Things I thought

Wednesday 30 December 2009

Thanks, future self!

A lot has changed over the last ten years. Looking back now, the world of 2010 seems almost quaint. At the start of this decade, who could have predicted the rise of MirrorVision, the spectacular death of Elizabeth the Second, or that Nick Griffin – once a figure of hate – would become one of our most beloved celebrities? Perhaps most importantly, few in 2010 could have foreseen that we would end the decade living far beneath the earth’s uninhabitable surface, ruled by the world’s first totalitarian lexical dictatorship. In many ways, 2010 seems like a simpler time.
It’s impossible to talk about the past decade without talking about the rise and fall of David Cameron. Upon winning the general election in 2010 with a majority of just four seats, Cameron immediately embarked on a right wing legislative offensive, with the emphasis on offensive. The move succeeded in uniting the Tories, and not all of the policies that came out of the period were totally disastrous: The re-introduction of the death penalty reduced both the prison population as well as the population as a whole, the reinstatement of the poll tax revitalised the flagging baton and barricade industries, and the invasion of Europe went about as well as could have been realistically expected.
There was very little public outcry over these putative reforms partly because politics is boring, but also because 2011 saw the advent of MirrorVision. MirrorVision was described by its creators, Endemol, as “A devastatingly imaginative social experiment which provides real time content over a hybrid social and classical media paradigm.” In English, 2011 was the year everyone got their own show.
MirrorVision conquered all. For a small/ridiculous fee, you too could have a camera crew, make-up artist and director follow you around 24/7, splicing, editing and adding narration to your life in post production, turning your existence into a glitzy, high concept and totally unwatched TV series. MirrorVision quickly spawned a whole new generation of hyper-celebrities, and none flew higher or sunk lower than Duncan Souch.
Souch became famous for a week long MirrorVision binge. For seven days, Souch lay in his pants on the sofa, literally watching his own life slip him by, narrated live by a man with a pretend Geordie accent. What Souch didn’t know was that his immobile vigil of self-worship was also being watched by millions across the world on his MV channel. By the time he eventually emerged to buy some milk, he was an international superstar, hounded by paparazzi on his way to the newsagents, and hailed as an everyman symbol of the shiny new auto-digital age.
The appetite for news about “Couch Souch” was insatiable, and soon his MirrorVision channel was being watched by 200 million people. SouchVision was relocated from a dingy south London bedsit to a brightly lit LA studio, where Souch continued to lie around in his pants only this time on a much more expensive sofa.
It couldn’t last forever. Souch soon began to feel cramped by his onscreen persona, unconvincingly arguing that there was more to his personality than lying motionless for hours on end, watching himself do nothing. Souch started branching out into charity work and political activism, wearing pants he had bought from the NSPCC shop and occasionally muttering dark comments about assorted politicians under his breath. Analysts began to speculate that spending an average eighteen hours a day watching himself watch himself might be provoking some kind of deep-seated existential crisis.
Soon, the backlash began – pundits declared “Slouch Souch” was a self absorbed, lazy twat, and an extremely poor role model for the nation. As quickly as he had been placed on his pedestal, Souch was cast back down into the muck. Editorial after tabloid editorial decried him a nonentity, a fuckwit, unspeakably evil, and a portent of the coming apocalypse. On the third of December, 2012, in full compliance with the Anti-Social behaviour act of 2012, Duncan Souch was burned at the stake.
But the rise and rise of MirrorVision could not insulate Cameron’s controversial government forever, and in 2013 he made his fatal mistake. In response to a parliamentary question, Cameron claimed that “Chav Hunting is part of modern British culture, and it symbolises that once and for all we have moved beyond the misrule and muddled thinking of the Noughties, forwards into the bright new future of the Tweens.”
The comment was highly controversial, both inside and outside of the party. Conservatives were unsettled by Cameron’s suggestion that Britain was going forward into the future, a move they wholeheartedly opposed. Meanwhile, the media and masses became obsessed with Cameron’s flippant use of the word “Tweens”. In a debate which never fully fell out of fashion, pundits and public alike went into total meltdown over what to call their decade. At one point, every post on twitter was tagged with either #tweens, #teens or, #eleventies. The argument became symbolic of everything from the breakdown of the family unit to the rising price of Frisbees, but it ultimately coalesced around one point: Cameron had to go.
Despite a valiant attempt to regain the support of his Cabinet with an emergency bill banning the use of public transport, David Cameron was forced to resign on the third of March, 2013.
Across the pond, dastardly hopemonger Barack Obama won a second term in office, but lost control of Congress. The Republican party blocked his every attempt at reform, and passed several pieces of legislation that went against everything Obama believed. After being forced into signing the “No, you can’t!” act of 2014, Obama was found lying face down on the floor of the oval office, silently mouthing the words “despair and stagnation” over and over again. It looked as though Obamamania was over.
Then, on April 5th, 2015, a series of terrorist attacks in major cities around the globe gave life, meaning, and most of all, public support to Obama’s flagging administration. After weeks of intensive debate on both sides of the Atlantic, the United States unilaterally invaded Iran, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and the Sudan. Britain also invaded the Middle East, but insisted that it was just a coincidence and it definitely wasn’t only copying America to look cool in front of all the other countries.
