244. Breaking away

 

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I’ve tried to be truthful about my poorer decisions and mistakes. This story might fall into that category.

Well over three decades ago, I told an old mate that our friendship was over. I cannot remember the exact date when I told Nick that we would no longer be buddies. It was at some stage in the mid-1980s. We had known each other since 1969, but had drifted slowly apart in the late 70s.

He had moved to Hong Kong, to practice law with a major firm. We barely kept in touch. I was either at the end of my spell as a betting shop manager in London, or in my early days as a milkman at the dairy down the road in Chelmsford. Anyway, Nick called out of the blue. He was back home in Southend, and his parents were throwing a drinks party. Nick invited Maureen and myself. Even now, I recall his request as more of a summons. “This is where to be. Time and place.” The minute he asked, every instinct said: ‘don’t go’. And that the time had come for our roads to diverge for good.

We exchanged a few pleasantries, then I put the phone down, and returned to studying the next day’s horse racing cards. I penned him a letter, turning down the invite and said: ‘that’s us done’. Not wishing him well; and slinging together what was almost certainly a hurried, garbled, antagonistic, clumsy and (maybe) fleetingly logical explanation. I never spoke to him again for 27 years.

 

***

 

Those are the bare bones. I wondered last week if I could do better than that, by trying to fathom more clearly why I acted in such a cavalier fashion. Was I a complete and utter caaaaaaaaaaaaaaant, to quote a recent blog?

Nick was and is an exceptional individual. Imagine a cross between ‘David Watts’ (character of the song by the Kinks and then the Jam) and George Best. A fine athlete and sportsman; academically and intellectually sharp enough to get to Cambridge and then rise to the uppermost heights of the legal world; loyal to his friends (gulp!); brave if it came to a physical fight; and with a mix of looks and/or confidence that led many, many females to take in his sperm with swift abandon.

He had also been fairly cruel to me as a young teenager, opening frailties and enjoying my discomfort. Not just me, but a few others. That’s life. Now I see it. Shit happens. No doubt I handed out some similar stuff along the line. Sometimes it flies back. It all eventually balances. More than one of my girlfriends clocked Nick as arrogant as soon as they met, as had some of my university friends in Birmingham. Nick had also played a role of sorts in my incarceration in cell number 5, at Cambridge nick (Blog 77). And the subsequent criminal conviction, for Actual Bodily Harm. Not his fault, in any way, but part of me wanted to wriggle out of full responsibility for awful behaviour. Like politicians blaming Russia for their own shortcomings and fuck ups.

By the time of the phone call, our ways were hugely divergent. Nick epitomised the post-graduation charge into the City’s world of suits, ties and business. I now give him huge credit: he was an unremitting achiever, surfing life on a self-made fusion of willpower harnessed to talent. I wasn’t. His determination stretched to changing his accent in his third decade. My mum had often remarked on his ‘cockney’ way of speaking. By his mid-20s, Nick had eliminated his ‘estuary sounds’ to better fit his work advancement. And it worked for him. At the time, I judged that harshly. I couldn’t help myself. These days I know how hard it can be to live any life, let alone to start scoring others.

Bottom line: we had come to have precious little in common. A mutual mate would occasionally tell me that “he’s not your friend”.

 

***

 

Over the years, thinking back, it became clear that “chucking” Nick was an efficient way to steer and firm up a bigger change in direction that had been ongoing since school. It involved a fair chunk of drifting on my part, allied to a good slab of intention. A trio of aims were carved out, my very own triptych mentioned in past blogs: to be comfortable in a loving relationship; to write a book/books; and to work out a betting system that produced revenue. My plans and dreams, not somebody else’s.

Whether this was true philosophy, ambitious amalgamation or optimistic insanity, it had uprooted me from my past. Old friendships often felt like such hard work. The Southend crew seemed, to my unusual and possibly misguided mind, to be headed down fixed tracks, on trains with ‘career’ and ‘money’ labels plastering the sides and obliterating other views.

Good luck to them, for sure, but I increasingly struggled to find things to talk about, even in letter writing, one of my great loves. And it made me miserable.

By contrast, I had a mate who had recently written a letter printed in the Guardian, entitled ‘Why Work?’ That was the stuff that inspired. I loathed hierarchy; sensed that 9 to 5 was mainly a humdrum, conforming affair. I had deepened my love of the maverick author, Henry Miller, who advised coasting on the fringes of ‘the system’. And found another, Colin Wilson, who was steeping me in notions of the occult. Starting work as a milkman helped that mindset. Up early, job and finish. Away from the numbers. Some afternoons I topped up my money as a parcel courier. Later I built up a parallel window-cleaning round.

By cutting away Nick, I pretty much knew that the other old ties would also fall away. Including some that I was still fond of. That had to be the price. You were either in or out. After the odd meet-up, there was a tacit withdrawal on both sides. A space was cleared, where I could stop trying to fit.

That bigger change, as life extended past my early 20s, involved a quest for at least some softness and yield in my friends. I gravitated (slowly) towards guys with listening skills; the openness to think outside the box; and the wisdom to know that they didn’t know, and to just shut up sometimes.

But I did push that letter into the postbox with genuine melancholy, because a couple of the Southend guys had those qualities.

 

***

 

The years went by. Details of old faces started to fade. There were new mates aplenty, and three kids. A job as a journalist, eventually. Then, in 2012, aged 55, I was turned around and flipped over by a Buddhist practice I stumbled into. As one mental epiphany led to another, the opportunity arose to resurrect some of the Southend friendships. With a few leg-ups, I succeeded. I was overjoyed to see them all again.

In 2013, I finally met Nick for a beer and curry in London. 27 years on. I was nervous. He was warmly welcoming; and expressed a modicum of dismay at elements of his past behaviour. I apologised for one especially nasty remark. We quietly took the draw.

And he may have saved my life that night. After a couple of beers, we headed to an Indian restaurant somewhere near Moorgate tube station. We crossed a road. I was so busy chatting that I stepped out in front of an oncoming vehicle. Nick’s right fist grabbed my jacket and yanked me back. Who knows?

It was such a pleasure to bury any lingering hatchet.

But Nick gave a broad hint that I had made the right choice all those years back when he talked about the annual Lads Night Out. They were still re-enacting the early New Year tradition of a boozy night that included a session watching strippers.

“Tradition aside, why the fuck would you do that?” I asked.

“Don’t you like the female body Kev?”

Well yes, thrice yes, but the touch and taste of the real thing. In my arms and between my sheets. Not as a voyeur, with a group of fellow old gits. For me, personally, that could only be cringeworthy.

I’ve seen Nick a few times since. I enjoyed his company. Talk was mainly of sport and politics. We sometimes text when West Ham play Spurs. We’re not bosom buddies, but if he ever asked me to drop everything and rush over to London to help him, I wouldn’t hesitate.

Not sure if there’s any moral to this tale. Except that things change, people come and  go. You do what you have to, maybe you act like a dick, sometimes it can still end up OK – and there really is no right and wrong. Only viewpoints and opinions.

 

242. The crapocracy

OUT OF ESSEX – Chapter 25

 

 

The more we do to you, the less you seem to believe we are doing it

Joseph Mengele

 

 

 

God sat with Maggie, enjoying chamomile tea, Viennese wafers and a live stream from the House of Commons. One of the UK’s senior politicians, Dennis Skinner, stood up. “Remember him?” asked the Creator.

“The Bully of Bolsover,” said Maggie. Hair shining, eyes sparkling. She sported a white martial arts outfit.

In London, Skinner looked equally well. Back straight, silver hair intact after 43 years of heckling Prime Ministers of all parties, he had spelled out his motivations after Maggie’s death. “We have to look out for those people who haven’t got two halfpennies to rub together,” Dennis had proclaimed. Now, he introduced his topic as “the many injustices that have been meted out by ATOS in the last few years”. Schoolboy noises filled the chamber.

ATOS had removed benefits from one of Skinner’s constituents, who had died from terminal cancer, appeal still pending. Skinner looked at Prime Minister Cameron like gum on his shoe. Cameron acknowledged “a desperately sad case”; but stressed how the “whole issue of work capability assessments” was introduced by Labour.

God asked for Maggie’s thoughts. “Dennis swung a strong punch. David kept his balance, and span back the force of Dennis’ attack,” she replied.

