men woman car

An old Spanish gypsy song has it (with a laugh, a hop and a cry) that the world is full of objects made by others for the taking. Why soil your hands with work when there are others who seem to need the status that goes with it? Let them produce the goods, we will take them when we need them.

Soiling their hands with work (until the lay offs began with the neo-liberal order) meant that people had a relation however dulled and abused with the process of production, with fabrication and its attendant skills.

This relation to production that the gitanie spurned for reasons of honor (the nomad code) is now absent in the new populations growing up into worklessness.

As it was for the hunter gather of the stone age the world is stuffed full of objects and nowadays since there is no relation to production, objects can be seen as natural or given. so that there is a seamless progression from walking down a street and plucking apples from trees growing on the railway embankment to zooming around on a scooter and plucking Rolex watches “come from the other side”.

When the neo-liberals began their crusade they did not think about whether creation would keep pace with destruction. Since they were not interested in social questions they did not ask what would happen if despite discouraging circumstances the poor increased their birthrate in adversity. And then learnt from other cultures fatalism and absence of civic sense. And began after three half-generations to be socially creative in the manufacture first of gangs then tribes who saw the world as a collection of objects to take, if you were fit enough to do so.

Paralell with the neo-liberal crusade another universe of objects has been built. The Internet. By now it is near enough to be called a rough and ready Borgian copy of everything people recognise on Earth. Millions of cameras attached 24/7 act as eyes and ears of a gigantic occurrence beast. There are visual artists like Richard Prince who make fortunes just from re-working this traffic flow.

Habituation to the experience of seeing images of Rolex watches transforms the original object into a template carried in the head. There is then an obsession to actualize it. The brain can only take so much stimulation before it throws up deferred pleasure and goes for the real thing, whatever the risk, or rather becomes eager to enter the risk area for its sense of lightness, its absence of hand holds, its tingle of the present moment and the fascinating idea you might not come back.

You could say the scooter robbers are copying and pasting, except those sticky old concrete objects refuse to duplicate. Don’t worry, in time the Rolex will re-grow on your wrist – the insurance companies are working on it.





Living in France with the French as they go thru, at the lowest pitch, their Blair / Thatcher years and at a higher pitch the prototyping, the starting up of a steadier, saner, more people-friendly, ecologically (which means digitally) savvy Europe is a piece of luck. I wouldn’t wish to live anywhere else right now (except Paris!).

Macron, like Trump, is a post-modern ruler. By post-modern I mean a clean sweep over university dominated, thoughtful, seminar based government into flash-of-enlightenment, nimble footed media outflanking and betting the farm on enough weight of popular mass following you through the gap.

But Macron is intelligent enough, more than enough, to understand you can’t rule France like America (even tho for immigrants like me France is Europe’s America). Clearly Macron’s ambition is to prove that in ruling France he is capable of ruling Europe. I wish him luck, not having a vote I can afford to be neutral for a while. I enjoy his spectacle.

Both Trump and Macron are trouble-makers, perturbers, risk-takers but while Trump, typically of certain Americans, wears his wackiness on his sleeve, Macron, proudly wearing what suits him, deploys language not in 147 character snaps but in penetrating, wide ranging, intelligent discourse. And in France language is still respected, people still think that talking to each other as citizens is valuable in itself and vital for a sense both of home and future.

Macron’s vision (his wager?) is that the two lashing tails, the right and left of the popular dragon with its stock of crude, indeed cruel, stereotypes of bankers and blacks, will curl into place when he gets the radical structural reforms he wants under the current constitution. I am reminded of LBJ as Senate majority leader, according to Robert Caro, when he had the political genius to see what use could be made of the place, even under the old rules.

The only problem with vision is that it only depends on you, the concrete needs others. Watching Macron in a stunning series of Mediapart transmissions  I recalled times in my cannabis charged youth I could illuminate my glum companions with a word picture that brought them into helpfulness. But it never went further than that, somehow the day to day business of living seemed to be too absorbing to lay aside for the illuminations. The lights stayed out.



Once more with feeling.

kebelia: Attila Volgyi:XinhuaAttila Volgyi/Xinhua / Barcroft Images

I was once on a ship that came to a land foreign to me. Details became clear as the fuzzy grey line of the coast expanded, a pillar box with a curious crown, a man on a bicycle with an odd hat, the same things as at home but differently expressed.

