Life is NOT all about pretending to be reckless under pre-prepared, paid-for, controlled conditions. That is the very opposite of life if you believe life ought not to provide any safety net in order to be fully experienced.
As a matter of fact, connecting a rope to your ankle and jumping from a perilous height is all about death – or, rather, the threat of death. The same can be said for all manner of purchased and only apparently dangerous activities. Crossing the road is far more likely to be injurious.
People say, ‘You only get one life,’ – which is demonstrably untrue since reincarnation is a matter of fact about which numerous proofs exist, of a personal and more general nature.
People say, ‘Life is not a dress rehearsal,’ – and again, sorry to say, they are utterly wrong. Life is precisely that, undeniably it IS a dress rehearsal, a trying on of new clothes, of looking in the mirror, and practising one’s lines. That’s just what life is!
People most often use these sayings when they simply want an excuse to be frivolous with their time and energy. Well, be frivolous – it’s great fun! – but don’t use LIFE as any kind of vindication.
“That’s all, Folks!”
The symbol above – which has sometimes been used as the site icon – is The Banner of Peace designed in conjunction with the so-called Roerich Pact, and was designed by the Russian artist of that name (Nicholas Roerich 1874-1947).
‘The Banner of Peace symbol has ancient origins. Perhaps its earliest known example appears on Stone Age amulets: three dots, without the enclosing circle. Roerich came across numerous later examples in various parts of the world, and knew that it represented a deep and sophisticated understanding of the triune nature of existence. But for the purposes of the Banner and the Pact, Roerich described the circle as representing the totality of culture, with the three dots being Art, Science, and Religion, three of the most embracing of human cultural activities. He also described the circle as representing the eternity of time, encompassing the past, present, and future. The sacred origins of the symbol, as an illustration of the trinities fundamental to all religions, remain central to the meaning of the Pact and the Banner today.’
The historic monuments, museums, scientific, artistic, educational and cultural institutions shall be considered as neutral and as such respected and protected by belligerents. The same respect and protection shall be due to the personnel of the institutions mentioned above. The same respect and protection shall be accorded to the historic monuments, museums, scientific, artistic, educational and cultural institutions in time of peace as well as in war.
‘The history of international treaties shows us how many of them were relevant and applicable to the times in which they were signed, but then lapsed into irrelevance. The Roerich Pact, however, has kept its heart and its life, and is linked to the needs of today’s chaotic world as much as ever. In so many countries we see a deterioration of cultural values and a disregard for the right of all cultural treasures to have their own continued existence, forever protected and unimpeded. We see destruction of life, property, and the inheritance of the creative genius of the nations. One can only hope that a greater awareness of the importance of humanity’s cultural heritage will increase, rather than deteriorate. There is no greater value to a nation than its culture.’
‘The Roerich Pact was first agreed to by twenty-one nations of the Americas and signed as a treaty in the White House, in the presence of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, on April 15, 1935, by all the members of the Pan-American Union. It was later signed by other countries also.’
I can’t set out on a six-thousand mile road trip across Europe without giving it a moment’s thought.
Why am I going?
Because I can. At fifty-nine, I have very nearly lived out all my cat’s lives and am simply amazed to still be here and in a position to just GO!
Since it’s the sixtieth anniversary of that great spiritual opus On the Road, which its author described in a letter as ‘…a story about 2 Catholic buddies roaming the country in search of God…’ I could use this as a reference point. If I do, it will be as a point of departure – with no pun originally intended; but there for all to see. Miles-wise, JK covered about twice this distance, over three years, and the same trips often repeated. Jack was half my age.
Am I searching for God?
No. Been there. Done that.
Am I a Catholic, even?
Going with a buddy?
You bet. The best buddy ever – my missus (lapsed RC).
(A previous road trip we undertook recently through wintry southern California and Arizona in a beat-up old Chevrolet Astra van is re-told in ANSWER.)
This one is different…
We’re going in the summer and we’ll be going through lots of different countries (inshalla) – about fifteen or so, and in a circular motion rather than there-and-back. So that ought to make it more interesting, by my reckoning – culturally-speaking.