God dunked a wafer. It was time for some education. “Maggie, why on earth would Britain, or any other country, sell its public utilities?” she said.

Maggie’s mind flashed momentarily to Victor Rothschild’s ‘advisory’ role throughout her premiership. “From death’s perspective”, she said, “I can see that Britain built a welfare society that raised everybody’s quality of life. Free education and healthcare, transport subsidies, cheap energy and water, and a flat rate universal postal service.”

God bounded in. “And now look at it. One consequence of the ‘free market’ you jump-started is that some poorer people cannot afford to heat their houses. Another is that Britain looks suspiciously like a colony being bought and sold by corporations and foreign governments.” Maggie wondered if God knew the pain of a karate kick. She looked at the screens. A 7.2 magnitude earthquake was shaking the Philippines. “What are you saying then?” asked Maggie. “That capitalism and private business are worthless?”

Her stubbornness, drawn from 254 past lives, reminded God of Moses. “Absolutely not,” she replied, sipping more tea. “Free markets have advanced mankind tremendously. Just think Microsoft, Google, Apple – the whole electronic communications schtick. Making life easier, cheaper, and generating fantastic profits for those with the balls to invest early. Good private companies live or die by their ideas. A bit like me. Don’t ever confuse them with parasitic investors that suck the marrow from former public utilities.”

As God suggested capitalism had developed an “all-consuming” nature, Maggie recalled how ‘Lord Vic’ ran the Central Policy Review Staff, her government’s think tank, despite nominally being a Labour peer. “Look how Wikipedia is manipulated by the corporations it describes,” God stressed. “Image management firms are terrified of information flowing freely, so they police every page mentioning their clients, 24/7.”

She stared Maggie down. “Never again think about kicking me.” Maggie nodded, meekly. God’s voice was icier. “So, let’s calmly examine the largest British privatisation in two decades, the Royal Mail.”

Her disgust was plain. “Firstly, consider the banks which handled the thing: Goldman Sachs and UBS.” Maggie twigged immediately. UBS had been fined almost £1 billion for rigging the Libor rate. And yes, Goldman Sachs. “Quite so,” said God. “Everyone involved easily able to bend their mind around rigging a market.”

She was shaking her head. “By my calculation, the taxpayer was cheated out of almost £3 billion, due to the ridiculously low sale price. And 300 firms in the City and overseas bought two thirds of the stock. Is that the share-owning democracy you talked up back in the day?” No reply from Maggie. “But hey, those precious lads in the City made profits. Lovely jubbly! Shall we dance around the table, while British customers have to pay more for exactly the same service, and the employees have to lift their productivity?”

Venom now in her voice. “Do you think Chancellor Osborne would sell his mother for the right price? I ask only because 80% of Plasma Resources UK (PRUK) has been flogged to Bain Capital.” PRUK turned plasma, the fluid that holds white and red blood cells in suspension, into life-saving treatments for immune deficiencies, neurological diseases and haemophilia. “Strategically important for British people. Agreed?”

Bain Capital, run by American politician Mitt Romney, regularly ripped apart companies that it purchased, ‘deconstructing’ the assets for every last cent of profit. Maggie could picture Romney howling with laughter that he held the “life blood” of the UK in his hands. Fondly, she thought back to when enlightened employers pursued training and staff development.

God got up. Pacing, glancing at screens. “I haven’t even mentioned Michael Gove.” The Secretary of State for Education was espousing performance-related pay for teachers. “Braindead doesn’t start to describe a society that thinks to make education into a business.”

Maggie took the hits. She had started the ball rolling. God swigged from a water bottle, unleashing a grimace. “How about we apply performance-related criteria to politicians?” she suggested. “Most would be unemployed or heading to food banks. Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband would sit on a fence somewhere. Osborne would clean windscreens during traffic jams.” God thought fondly of Dawn Landais. “Iain Duncan-Smith would flip burgers, Gove fold towels and Cameron stack shelves. Never forget that these creeps were elected to serve the people, not themselves, or their corporate sponsors.”

God was tottering between laughter and despair. “Despite their corruption and incompetence, the jokers and clowns I have ranted about are atop the UK totem pole. So, I have invented a new name for the whole gamut of politicians, aristocrats, bankers, brokers, lawyers, accountants, investors, corporations, lobbyists, journalists and spin-doctors that proclaim the ‘profit at all costs’ mantra and keep the UK’s economic casino wheel turning.”

Weighing her words. “Initially, I inclined towards ‘kleptocracy’, given the shameless thieving afoot.” Maggie recalled the phrase was coined for Mobutu, America’s puppet in the former Belgian Congo. “But these weasels need something more stigmatic. Eventually I decided upon ‘crapocracy’ as the most suitable term.”

Maggie asked if God saw this ‘crapocracy’ – a term she hated – as being confined to London. “Trust me they are global.  Many gather in London because it remains the biggest centre for transnational financial activities. But these clowns and creeps gravitate in swathes each year to Davos, in Switzerland, where they discuss the corporate global agenda.”

God glared at Maggie. “Never forget you helped get it all launched.” The ‘liberalisation’ of finance had mushroomed under Maggie and Ronald Reagan. Global financial assets had climbed from $12 trillion in 1980 to an estimated $142 trillion by 2005, about three times the planet’s estimated GDP. Harry Enfield’s infamous ‘loadsamoney’ character – who riffled banknotes in front of the homeless – was an early symbol. By 2013, some estimates said the figure had somehow grown to at least 10 times the global GDP value. Others doubled that.

“Remember Glenda Jackson’s words after your demise?” God asked. “Sharp elbows and sharp knees were the way forward,” said a humbled Maggie.

“You know you rubber-stamped greed and selfishness with your bloody aspirational society,” God hissed. “A society in which people knew the price of everything and the value of nothing. And now steered by a vile, thieving crapocracy, that only a few, like Dennis Skinner, will stand up to.”

She exhaled. “But listen, we all screw up. Mea culpa, for sure.” She looked sad. “Did you see that Boy Scouts in Britain no longer need pledge their allegiance to me? But they still promise to serve the monarch.” Maggie felt everything was messed up, before God produced her darkest insight.

“All of these clever ‘crapocrats’ with their swelling piles of assets, are ignoring the karmic consequences. As the plunder increases, and services and cash benefits for the least advantaged are ripped away, the buffers between upper and lower orders are disappearing. The looted public purse means that there are already less police to protect them if rioting starts. Thanks to Boris, fewer firefighters in London, fewer ambulances. If they manage to get to hospital after their mansions burn down, maybe no blood plasma?” Maggie was transfixed.

God said the ‘crapocracy’ was safe, for the time being. “The poorest have little fight left. Some will die of cold this winter, but you won’t read about that, or the number of ATOS-related deaths.” Maggie knew though. Eventually, once stomachs ached, in cold houses, there would be little left to lose. God nodded. “It won’t be pretty, but if the lust continues for private profit at any price, you may see murder on British streets, maybe hangings.” Like the French revolution, thought Maggie.

God looked ashen. Maggie never thought she would say it. “Could a Labour government change things sufficiently?” God rewarded this bravery, striding across and hugging Maggie. “They might shuffle a few deckchairs on the sinking ship. But Labour lacks the vision to tackle the bigger problem.”

“What about 1966?” Maggie asked.

 

***

 

Sensing Maggie’s very urgent and very odd need for an answer, God allowed a brief thematic diversion. “You have mentioned that year before – why is it relevant?” She looked at Maggie. No reply.

“1966. OK….Well, you will remember how a Labour government was re-elected under Harold Wilson.” God cast back more. “Obviously an interesting year. My personal highlight would be three superb new musical albums. Blonde on Blonde, Revolver and Pet Sounds.” She thought harder. “There was certainly a new spirit in the air, a promise of better things ahead, although the Rolling Stones reminded us all of the darker side, with their singles: Paint It Black, Mother’s Little Helper and 19th Nervous Breakdown.”

Seeing Maggie struggling to form words, God continued. “Let’s see now. You and Denis lived in Kent. A mock-Tudor house with a large garden. And you were catching people’s eyes in the Conservative party, and in certain other circles.” God waited, but Maggie couldn’t seem to find any lucidity. She kept looking at God’s hand. There was something wrong with it.

