Reading is an experience. A channel to another world. Whether that other world be fictional or rooted in fact, seeing the world throuhh different eyes is refreshing, challenging, thought-provoking and wondrous.
Fiction books should be new. When tumbling into another world of endless possibilities, the smell, the feel and the crisp pages should all feel untouched. It makes me feel like I am the first to experience the universe on the other side of that book cover.
Non-fiction books are sometimes better used. History books, for instance – bent spines, dog-eared pages and a little yellowing goes a long way. The reader(s) that have come before have left their mark and I hope that through those used pages comes not only the knowledge of the book, but something more from those who passed the book down. Vestigium, perhaps.
Fiction interprets, emphasises, dissects, peels back the layers and wonders about the real world. It also adds to it by creating new myths and provides new outlooks.
Non-fiction shows the world how the world and society came to be, what it is and where it may be heading. To write good fiction, it is good to know the facts. And can’t we say that fact is sometimes even more extravagant and more incredible than fiction could ever be?
Anyone reading the news nowadays would be remiss not to have noticed the surge in populism over the past few years. 2016 especially saw a seismic shift that only few people with their ear to the ground were able to predict.
With the rise of populism came a rise in factionalism and tribalism.
Socialism, democracy, capitalism, republicanism and liberalism pulled out the stops, jumped online, onto the pages of opinion pieces and the pages of newspapers and started swinging.
With competing ideologies came a rise in word-warfare and phrase-flinging.
“Politics of envy“
This is actually a phrase that’s been used for years by high earners, Tories taking swipes at other parties, and people of a certain class who disagree with liberal, democratic or socialist thinking.
If workers and/or unions believe that employees should have better wages, a place in boardrooms or at least a stronger voice in the workplace, they are deemed to be suffering from envy. Even people who think that higher earners should pay more tax are also often thrown under the “politics of envy” banner.
So, anyone on a lower rung of the socio-economic ladder who wishes to get ahead or go further in life.
But the phrase itself needs some dissecting.
Those people who are very well off have a tendency to protect themselves, their companies, and their profit margins. Businesses progress by making sure that they repeatedly turn a profit. This is because they have a duty to give their shareholders a healthy return on their investment.
But companies are only as good as their employees. If a construction company such as Persimmon Homes generates a multimillion pound profit, is it because of the person who started the company or because of the crews who worked through all weathers to build homes?
Work is the biggest killer outside of natural death. Workplace accidents. Slips, trips and falls. Muscular-skeletal injuries. People breathe noxious and hazardous substances. Later in life people will experience back problems, breathing difficulties, cancer through exposure. A vast array of problems from a lifetime of arduous work.
There is a romanticism about “an honest day’s labour.” Earning an “honest living.” There is truth in this. Working laborious jobs and seeing a job completed comes with an immense amount of satisfaction. But that satisfaction of a job well done should come with a wage that mirrors the worker’s toils. But those toils have a heavy toll on the body and, often without financial security through sustainable wages, on the mind.
On the other hand, higher earners have a longer life expectancy and are far less likely to suffer from those physical detriments that are incurred through physical labour.
Is it therefore politics of envy to want more money for your efforts or to want a certain quality of life? Or is it just politics of what is fair? After all, people sacrifice themselves.
“Politics of envy” is a phrase used to dismiss any kind of socialist thought, even that kind of socialist thought to which most people adhere. Like wanting a free NHS. Like wanting the more wealthy and corporations to pay their fair share of taxes or perhaps wanting to redistribute wealth.
Is it fair to claim that ordinary people looking for true representation within the political system are suffering from politics of envy when modern day politics is controlled by the dispersion and directing of capital?
So is it really politics of envy? And even if it is, how does that compare against those who partake in the politics of greed?
Henry Smith was re-elected as MP for Crawley in this year’s general election.
But what does Henry Smith stand for? We can get an idea by looking at his voting history. He has voted:
Against banker’s bonus tax – despite bankers being responsible for sinking the economy in 2007/2008
Against gay rights
Against laws promoting equality and human rights
Against a “right to remain for EU nationals” already living in the UK
Against benefits raising in-line with prices
Against higher benefits over longer periods for those unable to work due to illness or disability
For increasing rate of VAT (BUT against increasing rate of taxes for those paid over £150,000
For allowing employees to exchange some employment rights for shares in the company they work for
For more restriction of trade union activity
For reducing capital gains tax
For reducing corporation tax
For raising England’s undergraduate tuition fees to £9,000
For reducing government funding for local government
Against a more proportional system for electing MPs
For greater restrictions on campaigning by third parties, such as charities, during elections
For mass surveillance of people’s communications and activities
Against measures to prevent climate change
For selling England’s state-owned forests
Against financial incentives for low carbon emission electricity generation methods
Against greater public control of bus services
For capping civil service redundancy payments
Against restrictions on fees charged to tenants by letting agents
After a visit to the Cayman Islands, Henry Smith also supported the fight against anti-money laundering measures and criticised plans to introduce more transparency to the islands. In other words, Henry Smith supports offshore tax havens.
The Panama Papers have shown that offshore tax havens support organised crime including drugs and human-trafficking and terrorist cells whilst also allowing banks to hide money and avoid paying those taxes that could go toward public services.
Does Henry Smith stand up for the average person? Please check the site:
The election was vicious. Not the kind of high-quality sparring that we were once used to when politicians fought tactically over policies and with pride and decency. Instead, we saw tribalism, character assassination and online vitriol the likes of which have left most of us flabbergasted and confused.
Either way, people gave the Conservatives the majority meaning that, unless some kind of large-scale scandal arises, we are leaving the European Union. If Scotland and Northern Ireland will be part of that process is yet to be determined.