Kerouac: ‘Oh, where is the girl I love?’
Me: Beside me.
K was looking for kicks; I’ll be looking for…the midnight sun.
K was looking for sex (as I said this morning: A whole year of this…!)
And so, the road beckons – and, god-willing, we’ll be on the ferry out of the UK come early June.
Ah, yes, now I recall why I am going – to escape this benighted country with its lying politicians and media before it separates itself off from the rest of Europe and we’ll all need visas and passes to get around.
This is the vancar we’re going to set off in. And this blog is now going to become Old School.
When I ask my international language students where the word BLOG comes from they never know – and it’s likely that a lot of us forget – a BLOG is a ‘web log’ – and that’s what from now on – or at least when the trip begins – this blog is going to be…a log put out on the web from the road.
And it’s going to be an amalgamation of sights and sounds and thoughts political, mystical and social that just pass through the blogger’s mind – just as, in fact, this blog was always supposed to be.
It’s going to be a story.
I am no expert in anything – but I am tired of being expertised to by a whole bunch of know-nothings who are out there expounding as though they really do understand what’s what concerning Europe…Well, THEY ONLY SOUND LIKE THEY DO.
That is part of what this blog is all about and always has been – and especially is from now…
Oh, yeah, those 27 countries…I’ve been to Ireland, France, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Italy, Benelux, Germany, Austria, Denmark, Sweden, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria – so that’s already over half of them – but that means a lot I haven’t and don’t know about, and I look forward to seeing some of those previously visited countries once again,…
This trip is all coming about due to Brexit, remember, so that by around this time next year I may not – as a UK citizen – be able to visit any of these countries without some kind of pass or visa. (As it happens, I have a way out – a trick up my sleeve – . Be that as it may…)
To start with, we’re taking the ferry to Hoek van Holland and heading north-eastwards…to form a triangle containing Amsterdam, Tallinn and Podgorica. That’s the plan.
First, there’s a whole lot more to organise – like what to do with the house…
In a future blog, I’ll try to give my starting position re Europe and the UK’s imminent departure from within its ranks.
Comments will be very warmly received.
In the meantime, here are some books of fiction I’ve written – all available from local bookstores or online, hardcopy or digital, and none of them particularly expensive.
How do you think it feels being an American general..?
You wake up in the morning hungry for war.
You constantly hark back to Vietnam and refuse to accept that your military lost that particular extended conflict – it was the politicians’ fault – and you wonder how you can make sure the same outcome never occurs again.
You consider how greater carpet-bombing would have laid greater waste to the entire country and silenced entirely those commie Vietcong; how a better manner of winning hearts-and-minds might have worked out…
And then you ponder how you might apply all these ways of thinking right now in Syria, say, or Afghanistan – or in some other theatre of war…say, IRAN!!! Or – better still – RUSSIA!!! (China will have to wait.)
Conveniently, you forget what carpet-bombing did to the Korean peninsula in the early 1950s when the military’s efforts laid waste to the entire country of North Korea to the extent – by your own calculations – there was nothing left to bomb…and yet the DPRK re-emerged, more resourceful than before, having learned their own lessons (that the USA cannot be trusted), just as the Vietnamese people re-emerged from their underground warrens after you had destroyed all that existed above with your chemical and conventional weaponry…
And then you get to dreaming about the A-bomb…
All you need now is an excuse – and, oh, lookee here…our friends at UN, SIS and BBC are lining up the perfect opportunity…
If ever a piece of so-called reporting from a major media source warranted being called ‘a piece of war-mongering’, this is it from the BBC. Shocking journalism at any time from any national news organisation.
Rock music was so sixties…so seventies…and its voice was freedom and anti-war – which all got gobbled up in the eighties and beyond; so that now we are returned to the rhetoric of let’s-have-war and clamp down on dissent. People are returned to their rubbish fear of no genuine enemy and a willingness to be subsumed by a fear of non-existent threats – funnily enough, the same ones of yore: Iran, Russia, N Korea.