***

 

After a further silence, God pushed on. It was time to paint the ‘elephant in the room’, the pervasive and malign force that silently entangled and strangled planet Earth. “Fundamentally, money is debt,” said God, wondering if Maggie would understand. “The finance system in which every Brit is enmeshed pivots around interest-paying debt.”

Unable to connect dots, Maggie stayed in character. “Perhaps a new political party would sort that out.” God’s warmth lingered on her.

“Ideologies have never worked well. Nor has privately-owned money.” God sketched the elephant’s outlines. “The dollar, pound and euro are not currencies – they are debt instruments, backed by nothing, and tied at the hip to private central banking cartels. Any government that cannot issue its own money, debt-free, cannot control affairs, and cannot be sovereign.” No reaction from Maggie. “When was a democratic decision ever made to issue money that carries interest?” God enquired. “Debt is an instrument of empire, which sucks back more than it provides.”

Seeing Maggie’s blank face, God’s metaphors deepened. “Banks are the feudal lords that run the empire’s debt machine, passing the money out to the feudal knights – corporates and governments – at low rates, and to smaller borrowers at higher rates. At the bottom of this stateless empire, most individuals tread a hamster wheel, serf-like, to repay their own debt and pay taxes that cover their government’s debt. Most governments are so broke that they cannot even fund their pension schemes.”

The tragedy was “twofold”, said God. As well as continually transferring wealth to the rich, the empire was hostile to the nature of the soul, leaving little room for balance, joy, reflection, rest, love, family and community. Hence, less than 10% of the G20 populations now believed in reincarnation, she moaned. Maggie probed. “Can one get rid of debt that pays interest, if that is the problem you claim?”

The answer shocked her. “Two of America’s most-beloved presidents who tried were murdered.” Maggie’s eyes narrowed. “You might be God, but I’ll need proof that JFK and Abe Lincoln died for that reason.” God took her hand. Crossing the room, they sat by a side screen that doubled as Heaven’s Internet. Goldilocks brought them fruit juices.

The Akashic files were astoundingly detailed; and worked faster than light. Maggie read the summary. “During the Civil war – when the Confederacy seceded – private bankers offered to fund Lincoln at interest rates of around 30%. Determined not to plunge his country into a debt that would be unpayable, Lincoln persuaded Congress to fund the war effort by issuing full legal tender Treasury notes. Nicknamed Greenbacks – like dollars now –  due to the green ink on the back.”

She read on. “Lincoln printed $449 million worth of debt-free and interest-free Greenbacks. He paid soldiers and civil service employees; and bought war supplies. When the Union won, he said Greenbacks would continue. He was killed shortly afterwards.”

A voracious reader, Maggie remembered theories of a conspiracy behind Lincoln’s death. God opened another file. “The culprits.” A photograph of six clean-shaven individuals. Arrogant faces. Starched collars. Dark suits. Maggie read more: “Congress revoked the Green­back Law and enacted, in its place, the National Banking Act. Under this, national banks were to be privately owned, issuing interest bearing notes. The Act also provided that Greenbacks should be retired from circulation once they returned to the Treasury.”

Shortly afterwards, the London Times printed the following: “If that mischievous financial policy, which had its origin in the North American Republic, should become indurated down to a fixture, then that Government will furnish its own money without cost. It will pay off debts and be without a debt. It will have all the money necessary to carry on its commerce. It will become prosperous beyond precedent in the history of the civilized governments of the world. The brains and the wealth of all coun­tries will go to North America. That govern­ment must be destroyed, or it will destroy every monarchy on the globe.”

God jumped in again. “Think about this. After Lincoln’s assassination, the Jesuits were forbidden certain privileges in the United States. Two US presidents were assassinated after Lincoln. James Garfield and William McKinley. Both opposed central banking.” Maggie’s thoughts span, as God continued. “America’s very own ‘crapocracy’ showed its hand long ago. Although Lincoln was the first president to be assassinated, Andrew Jackson survived an attempt in 1835. Jackson blocked the renewal of the charter for the country’s second private central bank, opting instead for the sovereign state printing interest- and debt-free paper money.”

Maggie butted in. “Can I please think about this?” She went slowly. “So, in most financial systems, the money circulating is interest-bearing debt, created and, I see it now, literally rented out by central and commercial banks.” God butted in. “Over 95% of money is debt”. Maggie proceeded. “So, let us say I am a private banker. I lend £100 at 5% for one year; and receive £105 when it is repaid. By receiving that extra £5 of ‘interest’ I plunge somebody, somewhere else in the wider economy, into a struggle to repay a separate £5 debt arrear.”

Quickly it cohered. “On this basis, there is never quite enough money in circulation to repay all debt, because principal is always less then principal plus interest. When a borrower cannot repay, which is more common when the debt supply shrinks, the lenders come to claim his or her property, or other collateral, as recompense for the unpaid interest. Which never existed until the loan was created.”

“Musical chairs,” said God. “The debt pushers look on, fully in control, renting out the money, pulling wealth from the masses, watching coldly as chairs are snatched away. Letting them vote red or blue, in an illusion of choice that distracts from the monetary prison. Money is not unlike the chips in a casino system, where the house takes a guaranteed percentage.”

Maggie got it completely. “Whether governments prefer welfare or warfare, fresh debt is created, sucking money from the future. Hence most of the planet lives in relative or full scarcity.”

Urgency thickened God’s voice. “We are generalising details, but is this a good system to live under? Lincoln thought not. Islam’s Sharia laws also fiercely oppose the charging of interest. Think of how the pressure on almost every world citizen, company and government would ease if no interest occurs when loans are created.”

Maggie flashed to Jesus’ anger in the temple. She tried to imagine his fury at the UK’s ‘payday’ lenders, some of which charged thousands of percent if repayments fell behind.

God was pacing again. “This insanity is how economies work – participants constantly chasing more loans to pay existing loans. At root, economic growth is less about productivity or innovation, and more about whether more companies and governments borrow, and whether people increase their credit card debts, mortgages, student loans and so on. Inflation – and deflation – depend chiefly upon those factors.” She told Maggie that total world debt – public and private – now stood at well over 200% of GDP. In 2008, when it helped cause the financial crisis, the figure was 174%.

“And Kennedy?” Maggie was thinking about the coincidental dates of JFK’s assassination on 22 November 1963, and her own political toppling on 22 November 1990. God elucidated. “When John F. Kennedy came into office, he understood exactly how the Fed worked, and famously warned against secretive organisations. On June 4, 1963, he signed Exec­utive Order 11110, giving the US President legal clearance to create his own money to run the country. He issued $4.29 billion in cash. He was assassinated in November 1963. Shortly afterwards, all the notes issued by JFK were withdrawn from circulation.”

Maggie looked at the Akashic file. It cited meetings in early 1963 where it was planned that Kennedy would be killed if he pressed ahead with his agenda, which included opposition to invading Vietnam. The participants contained several banking mafiosos who had clashed with Joseph Kennedy, JFK’s father. At the back stood George HW Bush, then in the CIA.

God prevented Maggie’s thoughts settling. “Do you think any politician could overturn the Bank of England in favour of an interest-free, state-run Central Bank?”

The benefits “would be massive”, said God. “It is the sort of ‘Middle Way’ solution that Buddha recommends. Think of the extra hospital projects that could be built. Under the Private Finance Initiative (PFI), it already costs £3 to park as hospitals strive to repay PFI loans.”

A picture formed. “People and businesses would still go bankrupt,” said Maggie, “but the most remorseless pressures would be removed.” After their chat, God suggested, Maggie should study Libya. “Gaddafi created a coherent society without any interest-bearing debt. Certain powerful people hated that.”

God suggested that Hungary’s recent divorce from the IMF was instructive. After the Budapest government repaid a €2.2 billion debt to the Fund, Prime Minister Viktor Orban had spoken his mind. “No longer will Hungarians be forced to pay usurious interest to private, unaccountable central bankers. Instead, the Hungarian government has assumed sovereignty over its own currency. It now issues money debt free, as needed.”

“Could it be much clearer?” said God. Maggie was open-mouthed. God cautioned that Orban would encounter daunting obstacles if he walked his talk. “Watch closely when you see somebody take on the ‘crapocracy’.”