The thought struck me that people in other lands, foreigners, were no more than people who had arrived on earlier boats which led me to ask whether, once born somewhere, don’t you have a second home in the world at large? Perhaps yes if you can hack the voyage.

Voyages – cheap shirts from China, cheap people from the war zone. Even though the blocks of Portacabins and the rectangles of barbed wire at that camp on the Hungarian border with Serbia at Kelebia  repel there is something in my breast that wants to give the place a tick. The same something that says about the squatters camps in Paris, why not supply them with building materials?

The function of the Kelebia camp is to bracket new arrivals until they can either be lost in one of Europe’s great cities or returned to sender. The evil of such camps, of the security industries, is not only that they crush the individual but they employ sadists and multiply their opportunities and that this security view of crushed humans spreads back into the bloodstream of the nations concerned, today Hungary tomorrow Montenegro?

Even without the barbed wire of the camps and the Nato garrisons, Europe’s eastern states with their mixture of nationalism, Catholicism and racism look, to western right wing parties, like Europe’s most clean cut brawny defense. What they miss is the Europe they imagine was effectively volatilized once and for all by the Nazis when they subtracted the Jewish part.

Do the right wing European parties have vertical links with the intelligence community alliance known as Five Eyes? Girdling the globe Five Eyes, America Canada New Zealand Australia England, is the master saloon in which at a turn of a card gunfire can be triggered anywhere by the countries described euphemistically as old commonwealth (meaning white) the parts of the world that three hundred years ago convicts, dreamers, failed sons, chancers and religious maniacs from Europe arrived at in boats.

That is one imagined context for the camps, another would be lucrative contracts and brown envelopes, tuned by Iraq to a fine, kinetic, pitch the re-build rolling in just back of the people killers, the house smashers.

Voice off, “Why wail, aren’t you part of it?

It was once said that if all the world’s population agreed to stand on one leg they could fit onto the Isle of Wight. But that depends on being able to speak to your neighbor and stand his smell, depends on being recognized without derogation on racial or religious grounds. I think I tick the camp at Kelebia because both there and at wild urban equivalents the optimists amongst the indigenous and the new arrivals could practice their unnameable faith, answer their practical question, how deal with the other on an individual basis.


Roland Godefroy Isle of Wight Festival 1970 http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html via Wikimedia Commons

Europe evolved able to collaborate with the otherness in others which made it possible to federate and mutualize widely enough to create the état-providence which the people in the camps aspire to enjoy. They should learn that link. In return, as the état-providence evaporates and we are nudged back into being a twittering, tittering flocks or herds of like-minders, the habits of social collaboration need the stimulus, the difficulty these arriving peoples represent. Natural and mutual repugnance is the actual material to be worked with, the clay of human interaction, mutual because most of the people in the camps come from societies honeycombed by rigid family and clan cells in which people-like-me would never find a place.

Where better than in these frontier territories, no-mans wastes, to imagine learning communities in which architects, body culture enthusiasts, pop up cafes, music makers, language teachers, team builders, shady businessmen could circulate exchanging cultural pollen with the transient other.

They began to do it at Calais before it got ripped up. Much of the stuff practiced the last twenty years in ZADS could now be applied to this harder case. Within the Schengen area couldn’t what were frontier areas become again territories of strangeness and discovery? Events at the French Italian frontier near the Morto della la Passo over which Jews scrambled not so long ago  where locals scouted out an abandoned holiday camp for the incoming Africans show steps are possible.

Who knows what the mediaeval fairs of Champagne were like? Who knows what useful rezistances the arrivals might not pass on? Couldn’t the incomers supposed intense talent for bricolage and trade be just what we need? And perhaps not the tired flag waving of paying for our pensions but the more prickly idea of re-invigorating our skills of social collaboration. Why not see the camps as market places, not only for contraband and necessities but also for ideas and social practices?

The camp at Kelebia is about twelve hundred kilometers to the east from where I live close to a second world war internment camp in south west France. If we have a year before Brown & Root start to refurbish it that would be time enough to have a team ready to go in, including, bien sure, undercover people on the official payroll. Tennis anyone?


