The Global Theater: What role does Britain play?

You can already see the evidence of how this tragedy will structure the narrative of our country for the next few months – who will manipulate this event to support their argument? what political fuel will be extracted from the well of contention? Based on the available information the perpetrator was not organised, was not heavily armed and had no support. Nobody with a stable mindset would run upon the Houses of Parliament armed with a knife – or drive into other human beings – this tragedy was not a calculated or rational attack. The location of this attack makes it the perfect story to continue peddling fear and hate among the masses. The iconography of the location can be eaten up by news organisations to imply that there is a global radical conspiracy. It’s the kind of story that far right wing platforms will be morbidly smug about because it supports an isolationist world view as oppose to sensible and logical conclusions. Platforms will frame the tragedy in a way that detracts from the fact that this was the act of a lone assailant with very severe mental issues. The facts will be obscured until it fits in as a piece of the ongoing narrative that the world is not safe – broadly speaking, the world is safer now than its ever been before any previous time in history.

The hallmarks of a civilized society are key: an economy, transport infrastructure, cultural activity, social assimilation – but most essentially – peace. The belief in the idea of the state & a citizens adherence to the states law is based off the mutual agreement that law and order is kept by the state in return for social conformity. When an event of terrorism takes place in a society that prides its self on peace achieved by military prowess and strength, it undermines the social order. This is why attacks in Western cities like Paris & Brussels are considered more horrifying by the global community than events in the Middle East despite the victims shared humanity. The global communities perception selectively sympathizes with first world cities over second & third world cities because of a debased idea of inherent societal superiority – of  Western civility. This kind of selective regard produces humanitarian issues and perpetuates global instability.

It’s eerie the role that the affected state has to play in the global theater when tragedies like this occur. The country must demonstrate its capability in dealing with these events, in containing these breaches. The international community is watching, everybody is watching. The state must demonstrate its ability to respond to these incidents swiftly. The issue was responded to in a stunning six minutes. All credit due to the sharp efforts of world class British security services. Beyond this Westminster has been combed, police are en mass in central London. Choppers dot the skies. Terrorism units are surveying, forensics are busy. The scale of the operation will be in the millions of pounds already and reflects the heightened state of fear in the current political climate. There’s a cold duality to England’s response to this situation: an assurance to its citizens that the state is very much in control and also a demonstration of strength to the leaders of the world & extremists of any kind – Britain is armed. It’s important now more than ever to remain in solidarity, to not become erratic. The response from the international community has been an out-pour of love and support despite stormy political seas. This love and solidarity needs to continue and be built upon. This kind of unity and support shouldn’t require a tragedy to ignite it.

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Anxiety: How Meme Culture Normalized It

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Mental health issues are now pandemic, a staggering 1 in 4 Britons suffer from some variation of mental health problems. How do we as a culture and a society tackle this issue rationally? The internet has fueled anxiety in the most insidious of ways. People are constantly comparing themselves to other people and trying to project a highlight version of their existence onto social media. The intention of doing this isn’t so much to create a digital photo journal but more so to feel socially accepted and relevant – the community in which the individual is showing it is now seen to be more valuable than the images themselves. The numerical value of the likes on your post is seen to be a direct reflection of your worth and ingenuity – people become woefully dejected if their likes are only single digits.

In the late 1970’s during the emergence of new technologies such as commercially available video-cameras and cable television acclaimed sci-fi writer J.G Ballard made an eerily accurate prediction for how technology would impact our day to day lives:

‘Every one of our actions during the day, across the entire spectrum of domestic life, will be instantly recorded on videotape. In the evening we will sit back to scan the rushes, selected by a computer trained to pick out only our best profiles, our wittiest dialogue, our most affecting expressions filmed through the kindest filters, and then stitch these together into a heightened re-enactment of the day’

That is basically internet culture summarized – people leaving out 98% of the day, with all of it’s common and shared regularities, leaving only the images that can be seen as unique or enviable. This in turn precipitates a culture of animosity among each other which results in many things, including the normalization of mental health issues. The reason this is dangerous is because it obscures the realities of mental health and dilutes them into something that conditions a defeatist attitude.

The broad increase in social anxiety can be attributed largely to social media – firstly, in how it creates social hierarchies in which people feel they have to compete in. Whether the individual sees someone in a relationship, someone announcing: ‘I GOT THE JOB!!!!!’ or whether they see an ex-partner succeeding in some way – it all creates an atmosphere of fierce competition. The irony is that the individual never recognizes that the person who posted the article that threw them off also feels the exact same pressure.

Below is an excerpt from an article titled ’22 things people with anxiety want their friends to know’

‘9. They’re sorry for all the declined invites, irrational behaviour, and hurtful things they said when they were feeling overwhelmed or scared. They’re sorry their anxiety hurts you too’

Posts like these are commonplace on social media sites, these kinds of posts only exacerbate the issue at hand by displacing the reality of it. The reality is this – anxiety is part of the human condition. It is not an isolated medical condition. It shouldn’t be taken and reformed as a defining character aspect or as a defeatist creed. The most important conclusion we can all reach is that anxiety is natural.