God had more. “In 1935, Hitler started printing Germany’s own money, in the form of debt-free and interest-free Labour Treasury Certificates.” Maggie didn’t remember seeing that in the newspapers as a girl; or hearing it on the radio. “Ironically, Hitler eventually fought his wars with strong support from US private financiers,” said God.

Maggie enquired how private finance had become so powerful. God looked agitated. “Above all, by backing wars, often both sides. They also got organised early. I would urge you examine passages of the 1215 Magna Carta which are still on statute. Clause 9 and clause 13 mention the “ancient liberties” of the City. Also investigate the invention of bills of exchange towards the end of the Middle Ages, which circumvented any need to back money with gold; and then the setting aside Common Law practices in the late 17th century, allowing debt contracts to be sold under commercial law.”

“Has the monarchy colluded?” Maggie asked. “Good question,” said God. “A very complex, and often unseen history. Ask yourself about the City of London’s seemingly autonomous legal status, and its own police force. Delve into the Remembrancer, who sits in Parliament’s Under Gallery, and follows legislation on behalf of the City. Quite a creepy name.”

God’s next question was openly riddled with hope. “Maggie, do you think anyone can rein back the City of London’s powers? Let us imagine that a strong, independently minded politician emerged, cut from the same jib as Skinner or the great Welshman, Lloyd George. Maybe he or she had been forced to live rough, watching family members die from austerity. Imagine that this person spoke with such eloquence and clarity about the cause – vested financial interests, and spineless parliaments – that crowds followed.”

God’s eyes were misting. She clung in hope to Buddha’s view that Britain was on the cusp of karmic change. “Imagine this person formed a target to wipe away the degradations of interest-bearing debt; and had a consciousness sufficiently formidable to surmount all obstacles.” Maggie knew one thing: “If such a person had emerged in my time, Lord Vic would have diverted him into a backwater,” she said. “He was a master of bribery, blackmail, and dark arts – and a friend to traitors,” said God. Maggie remembered Anthony Blunt.

Trying to envision a future, Maggie asked if hundreds of thousands of bankers would be unemployable in an interest-free world. God said state banks would still need administering. Individuals and business would need lending, deposit and payment facilities. Like Islamic banking, services for one-off fees could still be offered. “However, the insane derivatives market and ridiculous bonuses would disappear. Such is karma.”

The ultimate question arrived. From Maggie. “Have you forgotten that you are God? For the life of you, sort this out.”

God underlined the sanctity of the free will experiment. “Humans have to be left to attain spiritual wisdom, Maggie. If the Essex initiative is toppled, my best hope is that technology will be deployed to eradicate scarcity, by those at the top. The odds on that look poor. Another option is to stop the experiment, for good.”

 

241. The Labour Party

 

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This one is probably for those readers interested in politics.

With UK election time looming, I’ve been thinking about the party that would once have automatically received my vote. Labour.

We live in Essex’s Saffron Walden constituency. Where, if the Conservative Party stood Micky Mouse as a candidate it would still win. The Tories could promise to increase global warming and dump more plastic in the sea: and they would still get votes. The last three general elections have seen anywhere between 55% and 62% of the Saffron Walden votes pledged to the blue side. It’s rare for any other party to capture even 25% of the vote, although the Lib-Dems have managed 27-28% a couple of times.

That’s just how it is. People vote for their own reasons. Most people stick with the ‘team’ of their younger days. Like football, and newspapers, few change teams.

If this seat was borderline, I would vote Labour. But in a sea of blue, is there any point? I am tempted to spoil my ballot paper, not for the first time.

I have tried the Labour ‘tactic’ of voting Lib-Dem to oust the Tory candidate, but Nick Clegg showed where that leads in his time as Deputy PM in the 2010-15 Coalition government.

Now we have Jo Swinson at the Lib-Dem helm. I think of her as ‘the hollow woman’. I could find other words. All contemptuous.

In those five Coalition years she consistently voted to reduce welfare and benefits, including cutting payments for people with illnesses or disabilities. She also voted to cut the Educational Maintenance Allowance for 16-to-19-year-olds. She helped to raise university tuition fees, despite promising not to as one of the key policies that helped elect many Lib-Dem MPs in 2010. Her track record on environmental issues shows support for the badger cull, fracking and HS2. Swinson also voted for the Bedroom tax, and for a cap on public sector pay rises. She used her role as a Minister to oppose increases in the minimum wage, lauded zero-hour contracts, and helped hike up the fees for employment tribunals. That placed justice out of reach for thousands of workers.

Good luck to anyone who votes for Swinson. You will have to live with yourself.

I have voted Green before. The party does have a candidate in our constituency. But again, it makes no difference to the imminent blue win. That tide will come in, every time.

Maureen and I wondered why, earlier today. Why do people around here prefer a party that, to quote my mate John Madden, “achieve nothing for 10 years but social inequality and division, yet people want more.”

Maybe one reason is the derision hurled by media at the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn. For a Martian looking in, or a Tibetan monk scanning the global headlines, it would be easy to believe that JC is an anti-semitic communist. According to Sir Richard Dearlove, ex-chief of MI6, JC is a “present danger to our country”. (This, from the guy who headed the organisation that told the ruinous lies about Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction, or WMDs. The lies that risked British lives, left swathes of our soldiers with PTSD, and left Iraq in ruins.)

John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, reacted by calling Sir Richard “a reactionary member of the establishment”. The more honest description of Dearlove begins with C and ends with T. The bloke is a complete clot.

I find it comforting that Jeremy Corbyn won’t be engaging in genocidal wars, if Labour get in. Generally, I like his emphasis on retaining the NHS, raising wages, and providing free broadband. Of renationalising an energy industry that sucks excessive amounts from ordinary people.

Yeah, I know. The cost of it all. Money must be borrowed. That is something that cannot be avoided. Or can it?

One of the lesser-known facts about Corbyn – that you are unlikely to see in the current campaigning – is that Jezza was one of just 5 MPs that signed the House of Commons Early Day Motion (EDM) in November 2013 to launch the centenary anniversary (1914-2014) of the Bradbury Pound. John McDonnell was another.

The EDM urged the UK Treasury “to follow John Bradbury’s model and address social, economic and political issues across party lines in one fell swoop and avoid wholly unnecessary austerity cuts.”

The Bradbury Pound was introduced by British Prime Minister Lloyd George in August 1914, to pre-empt any war-related run on UK banks. Critically, it shifted money creation away from the Bank of England’s interest-bearing notes to an interest- and debt-free currency printed by the Treasury. Named after Sir John Bradbury, the Treasury Secretary, some £300 million of Bradbury paper was issued in ten shilling and pound notes, which were used in the economy, by the government, to pay for goods and services.

It’s technical, I know. The bottom line is that Britain was, for a short period, able to create its own sovereign money, without needing to repay banks or bond markets, with interest added. Not building up debt that mortgaged the future. The model has been used around the world, intermittently, to the benefits of entire economies, until commercial money lenders elbowed their way back in. They hated not being able to cream off their customary margins.

Just the fact that Corbyn and McDonnell were astute enough to come out in favour of the Bradbury Pound encourages me that a different financial system is attainable.

In the toxic here and now, you are a million times more likely to see Corbyn painted as leader of an ‘anti-semitic’ party. One thing I have learned as a journalist is to ignore headlines and seek facts. I try to base everything I write on that model. Forget the media narratives, look at data or other clues.

Here is one. A 2017 Institute for Jewish Policy Research study found that 0.08% of the Labour Party’s 540,000-strong membership held anti-semitic views. That’s not even one in a thousand. Whereas 2.4% of the general population did hold those views, the study said.

It was with fascination that I watched Alastair Campbell recently interview former Commons Speaker John Bercow, on GQ, and ask about Labour’s anti-semitism. Bercow, a Jew, said he had never experienced anti-Semitism from a member of the Labour Party. He added that in 22 years of knowing Corbyn, he never had reason to believe Corbyn was anti-Semitic.

Bercow did say that Labour has a challenge to address, without specifying. My hunch is that the majority of that tiny 0.08% in the Labour Party were in fact critical of Israel, particularly that country’s illegal occupation and ongoing annihilation of Palestine. My opinion is that pointing out cold-blooded, state-sanctioned violence and murder is not anti-semitic. Feel free to disagree. Once we fear to hold reasoned opinions, we say hello to totalitarianism.