Boris Johnson may claim that we should let the “healing begin”, but he and the country now face some very serious questions. Such as:
Will Boris Johnson now open the enquiry into Russian involvement in the 2016 referendum? This is an enquiry into hostile foreign forces meddling in western democracy that Boris Johnson previously quashed.
What is the future for the Labour government? Do they continue to follow so-called “Corbynism” or do they move on to greener pastures in a bid to win back the vote of the working classes?
Will the government move toward green energy or will they continue pursuing fracking?
Will Labour make fresh moves to push Anti-Semitism from their ranks?
Will the government show the full document (and not the redacted version of which three-quarters were blacked out) in which they are shown to push a “pro-shale narrative” on the communities in which they plan to undertake fracking?
Despite leaving the European Union, will government still make sure that they follow the upcoming directive to make sure that transactions to offshore tax-havens are made transparent?
What do the government plan to do about disenfranchisement of the “North” and other areas across the UK?
Is the UK going to become a vassal state for the United States?
How is the NHS really going to be effected?
Now that we should be without bias, are the British public ready to return to fact-checking and verification and to take part in face to face discourse, and hold politicians to account when they lie or do not deliver on their promises.
Will Boris Johnson finally be interviewed by Andrew Neil?
Two things are certain:
1. Journalists have a hell of a lot of work to do to make sure that people are held to account.
2. Government have to make sure that they do everything they can to keep disinformation and misinformation out of the public sphere.
I have suffered from Sciatica for a year and a bit now. In most cases, Sciatica disappears after a few months. In this case it kept on for 14 months, until yesterday.
I had an operation called a discectomy in which part of the disc pushing onto the nerve was cut back, allowing my Sciatic nerve some breathing space.
I am now sofa-bound. Every time I get up and walk around it feels like my midriff is going to just snap and I’ll end up doubled over, my eyes looking between my feet.
The anaesthetic was amazing. Some clear liquid and an oxygen mask before the white liquid, the main barbiturate solution, pumped in.
‘Do you feel a bit light-headed?’
I nod and the next thing I know I’m waking up in another room. The surgeon tells me something that I think is meant to be important but I have no idea what it is. Why do they have to tell you how it went when you’re out of it? For all I know I could have been left paralysed but missed the memo.
I was given an egg sandwich and a cup of tea. I chilled and listened to the radio. It was a pretty easy recovery, until I got home and the pain meds wore off.
I loved my car. A Renault Clio Tourer Dynamique with a 1.1 engine, though the engine size didn’t stop Renault selling it as a; “sport edition.” Every time I renewed my insurance I had to convince the person on the other end of the phone that it didn’t have spoilers and nitrous but it did have a large boot for shopping and it shook when it hit 71 mph.
When Ozack Van-Damme shuddered to a stop on a busy dual carriageway I had no idea he was going to be a write-off. The recovery guy told me it didn’t look good before he winched it onto the back of his van and drove Ozack and myself to my local garage.
A couple of days later I got the call. He was as dead as dead can be. A piston shot through thrle cylinder and there was nothing I could do without materialising a couple grand. The next day I found myself emptying Ozack of all those things a car holds. Receipts. Emergency kit. Log book. Ice-scraper. No matter how hard I jammed my fingers down into the gap between driver’s chair and handbrake I couldn’t reach that two-pound coin.When it was emptied, I watched it get hauled onto the back of yet another recovery vehicle. Why didn’t it have scrapyard or car funeral service written on the side instead of “recovery vehicle” as if it was going to give Ozack another chance at life?
Ozack took us around Europe, large boot crammed with camping gear and three weeks-worth of clothes for three of us. He had taken us across the flat expanse of the Netherlands, along the no-such-thing-as-a-speed-limit autobahn and up the steep mountain roads of Switzerland.
It is because of Ozack that we accidentally discovered a dogging spot and caught sight of two people going at it in the back of an old faded red Vauxhall something-or-other, pale naked figures illuminated by our headlights as we swung out of the car park. Men and women stood around the Vauxhall looking like rabbits caught in headlights, others refused to look up and instead kept their heads down. I made out furrowed brows as if they were pondering the universe and not whacking off as they watched two strangers going at it. Though we didn’t see any spectator flesh so maybe it was too cold.
My partner and I had spent many a night huddled under duvets in the back of Ozack, the car perched on top of the cliffs of Cornwall. We were rocked to sleep by harsh coastal winds and awoken by morning light draining in through the windows.
It saddens me to think that he is being put through the works at the local breakers yard. But I guess like so many dead bodies he is being plucked of organs so other machines can last that little bit longer.
I was spread out on the living room floor, reading a bulky sci-fi novel when I heard an intake of breath. Not exactly a snore. But kinda like a snore.
My fiance (let’s call her “Tired Teacher”) was sitting cross-legged on the couch. A four-colour bic hanging from her hand and a student’s English book spread on her lap. Her head was on her chest and her eyes were closed. Asleep.
This is common. I reach over and shake her leg. She comes to, head snapping up like she had never stopped marking. She offers an exhausted, embarrassed smile and gets her pen ready.
I get another paragraph in, a boy trapped underwater, his best friend struggling to get to him. The adults are racing to the scene but who knows if they’ll be there in time – another not-quite-but-kinda-like a snore.
Her head is down again. Eyes closed. Pen at the ready.
I shake her awake. Tell her to go to bed. She nods and puts her student’s book into a large bag. The same bag she lugs in and out of the car and somehow hefts to and from school Monday to Friday.
When the book is away she slumps sideways across the couch and is asleep. It’s 12.32 in the morning. She’ll be getting up at six-thirty.