Anxiety is something which needs to be moderated with gentle, compassionate care – articles which say the things you feel you cannot will only silence your voice further. It’s important to find the words yourself, tap into the confidence that does exist and build on that. If society begins vicariously speaking through articles it will only increase the alienation that is present today. It must be understood that there isn’t a mystical person out there in the realms of instagram who lives day to day never experiencing any sort of anxiety, plodding along in perfect harmony. Every single person in the world feels anxiety – of course in varying intensities but to feel connected to everybody the similarities must be understood.

To know that anxiety is an evolutionary reaction that we share with everybody in our species lowers the walls that divide us. If anxiety creeps and suppresses the person you know you are, you shouldn’t submit to it and remain vulnerable – underneath it’s rule. Feel energized to resist it, understand that you’re not isolated and this isn’t abnormal. If individuals take social media seriously they’ll invariably end up a nervous wreck, a shell of a person trying to reach impossible goals that they set for themselves in the impossible heights of their mind. Don’t let articles speak for you and don’t let profiles define you – this could be taken as a new age overreaction by some, but everybody has felt the cold touch social media. If anxiety smiles at you – smile back.

High Courts Ruling To Block Labour Voters is an Orwellian joke

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The high courts ruling to bar 130,000 people from voting in the leadership election for the labour party is flagrant totalitarianism, I sincerely struggle to think of any action more apparently undemocratic as one to restrict individual input – the parallels between now & a the political sphere a century ago are staggering, I would say almost comical only the jokes not funny. Accusations of Bolshevism in the early 1900’s were to imply that you’re
an enemy of the state and of liberty. Similarly we see ‘Trotskyism’ now surfacing as a similar pejorative term. The implication of both accusations is that you are against a free market system and against the western ideals of which we all live and thrive on. This logic is riddled with contradictions and false information.

Firstly lets examine the fundamentals of Trotskyism

  • Support for the strategy of permanent revolution, in opposition to the Two Stage Theory of his opponents;
  • Support for social revolution in the advanced capitalist countries through working class mass action;
  • Support for proletarian internationalism; and
  • Use of a ‘transitional’ programme of demands that bridge between daily struggles of the working class and the ‘maximal’ ideas of the socialist transformation of society

So examining this information we can deduct that the fundamentals of this ideology are rooted in social equality – at which level is this theory wrong? The militancy of Trotskyism is what worries people – something I don’t necessarily agree with. All to often politics in this country is some school ground affair rife with name calling – socialism is the new cooties. The taboo of being a socialist has been carefully instilled to inhibit the rise of ideas that benefit the masses as appose to the few. It’s no secret that a free market economy simply ISN’T working, this year each month has smashed the previous years record for highest temperatures due to global warming attributed to unsustainable levels of industrialism and corporate negligence, we’ve used our cache of available natural resources half way through the year & social equality is non existent at the moment.

Also some 25 year old twat inherited 9 billion without tax…doesn’t that get under your skin even slightly? When you’re hastily dividing your pay packet on your iPhone to see if you can afford another drink on your night out some twenty five year old lid inherited more money than he can spend in his life time and has to pay zero to the state – doesn’t that make you second guess how this society is constructed? beyond this – are we forgetting about the scandals of Childcott & Panama Papers? Have we not remembered that our leaders have been readily revealed as vile and undignified people with no fixed interest in the masses beyond the extraction of any residual coins we’ve mustered together. It’s as though we as a society were waiting patiently in some dim auditorium to see our leaders – behind the curtain we hear muffled ruckus and we suspect something may be amiss…suddenly the curtains fall down and reveal a whole set of the people who lead us doing disgracefully immoral and unjust deeds. However, we as a desensitised nation forget about all of this once the hash tags move back to whichever celebrities birthday it might be.

Following on from the parallels of the early 1900’s we seem to have gone full cycle again and reverted back to callous and suspicious as a nation. It’s absolutely absurd that the woes of the nation have been blamed on immigration when the culprits are so clearly smeared across front pages yet we’re still to blind to see. The reintroduction of casual racism and semantic racism within politics is absolutely mind boggling to me. Beyond what the media insist how many negative run ins with an immigrant have any of you ever had? really? I live in a multi-cultural community and feel no sense of conspiracy against me or England, I’ve only ever been greeted with smiles, open doors and thank you’s.

There isn’t really any central message to be deducted here except for the devastating reality that regardless of how much we strive to be pure, good and justified it’s within the nature of humanity to destroy itself – physicist Enrico Fermi theorised the Fermi Paradox which aims to address why, given the vastness of space and the mathematical certainty of extraterrestrial life we haven’t ever seen any other form of life. His theory is intelligent life inevitably reaches a point within it’s own existence where the species develops technology powerful enough to destroy itself – foolishly wielding this power without serious consideration Fermi believed that we’re alone in the universe because any other previous civilisation has destroyed itself in egotistical madness. Now, I’m only using this as a point of reference and musing as appose to a serious suggestion – but with the current state of politics, the renewal of Trident, the sheer horror that seems to be spilling across the world on an increasingly frequent basis – our negligence and lack of altruistic consideration may very well mean we’ve began our course towards assured extinction – purely because we couldn’t just get along without being massive, massive dickheads.

Snapchats Coverage of Brussels – The Implications of Omnipresence

The playfully ghoulish Snapchat mascot would imply that this app is purely for fun, since its initial inception in 2011 by two entrepreneurs from Stanford University: Bobby Murphy & Evan Spiegel the app has had a meteoric rise. The current net worth of the company is valued at $10 billion and nobody could have predicted this ascension. The concept is straight forward and at the same time ingenious: you send pictures for a decided amount of time before they expire. Initially this concept aroused controversy in how it’d be utilized by the technically savvy younger generation, how this app fits in with their budding sexualities. Critics denounced it with the defense that it’ll encourage and facilitate underage pornography and exchanges of nudes leading to an increase in cyber bullying and victimization.