My last point links to the disappointment written across Campbell’s face when he heard Bercow’s answer. Campbell is the former Labour ‘spin-doctor’ who worked under Tony Blair. Spin-doctor being a term that came to displace more honestly stigmatic words: propagandist; slicker; trickster; liar. His ‘co-spinner’ was Peter Mandelson, who enjoyed the company of Jeffrey Epstein, among other dubious connections. Campbell has publicly spoken of his depressive moods. Yet he refuses to acknowledge his part in facilitating the 2003 invasion and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi adults and children. Bit of a clue there, Al.

These two jokers – and Blair – are still revered by Labour’s more ‘centrist’ MPs, and parts of the Establishment. The broad ‘Centre’ has persistently tried to undermine or discredit Corbyn, whose politics are clearly left of centre, and have attracted huge grassroots support. Two of our three kids joined Labour when Corbyn made it clear that he was taking the party back to its traditions, to what it still says on the tin.

Where my sympathy goes in the battle within Labour is a no-brainer.

But, unfortunately, I have long lost any belief that democracy works in the UK. I think that journey began on the day that lawyers warning Blair of the illegality of the Iraq War were ignored, in favour of the WMD ruse. And then witnessing the Coalition under David Cameron, butchering and chopping apart the Welfare State that looks after the neediest. Finally, in the calls to revisit the 2016 referendum result.

Hand on heart, ‘democracy’ seems to have become just another false narrative, rather than something that enables individuals to exert some kind of control, however minor, over their society. Maybe it was always that way. Maybe, as Mark Twain said, “if voting made any difference, they wouldn’t let us do it”.

All I can say with any conviction is that while Corbyn may not be charismatic, or a born leader, he would try and lift everybody’s boats. And address basic human needs such as sufficient food and shelter. He won’t be wasting too much time mixing with financiers, or paedophiles.

The other choices in two weeks’ time are full of dark self-interest.

images

 

240. Stop The World

OUT OF ESSEX – Chapter 24

 

“Everyone, deep in their hearts, is waiting for the end of the world to come.”
Haruki Murakami

 

 

 

In Leigh-on-Sea, 12 adults looked at the mess of white lines criss-crossing the heavens. Siddharta had sat the group in the new centre’s garden. He told them to observe the firmament while he brought them each a glass of water.

The sky made her feel sick, said former bus driver Jess. Stan compared it to a five-year-old let loose with an Etch-a-Sketch. Sally said it was “a geometry lesson gone mad”.

After listening to his students, the Buddha insisted they inhabited a world of illusion. He called it Maya, explaining in his kindest voice. “Our thoughts, labels, beliefs and personal imaginings all interfere with our direct perception of what is.” What they were examining, he said, was a giant shield of reflective metals sprayed by planes. “Is it to counter global warming? Is it to bounce back the sun’s ultraviolet and infrared radiation? For sure is that people are getting sick with autoimmune disorders. They are absorbing the nano-particles. Too many people are experiencing chronic pain.”

Sid paused, observing learning speeds. Sally was lightning-fast. He told how both the CIA and the American Air Force had openly stated a goal of ‘owning’ the weather. “You may be looking at the largest science experiment in history, of which your similes and metaphors capture flavours. For us, the point of focus must be the exposure of human beings to strontium, aluminium and barium. We will be learning to purify air, food and liquids.”

Over the next two hours he taught out the techniques. The air purification involved the imagination of a three-bladed fan, and another new Sanskrit mantra. It was the second week at the centre. The first had mixed advanced meditation techniques with a crash course in how to dream lucidly. When Mary Fawkes arrived, to discuss the centre’s administration, he clapped his hands and told them to go enjoy the day. “Back by four please.”

 

***

Puppies off the leash, they crooned Happy, by Pharrell Williams, while walking up the hill to Leigh Broadway. They had clubbed remnants of their waning money for a visit to the cake and coffee shop, Stop the World. Sid encouraged singing. That, and the yellow and red robes, made locals stare.

“You just want to be around Sid,” said Sally, lustfully eyeing the New York vanilla cheesecake and moccacino brought by a white-topped waitress. “It’s like you take in his energy,” grinned Jess. Her café latte, with double espresso, sat next to billionaire shortbread finger. “Which kind of makes it easier when your mind gets blown yet again.” On the far wall, a French waiter in a poster heralded La Merveilleuse Journee.

They talked about the ‘chemtrails’ in the sky, adding to the waves of morning conversation rolling through the shop. Stan romped through raspberry Bakewell, with double Americano, dwelling on more of Sid’s advice. “If we wish to find a hero, we must start by taking responsibility for our own lives.” Stan had loved James Bond as a kid. War epics, cowboy films. Goodies and baddies.

There was no predicting Sid’s teaching. He had jumped from heroes to a new astrological era, the 2,160-year Age of Aquarius. “Some astrologers believe this began on 21 December last year, which would place our little community in frontier territory.” The sole constant in his instructions were lotus flowers littering the meditations. Sid promised that their pineal glands – or third eyes – were opening. All Jess could think about was last night’s dreamtime tryst.

“I totally stopped dreaming when I was unemployed. With the debt collectors knocking.” She looked up at the ceiling’s odd tapestry of fans and electric pipes. “Last night I took control of the dream, like Sid taught, by looking at my hands before falling asleep. When my fingers started disappearing, I knew was dreaming.”

Joyful that his kidney problems were a thing of the past, Stan stared at the mahogany counter, counting cups. Several times he had achieved lucidity, only to be woken by his excitement.

Jess had controlled hers. “I went into my old neighbour’s house. He’s well handsome. I walked right through his front door, his shut front door.” Her pupils were dilating. “Up a staircase, then down a hall. Knew I’d find him. After trying rooms on my left, he was on the right. Under a white sheet, I could see the shape of his body. I walked over, sat on the bed, and started stroking his dark hair. He woke up, staring, like he knew me. Then pulled back the sheet, and invited me in. Oh my God. I can tell you now it felt amazingly like the real thing, almost as real as sitting here, but somehow it was……I mean, did I have actual sex?”

Sally saw danger. “Are you leaving yourself unprotected Jess. Astral sex, or whatever you had. It could be any rapist or abuser in another dimension waiting to take advantage. Maybe attaching onto you on the way back to our realm.” Jess admitted she had told Sid early that morning. “He was cool. Said there was nothing to fear, because I was created by God’s mind. Am always loved. And can do nothing wrong.” Sally guessed Sid quietly threw a nightly ring of protection around their dreams.

The Buddha had told them that a mastered dream could produce outcomes beyond anything they had ever imagined. “You can enter the minds of others. You can go back to examine history. Even without mastery, you can reveal the future in immense detail, from multiple angles. Dreaming and prophecy once walked hand in hand.”

 

***

 

Very early on, Sid made it clear that the training was designed to forge “spiritual warriors” who would help balance the world’s acidity. “Every human passes through material worlds to glean lessons. However, some have very distinct missions.”

At four o’clock, he seated them in a circle. “In the days and weeks ahead, we will be learning healing, to help cancer patients and others. And clairaudience, where messages begin to flow down from your higher self and your spiritual ‘team’”. Stan asked what that was. “All of your spirit guides; loved ones who have passed; angels. You may even hear mumblings from God herself.”

“There’s something else, isn’t there?” said Sally. Sid broke into a broad grin. He had been waiting for her to ask. He strode to the shrine at the end of the room, to light incense, and then candles to counter the dying light.

“Buddhist practices target an inner awakening; and helping others. But we do have other work ahead in connection with the external world.” He reached in his pocket, finding a remote control. He manipulated the buttons. A screen lit the wall opposite the shrine. A series of images followed, consisting mainly of old men. Then various geographic locations. Stan recognised London, Rome and Washington DC, maybe Jerusalem. But not the slightly medieval-looking city on a broad river. “That is Basel,” announced Sid, playfully tousling Stan’s hair. “In Switzerland.” Sid sipped from a mug of tea. “Sally, what do you take from these pictures?”

Her instincts went back to Elysium. “That there is probably some kind of separation going on, steered by these people? They think they are the best qualified to run the world, which is becoming, maybe……..a sort of two-tier globality?”

