Ease yourselves into the new year with Julia’s song of 2010…
(Hat tip to the boy)
There’s no one here.
Thank you for stopping by, unfortunately updates on ten minutes hate will be few and far between for the next couple of weeks as Julia heads off to see some more of the world. In the meantime, please amuse yourselves in the archives (headed ‘Records Department’ in the right-hand menu) or with the great writers and friends of this blog that you will find in the list called ‘the Brotherhood’.
Wishing a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all!
Dorothy Parker, LCD Soundsystem, Paul Auster, Bob Dylan, John Coltrane, Jack Kerouac, Jimmy Hendrix, Billie Holiday, Muhammed Ali, MC5, Hunter S. Thompson, Blondie, Joel & Ethan Coen, Bruce Springsteen, Marilyn Monroe, Johnny Depp…
At times such as these, when America behaves more like a belligerent teenager than the Land of the Free/Home of the Brave, my friend and co-writer Mark Woff advises to take a minute out of your day to compile your own variation on the above list. The aim is to hopefully cheer you up a little and remind yourself that a nation responsible for nurturing such a list of talents can’t be completely beyond hope and redemption.
I feel it is important to keep this in mind when considering what looks to be about to become the case of USA v WikiLeaks and Julian Assange. The extent to which America is focusing on punishing the source of the information rather than addressing the more pressing concerns contained within it almost defies belief. Sure, diplomats, you got caught with your pants down. But worrying about the secrecy of a database that can be accessed by millions of people does appear to involve a certain amount of stable door slamming post-exit by horse.
Of greater importance to this writer are the fascinating insights into the cozy pillow talk between governments and corporations as they conspire to brutally stitch up their countries’ populations and of how just how relaxed they can be when lying about details some would find electorally embarrassing:
The leaks make it abundantly clear not just that the US-Anglo-European adventure in Afghanistan is doomed but, more important, that the American, British and other Nato governments privately admit that too.
The problem is that they cannot face their electorates – who also happen to be the taxpayers funding this folly – and tell them this. The leaked dispatches from the US ambassador to Afghanistan provide vivid confirmation that the Karzai regime is as corrupt and incompetent as the South Vietnamese regime in Saigon was when the US was propping it up in the 1970s. And they also make it clear that the US is as much a captive of that regime as it was in Vietnam
Also of lasting importance is the wider war being fought by WikiLeaks, alongside this particular battle, as it has far-ranging implications for the freedom of information on the internet. As Richard Wilson writes in his excellent article:
The very existence of Wikileaks also seemed to point towards a larger question – how durable is the scale of freedom that has developed on the internet in recent years? Will the net really lead to a permanent “redistribution of data” – the mass availability of information previously so jealously guarded by the media and political elites? Or will the current era come to be seen as a short-lived blip – an involuntarily loosening of controls that lasted only as long as it took for the elites to figure out the dynamics of the new technology, devise new systems for bringing it under control, and develop the political means to apply those systems worldwide?
However, none of these arguments should be taken to imply that Assange is himself beyond suspicion, at the very least as Justin McKeating argues, he is guilty of being a ‘great honking idiot’. While Modernity reminds us that governments are not above using indirect means such as court actions to target those they perceive as enemies, if there is a case to be answered on the charges, he should answer it. Perhaps I am displaying a naive believe in the rule of law, but if the case is dismissed, it is rendered redundant as a tool to smear Assange and the WikiLeaks project. Greater damage is done by declaring him to be innocent or above the law because of his actions in leaking the documents, even if, as noted by Katrin Axelsson of Women Against Rape, it does appear strange that he has been hunted across the globe for a crime with staggeringly low conviction rates in both Sweden and the UK.
To anyone with an acquaintance, either from memory or through the writing of Hunter S.Thompson and others, of those dark days at the end of the Sixties that saw a political class create the My Lai massacre, the Kent State shootings and the Watergate burglary, it must appear that this is all familiar territory, that America is indeed doomed to repeat its history having failed to learn the lessons the first time around. In such circumstances, we do well to remember that it is better to be a Daniel Ellsberg than a Richard Nixon.
The final word goes, as ever, to this man:
In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act
– George Orwell
Essential reading for your Monday:
Japanese people love their trees and I love watching them enjoy their trees. This time of year, my favourite back home, is called the change of leaves, when the colours turn from green to red and yellow and orange. People have their favourite spots, either out of the city or in Yoyogi Park, and they drive there at weekends to drink in the colours and to mark another season’s passing.
Red and yellow and orange as descriptions don’t even begin to do the spectacle justice. The oranges are burnished coppers, the yellows are really a thousand shades of ochre, while the reds glow like the embers of the fire that once fuelled summer’s heat.
An old couple come into the park near to where I am reading, she wears a face mask, he is in a powered wheelchair. He rolls himself into position in front of the lake and she prepares to take his picture, as I wonder if he is sick, if perhaps he thinks it will be his last chance to enjoy this season. I am sitting behind where she is standing and as I glance up – thinking should I offer to take one of them together or would that spoil it – I see him look at her with such love in his eyes and a beautiful smile for her picture that my heart stretches in a way that would break it into a million pieces, were it not for the agility exercises it has been performing over the last few weeks, since we walked in this park at the end of a late summer’s day.
Picture of Yoyogi Park by Julia
Updates to ten minutes hate have been few and far between lately, for which I am sorry, although in my defence, the situation is as yet nowhere near as bad as it was this time last year when I was studying for the qualification that would see me end up in Japan 12 months later.
That said, with the sheer number of heartening stories around at present, this is no time for a blogger with something to say about our ways of living and how screwed up they have become to be sitting on her hands, especially since recent weeks have seen successes for a couple of causes very close to my heart.
First, the fan’s campaign at Liverpool Football Club saw hated owners Hicks and Gillett finally shown the door following a series of financial mis-steps which made even the bankers despair. Despite initial wariness, new owners NESV seem to be making all the right noises, with their recognition of the supporters’ role as the true custodians of the Club. Union Spirit of Shankly remains committed to fan ownership and participation in the running of the club as a future aim. All to the good.
Then, the sleeping class consciousness of the UK seems to be awakening at last. Not quite as fond of a riot as our French, Greek or Italian cousins, a slash-and-burn approach to public sector cuts, alongside the retention of the Downing Street stylists and photographers, seems to be pushing even the most placid of British people into taking out poor, defenceless police vans. Long may it continue. It is good and healthy for a government to have next to no idea when its population will kick off.
And yet, and yet…
It is with a sometimes heavy heart that I read the blog updates, emails and news stories telling me what you have all been getting up to during this new Winter of Discontent. Those that follow me on Twitter may have been noticing a higher than usual number of retweets as I am recycling other people’s news. It is not just the physical distance you notice at a time like this, the time difference also sees my part of the world steaming ahead into the new day while you are all asleep and dreaming of new anti-kettling avoidance tactics.
So, sure, I have clicked on some links, sent my support along the line and written some words. But is it enough?
To see what I want to see for the UK and around the world – real political power returned to the people, the space to live a free life, access to education and services for all, an end for those who seek to control and trammel life – is that going to be brought about by a few mouse clicks? Perhaps not, which is why I am resolving to spend the rest of this year finding more ways to get more involved, if there is a way to do so from 6,000 miles away.