The latter has happened indefinitely but this is symptomatic of human nature as appose to propagation by Snapchat as a concept. Aside from this dark crevice of the app, it’s been a corporate dream. What Snapchat has effectively done is create a super network of perspectives – turning the phone into a visual conduit into places all over the world. Once Snapchat went beyond being purely a platform to send amusing selfies it became somewhat of a supernova and created a singularity between consumers, news & media – if you have a phone, you have a perspective and a viewpoint. Companies have bought shares into Snapchat and it became truly successful once we saw branded promotion on the app. I have been on the red carpet for the Oscars, I’ve been in Brisbane on Australia Day, I’ve been in the offices of Buzzfeed and I’ve celebrated Chinese New Year in China…all without having to leave my bed.

What we’re seeing here is a shift in how we consume media and events – the shrouded mystery of the world is gradually dissipating as we can now see significant events from a firsthand perspective. No longer are the Oscars a super high profile mystery to me…I now know it’s a white hot, cattle kind of an affair where people grin on the carpets before being rounded into the venue. The human mind has a tendency to romanticize events, now we can see them from the typically human and typically awkward perspective firsthand…the world is becoming much starker.

Today I went on Snapchat and saw Sky News had coverage of the second Brussels attack – I was running through settling dust and destruction, outside of the attack locations, near the emergency services…heard the screaming of terror and devastated sobbing of people who had just witnessed relentless horror and were experiencing tremendous pain…I was 333 miles away though. The reality of this dawned on me in a sensational way – what does this mean for how we digest media? The potential for how this can work is incalculable; can Snapchat serve as an egalitarian and real conduit for news events? Where there is no agenda, only coverage by real people in real scenarios? Is this beginning of news without persuasion to take a side?

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At the moment the answer is no – the banner I saw over the harrowing events was ‘Brussels Attack: Could we see these scenes in the UK?’ ahh…there it was, the ol’ fearmongering. Perhaps corporate ubiquity has yet again seized a liberating concept before it can blossom into something that benefits humanity. Snapchat takes away the assumption of events; it leaves nothing to the mind and puts you there to see things first hand. To wield the power of omnipresence has profound implications of which we may have not yet considered. How this will alter society in the coming years is at this point indeterminable. I didn’t quite know what to make of what I had seen from the Snapchat coverage. It felt like immoral voyeurism – these people were experiencing unimaginable terror and I was merely an observer from an ivory tower…what are the moral implications of having this perspective? I think it represents a shift in moral outlook, it epitomizes the raw desensitization of the public. Where we want news in an instant but we no longer want bullet points, we want something visceral, we want to be there.

@thesilenthour

Everything I learnt About Death From A Funeral Home

I found myself in the waiting room of George Ball & Sons Funeral Directors – a family business tucked away from the bustling streets, a little house in Heaton Moor, Stockport. I looked around trying to absorb as much as I could – the first thing I noticed was the silence, there wasn’t a single vibration ringing in my ear. What would they do really? having Smooth FM for ambiance wouldn’t go down to well in the ears of grieving customers – one of which had just left. I looked at the carpet, the walls, the patterns – everything had to be anodyne in here, I figured this was a place of earnest discussion and that the interior design would naturally follow suit. I look at my watch and have a moment of confusion as I try to calibrate myself at 10am in a funeral home. People don’t usually come to places like this optionally.

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Daniel Arnison reveals himself as he comes in from the office to greet me, he’s dressed professionally with a tie and a waistcoat, a tall man with a kind face. He invites me into his office to begin our discussion. I go on to explain my reason behind my visit…which I’ll just re-word in here: As morbid as it sounds I have a fascination with death, I feel like contemporary society (ironically) has no time for death. Death is pushed aside and ignored in our society, it’s not marketable except for on halloween – even then it’s trivialized and becomes a commodity. It’s something people would rather pretend doesn’t happen. I feel as though this is a bad approach because when death inevitably does rear it’s cadaverous face in our lives it’ll be all the more traumatic because of our blissful suppression. Each day is more precious because of death. Hunter gatherers had a very tactile and direct relationship with the dead, it was explicit and true – funerals have been around as long as humans have. A ritual to put the deceased to sleep – this ritual has transformed over time in western cultures to become more discreet. I wanted to know what the process was, what life working for a funeral directors was like, whether it affected the outlook of life, how it shaped the employees beliefs & how they master the art of being perceptively sensitive to their clients needs whilst seamlessly and respectfully forming a business transaction. Two things which seem impossibly opposite but are in actuality a daily routine for some people. Daniel was about to tell me all about it…

Matt – Could you give me a bit of background and history of this business?

Daniel – It’s a family run business, we were traditional joiners/undertakers. My great great grandfather George Ball Sr. started the business in 1870, he moved up from the Derby area to look for work & set up his own joinery business in Heaton Moor.

Do you think that you have a peculiar job?

It’s something I’ve grown up with, I did my GCSE’s and my A-Levels geared towards this. I grew up with the business, we live in the local area so people are aware of what we do – I don’t personally feel it’s unusual…but yes, I recognize it’s not a normal job.

