Archive

Tag Archives: future

I’d awoken with a headache and horrible, foggy eyes from sleeping with my contacts in after I don’t know how many hours sleep, but not many.  The flat was silent and stale smoke pervaded, but there had clearly been an effective pre-bed tidy-up, so I didn’t feel too bad about heading home. It would be about a 25 minute walk back to my place. For once I was glad to see a grey sky, since I’d neglected to bring walk-of-shame sunglasses. I’d anticipated making the walk through the Alameda and into the centre as quickly as possible, to breakfast and my bed at the other end, but there was something so satisfying about those streets this morning…

Calle Miguel de Carvajal, one of many interesting street names in Seville which I must investigate.

Calle Miguel de Carvajal, one of many interesting street names in Seville to investigate.

In contrast to New Year’s Day at home, which has something of the post-apocalypse about it – desolate street scenes with occasional bands of refugees, fleeing, bedraggled from a night of kamikaze boozing, or family units wrapped up to the hilt against a bitter northerly wind, journeying to share sustenance with elders; barely a vehicle on the road and absolutely no public transport – the streets were full of people. Walking dogs, jogging, or dressed in smart coat, umbrella in gloved hand, as if out for a Sunday stroll. And there were buses running. Given the Spanish fondness for holidays and – dare I say it – not working, I was a little surprised. All of the shops and most of the bars and cafes, however, remained closed. It was a great opportunity to feel Sevilla differently, without the distractions and the bustle of commerce, of shoppers, of the crowds taking tapas. The dull light added an unexpected, soft peace, and right away I made the decision not to take the quickest route home, but to turn in another direction and find a path previously unknown.

Vespa under orange trees.

Vespa under orange trees, que Sevillano.

Rain on Plaza del Museo,  a marble, hedged patio endowed with two huge, ancient fig trees, outside the Museo de Bellas Artes and five minutes from my flat.

Rain on Plaza del Museo, a marble, hedged patio endowed with two huge, ancient fig trees, outside the Museo de Bellas Artes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It turned midday and the bells on all the multitude of churches clanged.  Along with the Chino bazaars, they were the only thing open. Seville is a city of twisty-turny streets and alleys, without hills, and so churches come upon you unexpectedly – a high, flat stucco wall suddenly merging out of a block of apartments. Through one great, studded wooden door, I saw a set of Franciscan sisters in white habits. Through another, I heard Gregorian chant benedictions. I walked on but the sound echoed in my head, and the tinny pop music from a café a few streets on seemed unbearably empty. I tried to find my way back, not sure that I would – the streets here are tricksy like that – but then the church came out of nowhere again and I heard the monks. I lingered in the small plaza outside, under the ubiquitous orange trees (they have fruits, even at this time of year) where someone had parked their Vespa, and listened, trying to pretend I wasn’t. I’m not religious and I always feel a bit awkward and embarrassed to show interest in it. There are moments sometimes though, like that one, where I understand it…

Door to the church of the Gregorian chanters.

Door to the church of the Gregorian chanters.

The unusual motif outside the church of the chanters. The saint is Guadalupe, but I'm not sure of the significance of the turbaned men who flank her.

The unusual motif outside. The saint is Guadalupe, but I don’t know about the turbaned men who flank her.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I walked on, and around the corner this time (I chose a different one) I could hear above me a continuing party with a soundtrack of funk. I smiled, felt a little envious, and carried on into a shabbier area, with broken bottles, swept piles of revelry rubbish, and homeless sleeping behind cardboard ramparts.

Walking the damp streets of my new city this morning, I really felt that I was starting this new year in the best possible way. I’d celebrated the previous evening with my fabulous new colleagues in my new job. Here I was, exactly one month into my stay in Seville, first wages in the bank, a spacious place to live, and no longer a waif. A whole year ahead of me to explore and love and hate this country that’s been on my mind so many years. I can relax! For a bit, anyway…

A man out for a New Year's Day stroll.

A local flaneur, out for a New Year’s Day stroll.

You might say it’s not my right, sitting half the world away, to make known my tuppence on American politics, but the economies and foreign policies of the West are so intertwined that whatever happens there impacts us all directly.

I wept tears of relief this morning when I got in from nightshift and turned on the news to see that Obama had won. The thought of the greed-and-hate-pedalling Republicans getting back in had been making me nauseous these last weeks…

I turned on in time for Obama’s speech, and although the words were not revolutionary – were clichéd even – I felt inspired: far more than any British politician has ever done for me. It felt like he spoke from the heart (I still think he’s the only man in politics with a trustworthy face) and with all of my heart, I give him a second chance.