There has been no British or American novelistic literature of the past forty years – not worth mentioning – or, really, post-war. Orwell and Kerouac set their stuff in the forties. Everything has been manipulated to sustain the Establishment. Literature is the Establishment. A couple of Russians have made their forays into the full-frontal consciousness of Westerners, Solzhenitsyn and Pasternak (Bulgakov goes way back to Stalin), and that’s about it.
No apologies – there HAVE BEEN NO liberationist writers of any substance in this era, the one being referred to; there have been feminist, gay and black writers, as there have been south american, turkish, arabic novelists and so forth, but they have concerned themselves with ghettoised not universal concerns. Only rock music has traversed the divide.
Think of how Hendrix doing Star Spangled Banner epitomises the whole anti-war pro-freedom movement and sentiment strong at that time.
The FBI, CIA and SIS did not concern themselves overly with any writers around then. The literati could not convey meaning in the manner that the musicians were able to accomplish.
But today – or soon – I hope these secret intelligence services will have to concern themselves with what is being written by bona fide spot on writers who have the graphic intelligence to grasp and grapple with contemporary matters in a fictionalised mode that encapsulates and transgresses the masses’ hopes and fears in the way the rock musicians were able to do fifty years ago.
Since music has now become a spent political force…
As on old man who just sneaked in as a baby-boomer during its final year, I am no stranger to the threat of nuclear war. We were brought up on the myth that the Americans dropping A-bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki actually saved human lives. Imagine that! The mass destruction of two of the most developed cities in the world with populations of over 400,000 and 250,000 respectively was promulgated as an act of kindness. God bless America, that most humane of all the nations.
Similarly, MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction), whereby a simple slip by one side would be matched by the other and the entire world would disappear in one single conflagration, was sold as the most certain way of ensuring it – the end of the world – would never happen. You have to admit, there is a certain kind of sanity in such a calculation; the sanity of a madman who believes that by killing everyone in the world he will never be caught or held accountable.
Such were the imbecilic beliefs the authorities tried inculcating within us.
My hometown of High Wycombe had the dubious distinction in the nineteen-eighties of being the foremost UK target for annihilation by the Soviet Union. First Dusseldorf in West Germany, where NATO housed an early warning system, followed by the USAF base up on Marlow Hill (near my secondary school) where I used to play in five-a-side football tournaments, since NATO had its secondary European communications nerve centre implanted there. Note that Washington DC in America was over three-and-half thousand miles away. The Americans always were cowards, as may be seen by every military campaign they have ever conducted since the inception of their country.
Actually, growing up in the sixties, us boys seriously believed we were still at war with Germany – wanted to believe we were at war with Germany, an attitude encouraged by the adult men around us who always wanted to be regarded as heroes of some kind, whereas in reality they were simply factory-workers being exploited in the newly-built local industrial estates. Some heroes! Still, you gotta look up to someone, aintcha? Might as well be those guys.
In the village we moved to in my mid-teenage, just five miles from where I was born, the UK government under Thatcher decided to build an underground nuclear bunker to shelter them when the Soviets fired their nuclear warheads at us (assuming the immediate destruction of Dusseldorf). SS-22s, were the missiles to which they were attached. See, our Government were just as cowardly as their American counterparts; they would only initiate a nuclear conflagration if they knew that they were personally safe and would not be hurt by it all. While the rest of the nation was being burnt to a frazzle, they’d be safe and sound half-a-mile underground sipping their PG Tips and munching on cheese and pickle sandwiches. The site they opted for was the Bomber Command base used by Sir Arthur ‘Bomber’ Harris while conducting the RAF’s fire-bombing campaign of Dresden (not to be confused with Dusseldorf) forty years earlier, in nineteen-forty-four. Which was another bombing operation that we were supposed to believe saved human lives. I know, incredible, isn’t it? Yet another act of kindness, on this occasion carried out by the British.
