the m john harrison blog

Tag: politics

the step-aside

N tells us he is able to step aside from the world.

“It’s a trick I learned early,” he says. He learned by exploiting various childhood states. “Being ill, for instance. Or having your parents die: anything that gives you special privileges in terms of not taking part. Later, as an adult, it’s someone else being ill, but you don’t have to look after them. You don’t have the bore of that, you just have to turn up at the hospital with flowers. Births, marriages and deaths. If you learn to distance yourself from other people’s funerals, you’ll eventually learn how to step aside from your own.”

He believes that anything which reduces guilt or responsibility, the anxiety of having to fit in, can be turned into the ability to step aside.

“I don’t fade, I don’t lose anything. It’s not a question of purchase on things. There doesn’t seem to be a down side.” He smiles ruefully. “On the other hand, it isn’t much good for anything but itself.”

What is the step-aside experience like?

There’s a poverty of interpretation, N believes. “We have the traditional guidelines,” but these allow us to imagine only two possibilities: “a world of your own” in which the detached “you” has agency but which contains no possibility of contact with others; or a world in which everyone else is seen as if through a window, by an individual who has no agency. “It’s as if people can’t think up any other possible way of being. Both states emphasise loss of ‘true’ purpose, human purpose.”

As he speaks we hear his voice fade, as if he’s walking away down a corridor. “But I don’t find it like that at all.”

into the valley

Everything is uncanny valley at the moment. I have no real idea of the political shape. Things are about to reveal themselves as having gone badly wrong. I’m only certain that while we think we understand what’s happening, we don’t. The descriptive systems we’re used to are about to stop working–they may already have stopped working. I feel the way I did in the mid-to-late ’70s–that the ideas I get for weird fiction understand the political situation better than I do. They have a connection to some great sore lump of political material we’re too rational to see. It’s implied by events, but at the moment we are only looking at the events. Given what happened in the mid-to-late ’70s, I’m not comfortable with this feeling.

make u think

Jackdaws bickering in the air in the tall back corner of the house made me think briefly of Ravensdale, a crag with which I was so obsessed in 1977/8 that I gave it a bit-part in A Storm of Wings, that well-known novel of documentary realism. Watching the “Entertaining Angels Unawares” video on YouTube made me feel old, but also made me think briefly of this, from 1991. Meanwhile, I just stumbled across this, from Neel Mukherjee; & “Cave & Julia” has earned some more money on Kindle, making it one of the more economically productive short stories I’ve published (maybe a lesson there). And, describing the people he claims to speak for as convenor of some mythical Tory “trades union”, David Cameron has accidentally used the word “resent” instead of “represent”.

Generally, it’s been a weirdly mixed day. & only half over.

a smeared present

Includes some events from the immediate past. As you grow older the effect increases. When you were a child your smeared present was only a few minutes long; by the time you reach sixty it’s two or three years. A very smeared present can include anticipated events from the near future as if they have already happened.

a bad dream

I woke up from a dream about losing my identity & not being able to find anything that would confirm it. It wasn’t a dream about the problem & how to solve it. It wasn’t a dream about the horror of not having a financial identity. Loss of identity was not a condition that required explanation or a way of escape in either of those senses or in any other sense: it was just a condition. I was in the town of my birth. I hadn’t been there for decades. I was at the station, at a sort of advice counter. The man behind the counter was amused. It was as if he didn’t understand the extent of the problem. It was as if he couldn’t believe anyone could lose their identity. I was trying to appear cheerful about the situation. I had a tarpaulin travel bag containing a few clothes & other personal items. It was also full of bits of waste paper & receipts. Each time I went through this litter in the hope that a credit card or phone or other identifier would turn up, it seemed to be more useless. Who would help me? Though I couldn’t remember any addresses I knew I could physically make my way to one person’s house. But I had long ago fallen out with them.

get out for a walk

while you still can.

“National Parks are extensive tracts of country that are protected by law for future generations because of their natural beauty and for the opportunities they offer for open air recreation.” –YouGov
DSCF3859
Stop the Tories using a false housing crisis to break the National Parks Act.

keep watching the walls

Beige Ops team: we fade into the background. Beige Ops are in the walls. They are in the paint on the walls. Beige Ops are so secret & so pivotal they are in the paint itself. They are in the grains of pigment, and how the grains of pigment arrange themselves. No one sees a Beige Op. No one ever knows if they were part of one. Ask yourself if you are a part of the paint on the walls. There’s no answer to that question. We are all in the most comprehensive Beige Op ever staged. The whole of the 1950s was a Beige Op, run out of a livingroom wall in Harrow. Beige Ops are a decision made by the visible spectrum. Unpredictable but inevitable. Beige Ops are galactic. They are nationwide. Keep watching the walls.

not the correct role model for the poor

Here’s some confused right wing vegetarian Gradgrindism. The poor are to suffer–otherwise, where’s the differential between them & us? If they learn to deal with austerity in a capable, good-humoured way, obviously we haven’t made them poor enough. The poor, it can’t be said too often, must be seen to be poor. They must know they’re poor, like proper poor people, & feel the stick. Above all, think of the chickens. This is, to say the least, confused. The “arguments” themselves resemble the efforts of a dishevelled and ageing fowl to avoid an inevitable fate–lots of thrashing, not much plan; underneath them you can hear thirty years of not very intelligent ladies-who-lunch, ill-equipped to defend their own sense of entitlement, fitfully mashing up astrology with Ayn Rand in a nice little place in Primrose Hill. Beyond parody, but also very revealing: Jack Monroe’s lively, determined & above all practical response to adversity seems to have enraged the right more than any amount of parliamentary politics. She has stolen one of their most traditional tunes. She is clearly not what they bargained for. Not the correct role model at all.

Update: shortly after blogging a response to this surreal rubbish, Jack Monroe received a demand for £936, ostensibly from Getty Images, for her use of screen-captured images from the DM piece.

light & warmth

There isn’t one of these pictures that doesn’t sum it all up perfectly. But I especially like the blood-snow in the first one, symbolising the end of the organic regime in the anthropocene–a paradoxical enough concept to handle in a book, let alone a window display. Happy Gifting to all teletubbies! Giant headphones! Your world mirrored back at you! The Harrods windows look as if they’ve been scripted by Ayn Rand: the 1% shows us its Christmas, the light falls on our upturned faces. Welcome back to 1856. Unless you’re actually in the 1% or exist as a corporate entity (see death of the organic in the anthropocene, above), in which case this is your politics, you should understand that your political affiliations don’t matter here: these displays celebrate a cross-political war on everyone. You may support the Randistas & their noncommissioned officers in government: but they don’t support you.

the usual impostures

For some reason this seems apt–

The behaviouristic universe, controlled from outside the text. The meaningless anxiety generated by a plot trope carefully isolated from any actual plot. The meaningless preparation for action. The preparation for meaningless action. The Proppian magic object, its discovery the next item on a to-do list checked from outside the text. The freedom motif & its meaninglessly glib reversal. All of it makes a Skinner box look like To the Lighthouse. The actant has nice muscles but you feel only compassion. Not because she’s haggard from the effort of keeping in shape; not because she’s trapped in a scenario one millimetre deep; not because she’s encumbered by those risible poses of faux-aggression & off-the-shelf feistiness; not because her humanity has been reduced to an algorithm, a schematic whose tragedy is to make Lara Croft seem complex: but because she exists only as cultural property at the beck & call of the rights holder & the player. She can escape the prison but not the game.

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