Are you religious at all?

I was raised Church of England, I have very quiet religious beliefs. It’s not something I’d impose upon anybody, the nature of my job means I must be impartial to a certain degree. I have friends who are ministers, I have friends who are non-religious efficient’s.

Has this job at all shaped your beliefs in regards to spirituality?

The main thing it has taught me is how to help people and look after people which I think is more important than one particular doctrine.

When you are approached by clients is it typically the case that they’re unaware of the processes of funeral directing, are they quite sensitive to deal with?

No one client is the same, there are several variables that can determine the appropriate approach to a client. It depends on the conditions of the passing, whether it was sudden, whether it was anticipated, whether plans were in place – it all varies.

Do you feel that this job has shaped your beliefs in terms of mortality?

It’s not something that I particularly worry about (laughs)

Would you say that your work place is a solemn place?

Every emotion under the sun is experienced when arranging a funeral – there can be jokes made by families, humorous elements that the family would like to have included in the arrangements…five minutes later there can be tears, that’s the nature of grief. We have a tightly knit group of employees here, we’d never belittle anybody or act in a disrespectful or inconsiderate manner.

Do you think to be able to function within this particular industry you need a certain type of personality or skillset? 

I think the ability to be understanding is paramount, you’ve also got to be willing to learn. My attitude has changed as I’ve grown up, when you’re young you think you know it all and as you go on you realize you know nothing.

Has the ritual of a funeral changed much in your opinion?

It’s changed massively even just in the 25 years I’ve been involved in it. It used to be very much religious, non-religious funerals were more low key. Now there are more specific and specialist funeral arrangements. There are also cross denominations within funerals now – two religions being represented which didn’t happen often before.

What would you like your funeral to be like? 

I haven’t even thought about it…

What struck me with Daniel was his calm demeanor, I wasn’t really sure what I expected a funeral director to be like. A morose solemn character in a dusty suit? A crypt keeper? He didn’t have a weary, jaded look about him nor did he seem too overly existential about any of the topics we discussed. He had a respectful tact about him, a man who doesn’t fear death but who has a closer relationship with the reaper than most. Here’s a man who people don’t want to visit at work, people only come to a funeral directors once or twice in their lives. Daniel has to deal with people at their most frail, their most emotionally distraught. He catches people in disarray, when people are numb from the shocking reality of death. He has the monumental task of triumphantly sending peoples relatives off into their final resting places – a process which is both very specific and very sensitive. His handshake was soft and gentle, much like his approach to our discussion and much like his business ethics.

Yes, death. Death must be so beautiful. To lie in the soft brown earth, with the grasses waving above one’s head, and listen to silence. To have no yesterday, and no tomorrow. To forget time, to forget life, to be at peace. You can help me. You can open for me the portals of death’s house, for love is always with you, and love is stronger than death is.”- Oscar Wilde 

@thesilenthour

‘To want a woman or a person of the another race to play James Bond is to defy cinema’

This is a bloody headache – each time the current Bond gets a few movies in, inevitably they discuss who will hold the PP7 next. Recently, I’ve seen various surreal anthropomorphic disasters such as Idris Elba’s head photoshopped onto Roger Moore’s body. It was sincerely unnerving. This is as people push for the next Bond to be played by someone of a different race. Oppositely to this I’ve seen some absurd articles with titles like ‘JAMIE BOND’…to be quite honest it’s all rather nauseating. The next Bond simply cannot be of another race, nor can he be female…I hold this opinion not because I’m a close minded racist, not because I’m a misogynistic carling swiller – but because I’m a firm believer in narrative.

James Bond was dreamt up by ex-navy serviceman Ian Fleming, an eccentric Englishman who had a knack for writing. His formulaic novels which followed the archetypal macho-man as he saved the world every-single-time set down the foundations for the colossal franchise that we see today. Spectre is the second most expensive film ever made so it’s safe to say when Mr. Fleming dreamt of Mr. Bond it was a fairly worthwhile dream. The character of James Bond has ascended beyond a fictional character and permeates into facets of business like no other cinematic character. ‘All the women want to be with him, all the men want to be him’ is the iconic tagline – you can sell a product on James Bond’s silhouette. It’s certainly something to marvel at.

After Sean Connery first played the character, Ian Fleming famously wrote Scottish heritage into the character of James Bond because he was so impressed with Connery’s performance. Which is where my issue begins in terms of the character being played by anybody who isn’t a British white male. Now, the language becomes risky at this point and I can already see eyebrows raising. The language of my statement is understandably contentious. Alarm bells ring in the head like ‘should he be saying that!?’ – I can assure you it’s justified and here’s why…

Cinema relies on connection and suspended belief, the only reason people care about characters is because they feel a connection to their situation, they identify with their dilemmas & their hardships. Viewers experience the heartbreak, the happiness and the confusion that the characters experience. This is why cinema is such an evocative medium, it connects with people on an emotional level, palpably so. In order to grow with characters you have to believe that they aren’t two dimensional, you have to believe that they really exist in the world they’re in and this involves narrative. James Bond, whilst he isn’t the most dimensional character in the cinematic universe has an established background. Ian Fleming envisioned a man who looked similar to Hoagy Carmicheal to play Bond, In fact – Fleming drew a sketch of how he envisioned Bond and sure enough, he is a white male.