Some people weren’t too happy with the proposal for the military bunker – saw it as an act more likely to make nuclear war happen – and as such began a campaign of their own, to stop the bunker’s construction. A peace camp was established and protests held on a daily basis, to which the local constabulary responded with harassment and arrests. Until the site had been sold at great personal financial gain to the RAF by a local landholder with – surprise, surprise – previous connections to the military, there had been only woods and meadows. By now the land was occupied by a massive military complex known as Strike Command, surrounded by vast housing estates inhabited by the squaddies who worked there, along with a compound of imposing residences taken up by the officers. A straight ridge road linking our village with the next village two miles away was the only access, making any obstruction of the lorries and earth-moving plant required for the bunker’s construction a straightforward process, the activities of the constabulary notwithstanding. To offset this, a new access lane was built off the valley road running parallel to the ridge road a few miles west. This access route was far more difficult to block and the construction of the bunker carried on apace, as the diminishing group of disillusioned protestors either abandoned their posts or were dragged off to court and turned into criminals by the law enforcers in their blue serge suits and helmets, aided and abetted by the county judges.
All the while, we were being assailed by propaganda concerning the malfeasant intentions of a trio of nations later christened the ‘Axis of Evil’ by George W. Bush, with one of them being singled out as the main protagonist within an ‘Evil Empire’ according to the incumbent old Hollywood has-been and soon-to-be dementia-addled President of the United States of America. The names of those nations are all too familiar: North Korea, Iran and Russia. The first was bombed flat by the United States military using conventional weapons shortly after they – the USA – had dropped their humane A-bombs on Japan, to the extent that when no more military targets remained the Americans turned to destroying the country’s entire infrastructure instead, starting with the hydro-electric dams and moving on from there, committing a whole string of war crimes for which they were never prosecuted, in the process; the second contains a culture so ancient that it pre-dates written records; while the third straddles a land mass stretching from Asia to Europe and has been the only bulwark to contain US hegemony since the defeat of Nazi Germany by the Allies. Also, films were issued by the UK government about how we good people should protect ourselves in the event of a nuclear conflagration by hiding under tables and such like (while they would be comfortably ensconced in their underground bunker drinking PG Tips…) and the media made us feel even less safe with their daily reports of imminent war and destruction.
And all for what? To make us feel happy that we were living in the free world. To distract us from the neoliberal agenda that was patently undermining our well-being with its promises of a drip-drip down effect of wealth creation, as though the rich wouldn’t be getting richer and the poor getting poorer and us apathetic morons having all the hard-won rights of the past hundred-and-fifty years or more stripped away as the government waged war upon those whom the country’s wealth had been built: the miners and steel-workers and all those other hard-pressed types who had left the fields to go and work in the factories and foundries and who stupidly believed they were regarded as heroes. Just as the country’s police force had been set upon those individuals whose only aim was to halt the likelihood of nuclear war and create a peaceful world where societies of people sharing different backgrounds could live alongside each other both locally and supra-nationally (the ultimate horror of any ruling elite group), so were the bastions of law and order in all their blue-serge glory deployed to intimidate and if called to beat up their fellow workers – so degraded had we become.
So, no, to an end-of-an-era baby-boomer like myself of nearly sixty years standing, the threat of nuclear war and the way it is used to demonise ‘the other’ and cower the population while distracting us from the real social issues confronting the nation, comes as no surprise.
It ain’t nothing new. The surprise is – it still works..!
The Union Jack was always shameful to us. Rightly so. That flag was – and is – the symbol of empire and therefore nothing to be proud of. As children growing up in a little South Bucks village we knew as much, despite what the adults might try to teach us. Those unearthly, archaic crosses of three patron saints combined in one panel has fluttered over some of the worst atrocities ever committed by mankind against fellow human beings. We were aware of that. Watched it on our tv screens. Images of khaki-clad British soldiers were seen patrolling the sun-drenched streets of Aden – part of Yemen – while threatening the local population with their rifles. Even as a kid, you could see this was wrong, a misuse of power. Only later did I discover the British Army were stationed there to protect the oil interests of the privately-owned British Petroleum conglomerate and to help the Saudi royal household sow seeds of religious discontent amongst a growing pan-Arabic movement led by their shared arch-enemy, Nasser. Just as the British Army are there now for much the same reason, helping out their oil-producing Saudi allies as they blockade the old Aden port, destroy Yemen’s infrastructure and condemn hundreds of thousands of human beings to death by bombing, starvation and disease. With that in mind, can you possibly say that you are proud to be British or that you hold any reverence whatsoever for the Union Jack?