The war with a huge success, killing hundreds of thousands of people who looked a lot like terrorists, and, totally by accident, as an added bonus, securing several major oil fields. Despite continued, and indeed intensified, atrocities, Obama was lauded for winning the war on terror, and collected a second Nobel peace prize.
Unfortunately, the war was not without its costs. Her Royal Majesty, Queen Elizabeth the Second, insisted on going to the front lines herself to fight. She predictably died in the first few hours of the conflict in a parachute drop over Tehran, and was buried in eight separate coffins. At that time, few could have predicted the severity of the constitutional crisis that her passing would provoke.
Events began to spiral out of control when, noting Obama’s newfound popularity, and acting on misguided advice from his father, Prince Charles blacked up for his own coronation. The outcry was unequivocal from across the spectrum. Charles the Third would reign for just three days before abdicating in favour of his son.
But William would never sit on his father’s throne. Before taking the crown, the young prince issued an ultimatum to his Kingdom: He had fallen in love with the glamour model, actress and Booker Prize winner Katie Price. Britain would accept her as their queen, or he would not rule them at all. They were both burned at the stake in a quiet ceremony, shortly before dawn.
Finally, Prince Harry was declared “inappropriate” because of that thing none of us are supposed to talk about, and the situation reached crisis point. By this stage, Britain had been monarchless for almost three weeks. Across the country, school fetes went unopened, parades went unwatched, and swans went uneaten. It was pandemonium. Prime Minister Boris Johnson had little choice but to dissolve the monarchy. Surviving members of the royal family went on to make ends meet in the dying reality TV industry.
The dissolution of the monarchy demanded a new constitution and fresh elections. In an effort to be modern, Boris Johnson introduced e-voting, to be conducted entirely via the comments on Youtube videos and the Have Your Say section of the BBC website. The BNP was returned with a landslide majority of 174 seats.
At the start decade, Nick Griffin had been a figure of public revulsion, but an appearance on the final series of I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here in 2013 changed all that. Nick delighted the nation with his pratfalls and faux pas and audiences up and down the country squealed with glee as a horrified Griffin was forced to swim through a pit of centipedes, swallow a live gecko and shake hands with a black person. By the time he became Prime Minister, Griffin was a household name, presenting his own chat show, cookery program and The Daily Politics on BBC 2. With all of these media commitments, Griffin had little time to govern, and outsourced the day to day work of his office to a Polish labourer, who did a thoroughly excellent job at a very reasonable price. In late 2016 Griffin resigned the premiership entirely to become the new host of Top Gear, triggering the third election in six years.
By this time, most BNP members had become disillusioned with politics and the party had all but disbanded. Successive victories for “lol n00b” and “fagzzzzzzz” highlighted the shortcomings of the internet based electoral system, and it was decided that Britain should institute a system of proportional representation. Literally everyone stood in the election of 2016, with the most popular 646 parties each receiving a seat. The years since have been complete legislative deadlock, with the bi-monthly reintroduction and repeal of the fox hunting ban being the only laws consistently passed.
On the 19th of August 2017, President Murdoch of the United States and acting Prime Minister David Chubbs, of 26 Handell Way, Chorleywood, both received a phone call. It was the head of the International Association of Careless Bankers, Michael Froth, phoning from the Bahamas. While on a morale boosting corporate jolly celebrating the banking sector’s record 2017 profits, the heads of world’s seven biggest banks got a little tipsy, placed those record profits in a big pile, gathered around in a circle and set it on fire. The banking sector urgently needed $1.8 trillion for re-capitalisation, bonuses, and plane tickets home.
It was agreed by politicians that this was no time to play the blame game. World Leaders declared that a financial crisis of unimaginable magnitude was facing the global economy, one that nobody could have predicted without looking at the past. Decisive action was taken: World Governments borrowed the money they needed to give the banks from the banks they were giving the money to, temporarily solving the crisis. A few months later, after failing to keep up repayments, World Governments were repossessed and sold to China.
One of the few pieces of good news of the decade came when, after accidentally turning on location services on his iPhone, FBI agents finally caught up with Osama Bin Laden. The fugitive terrorist mastermind admitted to a long list of atrocities but, curiously, not the 2015 attacks which had precipitated the Western invasion of the Middle East.
The real culprit was soon unmasked. Beneath the surface of society, an increasingly atomised cultural diaspora had become irrevocably detached from the rest of civilization, spiralling into a topsy-turvy world of skewed significances, factionalism, and urban warfare. On March the 25th, 2019, #eleventies became the first twitter hashtag to test a nuclear weapon. It was followed in the next few hours by #tweens and #teens.
It is often said that the resulting atomic conflict had no real winners. I disagree. After the last few remaining Tweensters and Teenites were captured and summarily executed, it seems pretty clear that the Eleventies have won. Other winners include cockroaches, producers of canned food, and the only celebrity to survive the nuclear holocaust, Nick Griffin, whose vast melty face is glaring down at me as I write this from the mess-hall telescreen in the abandoned sulphur mine I now call home.
Indeed, 2010 was a simpler time. If only, knowing what I know now, I could somehow go back to before all this terrible business started, to those bright, clear days populated by naive creatures, blissfully unaware that they stood on the very precipice of destruction. I could play the lottery or something. I’d be well rich.

