07 July 2009

The Authoritarian Temptation(poem)

Originally wrote and posted this to my Facebook Notes last night, and will let the rather long intro and poem speak for themselves here, except to say that I hope you enjoy them and find them to be at least some food for thought.

Be seeing you.

Earlier this evening, I saw, via a link to a friend's FB profile that a friend of hers had posted there, a list of things to do on an anarchist site(what the site's precise orientation in that part of the spectrum I don't know), and, while going down the list, I saw some items there that I thought had at least some merit, but others, including this one, "Don't be afraid to disagree with kindness", that I thought could have been appropriately put on a list entitled, "30 Ways To Be A Complete Arsehole", and, particularly with some of the articles, posts and comments that have seen on-line, especially in recent years, from various parts of the Left, Centre and Right, well, my reaction was to sit down and write out a set of poems heavily lampooning various parts of the American political spectrum, including the Democratic Party, among several others, and even myself, and the authoritarian tendencies I have in my personality.

However, I decided, and yes, am admitting to being a complete chicken-shit here, but I decided not publish them here, because I do have friends who subscribe in one form or another to at least some tenets of the beliefs lampooned in those pieces.

Instead, I decided, while writing this piece, to publish this, the most serious and direct portion of all of the various pieces, because I think that this clearly and directly expresses a lot of the fears, doubts, and mis-givings, as well as my beliefs, about those, including myself at times, who would seek to impose their wills on everyone else around them, regardless of ideology, religion or other motivations.

There's an awful lot of political infantilism being pushed, both on and off the 'Net, right now, these being the hard, uncertain, and, at times, very frightening times, we find ourselves in, it becomes pretty easy to fall for at least one form of it if one's not careful.

It's very easy, if one feels justified enough, and especially if one over-estimates one's own righteousness, intellect and prowess, to advocate practically any course of action, no matter how stupid, criminal or murderous.

The Bolsheviks, Italian Fascists, Nazis, Red Guards, and Khmer Rouge, among many others, including liberal democracies like the US, Great Britain, France and others, believed, as many have before and since, that they were absolutely right, and absolutely justified in everything they said and did, no matter how ugly.

It's a very human failing, and Yours Truly's certainly no exception to this. Self-righteousness is one of the worst drugs I can think of, and practically no one's immune to it, in one form or another. Even libertarian conservatives and libertarian socialists and communists can fall victim to it, if they're aren't careful.

Before saying "I think everyone should...", I think that it might be best to see if one's thought the assumptions and implications of what one's advocating entirely through, because there are always devils in the details and unexpected consequences to one's notions, thoughts and actions.

Yes, one can over-think any given course of action, and end up either hesitating as to what to do until far too late, or not act at all.

But, acting too hastily, especially if one hasn't entirely thought out precisely what one hopes to accomplish, can also be disastrous.

There are no perfect solutions, but there are some that are better and far more equitable and humane than others, in my view.

Even then, there are going to be errors, great and small, made in bringing those about. The trick, so it seems to me, as to make as few as one possibly can, and not to make the same ones twice.

Anyway, have blathered on long enough.

The poem's below, and hope you enjoy it and that it gives at least some food for reflection, thought, and better-applied action.

Here Endeth The Lesson, and Be Seeing You.

Tyranny, no matter the intentions or ideas behind it,/

comes out to being much the same,/

whether by a tyrant ten thousand miles away,/

or ten thousand tyrants not a mile away./

It's the exaltation of power,/

for its own sake,/

wielded by people so caught up in themselves and their ideas/

that they examine their assumptions not./

The impulses towards bigotry, thievery, looting, rapine, /

despoilation, viciousness and genocide./

There are always, always, /

explanations, excuses, and more excuses,/

justification after justification,/

some meek and humbly given,/

others defiant,/

and all far too damned late./

After the thievery,/

the rape,/

and the murdering are over,/

often long since so./

Even the purest, even poets,/

can steal and murder/

with impunity, for a long time,/

and the greatest of glee./

All it takes is a touch of self-righteousness,/

the worst drug of all,/

and a lack of empathy./

All it takes is a will to supreme, absolute, unbridled power,/

and the willingness to use it on others as harshly as can be./

Whether from behind an expensive desk,/

or in the field,/

with a rifle, pistol,/

iron bar or shovel,/

it's easy, so easy, to call for murder of those one hates,/

or at least dis-likes./

It's easy, so easy, to imagine oneself as the heroic victor, the Hero or Heroine of the Revolution,/