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  • Fleming’s visualization of James Bond

I feel like we live in a neurotic age, of which people are afraid to be untactful with such topics as this. There’s countless examples of absurdity in today’s stifled politically correct world – be if the radical feminists who attacked the man who landed equipment on a moving meteor for wearing a particular shirt, or whether it’s the crazy Australian who’s saying marmite is racist because of its color. To want to change an established character is to completely defy the logic of a narrative, it’s not boundary pushing it’s just absurd. As though it’s a new age and a new Bond. He is a character; characters should be treated as abstract people with a background and a history. I do understand having Daniel Craig as Bond veered away from the tall, dark and handsome look but perhaps we should use Fleming’s sketch as the basis of the character…that guys eyes could be blue! We didn’t have to suspend our belief too much! Having a woman play James Bond or somebody from another race would be farcical simply because we’ve seen a white male for 24 movies – what could be the justification of him changing ethnicity and gender!? We’d be reverting back to the outlandish territory of Die Another Day where a Korean villain uses facial reconstructive surgery to become a strapping Englishman and we all know that territory was unsatisfactory and shit – so shit in fact it took a complete reboot to resuscitate it. The character of James Bond shouldn’t be torn out of the established pages of 24 scripts and 12 Fleming novels just because society wants the character of James Bond to reflect their lagged acceptance of other races and sexes. To me it’s quite obviously the case that all people are equal, sadly it isn’t the case with other people but I don’t think James Bond will change their minds…

@thesilenthour

What The Migrant Crisis, The EDL & Gandhi All Have In Common

To be entirely honest, this article was mainly spurred on by a casual scroll through the ‘English Defence Leagues’ Facebook page. This page exists in a dark, neurotic corner of the Facebook realm. Where jittery ‘patriots’ with sensationalized nationalist views seem to believe that the country’s very existence is being compromised by immigrants and refugees. They post some pretty abhorrent and incoherent ramblings with the air of self-righteousness that would suggest the people believe they are absolutely correct. I tend to be of the belief that once you’re convicted to an idea it’s very difficult to change that thought pattern. People believe things based on conditional experience, on information that is provided to them that forms a narrative. I feel like the EDL and other people who are gravely worried about the future of England lack the knowledge about the very country they swear they love. I always confide in history because to know where you’re going you need to know where you’ve been. So lets look backwards…Yes, I’m indeed going to try and summarize the entire history of England in a short article so bear with me…

England is a maritime environment, a wet & damp little island with no particular variables that contribute to it’s own success. In it’s early stage, England was occupied by various pagan communities with no widespread central ideology. The archetypal ‘pure’ English ingenious existed in this period and only this period. The turning point happened in 43AD when Emperor Claudius invaded England and began colonizing the land. The cultural ‘terraforming’ happened by means of implementation – cobble roads, viaducts, settlements, forts were all established (one fort named Mamucium – now Manchester). This was the first example of cultural dilution, the Romans occupied the land and brought with it their lifestyle which still resonates today with our irrigation systems, road mappings, agricultural cultivation techniques and mining capabilities to name a few. Interrelations happened and people settled as people do, to the EDL’s dissatisfaction the puritan English blood line stopped here – 1900 fucking years ago. 500 years before Islam. Just to piss on their chips.

In the middle ages, after the withdrawal and dissipation of the Roman empire the country existed in a stagnant limbo, with various tribal communities existing and occupying the land – primarily Germanic tribes including: The Angles, The Saxons & The Jutes. This once again adds Germanic heritage to the English bloodline. Following from this limbo which lasted a couple thousand years we find ourselves being invaded by a French conquest by the Normans, led by a gent called Duke William. This happened in 1066 with The Battle of Hastings which overthrew the Anglo Saxon king ushering in Norman occupation. The occupation and conquest was so successful that it pretty much replaced the English indigenous with a French occupation. Yet again, contributing to our heritage. Throughout this period the symbolism of St. George and the iconography of Templars were first exhibited when the crusades were sanctioned by Pope Urban II. The crusades were an effort to return to the ‘Holy Land’ in the Middle East and restore it to what they saw was rightly theirs. A long, bloody ordeal of which the mythology and spirit of England was incepted.  For a couple hundred years various French rulers occupied the area – influencing greatly the architecture, the technology, the weaponry, cultural art forms and most importantly legislation and the church’s position within the state. Here we see the early infrastructure of a society. Religion has always been a precursor to contemporary societies, without the law of the church we would have never established democracy or the concept of communal, dogmatic law.

Britain received it’s ‘Great’ prefix for a variety of reasons, primarily because the little cluster managed to colonize most of the planet and was responsible for the largest spanning empire ever seen – quipped as ‘the empire where the sun never sets’ referencing the radius of occupation being so vast that the sun always shon on a part of the empire. Previous historic military campaigns would work with an ethic of domination and indoctrination and whilst Britain did indeed do that it worked with a much more rational mind. The British Empire expanded between the 16th-18th centuries, the scientific revolution happened roughly around 500 years ago, this was where rationalism began becoming widespread in the west, effectively replacing religion as the predominant explanation for being. The military campaigns of Britain had a very strong and very conscious focus on learning from the places they occupied. They would send large units composed of various leaders of their field to survey the lands in every regard – from geography, to nature, to culture…most famously Charles Darwin was on several voyages of which his studies contributed to his famous theory of evolution. Throughout the British Empire we picked up styles, ideas, inspiration…however, we would push our way of life on these occupied areas. The most famous example being in India – Gandhi devoted himself to learning the British ways of life. Spending time learning the types of cutlery that would be used during a banquet and such.