In his first term he failed to significantly change the direction of foreign policy, he failed to fight hard enough on health care reform and no doubt a host of other contentious domestic issues; he let ground slip to the incessant, brutish goading of the Christian Right, the corporate lobbyists, Israel… But when I turned on the television and saw the light and fire in that face, I forgave him all.

Here’s your second term, Barack, your chance to do us right: the Democrats, the Left, the workers and the middle class both, blacks, latinos, gays, every woman who values the control of her own uterus, the whole rest of the world, the very heart of the American allegory herself… Those moneyed, backward, conservative bigots (a reserved choice of words) are nothing compared to all that. And they’ll all be dead and gone soon anyway… Huzzah for changing demographics!

[image: guardian.co.uk]

I am so relieved to see the back of this year. It felt for a time like it would never come. This has been straight up one of the most difficult years of my life, if not thee most. Not the worst, mind, but the most difficult. Financially, emotionally, physically. Mostly emotionally.

We moved into the House of Doom right at the beginning of the year – that certainly got us off on the wrong footing. Senile barking dogs, mosquito infestations, unbearable breezeless heat, builders with man-sized speakers belting Jesus-themed country and western, the Loudest Van in the World that roared up the hill every a.m., the loopy man-obsessed drug-addicted Quebecois drama queens next door, insomnia, scheming sociopathic flatmates, inadvertently becoming the ‘party house’, the falling apart of friendships and relationships…

All that before we even got to the shooting incident, the ruination of my ankle (still quite ruined), further disintegration of House of Doom-based relationships, dwindling funds, and a whole swilling island full of crazed and broken souls, some of them my dear, dear friends and indeed an inadvertent boyfriend who I did my best to look after.

A broken heart (the most acutely painful to date), a deportation, the death of my grandmother, a sorry retreat to my sorry hometown, another half-broken heart, the death of a once-vivacious aunt, a forced return to retail (oh woe!), a royal fucking-over from Canadian Immigration, and yet another bit of heartache later, I thought 2011 had finally spat all it could at me. Until this week. A final twist of the knife had to be had…

It’s not just me though. This year has been a motherfucker for numerous friends. And people seem to have been dying off all over the place, almost as if they are getting out while they can; they sense the change coming… The world is revolving – revolution in the Arab world, the killing of Gaddafi, Bin Laden,  the death of Kim Jong Il; the continued economic decay of the United States and the European Union; the rebirth of powerful public dissent in the West as well – both civilised (the Occupy movement, especially in the States), and feral (the UK riots – see my earlier article); not to mention an onslaught of destructive climatic events – earthquakes, hurricanes, flooding…

It would be nice to think that this was just a blip, but I have the foreboding feeling that in 2012 it’s about to intensify… I don’t believe that the world is going to end on 21st December 2012, or that the aliens are going to come, and I certainly hope that the planets aren’t going to align and cause a freak gravitational event whereby we will all float up off the earth and explode (as Dado, my old boss, is expecting to happen)… I’m not prone to airy-fairy notions but I do think there may be something in this Mayan shit. Not that we are facing the End of Days, but an End of Days. Things are afoot. Things feel different. Change be a-coming…

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. In terms of the world order we’re about due a change, and if that makes our lives in the West more difficult, so be it. We reap what we sow. Hopefully our new condition will jolt our society out of its stupor (I like to think the signs are already showing).

On a personal level, I did say that though 2011 has been exceptionally difficult, it has been far from the worst year of my life. So many lessons learned and new things experienced and things figured out and falling into place and FUN had and god damn me for being sentimental but so many good good friends and, for the first time in my life, I have found myself looking to the future with something that is not fear.

Hello 2012…

A few weeks ago I sat with a couple of friends, flippantly contemplating the future of society as we know it, how it could be End of Days after all. Not by some biblical, supernatural cataclysm, but that it could be the end of the current political and economic order. We debated how this might come about – internal governmental collapse, economic ruin, the ubiquitous zombie apocalypse… I favoured an uprising by the people at the bottom, not in some Marxist class-war glory but base and brutish, violence and destruction en masse until total lawlessness ruled.

I didn’t expect it quite so soon…

London and now numerous other English cities are being plagued by night-time riots after the shooting dead of a young black man, Mark Duggan, in a North London district last week. What began as a peaceful protest in Tottenham on Saturday has descended into a chaos where all initial meaning has been lost and it has become an excuse for gangs of ‘youths’ (I’m loathe to use such a loaded term) to rampage, loot, and destroy.

