the m john harrison blog

Category: outright politics

commute til we die

Radicalisation always represents the attempt to bring about a condition that can actually be described as life.

Radicalism opposes itself to the swaddling, coddling, tunnel-vision of life as defined by the culture you live in. It questions the factuality of social, political and economic “fact”.

To call a McJob a fact–as in “facing the facts of life” –to call the Debt a fact–as in “facing the facts of the economy” –to call a career at Price Waterhouse a fact–as in “it’s a fact that you have to get on in life to get the things you want” –is the most grotesque distortion of the facts. These processes are as artificial as the malls & offices in which they take place.

We live in a fiction, a structure imposed on the actual. The goal of radicalism in any generation should be to expose that structure & its constraints. That’s why it was a good idea to break into Millbank yesterday.

That’s why a new phase of radicalism–which does not regard political and social self-restraint as a fact–can only be a good idea.

Where is the money for education ? Since the late 70s it has been moving steadily into the pockets, tax havens & art investments of the rich. Everyone can see this. Everyone can see that a bank is not a real thing, only a constructed system for enriching a banker. Everyone can see that a law which controls how & when you can strike or protest is a way of making strike & protest pointless.

Everyone can see that the life offered by our society is less a life than permission to plod along the same old tramlines until you die, while states & corporates commodify everything worthwhile & measure it back to you as an earnable privilege. Everyone can see that if you get on your high horse about this you will be passed off as a mindless criminal.

Never Let Me Go: Ishiguro’s point is that we are already clones, educated to stay calm & serviceable while they cut pieces off us. That’s why everyone is so angry: because their anger, as ever, is constantly taken away from them just at the point when anger is all they have.

post human

Al Robertson forwards this, which combines the trivial and the grotesque in an interestingly unironic way.

Find out more at PopSci–formerly Popular Science & still promising The Future Now–where in their 138th year of despair & wish-fulfilment they also offer a timely advance on an old favourite, the World’s First Everything-Proof Luxury Community.

Pity the rat couldn’t get a place in a similar facility before they stuck the wire up into its brain. Still, fuck that, if it’s stupid enough not to be human it deserves to be turned into proof of principle.

serial killing for charity

During a remand hearing, Stephen Griffiths confirmed his name as “the Crossbow Cannibal” & serial killing came of age as a UK media-career starter. Now it’s as formalised as any other challenge for people of all ages. It has a job description with a recognised structure and an inflated language. As soon as you decide to go all out for it, the system is in place to help you. It’s a standing invitation to excellence, to be as radical as possible in your ambitions, to go higher, faster, longer on the body count. It’s very much of our day. Everyone has the right to excel and be acknowledged, in two or three badly-spelled and ungrammatical entries on the BBC News-related Fictions & Public Psychodramas site. All serial killing lacks at the moment is the broader emotional connection to society. How can serial killing be presented as a fresh new method of exercise (the Red Gym) ? Where is the identity politics of serial killing ? More importantly, perhaps, where are the sponsors ? Where is the People’s Marathon ? Why isn’t it possible to serially kill for charity ? That’s such a motivator. I’d like to be the UK’s oldest serial killer. I’d like to reach for the stars and achieve my dream: but I want to put something back, raise a shedload of money for those people who maybe don’t quite have the energy & positivism I’ve been blessed with. I don’t feel it would be socially responsible to do it just to get noticed.

the real world

I’m gutted to be missing this.

“Speculative Realism refuses to interrogate reality through human (linguistic, cultural or political) mediations of it, instead drawing upon objective discourses such as mathematics, geology, astrophysics and chemistry to explore the possibility of conceiving of a reality indifferent to humans – a universe that exists before, after, and despite its manifestation in human experience.”

LRB apology for Johnson contribution

The Guardian website publishes Gary Younge’s excellent piece on the LRB “baboon” scandal. There are good blog pieces too, including these at Lenin’s Tomb and Baroque in Hackney. LRB have finally issued an apology, here.
Thanks to Lara Pawson for organising the letter of protest.

what’s the story

I care so little about the content of this paragraph that, I warn you, I am just not interested in talking about it–

My reading of Brown, from talking to ministers, is that he did have a period of near-meltdown – when he realised that the wheels were coming off his premiership, and he was staring into the political abyss – but has partly recovered since. He is clearly tougher than those ministers who were plotting against him, but proved themselves serial wincers and flinchers. He has found, once again, a story to tell. [My emphasis; & the quote is from here.]

