolies. Not only structural unemployment but a refusal by all sides to do anything constructive about it for decades. The neoliberal consensus on top of that.

What else? All of them stopped walking those streets. Those streets that look like Shameless. The local papers got bought up. Journalists weren't walking the streets in any case. That was far too old hat. Do you know who was? UKIP. And the BNP. They were recruiting from the ranks of the marginal.

But whether that referendum comes down to what happened last week or three or four or five decades ago in Britain or in Belgium or Moscow or New York or Prague (Cambridge Analytica had nothing to do with Cambridge), I have seen one poxy series of short films that put the focus on the people who delivered that result as something other than be a foreign species to be pitied or feared. And then bridging the gap was sometimes too much.

Those people know that Britain was broke for years. Some of them know a little of why. Some of them don't. What they are sure of, with some fuck of a lot of just cause in my view, is that nobody has given a fuck about them for years and that nobody gives a fuck about them now. They are not wrong. Are they?