“A big notion”, smiled Sid. “Jess, did those images make any sense?” Since Sid had treated her back pains, Jess had learned to relax deeply. “Two things came to me. The number 10. Is that, like, how many of them are running the show? And then really, really horrible images. Of abused and dead children.” She shuddered.

He ran the question around the room, pleased at the evolutions. Especially one answer, that they had witnessed “a hidden college of corporations”. Stan focused on the Washington picture. “We’re seeing the heads of a rogue military entity pretending to be civilised.”

Sid cocked his head. “You are already seeing more than most. Pay enough attention and one comprehends that there are no nations, no West, no democracy. Those notions are drenched in Maya. A ‘club’ of sorts has a grip upon much of your planet. They do feud with one another, but broad consensus is expressed through certain administrative organisations. The IMF, World Bank, European Union, NATO. The United Nations less so. The leaders of this ‘club’ practice magic, of a sort far darker than anything taught here.”

Sally spoke. “Which means we have massive work to do.”

“Remote viewing,” nodded Sid. He described the significant gaps in the Akashic files. “The ‘club’ I referred to has learned to block nearly all scrutiny. But there is a way in, because we are all inter-connected.” He explained how remote viewing was teachable: used extensively by the US military. “It is public record that the CIA sponsored a remote viewing of Mars in 1984.”

He said the technique created the potential to deeply experience and describe anyone or anything anywhere in the universe. “Through flashes and patterns that piece together.”

In essence, he said, you relaxed, focused on a visualisation target, and let thoughts come naturally, drawing these with a pencil. “Let your consciousness do the work – your DNA serves as an antenna,” said Sid. In initial practices, the images were generated by thoughts from a nearby colleague. As the discipline developed, one was able to reach anywhere in the world, and beyond. “Let go of doubt,” Sid advised.

He told Jess that while she had already learned to steer a balloon through a cloudy sky, remote viewing would give her “a plane to fly to a specific destination”. He said it was even possible for an individual to remote view spiritual targets such as the first moment of creation, or their own past lives. “But, for practical purposes, missing people or pets can be located, as can those who wish to remain undetected.”

 

***

 

Satan’s pet cat, Bob, was stretched out on the Highway to Hell. Next to him lay Rosie, her belly full of Bob’s kittens. “What’s Earth like?” she asked him.

“What’s it like? You feel so dizzy when you arrive, in a toilet that stinks of male waste. It was lovely to get outside in the sunshine and wind. I was then given a saucer of whisky. That made me go to sleep. Later, there was nice white fish, beautiful flakes. I tried talking to another cat, but it wanted to fight. It was all over too quickly.”

“That was the day when you seduced me.”

“The whisky made me frisky.”

“I’m glad it did.”

Rosie asked about Maggie. “Has God changed her mind? Is Mrs T’s mission aborted? I don’t really like the look of her, but feel sorry for the poor soul. She looks so confused and frustrated some days.”

“Who knows,” said Bob. “This is a guess. I have seen her reading the New Testament. Totally absorbed in it. I think she wants to talk to Jesus. But sometimes I don’t see him for weeks.”

“That’s because he’s constantly with Mary Magdalene. Maggie should go and see them both.”

 

***

 

After her meeting with Sid, to discuss monthly expenditure, Mary Fawkes found herself walking up the hill to Leigh Broadway. At the top she cut through the churchyard, stopping to examine ‘A Calvary statue, to the men of Old Leigh’. Jesus had brown hair, and an insufficiently dark face, topping his plastered body.

Mary felt split. Part-time at work since June, dividing herself between the two Southend centres, but never fully occupied at either. One of her proudest inputs had been to insist on recipes, for the park’s café, that used the online ‘Girl Named Jack’ blogs, which were helping trim family food budgets nationally. That day’s pasta meal worked out at £0.22 per portion; and was perfectly capped by mint leaves growing in pots around the park. Tomato and basil soup for the evening meal: £0.14 a serving.

Another positive was the expanding camaraderie. Sheena’s friend Ruth had moved into the park yesterday, bringing a double dose of new skills. The community’s children would benefit from Ruth’s dance classes to augment junior yoga sessions provided by Sarah, Dave’s wife. Ruth’s second talent – a legacy of the London College of Fashion – was about to enhance the clothing emerging from Gandhi’s sewing centre. Mary looked down at the slogan on her tee-shirt. “Grow food – survive the political ice age”. The words sat above an image of a colourful allotment alongside another of the UK Parliament compressed into an iceberg.

A further new friend was Pippa, who had formally begun teaching the park’s 20 or so children, with her partner Sam. Teachers in Birmingham, touring the Essex coast, chancing on the new community, they liked what they saw and had stayed. “So many of us hate their jobs now,” Pippa had told Mary. “An excellent education encourages independent thought, not regurgitation and standardised testing.” She talked of her attempts to use “magic and imagination” at her school in Ladywood, where grandparents were increasingly acting as primary carers. “Young people aren’t being shown life’s beautiful journeys,” Pippa moaned. “They need guidance to embark on real adventures, not bloody careers.”

In Leigh Broadway, opposite Stop the World, Mary paused by the Atelier Gallery, where canvasses of windsurfers and abstract art sat side by side. The biggest hurt was being unable to spend much time at home. Rose seemed to be OK though, looking after Edward.

Was the adventure beginning to wear off? Siddharta had seen her doubts. He recommended patience, after she had opened her heart. “If only 1500 people in Britain awaken fully, linking their hearts and minds into the morphogenetic field, it all changes. Everything. In the meantime, let’s all be kind to each other.” But autumn was imminent, and then winter. Without money, in the new environment.

Thankfully, Satan kept her amused. That morning Mary sat by the lake with Sal, who had insisted over coffee that she consider the links between wearing a suit and the notion of respectability. “If you dress aiming to be respectable, do you perhaps ‘respect a bull’? Do you in fact ‘honour a bull’? She loved these conversations, where Sal would drift away on clouds of connection.

He termed it “interesting” that the Catholic Church issued decrees and communications known as ‘bulls’. “Would you also believe there is a sculpted bronze bull outside the New York Stock Exchange? Some say it resembles Moloch, the horned entity that demands the sacrifice of children.”

Satan naturally deconstructed words into sounds that provided alternative explanations. “Bankers charge interest. This makes their profit, and allows them indoors, ‘in to rest’, while the rest of the world continues to strive,” he conjectured, or perhaps clarified.

“Alter and altar have a lot in common,” he contended. “Contemplate, also, that you live, whirled and whirred, by words, in this world. All ‘taught’, as we all become increasingly, rigid, or ‘taut’.”

She especially liked his take on people’s jobs, or occupations. “The Biblical character Job – who God and I argued over hugely – did little but suffer. When most humans take jobs, their ‘occupation’ is just that – an ‘invasion’ of their freedom, in order to acquire worthless bits of paper.”

 

***

 

Dan had spent the morning sitting quietly by the caravan. Tasked with reporting on Cameroon, for a private client, he ended up reading News from Nowhere, written by the polymath William Morris. The book’s narrator fell asleep and awoke in a future agrarian society based on common ownership. No private property. Big cities had gone, as had courts and prisons. The monetary system was no more than a bad dream.

Dan sipped an orange juice from a batch Micky Gaze had bought in bulk from a Lakeside cash and carry. Dan and Micky had agreed that all the park’s caravans would be fitted with solar panels in coming weeks, but Micky had marriage woes. His wife Crissie showed no interest in the new community. “She wants people to know we’ve got money. I tell her she half-owns a park and she does her nut! It came to a head last night. Crissie threatened to walk if we don’t get a hot tub and a soft top Mercedes.”

Dan shut his eyes, absorbing the weaker sunshine, thinking for the umpteenth time about money. The “free market” that banks advocated, for example. Not just payment protection insurance rip-offs and rigged Libor and foreign exchange rates. But insane bonuses, driving the reckless behaviour which required the bailout. Gandhi had insisted to Dan that the work of an accountant, lawyer or banker had the same value as a barber, dustman or a sewage worker.

Yet Chancellor Osborne was challenging the EU cap on bankers’ bonuses, as if the government had a Faustian pact with the financial system. Few mainstream journalists ran with that possibility. If he had to read mainstream news, Dan kept it short. He took in the headline and maybe two paragraphs before scanning the comments section. The real story was there, in the ungagged opinions of readers, almost in real time, and often contrary to the original article.

