Wrecks It

I write as someone of indeterminate social status, race, religion, ethnic background, occupation, political and cultural leaning, even gender. In other words as someone of indeterminate identity, someone who ticks “Other” all the way down the sheet.

And the sheets are being issued because the battle lines are being drawn. Are you English? Are you Scottish? Are you British? Are you white? Are you working class? Are you middle class? Elitist? Socialist? Do you play golf? Do you like Trump? Barnsley? What school did you go to? Dulwich College?…Whatever and whichever, who are you?

Whatever I am–and all I can say at this point is that that is what I am–people will project identity onto me. From the armed police who flinch into action at Heathrow, to the Victorian-facial-haired post cricket match men out front of posh Sussex pubs on Sunday, to the England-tattooed builders and plumbers down the down-market pubs on the same Sunday I look Moroccan, Algerian, Libyan, Saudi–a beardless neo-jihadi who need only whisper something into an iPhone to initiate Zilzal. And if I was I probably fucking would.

And thereby fall foul of the challenge of these times, rock n rolling with the back and forth on social media. Sharing stuff off YouTube, where the smartphone has become  a gun. Richard Dawkins destroys Muslim nonsense. Tommy Robinson owned by Muslim lions. Zionists confronted in Luton. Cameron/Corbyn/Boris owned. Only Blair is never owned. Perhaps, like Hitler, he will finally own himself.

I digress! To identify with this stuff is to tangle with the age old lines of the Lord of the Flies. It is to feel constricted, enraged, abused. It is to feel the inflammation of ancestral wounds that are and are not ours. The sins of the fathers. Some lines are deeper sunk into our being than others. Genetic lines tend to run the deepest.

Being of massively mixed genes I cannot identify on grounds of race. I have looked into the Mixed Race identity and found it far too narrow, being for instance heavily colonised by Anglo-Afro-Caribbean (or whatever the hell the term is) identity. As I said already, I happen to look sort of Moroccan, or perhaps Brazilian. If I got fluent in the culture of Morcocco or Brazil, had a wife and children there, I could perhaps become Moroccan or Brazilian.

But would I want to? Is there not some sort of pretence involved there? Would I not be disowning my identity-free self? Would I not in fact be owned?

This mutable self is not all bad. With enough work on my inner self perhaps I could be many things. Sort of Amazonian. Sort of Andean. Inca, Berber, Aryan, Reptilian, Brahmin (no particular order here ;-)). A sort of Rasputin or Mesmer perhaps. There are as many advantages to this as the disadvantages. I have had my face held in deep affection by an Israeli masseur, formerly a captain in the IDF, and told I looked “so Israeli”. I have been resolutely ignored in Malaysian department stores because they thought I was Saudi. Perhaps my favourite vignette is one from school-leaving days. Back of a car with my fifth-rate public school mates and we drive past a beat-up old Datsun stuffed with hijabs and aloo-faced kids. My mates erupt into predictable tooting and shouting.

When I protested, the response was an affectionate “Fuck off, Nizzie. You’re one of us.” Sometimes I feel, there it all is. It’s all in there. I am all in there. But that too would be to fall down the slippery slope.

I slipped a bit the other day–out in my camouflage (ironic!) jacket and dark glasses, ready to go with any England-tattooed Brexiteer who offered more than a passing glance. The universe responded like the referendum–50:50. One blonde Yorskshire woman at the civic amenity site was remarkably pleasant. Anther bloke with tattoos and Victorian facial hair was ready to go. I would have probably been owned.

I had a go on someone’s Facebook wall. Fortunately they are a wise old soul and didn’t rise to my bait. Only said, in far fewer words, what I am owning up to here.

So. The hell with Brexit. Don’t get owned.




Urbs Not War

Urbs Not War

Just-about Reanimated Stallone as Bread Mafia Boss in Warburton’s Ad

Arriving in (class) war-torn Bethnal Green yesterday afternoon, possibly the warmest on record for April, I was struck in the face by a billboard ad featuring a just-about reanimated Sylvester Stallone and a host of other hand-gun-toting ghouls standing in a Blackwater-style phalanx beneath heavy metal typography. The product? War(burtons) bread.

Global Machine Culture.Wheat

The latest outdoor media instalment from Campaign award-winning agency WRCS would appear to be pitched at ornery inner city folks raised on that peculiar subterranean-yet-mainstream diet of violence–now worked into the degenerate and desecrated grain formerly known as wheat. A bastardisation concocted by Global Machine Culture [GMC], wheat has become the edible monoculture version of Agent Smith, viral shadow of the Matrix.

Whether the “grain” used in Warburton’s “bread” is GM or not is pretty much irrelevant. Fracking, corporate tax evasion, Blairism–take your pick from a plethora of parallels–you can bet your bottom dollar that chemical corners have been cut. GMC is certainly betting its bottom dollar on it. Am I saying Warburtons “bread”–let’s call it “edible product” is harmful to your health? Let’s not go there. GMC already has the “scientific” answers ready to roll on surface-to-media missiles that crop-dust public discussion with enumerated bullshit. Is GMC harmful to the environment? If you can answer no to that, I’d love to see your arguments in the comments box below.

But this is not so much a “green” as a “green psychology” article–if you like, a “deep eco” more than an “eco” piece.