Of course the Tory government rhetoric is full of lingo like ‘criminality’ and ‘disrespect to property’. What about disrespect to community, morality, humanity? And what are the causes underlying this uncondonable behaviour?

The broken

This should not have been unforeseen. The factors that caused me to make my prediction only weeks earlier are there for the seeing: a failing economy, high unemployment, public services feeling the axe of austerity, disillusionment with ineffective and aloof government – these are the immediate factors which always contribute to social unrest. However what was also apparent was the deeper, long-term issues that affect this society – and what differentiates these riots to those of previous generations: the disintegration of community, the hegemony of greed and consumerism, the increasingly egotistical and un-empathetic youth, and the alarming arrival of violent crime for pleasure rather than gain.

Of course these ‘youths’ are responsible for their own actions – many are amoral, violent, self-interested, or at the very least susceptible to the herding of those that are. The acts being seen at the moment are displays of blatant thievery, thuggery, thrill of destruction, and ignorance with absolutely no political message in mind. But these young people have turned out like this for a reason. Why weren’t the rioters of previous generations making such displays of greed? Because only now are we seeing the culmination of successive decades of capitalism-over-community governance, beginning, of course, with (that lady who I tend to lazily pin all of society’s woes on) Thatcher, perpetuated by Blair and his desecration of Labour party values, the baton now picked up by rubbery-faced (it seems to be some sort of Eton affliction) Cameron.

Capitalism FAIL

Three decades of materialistic, consumerist culture shoved at us from all angles has created a generation fundamentally defined by ‘stuff’ and the ownership of it. This is pervasive in pop culture – music videos full of stuff, songs about having stuff or wanting stuff, whole TV series – reality and otherwise – about people who have tons of stuff. The want-and-have mentality fostered by the banks throwing credit at people in the late 90s and early 2000s; the transition from Generation X to Generation YWhy can’t I have it now? All, of course, beginning with the greed-is-good ethos promoted in the 80s. As one of the (fierce and admirable) young men appearing on the Newsnight debate last night (see 15min>) said, where are the role models? When people look up and see corporate bankers still raking in millions, having ruined homes and whole countries, and going unpunished, how can we expect those at the bottom to uphold the morals those at the top do not? It is a serious symptom of the spectacular failings of neoliberalism. When ownership and greed are the tenets of society, we cannot expect people to grow up with values pertaining to anything other than self-interest.

Cameron, you and your kin have created this monster, this ‘feral youth’ as you like to call them – now YOU have to live with the consequences.

No race necessary

It does concern me that some of the foreign (and probably domestic) Leftist/alternative media are marking this as some sort of uprising of the oppressed and a revolutionary landmark in the class/race/equality struggle. They need to take off their idealist’s spectacles because that is not what’s happening. I am staunchly of the Left but there is need for realism here. The best we can hope for out of this mobbery is that there will be a realisation of the issues facing British youth (and I say British. The riots may only have been in England but being Scottish and smug about this is kidding ourselves – we suffer the same issues here).

I fully await, however, an out-spewing of vehemence and dogmatic rage, calls for punishment, etc, etc, in the mainstream media which the majority of the public will dogmatically fall in with, jiggling in their armchairs, brandishing their fists over breakfast, not having learned anything about the questionable morality of their news sources from the only-the-other-week phone-hacking scandal. And unfortunately the Tories look set to highjack the moral/community aspect as a means to nag on about Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ hypocrisy and their backward, traditionalist ‘family’ values.

Another worrying possibility is that right wing factions within the Conservative party, the (quite ridiculous) UKIP, and, more potently, the BNP and EDL, will use this is a platform to pedal their anti-immigration/racist bilge. Though long-running police harassment of Black and Asian youth, and the death of Mr Duggan, have been factors in fuelling the rage on the streets, these cannot possibly be defined as ‘race riots’. Those of all colours have been caught out joining with the mob: it is the mob against the establishment, no race necessary.

Hope or death?

There may be hope. Like I say, we might begin to take more notice of the issues that have broken our communities and brutalised our young, and accept that money has to be spent on social programs to even begin to heal this. Read this excellent article by youth worker Camila Batmanghelidjh, who tells the story from the ground and outlines the issues so much more expertly than I can. Reading about a 22 year-old rapper with a strong grasp of the issues taking his message to both the street and to Downing Street, and watching those young men stand their ground against a fat old bigot and a ragey mother on Newsnight, fills me with pride.

End of Days? Let us dare to place hope in the young…