Tuesday 22 December 2009

Copenhagen: The Aftermath

"What are you doing?" A security guard asks me. My mind is swimming with the events of the last few days, and I am just waking up.

"I’m going to The Bella Centre. I need to stop the summit." I reply.

“Do you know where you are?”

Three days ago I was marching through Ostebro, embedded in the Blue Bloc with the rest of my affinity group. As we crossed the bridge on our final approach, as the protest arrived outside the most important talks the world had ever seen, we were quietly de-legalised. They were supposed to give us three clear warnings, but here was a pattern that had become all too familiar: police failing to keep to even the flimsy rules that remained under the Danish emergency laws. The march ground to a halt outside the main gates. The riot vans closed in behind us and the cops kitted up.

Suddenly there was a flurry of activity. A couple of dozen people began inflating Lilos and tying ropes. The crowd came together as one, elated at the scent of energy. Slowly it dawned upon them: we were going across the water between us and the Bella Centre.

It took just a few minutes before the bridge was floated and people began crawling across. From our side of the canal, an activist-medic shouted warnings about the potentially lethal danger of falling into the drink. From the police side cops fired pepper spray into the faces of those crawling across the structure. Nevertheless, a few activists made it, straight into the snarling jaws of the dogs on the other side, and immediate arrest.

Word went round that the police had begun beating our comrades at the entrance to the Bella Centre, and we decided to join them in solidarity, using the bridge as a barricade. Within seconds of our reaching the front line, the cops pulled knives and thrust them into the Lilos. I shouted at the lines of armed police.

"Arrest that man! Destruction of property! Carrying an offensive weapon!"

As our bridge deflated, the chant rose from our ranks:

"We Are Peaceful! What Are You? We Are Peaceful! What Are You?"

They answered with a flourish batons raining blows indiscriminately into the crowd. One of my new friends, a protester as peaceful as any you could ever meet, was being hit repeatedly. Flushed with adrenaline, I threw myself between them. It didn't matter to the man with the truncheon: any protester would do as a target.

I registered the pain, but didn't feel it. Yet some primal part of me recognized the violence, and the sickly red rush of anger swam through my veins. A lifelong commitment to peace was being steam-rollered by millions of years of evolution. I felt the tug of my id at the back of my mind, urging me to push, to throw, to punish. Thankfully events took over, and my group withdrew from the front. We went to join the People’s Assembly: an alternative summit, to which delegates from COP15 had been invited, that would propose real solutions to the problems of Climate Change.

Word went around that delegates who had tried to leave the Bella Centre and join our protest had been beaten, pepper sprayed and arrested. I felt sick with fury and impotence, not just at the news, but at the knowledge that just a few days ago, I would not have believed such a thing could happen. Now it seems normal. Somehow this news - that internationally recognised diplomats were attacked and detained to prevent them joining a peaceful protest - has been quietly buried by the UK media.

