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.
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
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?
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.
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.
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
The Sabian symbol for today, 22 January 2014, in which the sun is in the 4th degree of Aquarius is ‘A Deserter from the Navy.’ These symbols–one for each of the 360 degrees of the solar journey around the zodiacal theatre–are eidetic glyphs, downloaded by turn of the century psychic Elsie Wheeler. Today they are an important component of astrological analysis. It so happens that I have Jupiter, planet of faith, expansiveness, philosophy in the 4th degree of Aquarius [note: in Astrological charts, in which the 1st degree is 0-1 degress, the 4th degree of Aquarius, 3-4 degrees, is written as Aquarius 3].
Master Astrologer Lyn Birkbeck interprets this particular solar glyph like so:
Breaking Away From The Norm
Circumstances urge an outright rebellion against the status quo – especially with respect to what is generally regarded as morally unacceptable. No matter what others think, one is driven to take the consequences as the price one pays for being true to oneself.
I often find myself ‘behind enemy lines’. Perhaps, since the solstice 2012, hard on the heels of that grand establishment coda the London Olympics and the unconcealed Millennium Domish simulated Lizardry behind it, we are all behind enemy lines. We, the people, seem powerless to prevent the insane eco-piracy of fracking. The police lie. The people jerking the strings of the multi trillion dollar confidence trick that markets itself as the economy interlinking the 8 billion people on the planet could fit on a single double decker bus. In the last 100 years–or is it 1 year, what does it matter the curve is exponential–humanity will have consumed more earthly resource than was consumed in the entire history of humanity.
The parade of octogenarian former television and radio personalities on charges of sexually molesting women and children continues through British courts. A 99p shop in Wales erupts into chaos when it’s half price sale ends mid-trading. An African man shows up at the scene of a mob murder to slice the arm off one of the corpses and eat it in front of the ogling crowd. And in a small room in the City of London I hold for a few moments in my hand a 3.2 billion year old octahedral crystal synapse of Pachamama, the Earth Goddess herself.
Of course, no one else there saw the golf ball-sized crystal as such. Rather, the point of this little exercise was a taste of the process by which such crystals are graded according to their shape, size and clarity–first steps in the industrial process that turns them into cut and polished diamonds.
According to various strands of Aboriginal, Amazonian and African indigenous mythology–the correspondences are documented by, for instance, Jeremy Narby in his popular book The Cosmic Serpent–the centre of the Earth is an octahedral crystal. Paintings from these distant regions depict the spirit of the Earth as a serpent chasing, or being led by an octahedral shape.
To hold something 3.2 billion years old, extracted from the Earth by a process which averages 250 tons of rock per carat [the industry measure of weight] of diamond, in your hand in a rather random room in the City of London inspires strange thoughts and feelings. This particular octahedral synapse of the cosmic serpent, valued at 296 carats, required 74,000 tons of the Earth’s crust be moved elsewhere. It’s sheer size and octahedrality has so far saved it from the process that would render it fit for consumption. The first stage of that process is to saw the octahedral crystal synapse in half.
A younger, less mortal me would have had a go. And–as the actual younger less mortal me was on more than one occasion–been fired and turned away to face my shitty little end of the global trillion dollar confidence trick that masquerades as a ‘free’ market economy afresh. A fantasy, utterly immortal me might have swallowed the damned rock and made a bolt for it. And probably gotten no further than the elevator.
The older, more mortal me, swallowed the sadness that oozed into my hands from that piece of Pachamama Earth Serpent’s brain and my judgement of those at that very moment being brainwashed into seeing it as ungraded precursor to several multimillion pound pieces of jewellery.
Despite not letting the mask slip, I was still clocked. I know I was. I could see the presenter’s conscience rise to the surface of her face, where it was quickly masked by the sort of scrunching that passes in such contexts as a smile. And as I write this now I see that I didn’t fail. I didn’t have to martyr myself through awkward questions or standing up to deliver some empassioned plea on behalf of the Earth Goddess. That would have triggered the laser beams and the steel shutters would have come thumping down.