On the beach the ghosts rattle,


I am tucked away in the hills, unsophisticated and a long way from the front line. English by birth, a privilege I wore but never embodied, I live on the honey and apples butt end of the Continent, a part of the world designed to receive, to welcome.

When I go to the Metrop I take no weapon and although territory is parcelled out by the strongest on the street I still imagine I can sit at any pavement cafe. The notion of public space remains valuable to me. I do not want to retreat with look alike think alikes into gated (cloisonné) communities but the tide is going out and leaving stark and bare our differences, we no longer swim in the same medium, we have to shout across gaps. Everybody shrinking into hardened, pre-fabricated shells, drawing back in (rétrécissement) for hard shelled years of drought.

And now there is a new strike against me, a new colour slashed across my back thanks to Brexit. Have to think about it, if I start to disentangle my Englishness from my European roots it doesn’t add up to much, natch, otherwise I wouldn’t be this side of the Channel. And not just roots but shoots since of my four granddaughters two are half Italian and two half Spanish.

How to live with this future coming on so quick like raging fire? There are models for it. English people of the Catholic faith who refused to attend the State Anglican services in the sixteenth century were labelled recusants, a word whose time has maybe come again like the @ did.

“But the question is not the same with this Brexit thing”

“True but I like the word, recusant”

It seems churlish not to be able to identify with the country I was born in, to feel a foreigner there, to have to disavow its current posture yet I have day to day life to think of. I may become an adopted child of Marianne (liberté égalité frivolité ) and will do so with a sense of return since my ancestors, persecuted for their religion, left for England in 1715.

But then who is to say which English? The Northern Islanders who see the world as their oyster are unassimilated Europeans. There is something that doesn’t quite click, there is a bee in their bonnet, something makes their pants itch to be off. We see the irritation over here amongst some of the second homers who just don’t get practices which conform to personal and family space not to efficiency.

Now the vote has been taken, I have no beef with their choice, I’d sooner it was over with and quick. Thatchers children have grown up and swiped the reins from nanny. English reserve has been cast aside, ale swapped for lager, and a piratical mercantile race re-engineered (see Hakylut) I doubt they’ll find new lands though, nor ignorant savages. In which case they’ll come back over here for the honey and the apples no doubt…


“He drives a slick silver Audi that smells of new leather and stale cigarette smoke…” (Fahrinisa Oswald)


I could never be a people smuggler, I haven’t got the smarts. Skipping over the primary situation of the overloaded boat people with the fake life jackets and assuming they’ve got as far as mainland Greece, thanks to Inside the world of human smuggling even those of us standing at the sidelines can peek thru cracks in the Wall and see stuff for ourselves when it gets to  Airport stage.

Where some see the refugee burden as a cost for Greece, its economy already overburdened, others see an opportunity if you sport a blind eye, since it harnesses the pressure of the desire to move on up to native ingenuity in by-passing rules and the tech savvy of young people with a taste for success.

The vocabulary has been there a long time, false papers, bribed guards it hasn’t needed a lot of organising and once the wheel starts to spin it sucks in the refugees cash and funnels it down into Greece and spreads it in neat packets, steadily rising, around Athens and other significant localities. Watch out for Gangsta Rococco building boom, tell it by the screaming heads on the gateposts.

Free ports, enterprise zones. Except here it is not top down, it is constructed informally by unknowing and unknown agents. The community at large is left with the problem of what goes along with this creative process, the ugliness, the violence organised or not, the slavery, the corruption. But just who is the community at large?. Is it the city of Athens? Is it Greece, is it Europe?

In 1941 Arthur Koestler wrote the classic insiders study of how human hierarchies get constructed from zero. Titled The Scum of the Earth it dealt with his imprisonment by the French as an enemy of the state. He came to realise that in a finite crowd every transaction changes both the parties standing in relation to all the other parties. A form of sorting by having or successfully pretending to have an advantage, knowing when and how to deploy it and, very important, having a self conscious idea of better conditions, more sleep, more space, more food, more security, always in relation to the enclosing powers, the guards and the criminals.

History’s giant brown peristaltic motion squeezed a bunch of people into bare-bones living, primitive sanitation, physical cruelty and sub-existence rations just so that a gifted science journalist could bear witness you might think. Something like this must be going on today in those places centered on a depository for arrivals surrounded by a more or less porous fence and then a host community. The fact that the fence is porous implies association with the host community, “I walk carrying my baggage, in one hand I carry the good stuff, in the other the bad. Do you want to help me clean up?”