–but look at that last sentence. I feel contempt for the “story” of things. It is a horrible, patronising, 90s notion. Being told stories is precisely what led to my electoral apathy in the first place. Not to say my sense that the contemporary fourth estate, with its desperate profusion of narratives, narratives of narratives & meta-narratives of those narratives, is more trouble to the user than it’s worth.

Why would I vote for people who admit they’re selling me a story ? I would be voting to continue living in this willed dream in which everyone knows they’re a fiction supported by fictions but seems unable to do anything about it. Once she has written the last sentence of the paragraph above, the only possible response to Jackie Ashley is this: Now that, between you, you’ve fictionalised everything–now that you’ve reduced everything to what even the saddest adult-fantasy consumer would recognise as a “secondary world” –now that you’ve answered the question “What’s the story ?” by admitting that the story is the story–why should I bother ?

I’m not even angry, really. The only thing that still rankles is the damage to the reputation of my own medium. In their pursuit of “a story to tell”, the politicians, the lobbyists, the brand managers, the cultural academics, the chattering classes & the news media have done almost as much as Hollywood & Joseph Campbell to bring the entire concept of fiction into disrepute.

silver lining

Consumers are growing sick of consumerism! How can we consumerise that ? Well, first we have to tell them that’s what they’re doing; they’re growing sick of consumerism. Then we have to centralise them in a myth of themselves as coping. We have to sell them themselves, making these powerful, almost surprising choices in their strong, surprising lives. They’re “making do & mending”, these strong, sensible people! We admire that so! We can sell them something for it. Something they can consume. Every cloud, for us, has this silver lining.

i’m not buying

Today’s classic example of how to grip the outside with a rhetoric that deftly turns it into an extension of the inside. But the outside is already there; it is not a “free gym”. The concept of an outside is the last of the commons; a bit more of it is enclosed every time someone writes an article like this. I can’t say how unpleasant it feels to be encouraged to exploit the outside as an inside–to be given permission to exploit it that way–by someone called Lucy; or by someone who sells me back the commons as my membership of their Green Gym. (Or at present, of course, White Gym: expect valuable lifestyle insights on that from a Lucy or two if the current media end of the world, Big Freeze Britain 2010, lasts for another whole week.)

Fascinated by: the responses to Barbara Ehrenreich’s Smile or Die, which indicate that people all over are waking up to the wankfest they have enjoyed for the last 30 years. Listening to: The Books, courtesy Deb & Tim. Eagerly anticipating: the arrival of The Stone Tape from LoveFilm (I want to watch it again, but not at £50 for a secondhand DVD). Trying to avoid finishing: Notes from Walnut Tree Farm. Deakin has joined the list of authors good enough to ration. I’ve got sufficient unread Nemirovsky to last a couple of years. A powerful list to make would be of writers you wish you’d measured out across your life instead of binge-reading their entire oeuvre in three weeks when you were twenty seven. If I’d been a bit more abstemious with HE Bates he would easily have seen me through.

acts of enclosure

Though not much of a swimmer, I was interested in this until I saw their caps, which reminded me of this. More Acts of Enclosure in the new style, in which an activity open to any human being–going for a swim, going for a paddle, moving for pleasure in a landscape–is repackaged & generously returned to the participant after being stamped with some organisation’s mission statement. Last week you could go to the beach & have a good time. This week you go through the shabby temporary portal they’ve erected on the foreshore to “the Blue Gym”, just one of the thousands of new outside interiors provided for your leisure in the UK, a facility owned & branded by a loose affiliation of interest groups, local authorities, health & safety lobbies, & equipment manufacturers. Welcome to your landscape. There’s just a few sensible rules on the noticeboard there. Play safe & have a great time.

fantastic women

If you missed Jo Cammack’s The Time of Their Lives on BBC4, it’s still available on iPlayer. Watching it, I thought: Would it be possible to kettle the women of the Mary Fielding Home for the Active Elderly ? Somehow I doubt it. There’s an interview with Jo here. & of course you can go to the Camden New Journal & read Rose Hacker, who, on top of being a tireless campaigner for a better world, had a cooler name than anyone in a William Gibson novel.