None of that was necessary. Something in me connected with something in her. Oh Pachamama is clever! Let them have the stones from the ground and cut them with lasers and store them in bank vaults to be brought out at thick, red-carpeted junctures of the Matrix and flashed at the flashing cameras. The light of awareness is faster than flashes for it is outside of time it is the simultaneous recognition of the divine in the divine. In the end there will be no escaping it.
It would be wrong of me not to leave you with a sample of the book currently touching my divinity – The Unlikely Peace at Cuchumaquic: The Parallel Lives of People as Plants, by Martín Prechtel. Page 212:
Modernity’s seemingly bottomless addiction to an endless pursuit of recreation, substances, TV, or religious or scientific promises of another more anesthetized world, of having to constantly “escape” or “get away” from an everyday life of dead, demythologized stuff, and a daily insignificance in a schemeless, unstirred whole is fast creating an anti-existence based on forgetting instead of remembering, which, if it doesn’t first kill the viability of the holy ground we need to live on…we will someday not have enough reality left here on earth in our bodies to remember, much less anything to remember it with; the muscle and its reason for existing would atrophy simultaneously.
© Nizami Thirteen 2014
Sabian Symbol interpretations, The Astrological Oracle by Lyn Birkbeck.
The Unlikely Peace at Cuchumaquic, by Martín Prechtel, recommended to me by the World’s Most Unlikely Shaman, Davina Mackail.
Last weekend (9-10 November 2013) I was lucky enough to attend Gateways of the Mind, Europe’s largest lucid dreaming and consciousness convention, organised by Archetype Events, aka husband and wife team Davyd and Emma Farrell. This was the second Gateways event, and the organisers excelled themselves in pulling together a panel of big hitters from the world of lucid dreaming and out of body experiences. Corridors were lined with visionary art – Edward Foster being a particular highlight – books from Tibetan lama Tenzin Wangpal Rinpoche, UK lama Charlie Morley, standup philosopher Tim Freke and others, sacred Amazonian tree essences from Mimi Buttacavoli and many others.
Of the speakers, all of whom were passionate, fluent and engaging, my attention was first grabbed by Michael Winn, Taoist alchemist and former colleague of Mantak Chia. Michael constructed a piece of theatre, placing members of the audience in various seated positions in order to demonstrate the spheres of the self, from conscious to subconscious to soul to collective soul and ultimately to the Tao herself, a fun and very graphic way to communicate this esoteric concept of the self. He also talked about the microcosmic body’s holographic relationship to the macrocosmic universe via the five elements and their ‘housing’ (or quantum entanglement, if you prefer) in the body via the spirits of the five major organs. Approaching these spirits as intelligent, aware beings with their own strengths, weaknesses, feelings and even will is a deep fundamental of Taoist Alchemy. It is the same in the shamanic healing mode I practise over at Spirit13ody. More on that soon…
The ancient but ever youthful and thoroughly pleasant Stanley Krippner gave a delightfully old fashioned US academic style global tour of shamanic dreaming. Here’s a man from the same vein as Richard Evans Schultes and Dennis McKenna, Columbian shaman’s shirt under stained double breasted blazer.
The youthful but perhaps somehow ancient Charlie Morley manages to combine great knowledge with the bouncy style of a children’s television presenter. Indeed it would be a marvelous thing if he did have a television show, talking to children about the flying dreams they’re having and reminding them to remember these early holy grail experiences. Like Parsifal, we spend our lifetimes trying to find them again.
The organisers chose well in putting Tim Freke on last. After William Buhlman’s more urgent talk, Tim’s comic relief worked like magic. In a masterful performance combining his love for his dying mother and barefoot slapstick antics, he brought us to that deeply humanist realisation Jack Kornfield wrote about in The Path with Heart: the twin destinations of the spiritual path, spirit and self. We are, said Tim, that ineffable dreamer that dreams us, AND this dreamed self, with its fears and failings. The idea of annihilating the ego, he said, was a bunch of distorted Indian crap. You can’t annihilate it. Rather, it’s a dance, and you improve it. Having met more than a few spiritual types who thought progress was about minimising their personhood – with all the shadows that creates – it was refreshing to hear Kornfield’s message spelled out in the most delightfully animated and inspiring way. Tim brought the convention to a close with a wonderfully simple exercise that brought to life that deep concept that we are all one, elements of a dream being dreamed by the same dreamer, just as in our own dreams, the myriad characters are all us. As one, we rose for a standing ovation.