the Supreme and Almighty,/

or at least a capable and empowered district officer./

It's quite another/

to imagine oneself/

as the despised,/

the oppressed,/

the robbed,/

the raped,/

murdered and buried like a dog in an un-marked grave./

It's quite another to actually have to live the experience,/

whether as murderer or victim./

Either way,/

it's a bastard, truly and completely so,/

all the way, all the way,/

all the way to Hell on Earth./

Seek not to dominate others, lest you be dominated in turn./

Avoid those who want power, however disguised, for its own sake./

Whatever their intentions and ideas,/

their motives and means,/

whether they truly believe their words,/

or coldly, cynically sell them /

like pills and soap/

pushed in adverts./

Notions are one thing, actions another,/

and those who, whether idealistic or cynical,/

push notions too far when applying them into action,/

are just as blood guilty all the same./

Politics, economics, war and such/

aren't games to be played,/

with people as the pieces to be shoved 'round/

at the players' whims./

They are business,/

the deadliest, most serious kind,/

in which lives, simple, ordinary, even stupid, human lives,/

matter far more than profits, position, or philosophical righteousness./

This isn't a game, nor a drama, in which one plays an assigned part,/

whether “heroic”, “villainous” or merely “supporting”./

This isn't a a yeshiva, seminary or academic debating society,/

where even the most outrageously criminal notions/

can be advanced, refuted, and then left while the contenders grab a bite./

This isn't a dryly academic text nor seminar./

This is reality, often confusing and messy,/

where power, resources, desires and murder oft combine./

It may be great history or fiction to read or see,/

but it's Bloody, literally bloody, Hell to live./

If one wants to see the end results of unthinking militancy and self-righteousness,/

just go and view a murder scene, morgue, or a battlefield after the slaughter's stopped./

There, one will see, wounds, death, stink, rot, and blue-bottle flies and maggots 'round the corpses of the dead, regardless of whichever side they fought.

This is what comes of feelings and prejudices left unexamined,/
notions and ideas unchallenged, especially by oneself,/
and words and actions too carelessly tossed out and inflicted on others./

As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master,/

Abraham Lincoln said./

He was far more right than he knew when he said that./

Even those who proclaim the loudest about liberty and freedom can be tyrants,/

if they don't check themselves and their appetites./

Even those who proclaim they are for equality for all/

can lord it over others,/

if they let themselves./

Even those who seek righteousness can be sinners,/

if they allow themselves./

Those who would make themselves more than human/

doom themselves to less, far less, than so./

We are human, all too human, as Nietzsche titled one of his books,/

with all the virtues and faults of the race./

We aren't chattels, dummies nor dolls to be used and abused at someone's convienence, then thrown away./

We aren't gods nor devils./

We are merely human, all too human, that is all./

13 May 2009

The Great Hadleyburg Turkey Shoot, Part Two

2010 was the beginning of the four year-long period of Pacifican history known as “The Violent Years”, during which many Pacificans wondered if their country's social order would dissolve.

It started in March of that year, with an attempted secession by some of the inhabitants of a small town in the north-western part of the Department of Agricola, and an attempted coup in New Africa three months later. While both were quickly put down, there would be other out-breaks of violence of various sorts throughout Pacifica in the remainder of 2010.

Hadleyburg, in contrast, seemed to be an island of stability and calm in a sea of turbulence. But, that state was deceptive.

By 2010, Hadleyburg's population had doubled to around 600 inhabitants, both in the town proper and the half-dozen villages and hamlets in its immediate neighbourhood, and officially made its livelihood from the rail-road, motor transport and commercial warehousing industries.

Unofficially, Hadleyburg's real money came from the illicit production of drugs and alcohol. Although the Amalgamation of Communities of Pacifica's national government had legalised the use, production and distribution of narcotics, with the tax monies generated from their sale being devoted to drug and alcohol prevention and treatment programmes, in 2008, there was a loop-hole in the Narcotics Legalisation Act of 2008, that allowed some communities to opt-out of that legalisation. It was both legally and popularly known as “Local Option”, and Hadleyburg, like a number of its neighbours in the Middle Belt, took it.

There were two elements in the coalition that supported Hadleyburg's Local Option, the first of which were the religious and law-and-order elements in the town, most prominently represented by the pastor of the local Church of Joe, a vintage Painted Head GI Joe named Pastor George Hassenfeld, and Hadleyburg's Mayor, a vintage GI Joe Adventure Team Land Adventurer named Oran Speers. Both men, like much of their constituencies, were among Hadleyburg's original settlers,were passionately attached to the idealised vision they had of their home, and were also greatly afraid of the potential impact that the legalised sale and use of drugs and alcohol would have on the town.

The second element of the coalition was far more commercially-minded in its support of Local Option, and was composed of the two gangs that actually controlled much of Hadleyburg's business and politics, the Double-Ought Boys, so-called because of its use of shot-guns in dealing with rivals and opponents, and the Bulleteers.

Founded around 2005, both gangs started out with petty extortion against truck drivers and local merchants, and quickly worked their ways up to controlling the production, distribution and sale of illicit alcohol and drugs in Hadleyburg and its surrounding area. Along the way, they also entwined themselves with the local political establishment, with the Double-Ought Boys allying with Mayor Speers and two out of the four members of Hadleyburg's Town Council, and the Bulleteers supporting another Town Councillor(the fourth Councillor, a Marx Johnny West figure named Wallace Peppard, was considered too personally and politically weak by both gangs to be considered worth bothering with).

The Pacifican-Centralian War of 2007, with the sudden influx of soldiers and refugees that came into Hadleyburg as a result thereof, was taken full advantage of by Double-Ought Boys and Bulleteers alike, and both grew numerically and in the power of their grip on the area's politics and economy.

