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Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Year of the Dead

We have lost a lot of loved and respected famous people in the last year. Individuals who's passing has affected us, brought tears, sadness and that strange form of grief we feel for people who we have never known personally but have been part indivisibly of our lives, Others have died in other years, but in 2016 there have been more than in any year I can remember. So many have passed in fact that it seems an endless list, that this year is out to get us all somehow.

Why we feel grief when those who are the icons of our life pass is no great mystery. I am 46, the icons of my generation, the ones who influence us and were part of our lives when we were children are only a few years older than us, but those years are enough that there passing is not actually unusual. A sad, but true fact, is people start to die of natural causes more often as they get older. Where once an accident or suicide was involved in the passing of such icons of my generation ( Kirk Cobain for example) now it is cancer, heart attacks, and just plain old age, which takes them from us.

We are the generation that television raised. Unlike our parents who were the generation of cinema. When I was a small child we had three channels, it may seem a weird concept today, but the launch of Channel 4 was a major event. For all its faults, however, television expanded our universe more than that of the generation before us, and as we grew the world grew too. Our icons are many, where the icons of the generation before us were fewer. We had a closer connection to them all than our parent's generation, and now we feel that connection all the more.

With the internet, that web of wonder that has encircled us all, has come an interconnection with those icons that is all the stronger. A death is not an obituary in the paper, or a two-minute piece at the end of the evening news anymore. That was a segment of our lives which we allow for a little introspective and are prepared for. If you watch the news you are ready for bad news, after all, that's what the evening news mostly consists of.  In turn, it makes taking the bad news of someone's passing easier to process. But in the age of the internet it's more immediate and more all-consuming, catching you on your blind side, unprepared and unready. I did not learn of the sad news of the passing of Carrie Fisher, George Micheal, Liz Smith, Rick Parfitt, (to name the most recent crop) on the evening news, I suspect no one did.

I learn of it on Facebook, That 'happy' place we go to in order to see what our friends are up to, look at pictures of cats, and complain about society. And these days it seems the place we express our collective grief at the passing of an icon.

Learning of the death of a loved icon on social media is intimidate and all consuming. We grieve as a collective, share that grief and in doing so we feel it all the more. Yet perhaps it also helps us come to terms with these sudden absences from our lives. Those of my generation, those forty/fifty somethings that grew up with television and the birth of the internet feel it all the more because it speaks to us of our own mortality. If our icons can die, so many of them and so often it seems, then so can we, they are not that much older than us after all.

My parents probably remember where they were when they heard Elvis had died, I can not remember where I was when Bowie died, only that the internet told me he had passed, and a wall of grief washed over it, as it had done only a few days before when Lemmy was taken from us to thrash metal heaven. Where we were when we learned of their passing does not matter. We heard it on the internet and grieved with the world. Perhaps fittingly for the icons which formed our world.

2017 does not promise to get any easier, I have no doubt that at some point in early January some other icon of my life and the Internets collective gestalt will pass. And I will hear about it on the internet, at my most unprepared. As a generation, we have reached an age where our heroes die. Carrie Fisher just the latest in the death list of 2016. That it seems to have been such a bad year for the demise of icons is just a sign of our times. That we do not become jaded and prosaic about the passing of our heroes, is a sign of our humanity, that at least gives me hope in a year so devoid of it in any other way.


Wednesday, 21 December 2016

All we are saying...

This post, like some others I have made, started out as a minor rant and attempt at light heartiness in response to a mild bout of despair at the human condition, because if you can't at least try to raise a smile, whats the point of it all...
It is not exactly true to the original, which I posted as the conflict in Syria drew in the west still further last year.
While it was a piece of gallows humour, laughing in the face of the ridiculous tragedy of humanity, I stand by its conclusion all the same. Yes I know its unrealistic, but I don't make western democratic policy, so i don't need to be realistic. I can instead idealise. And maybe, just maybe one day those who do make policy may try having some ideals as well.
Its almost Christmas, in the ghetto of western civilisation, instead of singing about it lets try it. Peace on earth that is.

All we are saying......

So, we are at war AGAIN. (was there ever a time we were truly not at war as a species?)  
The last war we stumbled into in the middle east, destabilised the region to the point where extremist militants could carve out there own empire across international boarders. While for no reason that makes sense to me they have taken the same name as an Egyptian goddess of health marriage and wisdom... Having carved out their new caliphate they have become a terrorist threat to the western world. Or at least the ones which we are blaming this time. Having killed of the leaders of the last lot, and then invaded Iraq on the grounds that their leader looked at us funny, had invisible weapons of mass destruction somewhere and lots of oil.
Invisible weapons of mass destruction proved to be invisible due to not existing.
The leader who looked at us funny had nothing to do with the terror attacks we had endured due to been as unpopular with the terrorists as we were.
But luckily there was plenty of oil.
But now ISIS, the one who was not a goddess at any rate, has started grabbing territory and encouraging terror attacks... you know the ones we started the last war to end...  And they are remarkably good at it, and recruiting people to there cause, often those people who we bombed in the last war, no telling why they suddenly dislike the west. but drone strikes may have something to do with it.
So we are going to war, again, because that worked so well last time...