The point of this very condensed and very brief history of England is to highlight the countries varied influence and heritage, to demonstrate how England has relied on a flow of immigration and occupation to influence the countries development. England is what it is because of immigrants. I’m not a patriot by any means but I do love England – I think it’s a fascinating country but what perplexes me more is how we’ve reached a point where very small minded and uneducated people are screaming about and England that is theirs. There is an idea of England, some strange and scary nationalist ideal where everybody is white and everybody was born here. Nobody is purely English, it fortunately doesn’t exist because if it did I imagine they’d be a belligerent and self assured knob. This all ties in to the current migrant crisis – to anybody who is reading this and previously thought they were patriots and pure English, I’m afraid you’re wrong. No such thing exists, your heritage and DNA is composed of a variety of genes. Everybody originated in Africa and after the expansion and in-habitation of the Eurasian continents we built up to the beginning of England – which as we’ve seen, from there was further influenced by a variety of other people. Nationalism is silly, nobody has inherent superiority to any man, woman or child. Simply because you fell out of a vagina and woke up on a certain part of the world doesn’t give you any kind of righteousness. To be English is indeed very lucky because it’s a strong, successful country. I’m grateful I’m English because I was born into a safe place, with a power grid, a policing system, irrigation systems…all of these things weren’t created by us. The ideas that shaped this country are the by-product of a 2000 year dynasty. England is an amorphous entity that is continually changing, as any place in the world is.

To me being English isn’t about St. George’s cross (St. George was Palestinian and never visited England), it isn’t about the military campaigns, it isn’t about tea, or crumpets, or The Beatles, or chippy. Whilst all of these things contribute to the image and idea of England…the reality is, England is a little plot of land that people sit around on and pass through…always has been and always will be. In my mind it’s much more English and much more comfortable to recognize and appreciate the influences that shaped the country, to be grateful that we aren’t in a worn torn country. To be human is to recognize our place in the world, our country colonized most of the planet…through force. That kind of conquest comes with a responsibility, we reaped the benefits of the world. Taking with us trade, slaves, cuisines, money, treasure…the only reason our economy is strong is because of the fact we essentially robbed the world. We can’t have a history like ours and not feel responsible. So when people proclaim that they hate that immigrants feel that England owes them something – in a way, we do. It’s crucially important to be aware, to realize the country’s historic place & it’s place now. In regards to the Syrian crisis, our army have contributed to the socio-economic conditions that forces people to flee. We do indeed have a responsibility whether we like it or not. With the pivotal turning point of the deceased little boy on the beach that changed public opinion and galvanized interest into international politics these are fragile times. I see people posting pictures of migrants arriving in airports with captions ‘where are the war torn people, they look happy’. People need to stop existing in such narrow perceptions. Refugees aren’t trying to flog the country and rinse us. We’re one of the wealthiest economies to ever exist. We can certainly take on a couple thousand people whose country we’ve dismantled in the interest of profit.

Great Britain is over, empires are over…as much as the EDL dream of Britain being ‘great’ again it’s an antiquated and unfeasible idea…what you’re wishing for is worldwide dictatorship again and we’re miles past that. We live in a globalized community now…it’s time to grow up. I’ve seen a general shift in thinking, people are becoming more conscious and compassionate…it’s inspiring to see. I hope this isn’t a fickle trend and people become more involved and engaged with such matters. The world will be a much more progressive place when people realize the idea of territory is a silly, archaic and childish paradigm. England belongs to the world, we have no inherent ownership. So what does the migrant crisis, the EDL, and Gandhi all have in common minus all of them being directly influenced by England’s decisions you ask?…they’re all human.

Matt Swallow

Mahatma Gandhi laughing around April 23, 1930. (AP Photo)

BLACK JOSH + RATKING // MANCHESTER // 26.08.15 // DEAF INSTITUTE

Black Josh steps on stage swaggering in with his brother wearing his signature bucket hat to complete the contemporary stoner image. Signed to Blah Records Black Josh has been busy touring around with the likes of the Merseyside madman that is Lee Scott…and the void in space duo that are Trellion & Sniff. ‘Are you’se alright? y’all look a bit tense’ proclaims Black Josh in an effort to loosen the crowd. ‘Youse all been work and that innit, long day’ he says, with an ‘in yer face’ mancunian inflection and a patronizing tone that insinuates he’s reveling in his time as a musician where he can afford to wake up at 1pm and roll a spliff before lying around writing lyrics all day…all justified by the music that he creates. Power to you Black Josh, enjoy it whilst you can. He begins his set with his jaunty hit ‘Air Max’ which awakes the crowd to the reality that they’re at a hip hop gig. Proceeding onwards to perform songs like ‘Paul Scholes’ & ‘Escape Music’ the first half of the set is strictly East Coast style with nauseous basslines and reverb sodden snares. Following from that we see his set drift into the popular trappy style that has permeated into all factions of hip hop now. On stage Black Josh has a devised back and forth with his brother/hype man. They parade around the stage,with the confident bravado that being a rapper requires – high fiving each other before resting on each other back to back whilst rapping. Their stage presence ostensibly being inspired by early hip hop acts such as RUN-DMC & Beastie Boys. It works, it was enjoyable and ostentatious – the lack of instrumentation leaves rappers as the sole focus of their performance which requires a level of animation that can hold the audiences attention and Black Josh and his brother managed to do exactly that. Stepping off stage at the front directly into the crowd to demonstrate their everyman personas it paved way for an intermission before the main event.