Dan noticed that when a story ran too hot, editors would pull the comment section. Presumably because it was undesirable that a gradually larger section of society saw through the bullshit. The comment section had disappeared in several newspapers in March, when the US Attorney General Eric Holder told lawmakers that large banks might be too large to prosecute. “If you do bring a criminal charge, it will have a negative impact on the national economy, perhaps even the world economy,” Holder said.

Reluctance to upbraid the financial terrorists was similarly evident in Britain. When the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority had recently regulated payday lenders, who were like a Wild West version of banking, it failed to address interest rates which could reach thousands of per cent. In late 2012, an adviser to David Cameron, Jonathan Luff, left to become a lobbyist for Wonga.

The payday loan companies were among various creditors that visited the park, chasing outstanding debts. They were always sent to Satan, who explained calmly that the area was a money-free zone, with any collateral held communally under trust. He then gave them one minute to leave and spelled out what he would do if they returned.

Eyes closed still, Dan remembered Radiohead’s ‘Street Spirit’. “That song is about staring the Devil straight in the eyes, and knowing, no matter what you do, he’ll get the last laugh,” said Thom Yorke.

Dan’s mind drifted on, recalling rookie days reporting in the City. He had sat outside the Bank of England, feeling physically sick. Similar nausea when reading glossy magazines about finance. Some way to earn a crust. He was planning a park newsletter to carry the message of an alternative living model, after the national media’s deliberate misrepresentations of the experiment. “Well at least we got in the public consciousness,” Dan mumbled to himself. On her cross-trainer, God heard him. “Go on my son,” she cheered, checking calorie readings.

 

***

 

Much earlier that morning, Mike Burper and Satan had watched the sun rise in a gloriously red wash across the east horizon. Footsteps echoed across water. The wiry figure of Alex wandered along the opposite bank, in jogging pants and fleecy top. He crossed the bridge, pulled up a chair. With a shiver, he took a shot glass from a pocket. Poured himself a measure of Springbank.

Then he let it all out. How Chanelle’s ticket to a shared life had vanished when he ditched the night security job. How, when he announced his intention to work, unpaid, in the new community, her upset was uncontainable. After he asked her to join him, she lost it completely. “What? And live like a bloody refugee!” she had screamed. “No telly or heating and eating lentil soup alongside dropouts, wasters and hippies? You think that’s a place to be bringing up children? I’d rather carry on nicking food from Tesco. Or join up with the pikeys.”

To distract Alex, Sal talked of Steph’s 21st birthday celebration the previous evening. Each meal was served across six sittings, due to the café’s size. Dave Dawson had brought out a cake half a dozen times. And cajoled six bursts of ‘Happy Birthday’.

Alex wasn’t listening, so Sal re-wound to God’s last rant about the Catholic Church, when she cracked a screen with a high decibel lambasting of the Pope’s restrictions on contraception. “There were an estimated 1.2 billion Catholics at the end of 2011, and the world’s resources are looking highly finite,” God had bellowed, scaring away cats and frightening several timid angels. “So the Holy Sodding Father, in his wisdom, decides that it still remains against natural law to limit one’s offspring.”

Satan told his two cohorts that when God alighted upon the subject of the Catholic Church’s support for the Nazis, she became incandescent. When she touched upon its refusal to fully condemn thousands of priests that had sexually abused children, her rage breached the Richter scale, sometimes causing earthquakes. Alex thought of Chanelle. It seemed God was equally scathing on how the Islamic religion suppressed women, and the Hindu religion’s concept of ‘untouchables’ propping up its caste system.

Alex finally perked up. “You told us the Buddha’s view that those at the very top of human society have stacked up merit from past lives. Does that mean that Maggie Thatcher was a decent human being in other incarnations?” Sal savoured the malt’s juxtaposed sea-salt and peat flavours. Before he could answer, Mike said: “These conversations are like a bloody dream. How do I know I’m not barking mad?”

“You’ll know you’re mad if ever you see a tree doing the Okey Kokey,” chuckled Satan. “And if you hear a cat laugh, you’ll know it is a dream.”

239 Transcending?

 

images

 

I was on the end of a strange, enjoyable experience yesterday. It came during the second of my twice-daily transcendental meditation sessions, at about five in the evening.

It was the usual process, sitting comfortably in a darkened room, repeating the mantra over and over, letting the thoughts enter and exit. My way is to let those thoughts stay as long as they want, and then notice that the mantra has dropped away and needs reviving. The thoughts are normal, wide-ranging. Friends, work, money, sex, Dad, new Out of Essex chapters, the evening meal, the kids.

A general description of what happens could be that each time I emerge from these thoughts, the level of my relaxation has sunk deeper. My body and the external surroundings feel further away. Eventually, in the meditations that I most enjoy, I have gone to somewhere non-physical. It’s not unlike the hypnagogic state between dream and waking. Maybe it is that? But I cannot hear myself snoring, which happens in light sleep.

So, there I was, deep down. Somewhere. Suddenly, a version of my wife was standing in front of me. Possibly a few years younger than the present Maureen. It wasn’t shocking, frightening or sinister. Having given it some thought, my best description might be that it offered a glimpse of a parallel world. Almost a platitude, but no other words capture it. In real time, she was at work, as a nanny to three kids over in Chelmsford.

I was about to say ‘hello’ or ‘what the hell?’ Then she disappeared. The room changed, from sepia tints to a sharper profile. Like an older, then a more recent photograph. I came right out of the meditation. But it felt like a magical moment. Unexplainable but joyful.

I started the TM for two reasons. The dominant one was the promise of making better decisions, from a more relaxed mental platform. It’s critical, with the job situation still unresolved. The other driver was the promise of transcending standard mental activity. Achieving what the TM says on its tin. The teacher reckoned it would take 3-4 months.

So maybe that was the start. It occurred on day number 113 into the TM.

 

 

 

238. Countertrade in Essex

OUT OF ESSEX – Chapter 23

 

“I ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s farm no more.”

Bob Dylan

 

 

 

Glued to the screens, obsessively monitoring her Essex experiment, God was prey to reveries. Her favourite involved Gandhi flying over Switzerland, accelerating across the River Rhine at Basel, and swooping like Superman to deliver a perfect karate kick to the headquarters of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS).

In her mind, she saw the jackboot shape of the ghastly edifice tumble and crumble. She knew her creative power was such that this was happening, now, in some parallel universe. Smashing asunder a secretive, private institution that regulated and controlled the world’s central banks and money systems, had no accountability and was extra-territorial, like the Vatican. According to information in the Akashic files, BIS assets could not be seized; and Swiss authorities required permission to enter the premises.

God badly missed Sal’s company. His willingness and his wit. More than once, the pair had rolled around helplessly with laughter around Heaven’s floor, at the ridiculous old chestnut that humans, somehow, had emerged and evolved from the atomic soup that once covered Earth. Then there was that other occasion, when they had taken a Turkish bath together. She remembered him gawking at her bare shoulders.

 

***

 

God found comfort in watching Dave Dawson. How he absorbed the joys and woes of each Southchurch Park resident as if they were the most important person in the world. How he lived and breathed collaboration. Like a warm sunbeam moving around the park, constantly enquiring after health and well-being. Cheering. Encouraging. Sharing himself.

Dave ensured the most fragile individuals received work tasks and other support that boosted their confidence. He was keeping an eye on Steph, an unemployed girl from Pitsea, who had drifted down to the park on a bus.

She told of her vague hope for something new, different, better. “There’s nothing for me at home except for piss-poor jobs and my drunken mum. I’ll go mad if I don’t try something else. The other thing – it’s a long shot – but I can’t get rid of the feeling I might bump into a Southend lad I met in Basildon. Ricky Ravenous-Glutton.”

“Is that seriously his name?” Dave grinned. “What a mouthful. Who knows, maybe he’ll turn up.”

Steph had been quietly shocked to see the tall, dark male, who had rebuffed her friend on the train to London, back in April. When she heard him referred to as Satan, her disquiet grew. “Don’t worry, that’s just his nickname,” said Dave, after she confessed her worries. “Call him Sal. He protects us.” Steph was equally puzzled about Gandhi. “Is he, like, a fancy-dress character?” she asked, one sunny lunchtime.