I know its a wild and wacky idea, but perhaps we could try not bombing innocent people and thus creating the reason for the next war .. After all we have done this particular dance on and off for about well , for the whole of human history.
Fight a war, punish the losers, instil resentment, fight another war.
Make the losers of the first world war pay reparations till we bankrupt there economy.. that's not going to cause us any problems later down the line.
Make up countries by drawing lines on maps of the world then leave them to it uniting disparate ethic groups, worked so well in Yugoslavia, Rwanda, the entirety of Africa and most of Asia ...
Fight another war or three.
Perhaps the reason the terrorists hate us, and hate our way of life is because we keep marching in with guns, shooting and bombing people, blowing up infrastructure, hospitals, and then sodding off and leaving them to patch there lives back together with grain field full of anti personnel mines, that we sold them.
Just a thought that. because in there position I think I would hate us too, just a little bit.

Perhaps we could, however, try a new approach.
I would like to suggest we give it some new name , to distinguish it from War . perhaps , we should call it Peace
Under the new approach of Peace the people we don't bomb this year will not become the people we then have to bomb in five or ten years time when they are frankly a bit pissed off with the west for it policy of bombing them .
Peace would instead mean that having not bombed them now, they will have no reason to attempt to bomb us in future.
Which will mean in turn we don't have to go to war with them.
The billions and billions of pounds spent on the policy of War can be spent on policy of Peace , for example , funding the NHS. not having food banks as a basic requirement of a bankrupt welfare state. free education at universities , proper state pensions , a decent standard of living for all , homes for the homeless. you know , nice peaceful things like those, things which are not in fact bombs .

We have tried this war thing time and again ,
I know we are all a bit slow on the uptake at times, but frankly its past time we realised war doesn't work. That is unless your trying to perpetuate a corrupt ruling class and industrial military block and breed a state of paranoid acceptance of increasingly intrusive state control designed to keep the rich in power and control of the state while the poor do as there told and accept that they are ruled by those who know better ,,,, ( btw 1984 is a great read )

So lets give this Peace idea a chance ,, there possibly a song some one could write about it as well now i think of it ,
Yes lets not kill people in a self perpetuating state of war , followed by war followed by more war. constantly breeding the next bunch of militant gun wielding fanatics who want to exact some revenge because we keep bombing them .
Frankly , lets face it if our country was bombs every day year on year , we would probably be a little tetchy ourselves,.
Peace .
its a new idea ,
lets give it a go .......

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

The Vanities Of The Strong

I have seen the future of humanity, and it is war.
War on a scale unprecedented.
War that will consume the world, leaving millions slaughtered in the mud of Europe.
War that will cause misery untold as nation fights nation with all the might of the industrial age. A generation of humanity blighted by the worst of us.
Then, a mere generation will pass before the world is plunged once more into darkness unceasing. Conflict on a scale un-reckoned by our night-mares, embroiling all in its embittered grip. It will wrap the world in choking hands and bring suffering to all it touches.
Factories of death, the dreams of madmen will be built. Trains will carry men, woman, even children to their gaping maws. Marching them in their millions to chambers of slaughter, a systematic butchery of a race.
More machines will fill the air, raining down their payloads upon the great cities of Europe, to leave them nothing but shells of their former glories. Their broken remains scorched and chard by the firestorms.
Meanwhile better bombs level whole Asian cities in single blasts. Leaving nought but invisible death in poisoned air behind them.
Such a weapon once conceived can never be forgotten, and the world will find itself waiting on the abyss of a single button. Tottering on the edge of it owns end when the mad shall be the only strategy.
Ideologies of east and west will clash, in a century of blood, ceaseless in the undertaking of little wars that keep humanity on the edge of annihilation. While the world’s people will suffer evermore under the yoke of tyrants both overt and hidden. Until the cause of money becomes the foremost of all ideology’s.
An ideology that eats away at the earth itself. Burning it up to feed the ever-growing appetites of those few who extend their power over the many with the propaganda of technology. Feeding lies through invisible transmissions that saturate the minds of humanity, reducing them to cattle for the factories of the rich.
Ripe for the slaughter.
Ripe for exploitation.
All to keep the system of war and hate moving forward.
All the advancements of the ages, all the wonders of humanity’s devising, all the ingenuity of man turned to one sole purpose. The slaughter the weak, to feed the vanities of the strong.
Would that, in one action, a simple changing of the past, this future could be averted.

H G Wells, unpublished introduction to the Time machine 1895.