Growing up, I never could understand how The Who permitted themselves to use the Union Jack as a symbol of the band; although I got how Mary Quant and Swinging London might adopt it as a logo to increase brand awareness and increase sales. Maybe The Who wanted to make clear they weren’t American, I don’t know. The Jam used the same image a decade later, as did Oasis twenty years after that. Somehow, I cannot link youthful rebellion and the desire for freedom to think and act with such a profound image of conservative establishment authority. And I don’t think that I am alone in this anymore. At last, it is being recognised by a new generation as such. This modern anti-Brexit, pro-world generation is waking up to the awful overtones contained in those crosses, as did the German youth during the nineteen-seventies gain an understanding of what had been done in their name – and then conveniently glossed over by a previous generation – under the aegis of a black swastika emblazoned on a white circle set against a red background. If you think the Union Jack is cool – as it was considered during Blair’s Labour government, the same one that lied to a public supposedly represented by the saintly crosses in order to launch wars against the old anti-British-imperialist foes in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria – then you are a fool. As a matter of fact, I could only take to the Who after they released ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’. Hah!
I watched the collapse of one empire – the British one, and now it looks as though I may be privy to the collapse of yet another empire, this time the American one.
If the Union Jack is the emblem par excellence of British imperialism, and nobody could possibly argue with that as a statement, then the Stars and Stripes, too, conveys the image of brutal military dictatorship and underhand espionage deployed to subjugate whole nations and peoples, those who have no desire to be ruled so. American governments, like their British counterparts use of the Union Jack, have had no compunction about raising the Star Spangled Banner above the heads of those whose lives they despise and whom they would control through the use of unbridled force and lies. And that’s just their own people. Look further abroad and you will discover a whole litany of dirty tricks and military might deployed against the better wishes of peoples around the globe, from Pyongyang to Kiev to Tehran and all the places in between. Full-spectrum dominance means just that, and when the cowardly American generals and politicians feel they can get away with it, they will plunder and utterly dismantle any person or persons or country that stand in their way. Just as the British taught them to do, and still would, if they could. Killing and torture, lying and subterfuge, are second nature within the American republic. Their only goal, like the British before them, is to cower humanity and rob the planet of all its resources while they bestride their imperial thrones and military hardware, lording it while saluting the imperial flag and looking over the remaining quivering mass of virtual human slaves.
Nota bene. Just as the Americans had to leave Vietnam, routed by a determined resistance movement prepared to fight back and develop its own ideology , so the British finally had to leave Aden/Yemen in nineteen sixty-seven, driven out by the organised resistance of the nation’s Arabs (although the current activity of the British government shows that old colonial sentiments continue to exist.) Like I said, my first images of British imperialism came by way of the tv screen when I was growing up; they, the politicians, the armed forces and the mainstream media are not prepared to make that same mistake again, showing virtually no footage of what is actually happening in present-day Yemen, and only occasionally providing an – extremely skewed – analysis of the situation. You – and they – have been warned.
All hail the flag!
‘[1936-37]…he [Bissier] produces a series of small-format ink works on paper and “symbolic inks” (“Symboltuschen”), which synthesize through elementary symbols the bi-polar constellations (male-female, wave-rock, life-death, protected-threatened) and thus refer as much to myth, philosophy and European mysticism as to philosophical concepts of the Far East (above all, Taoism and Zen).’ – bissier.org/biography
This reproduction of an ink drawing by the German artist has hung on my wall for twenty-five years, and still reveals something new on each viewing.