Earlier, Celtic shaman Martin Duffy spoke at length about awakening to his own ‘indigenous’ knowledge, catalysed by visits to the Amazon and so on. His first hand accounts of encounters with the Sidhe were riveting. The Shining Ones, he said, were watching the human race very closely, some among them being terminally pissed off with our disregard for nature, others remaining sympathetic, so to speak. This is of course a big theme – the big theme no less. What is the right relationship of mankind to the Earth. Is it ours to do with as we will? Is it the other way around? Who are the Sidhe? The way Martin spoke of them reminded me of the way Judy Satori and others speak of Intergalactic Councils…with factions for and not so for humanity being given time, more time, to work things out in its own way.
According to Juliet Carver’s Bali-published Worldbridger, echoing 1996’s collection of channelings The Only Planet of Choice, Earth is unique in the entire Universe, if not Multiverse, in that it is the only planet of free will. It is thus an adventure playground, a test, an experiment, a game, a riddle. What will we do down here, given we are free to do what we want, free here and only here from the shackles of Divine Will?
In Bible terms we’re talking about The Fall from Grace, the step of The Fool over the edge of Innocence and into the gravitational well of karma in which the Earth and its ever growing coat of attached souls flounders. Yet Fall we must. Only Planet of Choice, channeling one ‘Tom’ of the ‘Council of Nine’ has a crack at this most ineffable Why? Ultimately, says Tom, because God god bored. God split from Oneness into Duality in order to have something to push against. To see what would happen. To make life more interesting. Hence Satan, hence antagonism, hence the hero’s journey. Comparative studies via ironic reversal (see the initiatix series in this blog) reveal deep ironies/paradoxes/truths here. For instance that – and here the wheels of language are truly spinning in the air – God is She and Siva/Satan is He, created in order that He might (almost) destroy God – just as women are turned on by the deathliness of men, so they say. What a thrill. As discussed in Hysteria of Machismo and earlier posts in the initiatix series, the ultimate thrill for the immortal must be guess what – death!
Which brings us to my ulterior motive for writing this review: William Buhlman. In a two hour session he set out the by-now-standard stall for Out of Body Experiences. I am unclear what the distinction between lucid dreams and OBEs is. I suspect the two are industry- distinguished rather than ontologically distinct. Anyway. OBEs present a conscious holodeck in which to conquer fears, access higher levels of self and ultimately train for that most profound and total OBE: death. I subscribe 100% to all of that.
Which is why I was shocked to hear Buhlman, on a roll about the immortality of the soul and the infinitude of the multiverse, say that he didn’t care ‘if the planet died.’ He was emphatic about it. He was also emphatic about the role of war in teaching souls courage. I’ve heard Buhlman speak twice now, the first time more than ten years ago, when he was promoting his first book, Adventures Beyond the Body. Both times he referred to his previous incarnation as a Nazi tank commander. At the weekend he added that both his sons have completed tours of Iraq. Buhlman, if you didn’t know, is a part time commander of OBEs at the Monroe Institute in Virginia, a mere 100 miles from the Pentagon.
Those familiar with my writing will know where I’m going. While Buhlman’s experience of the multiverse is for sure much greater than mine, to hold that the Earth is entirely expendable, given the infinitude of universes, dimensions, other worlds out there, smacks of Lizardry. In other words, those unreconstructed beings of Inner Space who, having destroyed their own planet, invaded ours. In other words, those unreconstructed beings who, having destroyed America, invaded Iraq. If this is the level of consciousness that Buhlman’s mantra Higher self now! has elevated him to, then perhaps something has gone awry in his dance of selves.
I didn’t get the chance to put the matter to Buhlman. Perhaps I misunderstood him. He seems a nice enough bloke, if a little buhlish. Without prejudice then, to present oneself as a guide to greater consciousness, and hold that the Earth, Gaia, Pachamama, is expendable, is highly dangerous.
There is of course further inquiry to be made here, through further gateways of the mind– or rather revolving doors of irony – but that’s another article. Meantime let’s give old Pachamama the benefit of the doubt and show her some love.