The People’s Assembly was rich with ideas, but without our friends from inside it was hard for it to be anything more than symbolic. In the end, we marched away as one, crushed and euphoric all at once. I did not know how to feel so I felt nothing, except the dregs of anger that still bubbled at the sight of every cop.

An hour or so later, at an activist info-point, a news report broke the surface tension of my inner turmoil.

"All we are asking for is the economic space to exist." pleaded a South American delegate. Perhaps it was the way that begging for scraps had been clothed in the language of neo-liberalism. Perhaps it was the realisation that our action had failed to move the debate in a radical direction. Perhaps it was just exhaustion and adrenaline. Whatever the case, a wave of emotion coursed through me and I fell apart. Tearful, my friends took me to trauma support where I crashed for a couple of hours.

The next few days were a blur of tiredness and frustration, as we discussed and refused to discuss our cumulative failure. Leaving Copenhagen I hear that the US is only offering 4% cuts over 1990 levels. Even this will not be legally binding. The Copenhagen Accord is a whisper in a gale, a piece of crude and cynical gesture politics, a quiet acquiescence to genocide. We have failed this time, as a movement and as a species, and no building of networks, no shift in our collective consciousness, no revolutionary friendship can truly compensate for this defeat. My inner optimist rails against the futility of it all, a lonely internal protest trying to pull down the fence of facts that cannot be denied. The best I can say is that our work is unfinished. I know a part of me will always yearn for the hope, the energy, and the lost opportunities of those few brave hours on the streets of Copenhagen.

"I’m going to The Bella Centre. I need to stop the conference."

"Do you know where you are?" The security guard asks

I look around, and realize I have fallen asleep at Charing Cross. The frenetic days and stunted nights have finally caught up with me. The security guard looks confused.

"Well, we can't let you stay here. It's a suicide risk."

Still bleary and jangled from sleep, I hear myself say:

"It's too late. Didn’t you hear? The world already committed suicide."

He eyes me weirdly and walks away. I am just waking up, and I slowly realise that I am wrong. We did not commit suicide in Copenhagen. We merely wrote the note.


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Tuesday 15 December 2009

Day 3 - Dec 14th, No borders & Christiania Riots

Hi, sorry I'm only getting to file 1 a day. Here's the latest:

After two days of abuse, two days of mass arrests, two days in which we witnessed how a country without a constitution behaves, today the movement won it's first big victory.

The (legal) No Borders demo left an hour late because it's organisers had been arrested. The march was peaceful but determined, linking arms tight to form chains around the edges, chanting slogans and singing to the storm troopers as they escorted us.

The tension levels simmered as we approached the MoD and the police lines thickened. Suddenly, we stopped. We were at the ministry of defence. We held tight, braced for impact and... Nothing. Minutes passed, our chains weakened. It became clear we had not got a plan. The people with the plan were in a cage somewhere in Copenhagen.

The demonstration moved on to parliament square and became illegal.

For several minutes two thousand people danced, chanted and sang along to the tunes blasting from the party bus. The huge orange globe was ripped from its tethers and dragged back and forth across the square, then right into the centre of town. The police were a mess: they repeatedly tried to kettle us but we broke through their lines. We began marching towards Christiania.

As we made our final approach the police made one last effort to break through our lines and detain people. We repelled them and for a moment everything seemed like it was about to kick off. Then a message came blasting from a tannoy:

"Please keep calm and continue marching."

The cops were scared. More than scared: they were in retreat. We had won, and we marched to Christiania in peace.

A few hours later the black bloc were denied entry to Christiania by its citizens. They left, but set fire to a car nearby. It was all the pretext the police needed.

Hundreds of riot police descended upon the squat community, firing tear gas and handing our beatings in a vicious revenge attack. Over 150 arrests were made. Make no mistake: this was not policing. It was payback.

All eyes are now on Wednesday and the Reclaim Power Rally. Copenhagen waits on the doorstep of history.

Day 2 - Dec 13th, Stop The Production

The Danish police enacted the largest mass arrest in their history yesterday. 968 people were detained for the heinous crime of Incitement To Fuck All. The police rested on their laurels a bit today, snatching just a few hundred innocent people from the streets of Copenhagen. A lot of those people were on the way to the docks to protest, and never made it more than a few hundred yards from their assembly point which was, somewhat naively, right in the middle of a triangle of roads. The protest sort of came pre-kettled.