Past her uncertainties, Dave saw reservoirs of compassion. She agreed to help at mealtimes in and around the kitchen. Dave knew her kindness around Little Venice would help the park’s more anxious residents.

He still worked, as a freelance IT specialist for a law firm. Based at home, able to juggle his hours, he met Micky Gaze most lunchtimes: to plan the menus, write shopping lists and create work schedules. One of the big physical tasks had been to construct a laundry area and water supply pipe behind the cafe to accommodate second-hand washing machines. The other had been to dig over the playing field. Cabbages, cauliflower, chard and lettuces had been planted out after Buddha’s purification of the ground. Broad beans, garlic, onions, peas and spinach had been sowed directly. Spinach and lettuces would be ready to lift in January.

Micky unstintingly took the piss at how Dave would stand on his Kensington Road balcony, looking across proprietorially at each new adjustment or improvement. “King Dave. Surveying his domain.”

 

***

 

On the other side of the park, on a table in the converted bowling club, Sheena was providing an ayurvedic massage to Raj Begum, one of her former patients at Southend hospital. Raj, a Bangladeshi, suffered from sciatica. He appraised his ‘payment’, looking down at two sacks of rice and multiple bags of lentils. Fresh okra, mangoes, sweet potatoes, spices, oranges and bananas. Raj and his Irish wife Mora had scoured Southend’s market and shops to bring fresh, cheap and varied produce.

Nearby, an arthritic elderly lady and a female resident plagued by headaches received hot stones and acupuncture.

Raj looked through the window. A small Asian man wearing only a loin cloth exited the former soccer changing rooms 50 yards away. He sat beneath a shady tree. “Look – Golum reincarnated”, Raj chuckled. He had watched Lord of the Rings relentlessly with his grandchildren. Sheena asked if he believed in reincarnation, massaging his knee forcefully.

“You hear stories. Very young South Asian children find villages where they led past lives. They identify and name previous families, who seem to recognise them in new incarnation. Difficult to explain.” Sheena turned Raj onto his back. She said the resting body on the grass was Mahatma Gandhi.

“And I am Martin Luther King in cunning body disguise,” laughed Raj. Sheena manipulated his sartorius. He grunted, recalling violence on the Bengal-Bangladesh border. “Need to free those nerves Raj.” She left him to dress, placing his offerings on a trolley that she pushed to the café, in the early September sunshine.

 

***

 

15 minutes later, over a coffee at Little Venice, Sheena told Raj that the park had now entirely pre-paid its utility services. Secure water and broadband agreements were in place for years ahead. She said their lawyer found it tougher than dealing with Southend Council. The private sector was less accommodating, and “better versed in legal nicety”.

Raj was hardly listening. Could the great saint, about whom his relatives talked with awe, really be here? Gandhi’s followers swore the Mahatma would one day return in spirit.

Some of Raj’s relatives had fled southern Bangladesh – then East Bengal – in late 1946 after communal riots between Muslims and Hindus broke out. Thousands were killed and hundreds of women raped as mobs rampaged in the remote Noakhali region. The brutality shocked Gandhi, who rushed to the area and went barefoot for four months preaching communal harmony before the clashes ended. The Noakhali Peace Mission that he set up still worked with poor Muslim and Hindu families.

Raj thanked Sheena for the drink and set off towards the Southend Manor changing rooms. By the path, a rainbow-haired woman was tending the ‘Stephanie Bottrill garden’, created to commemorate the Birmingham woman who killed herself over the bedroom tax.

Raj found the man, inspecting batches of tee-shirts and some new designs. Nervously, he noticed that the Gandhi-lookalike sported a scar on his right thigh, and a smaller scar below the left elbow, the size of a pea. How could it be him? Despite the face of a 70-year old, the man had a muscular chest, thin waist and long, thin firm legs, bared from his sandals to his short tight loincloth. Raj spoke up, suggesting he could help the park. “What help were you thinking of?” asked Gandhi, calmly. “Before I tell, can you tell of your birthplace?” replied Raj.

“Porbanar in Gujarat State”, said Gandhi, speaking as much with his gentle eyes, framed by gold-rimmed bifocals, as his voice. Excited now, Raj explained. He would buy the park 300 cheap mobile phones, each with pre-paid time. These could be handed out for voting in a more efficient way than the current show of hands Sheena had described to him. They would work in conjunction with an app installed on a cafe laptop to count the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ texts. To streamline further, a similar app would automate the residents’ credits and debits.

“And how do we pay you?” asked Gandhi. His bones looked wide and strong; his fingers big and firm. He listened respectfully.

“Little bits, month by month.” As Raj and Sheena had strolled to the café, around the lake, he had seen a bike repair shop and hairdressing service set up in what looked like a self-assembled container unit. “Through healing, haircuts, everything park offers. Services for grandchildren’s bikes; tee-shirts for family”.

And then a second idea. Raj’s textile trade contacts could provide a steady stream of good quality cloth. The Bangladeshi knew where well-made garments fetched good prices. If Gandhi’s embryonic factory could produce a consistent flow, Raj would let the park have the profit margin in food.

Gandhi nodded. “These are helpful ideas. Thank you.” He told Raj of his love of self-sufficiency. He talked of the spinning wheel, or charkha, a small, hand-cranked wheel he used in India for spinning thread from cotton or other fibres. “Using the charkha was like a sacrament Raj. Sitting, spinning for hours, lost in the rhythm, chanting God’s name. Now I listen to sewing machines. Different sounds, different times.”

 

***

Gandhi led Raj from the makeshift garment factory into the afternoon sunshine, donning a white cheesecloth cape. They sat by a tree. Gandhi told how he had come “to love and respect Britain, despite the tens of millions of Indians who starved under its empire”. Raj nodded. “Now the pendulum swings back. English men and women taking their turn to be subjugated.” The moral crusader pursed his lips. “We all hear talk about Greece. Riots in streets, due to desperation and hunger.”

Raj twigged. “How bad things going to get here?”

Gandhi hesitated. “Worst guess: look at Russia. Oligarchs looting assets which the public sector built over Soviet generations. Dirt-cheap privatisations behind closed doors as people starved.” Gandhi seethed at how UK assets were continually sold without consultation. “Royal Mail now gone; fire engines and ambulances sold to private companies; hospital services contracted out massively. Those with assets get richer. £7 billion of dividends paid by energy companies last year while Britain’s poorest learned to live without heat.”  Raj was quiet.

“Government indicating schools should be profit centres, a more subtle form of privatisation. All the time workers’ rights disappearing, legal aid and citizens’ advice shrinking, food banks faced with record demand.” Gandhi watched Raj, sensing fresh neural pathways break open.

“In hospitals, the hungry treated for malnutrition. In job centres, unemployed attend indoctrination classes to adjust to life as slaves in pitifully-paid jobs.” Gandhi waved to Alex, on his afternoon security round. “Yet your journalists headline celebrity and sport and royals as if everything is fine. May as well seek truth in comics.”

Gandhi tried to be positive. “Remember Raj, only that economy is good which conduces to the good of all. This park sees that, tries to embody that.”

 

***

 

To boost her morale, God constantly reminded herself how Gandhi’s determination and principles always left indelible marks, wherever he went. When Mahatma returned home from South Africa in 1914, after helping reverse discriminatory legislation against fellow Indians, Jan Christiaan Smuts – who was twice South Africa’s Prime Minister – said: “The saint has left our shores, I hope forever”.

Another mighty will, Winston Churchill, had demanded to know from Smuts why he had not assassinated Gandhi before the ‘half naked Fakir’ could threaten the British Empire in India. General Smuts replied: “How could I do this to a man who made sandals for me with his own hands when I imprisoned him”.

God knew. That Gandhi – and the kind of teamwork that Dave and the Southend initiative embodied – put the lie to the clever but fuzzy merging, by global elites, of Charles Darwin’s ‘natural selection’ concept with Herbert Spencer’s ‘survival of the fittest’ idea. The resultant philosophy had been trumpeted remorselessly to justify everything from colonialism and slavery to private central banking, monopoly capitalism and subjugation of the planet.

Cunningly, the oligarchs had obscured Darwin’s central and very clear thesis – that the survival of a species was dependent on a high degree of cooperation. Gandhi would never destroy a building. He would talk and collaborate his way to victory, so that the central bankers at the BIS would one day leave the jackboot of their own accord, never to return.