Ecology: The branch of science concerned with the relationships between organisms and their environments.
Oxford Dictionary

Sure, it’s tongue-in-cheek, concocted by “clever”, middle class executives and “creatives” in the rather sexier environs of 60 Great Portland Street, leveraging the already tongue-in-cheek Stallone movie “The Expendables”. But what is the relationship between the residents of Bethnal Green and the award-winning Warburtons “Family” campaign? Or the Britain’s Got Talent-watching, edible-product-toasting masses who lap up the TV commercial in the ad breaks? Does thegame for a laugh messaging not rest on cultural channels of violence? Is “family” not tongue-twisted to mean “mafia”, i.e. glamourised gang culture? Is it only coincidence that WRCS’s other clients include the Army, Navy, Airforce, Artemis (The Profit Hunters) and–on balance–that benign old giant, HMRC?

Respect the Bread Warburtons ad by BBH

Perhaps it’s unfair to piss on WRCS’s award dinner chips. They’re not alone in this war business. How about BBH’s ad on the right?

Of course, it’s all tongue-in-cheek, game for a laugh, simply a reflection of modern, urban society. But whose tongue is in whose cheek? WRCS’s in Stallone’s? The clever folks at WRCS might say I’m patronising the working class, who understand the joke just fine.

Maybe we can go further then, with rape, racism, ISIS beheadings and Israeli F16s worked up in a tongue-in-cheek commercial for underarm spray, say.

Met Police Serious Crime Figures for Tower Hamlets

Met Police Serious Crime Figures for Tower Hamlets

According to the Metropolitan Police, Violence Against the Person in Tower Hamlets has risen 21% in the last 12 months, keeping up with the London-wide trend of nearly 30%.

Grab a free rag off the floor of the tube if you want examples. To be fair, the same rags print articles (juxtapose ads for Warburtons and other edible product) about 10-year old boys frazzled on hardcore porn, teenage girls bullied into anal sex, bartered between local mafias like objects in Grand Theft Auto. (What is this reporting really? Assimilation? Social lip service?)

In this light is there really any defence for depictions of violence, no matter how clever or tongue-in-cheek, in the billboard overhanging your local station, high street, park or playground? Are inner city children really that urbane and ironic? Do we want them to be?

What’s your response? Maybe like the protagonist of Charlie Booker’s Black Mirror: 15 Million Credits, the bit where he stands in front of the Cowell-esque panel and sums up his blistering polemic with the words: FUCK YOU!

It’s tempting to leave it there, to openly encourage that these billboards be defaced, torn down, burnt. I’m supposed to play the game, push my tongue into some clever, Great Portland Street cheek, let it all wash over me. Take the cash and shut the fuck up. For many years I tried to do just that. But I couldn’t, not really.

Increasingly, I don’t think you can either. Not really.

Made in China

Image courtesy of Evening Standard.

Image courtesy of Evening Standard.

It’s hardly news: China runs tings. Last year saw David Cameron and a bunch of blue-blooded mafia mates head east, hoping to score fat trade deals on such British laurels as Peter Rabbit and…and well it’s hard to dig up anything else save guns and bombs. Surprising that ‘Great’ Britain still makes them, really.

The boot is truly on the other foot. A stroll down the high street this January would have ended up in one of the clothing chains or other, seduced by stratagems like ‘Up to 70% Off’ (NB “up to”). Likely more than 70% of the merch was made in China. And quite likely a growing percentage of the shoppers were too.

One such stroll found me on Carnaby Street, where I stopped for a moment–instantly buffeted by phone zombies and retail junkies–to take in the sight of a young Chinese lad and his family jerking their chins at the Doctor Marten’s shop.

At first I imagined they were charmed, thinking perhaps this was the original Doctor Martens, it being the famous Carnaby Street and all. Then I realized this was rubbish; they were more likely mildly surprised by the small size of the shop compared its gargantuan exported versions in shopping malls from Shanghai to Guangzhou. (Or should that be imported, as it’s more than likely that Doctor Martens is Chinese owned?)

It was not the shifting tides of international power microcosmed into a long-ago simulated London shopping street that really struck me, but the utter failure of that “great equalizer”––Globalisation–– to do anything for human culture. I mean, come on, it’s early days, Tony Blair would say.

But it isn’t. It’s very late days if anything. Shifting tides of the third dimension mean that middle class families from China can either send their offspring to learn––what? retail science? bomb making?––at British universities and spend their ample pocket money in the high street fashion stores and all with the exact same expat dynamic observed by Brits the world over. Alright, globalization has equalized something…

So now there’s a Doctor Martens, a Lush, a Zara and of course the obvious purveyors of chemically treated animal flesh in every city. Wander into one of those stores, comforted by its familiarity, its layout, product range and even prices identical to those back home. Frictions, such as language and cultural barriers, have been bulldozed flat. Possibly, there are cross cultural treasures to be found in, say, charming little differences in product range between Zara, London and Zara, Kuala Lumpur. Possibly those differences are more exciting than those between Zara Regent Street and Zara, Oxford Street.

But by and large urban culture is freefalling into that lowest common denominator of the shopping mall, scene of the original zombie movie, George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead and of J.G. Ballard’s last novel, Kingdom Come, whose flawed structure nevertheless prophecies the kind of action that unfolded at the post Christmas sales at Asda, Ikea and other religious festivals up and down the country. ‘The human race sleepwalked to oblivion, thinking only of the corporate logos on it’s shroud,’ wrote Ballard.

The rest is familiar posthuman history, which is hardly worth writing about. Of course you are waiting for the ironic, shamanic reversal behind it. And for that I turn once again to that most useful online corner, the internet anagram server, for this gem:

Machine and I

Which says it all.

© 2014 Nizami Thirteen