I am not a responsible person so it is not for me to wonder why  refugees with  fake Italian or French passports (despite supposed EU joined up action) aren’t faced with having to speak Italian or French at the airport check-in. The teeth of the comb meant to filter the good and the bad end up being human somewhere down the line. Human hence fallible, bribable, complex and these complex human encounters, so far unmodelable, allied with faceless ubiquitous technologies and their savvier than thou operators that are making, below the media horizon, a new transnational diasporic world whose crowds will not stop swirling chaotically in and around the embittered old white elites in their shrinking, stinking, fortified refuges.

style comment

Hey Capn’ America, what’s with the red neckties?

Bankers used to sport blue or silver now, just look at the photos, it’s red. The red the President wears. The same red some of the protection agents wore Inauguration day. I’m sure there is a style maven out there who can tell me how this works. Somebody must have the job of sending the coded message to favored partners, red tie tomorrow.

I suppose the thinking is to demonstrate how close you are to the boss, that he doesn’t have to lie awake at night worrying you are a secret dissident. The return to vestimentary language is all part of the swashbuckling approach of these corporate pirate kings, the ones destroying our earth to find all the money they can get.

Of course tucked away in the hills south east of Toulouse France I’m too comfortable for words, or should be, only now that the land I was born, England, is sniffing Uncle Sam’s armpits and wagging its tail and our peninsula is threatened with disruption by Ted Malloch on one side and Kremlin Gremlins the other I find suddenly it’s time to look and tell, ask and see.

Burn your neckties!




Trump’s flamboyant putsch, sorry, I mean pitch.


There are those who say the object of the world is to generate fiction, well, here’s one to be going on with.

I wager one of the more far out of the communications advisers in Donald’s camp will suggest he don military threads for the inauguration like they tend to do below the north south American belt, Mexico here we come, jealous of your juntas. And big sunglasses.

I am sure the Generals about to take positions of civil executive power in Washington will be itching to slip into their green or blue serge as they stand with their heavy, career damaged faces just back of Trump on the Capitol steps.

The fact that British Bosswoman Teresa May sent her Chiefs of Staff, her military top brass, to talk with Trump’s people rather than her Ambassador indicates that the military industrial complex which former President Eisenhower famously warned about now sits openly at the top table. A glance at Bartholomew’s Mini World Atlas, in reach of my armchair, shows why this may be so right now.

We know that a lot of Trump’s support comes from people who don’t go along with the idea of a multicolored, multistrand, networked future. They would prefer to resist, stand on a shrinking ice island and fight back. Their main external support is white Russia and the other ex Soviet countries who, urged on by their Church, have an uncomplicatedly negative view of people with dark skin.

I think this accounts for the mixed signals spattering out of Trump. Yes he does want to get into bed with Russian gas and oil and dammit all develop the country (gold elevators) but he doesn’t want them treading on his toes elsewhere on the globe. I’m sure they are well on their way to a deal since Trump’s magnificently overblown persona is something that vibrates the Russian soul – think Yeltsin.

The Russo-americo military would nod their heads vigourously if I let them peek at the line I have drawn on my Atlas. The heartland of the citadel is the Arctic ocean with its interior lines of communication. The two major blocs, the Americas and the ex-Soviet Union drop down from there. The tricky part is Europe, which is why the political evolutions there are central to this new, hot, game. My pencil wavers when it comes to the Scandinavian countries, Benelux and Germany, they could go either way. The Marines are arriving in Norway at this moment. They are going to learn to ski and to practice killing on packs of savage dogs with pre-torn throats.

Brexit means of course that Britain will be an American owned threat tasked to bully and subvert the easy going muddle headed frogs dagos wops and greeks. According to the MIC the countries bordering the northern Mediterranean shore are porous, soft, crumbling away. You can’t make a wall which stands up to the alien faith populations breaking out of the sea with bricks like that. The MIC sees it like – lets get those beach casualties up nearer to the D Day mark, say fifteen per cent, that should discourage them some…

Now I’ve got that bitter taste rising in my mouth. Would it were blood or spit but its just the residue from the breakfast coffee. Time to get out of the armchair and see if the legs still work.