(prologue form the forth coming The Wells of Time: A Hannibal Smyth adventure )

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

A Biography of Depression

There is this pit which,  I believe, we all walk around the edge of at some time in our lives. Though the lucky among us may never notice they are doing so, the worst they may experience is a cold shiver on the back of their neck, and an urge to tread carefully or even tip toe around for a day or two, without even knowing what it is that makes them feel that way.
Others will only perceive the pit, tread carefully for a while and then move on.
Others still may find themselves walking around the edge for a long time at different parts of their lives, but through luck and perhaps the odd guiding hand they never slip into it.
For some, however, occasionally the ground will give way under their feet, and they will stumble. If you're really lucky at that point, you might catch yourself, or you may find a hand hold or a ledge to abate your fall. Someone may reach out a hand and grab you, pulling you back to firmer ground. Yet they still may find themselves slipping down into the pit all the same.
And some of us just fall when the ground gives way. 

It's dark down there in the pit, dark and cold, and a long way down. The people walking around the edge seem like shadows, which taunt you and remind you that you too were once only walking around the edge.

Yet even in the deepest parts of the pit, you can see the sunlight. That’s why you can see the shadows. You can still see the way out, for all the sides are steep. You can still imagine that if you call out someone may drop a rope to you, and half pull, half drag you back up to the rim. There is, you see, allows hope while the sun shines…

Except at night there is no sun, at night there is only darkness, and those shadowy figures of hope are but noises in the distance. Half forgotten. Until even the sun is but a memory, daylight a myth.

It is there, in that darkness that I have dwelled more than once in my life, dreaming of the days in the sun I can no longer remember.

Depression can take anyone.  It's not what it seems, it's not what people say, it's not weakness, it's not just a dose of the blues either. It is all too human, and few, lucky people have ever passed through their lives without glimpsing that pit at some time. Many may never fall down the whole way, but most stumble at some point, and all too many fall for a while.

As for myself, I am perhaps more inclined towards it than most. Some of us just are, it's in our make-up. For me, to the extent for a long time that pit has been my norm. Something I have only come to realise of late, because when you dwell in the pit, or around the side of it for a long time, the norm is what it becomes. 
Knowing that does not really help a great deal, save that in recognising the place in which I dwell for what it is, I can try to find a way to climb out and walk in the sunshine for a while. 

Image result for pit of depression

The first time I dallied with none existence, with seeking an end, was in my early teens. I am not sure I recognised it at the time for what it was. It was not a desperate cry for attention, as some would consider it. Nor was it some expression of teen angst taken to extremes.
More than anything it was an aspect of control I could exert upon my life where I had none. I made a choice to survive, to continue, and not to end it. It was a choice in my hands that it was being able to make that choice I believe saved me from the ultimate expression of the logic of nil-isum. I did not choose to end my life, because I could choose not to.

Both my novels draw influence from my own experience. As the old adage goes, 'write what you know'.

In Cider Lane both the main characters have their struggles with the pit. In the case of Susanna, the pit is morphed into the cave of her psyche. That dark place to which she retreats. While hope and the sunlight play a major part, it starts to form the pit in many ways.

Passing Place deals, among other things, with the grief, the main character feels after the death of his wife, who herself took that ultimate choice we all have. While the novel covers many other things, my pit looms deep with its pages also.

One of my favourite reviews of Cider Lane states
' Hayes captures the essence of trauma to perfection in his book Cider Lane: Of Silences and Stars. It's a difficult feat to write emotion. First, you must submerge yourself within the walls of the pain that we try so desperately to avoid.'

It’s a strange review to be pleased with perhaps, but it makes me feel that I managed to put across some of the themes I was aiming for.

Why and I taking about all this?
Well for several reasons, including the desire to write this stuff down, as writing things down is one of the ways I deal with the world. Which is probably why I feel driven to write novels and just in general. It's my form of therapy.
But also a recent Facebook post from a friend reminded me of an organisation I have never used, but who's number I carried with me at times when I walked the pit. It was a simpler post with a few words and the phone number of the organisation. 
The Samaritans are a charity that takes its name from the biblical parable of the good Samaritan. They have their detractors and plenty of mockers, but it's an easy target to mock because no one wants to believe they would ever need them. Even those that dwell in the pit.
As I said, I carried their number about for years, in a fold of paper tucked in my wallet. I never rang them, but the number was there if I ever felt I needed to. It helped, in a strange way, and was enough to have the number.
For many others just having the number is not enough.
Samaritans respond to more than 5.4 million calls for help every year. If even a fraction of those calls actively prevented a suicide attempt, then that is still a terrifying number.

The pit is deep, and dark, and sometimes you cannot see the sun, but there is always someone standing on the rim, waiting for your call.

You can call Samaritans for free anytime from any phone (UK) on 116 123  (USA) 1 (800) 273-TALK  this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill, email, or visit to find details of your nearest branch.

I have written about depression before here, so this is not a new subject. The first post can be found at the link below.


Thursday, 1 December 2016

Valuing your craft

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