Here we see Ratking, the New York rap trio signed to British label ‘XL’ stepping on stage non nonchalantly. They greet the city as is polite to do so before getting right into it with ‘Snow Beach’. Immediately the energy penetrates the crowd and people are engaged, bobbing their heads and smiling in agreement with what is bouncing around their ear drum. Their accents reverberate around the room and the energy that’s demonstrated by the crowd brings the murky street sounds of New York inside a Victorian institute for the deaf in Manchester for an evening. Half way through their set Hak demands that somebody turn the lights down, the room dims to a hazy violet. All I can smell is weed & from the back I can see the crowd begin to buzz with adrenaline, as the basslines become more palpable and the hats more scattered the Ratking gig goes where it was inevitably going to go and a mosh pit forms. A girl DECKS it before being lifted back up, supreme hats fucking everywhere. By the time ‘So It Goes’ plays I’m enamored, not quite as animated as the crowd at the front but appreciating from a distance. We see Wiki and Hak giving it their all, their shirts dripping with their efforts. It becomes a hazy netherrealm of trap fusion where everybody in the room sort of just appreciates it.

Ratking in recent interviews have been very vocal about their intention to design their own genre and create a community and a lifestyle built around their ideals. Drawing influence from Wu-Tang in that regard. However, whilst I feel that their sound is an idiosyncratic mix of: trap, east coast flavor, dub with some reggae for good measure I wouldn’t necessarily want to live like Wiki or Hak. An evenings insight into their world is both captivating and nauseating…in the best possible way. But one evening is a decent serving, a break from the world where people have to do stuff, an impulsive trip into some of the best sounds contemporary rap has to offer…take a trip when you can.

ratkingcon

‘Are we all a bit bored & upset?’

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I found myself stood in the street gazing flabbergasted at Miles Tellers face next to Jamie Bell’s…two faces I never really imaged in the same picture binded together by the title ‘F4ANTASTIC’ – The first thing that pops into my head is when I recall back to when I was picking up my popcorn off the floor 7 years ago? Or was it 8? No…it was 10 years ago. 10 years since my ‘just finished primary school’ self was scrambling for my popcorn desperately trying to multi-task by keeping my eyes on the screen to keep up with the action sequence in the picture ‘Fantastic Four’. I think further. Who was in that movie…wasn’t Chris Evans the human torch? Wasn’t he just in The Avengers 2 as Captain America? Then, like The Thing enraged by passing punk #1’s comments about his hideously crustaceous appearance…it hits me. What the fucks happened to the movie business? How have we got here? How marvellous (not one single pun intended I swear to Christ) it is that film studios have joined forces with comic book universes to wring out every potential penny and cent – not even necessarily pulling the wool over the audiences eyes but quite blatantly re-jigging, re-branding and re-casting the same stories in the interest of monetary gain.

Now, do not get me wrong – I didn’t have a mid street realization that comic book movies exist…they’re unavoidable. Ubiquitous on the television screens, YouTube pre-ad’s & Facebook ‘CAN’T WAIT FOR THIS ONE!!!’ posts the world over.  I’m very much in the loop with what’s going on in that regard…but it was only when I saw the new Fantastic Four poster did I realize in the past ten years we’ve had two different Peter Parkers (waiting on three), two different Reed Richards, two different Matt Murdoch’s, two different Bruce Wayne’s…it goes on. The interest for me lies in the conspicuous and unashamed business transactions behind these glittering stories of superhumans and altruistic aliens.  Additionally to this, my interests lie in why the audiences have an insatiable thirst for more and more comic book movies. I interpret both of these things are social and business phenomenon’s that I’m going to examine and muse on for a couple of pages…feel free to delve further,  or feel free to go and wait street side for a purse snatcher…it’s literally your life.

My earliest experience of the comic book universe was in fact within the comic book universe…I had a monthly subscription to ‘The Astonishing Spider-Man’ which would be in pair with some chewy strawberries and a bottle of coke I’d purchased from the shop at the top of my road. I’d go home still sporting my school uniform and I’d lie down on the carpet reading the issue from cover to cover – absorbing the heroism and the larger than life characters. I found the escapism so alluring, although in a physical reality I was a little boy chewing strawberries on the carpet in the living room my cerebral identity was right behind spider man doing a fat 80mph through the air of New York. I had a big collection, I used to go to comic con – I got Ultimate Spider Man #1 for £35 and Chris Claremont’s Wolverine #1 (I’ve lost it now which I’m still not over). I wasn’t passively consuming this universe but rather absolutely immersed in it. I cherish these memories and I kind of knew at the time that reading comics is a quintessential childhood memory. But then X-Men the movie came out and things changed forever.