My buddy and I went a different route and, surprisingly, got to the docks. They were effectively closed: the herds of cop vans rocketting up and down between two huge police blockades made sure of that. We eventually found what was left of the kettle, and you can watch videos of that escapade at

Later, after returning to the centre, I went to help pick up some people from the police station. Clearly the police have some really crippling targets they have to meet for dicking people about, because instead of just letting the prisoners out at the station and into our waiting van, they tried to secretly drive them away on a coach to a much more inconvenient location. So we followed them, and drove them back home.

This is my second night sleeping in the Voldskarken Skole and already it feels like home. Today was long, tiring and amazing. The atmosphere is beginning to buzz and crackle with speculation about the sixteenth. It is slowly dawning on me that I am part of something very, very big here.


Day 1 - Evening, Dec 12th

We arrived in cop at about midday. The police gave us no trouble on the way in, though the Green, Yellow and Lilac coaches were hassled quite badly and yellow arrived several hours late.

Today was quite laid back, though as the day went on there were arrests and rumours of arrests. I went with a hastily formed group to the big global day of action. It was fun and lively but it's hard to see what impact my four hour walk had on the issues at hand. Apparently around 400-700 black bloc were arrested just after they crossed the Torvlgade bridge - the police effectively kettled them and then nicked them under the preventative arrest laws. The exact numbers are unclear but I saw at least five police coaches packed out, blue lights flashing, taking the black bloc to jail. So there will probably be a lot of pissed of anarchists released at 4 AM this morning, hopefully leaving enough time for them to get some shut eye before the blockade of the docks at twelve.

Speaking of which: Night Night.

Wednesday 2 December 2009

Requiem For A Rubbish Decade (Unamusing Version)

As I write this sentence we have 700 hours left of this decade. For me, and millions of others, this is a pretty big deal. It is the decade in which we came of age, the decade which birthed our adulthood, the decade that killed our innocence. And, so far, our decade has been a failure.

We entered this century on a wave of fear and anxiety, consumed by gloom over the phantom millennium bug and myriad other impossible Armageddons. Just over 18 months later on 9/11, our fears seemed to be realised, as scenes from a nightmarish action movie were spewed into our newsreel. They are the images which our decade will most probably be remembered for. Thousands died, and with them, our great hopes for a bright new millennium. What followed from those eclipsed dreams was a tornado of destruction that wiped out the lives of hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, in Iraq and Afghanistan. Though we marched, though we voted, Blair resigned to a standing ovation in 2007, and Bush walked from the White House unimpeached.

The irony is that an atrocity which cost just half a million dollars to commit, and involved less than a hundred people, could wreak greater terror from our response than its perpetrators could ever have hoped for from its implementation.

That heinous act of asymmetric warfare ushered in a new epoch for human interaction. This has been the age of the individual, the age of ingenuity, the age of the connected. It was an age in which television was democratic, while our governments were not. Twitter, Facebook and Youtube forced the networks to make stars of ‘ordinary’ people. We voted for our gods with our phones and with our wallets, then cast them down into the pit of collective revulsion when our deities became too dull. Much of the story of this decade can be told in these two tales - the unwanted, undemocratic war that churned through the bodies of countless thousands overseas, and the over-responsive, creatively bankrupt culture, which fed off of our democratic instincts to create a cacophony of trivia that absorbed us in the hyperactive zeitgeist.

But there is another side to this story. In Britain, bloggers gave a home to rumours of a scandal in MPs expenses, a story which would come to rock the Palace of Westminster. In Iran, acts of dissent and rebellion which would have once been impossible were made workable through the decentralised network of Twitter. And in America, the power of the Internet broke the power of the party machinery, putting a man who would once have been kept as a slave in the White House. That these achievements all came in the last two years shows that we leave this decade with tools undreamed of by the generations that preceded us, generations that ended slavery, brought us the vote and defeated fascism.

But our decade is not yet finished, and it is not yet failed. As we enter this final month we, the people, have one last chance to redeem our age. In Copenhagen, five days from now, the most important talks in human history begin. Our leaders, weakened by false perceptions, and distracted by false solutions, have already declared the summit a bust. But in 2009 power is no longer the preserve of the few. Power is ours. This can be the decade in which the bright future we dreamed of back in 1999 begins. We can change our masters’ by making our voices too loud to be ignored. The old institutions are crumbling in a way unprecedented in human history. 2009 can still be the year we saved the world, if that's what you want.

Then come to Copenhagen: march, take action, blog, film, tweet, do whatever it is you do, because now is the time to do it. We are not the prisoners of history, we are its authors. Come, write your story. Do it now.