I hadn’t seen anything like it, sure I’d seen the cartoons where Wolverine was bursting out of the most impractical and blatant skin tight suit ever conjured up by the brains of a comic book artist but a live action version!? I watched it in absolute awe, although it was a film about superheroes the fact it was live action brought it down to a comprehendible reality of which I exist in. The opening sequence in which Magneto is forcefully separated from his mother in a concentration camp grabbed me by the throat from the opening and without saying a word of English throughout the sequence, it told me ‘this is something different’. The film went on to introduce me to all the familiars of whose backgrounds and origins I knew but wanted to see again recited by actors. As it went on I found myself connected to the larger theme of X-Men…the idea of disenfranchisement, the idea of segregation, being unique, being happy with who you are. Pretty heavy stuff for a comic book movie.

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X-Men went forward to gross $296 million at the box office, the concerning realisation that the number doesn’t sound that high when compared to the likes of ‘The Avengers’ which grossed over a one billion dollars. X-Men was the starting point however, and in the year 2000 a millennial shift happened in the strata of comic book movies – studios realized the potential they had on their  hands. It was perfect; they had a plethora of main characters – a whole back catalogue of already written stories rooted in mythology – an abundance of opportunity, whole universes to explore and expand on.  Where directors saw opportunities to reinterpret the content and explore the themes of the comic books, studios saw a glittering gold mine of content just waiting to be claimed. After X-Men we saw Spiderman in 2002, then 2003 we saw The Hulk, Daredevil and X2 on screen as well, 2004 brought us The Punisher, Spiderman 2…you can see how the chronology carries on up to this year.

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The interest in this phenomenon for me no longer lies in the content; I grew tired of the mythology because of the rehashed narratives of which I can’t extract much from on an emotional level. The interest for me now lies in the business behind it…I saw ‘The Avengers 2’ for the spectacle – to see what the best money can buy looks and sounds like. I walked away grossly underwhelmed with a head brimming with questions: ‘why are people still watching these?’. It’s felt like a lifetime we’ve been fed superhero films and quite frankly I’m feeling nauseous. I began to examine the phenomenon on a humanistic level…I believe the comic book phenomenon represents a much deeper, involuntary psychosis within the public consciousness. On a broader and much lighter scale it’s content that can be enjoyed by a family unit, it’s a day out to see a new big, popcorn crunching, explosion ridden CGI fest. It caters to all ages but I simply couldn’t get over the muddled and vacuous narrative of ‘Avengers 2’. I was asking myself what the message was from that movie, what was I supposed to have learnt? The idea of unity? Team work? The contemporary humans incapacity to salvage their own collapsing world? What did I just watch?

It’s no secret that the cinema is escapism, that’s what it’s always been. My love for cinema is that it communicates messages – even with my beloved X-Men it said something about societies prejudices towards people who are different that could be mused on and debated. But what the fuck is ant-man trying to tell me here? The smallest man can make the biggest change? Bollocks – they want my cash. The interesting aspect of this whole CGI sodden affair is that the public seemingly haven’t slowed down in their hunger for more stories, more effects, more absurdity. I believe the psychosis is a by-product of the socio-economic issues that are present in the contemporary world. Sure, you could ponder the issues like the ever increasing power of corporations (the irony being that to contribute to marvel blockbusters is assisting the process). sure, you could be concerned about political leaders exploiting their own countries, dealing arms to separate countries who are featured on the human rights offenders list. Sure, you could be concerned about the demonization of Islam and the subjugation of the homeless…but why worry about all that when you can focus on whether Jared Leto will make a good Joker? The whole atmosphere of comic book mythology permeates into society unlike any other devised pantheon. At least monotheistic and polytheistic religions don’t charge you for sermons. Marvel do.  The devotion of the fans, the cosplay, the merchandise, the open board discussions about the universes these characters exist in. It’s escapism in its purest form and now more than ever is it being consumed because the reality of the world is much bleaker than the dazzling suit of Thor.

It’s easier to exercise cognitive dissonance and focus on an action sequence than it is to try and resolve the very real issues present in the world. How long does this last? Well, Marvel have a plan of phased chapters, currently entering phase 3 with titles listed up to 2019. Will the world continue to plummet into the ever uncomfortable depths of economic and social disparity? Will the public still be as devoted to the comic book universes in four years time? When does society react and drop the toy to look for other forms of entertainment…when does the bubble burst?

These are all questions that nobody can answer, I feel the unprecedented success and cunning business tactic demonstrated by the comic book phenomenon ultimately reflects societies disfranchisement and gullability. Nothing proves this quicker than trying to analyse the stories we are now seeing on an intellectual level. They’re not telling you anything new – these are stories that have been around for millenniums. Rather than admire the onscreen perfection of Chris Hemsworth’s hair, rather than listen to yet another excruciatingly sassy quip from Robert Downey Jr perhaps we can deduct some logical sensibility and take ownership of our lives again. Awake into the reality and deny the con that we’re being fed. The world we live in is marvellous, we don’t need superheros to lift our economy from a burning mess…the end of mankind won’t come from some celestial snakes flying around New York, the end of mankind won’t even be down to Ultron…the end of mankind will be the result of passive negligence to wider issues. The world that these heroes are protecting onscreen is rotting off screen and we need to take heroic responsibility to salvage it. Sure, I’ve enjoyed my comic book movies and I’m sure the general interpretation of this article will be ‘calm down, it’s only a comic book movie’ – but the next time you’re in the cinema watching New York under attack YET AGAIN, ask yourself…could I be doing something better right now?

Matt Swallow

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