By October, 2010, there were 50 members of the Double-Ought Boys, and 43 members of the Bulleteers, and both had considerable influence over every institution in Hadleyburg and its out-lying area. Even the town's police chief, another vintage Painted Head Joe named John “Honest John” Patton, was in the pocket of the Double-Ought Boys, although he occasionally flirted with the idea of making a similar arrangement with the Bulleteers.

Both the Double-Ought Boys and the Bulleteers derived a good amount of their income from extortion and “protection” of the Trans-Pacifica Rail-Road's lines and facilities, the various transport and warehousing companies and their employees, and just about every business in the Greater Hadleyburg Area, as well as prostitution. But, the bulk of their money came from illegal drugs and alcohol, which were widely distributed and sold in not only Hadleyburg and its environs, but as far east as the out-lying parts of the Wabash area, and as far west as New Peshtigo.

Both were equally ruthless in buying out or shooting up any potential competitors who popped up, and in sealing up the market for their products, while arranging their respective shares of it between themselves.

But, that arrangement, which had held up for five years, began to break down as the Double-Ought Boys began expanding their trade into the Wabash area, which had previously been the Bulleteers' exclusive territory, and the Bulleteers, in turn, started operating in the areas west of Hadleyburg, which had been the Double-Ought Boys' territory.

Shortly after the break down of the arrangement, a number of small producers and distributors of both gangs' products started either disappearing or turning up quite dead in various places around Hadleyburg, and both gangs started preparing themselves for war.

That war broke out on the night of 10th October, 2010.

03 May 2009

Amigo The Cat, 17th April 2009 Pics

The trio of cat pics below are of my cat Amigo, and were taken on 17th April of this year.

Shot it in the bay window of my bedroom, which is one of his favourite perches.

Hope you enjoy these.

We, The Dead, Salute You

The pics below were shot and edited a week or so ago.

They're, for better or worse, my little commentary on the recent mass shootings that have taken place in the US and Germany in the past few months.

Make of them whatever you wish.

30 April 2009

The Great Hadleyburg Turkey Shoot

This is the first part of a ten-part action figure story that I started to-day.

Hope you enjoy it.

Of all the towns found in the Pacifica Department's Middle Belt, one of the oddest, and certainly the most corrupt, was Hadleyburg.

Located well in between the major cities of New Metropolis and Blackwater, it was settled by a small agricultural colony of vintage GI Joes in 1999, and, prior to Pacifica's independence from Centralia three years later, the settlement eked out a marginal living from raising cabbage, corn and potatoes.

But, after independence, the need to connect the department of New Scandinavia to Pacifica's north with Blackwater, Central City and New Metropolis resulted in the construction of National Routes 4 & 6, which respectively ran from east to west and from north to south, and the east to west Trans-Pacifica Railroad.

Being situated by the proposed lines of all three routes, Hadleyburg was in an ideal position to take full
advantage of its position, and take advantage it did, of the road and rail construction companies, their workers, the Pacifica Department's government, and the Amalgamation of Pacifica itself, for all it was worth, and then some.

There were those individuals, from both in- and outside of Hadleyburg, who raised their voices against the feather-bedding, over-charging, sweetheart deals and out-right theft that went on before, during and after the highways' and rail-road's construction. But, ways of shutting them up, whether through bribery, bullying, blackmail or bashing in of heads, could be and were always found and used.

So much for Hadleyburg's critics.

The town shot up like a weed in a tropical field, and, by the time the Pacifican-Centralian War of 2007 happened, it was a thriving mini-metropolis of some 300-plus souls. During the 10 day-long war, Hadleyburg, like most of its Middle Belt neighbours, suffered little directly from its effects, but was ideally positioned to press its advantages on the armies of soldiers and refugees that passed through or stayed in the area. And yes, take advantage of them, Hadleyburg and its citizens did.

It kept on doing that after the war, with all of the refugees from the devastated towns and cities temporarily settled near Hadleyburg and its neighbours for the several months after the war that reconstruction took.

Like with the highway and rail-road construction, there were voices that protested the various forms of robbery, overt and disguised, inflicted on them by the good citizens of Hadleyburg. But, as before, they were either bought out, beaten up, or broken in one way or another.

A few small-time malefactors were offered up to the departmental and Amalgamated authorities as sacrificial lambs, with much trumpeting and fanfare in the local media.

But, the real villains, and the whole rotten show, went merrily on, even after most of the refugees returned home, and Hadleyburg remained snug, and smug, in its piously hypocritical ways.

In the autumn of 2010, all of that would change in the course of a night.

17 April 2009

The Killing Mood And The Killing Season(poem)

Yet more material prompted by the current malaise that I see on-line, and my own reactions to it.

The sun shines,/

the wind blows,/

and leaves tremble on branches./

These have gone on long before/

we small, poor things began struggling/

underneath them./

Stars, formed long before we came to be,/

send their light outwards to worlds we shall ne'er see,/

and have burnt out, long before what we assume to be/

eternal, solid and ever-lasting, was even an idea./

Kingdoms, republics, constitutions,/

markets, churches, and art/

have come, gone, been revived and faded out,/

over and over again./

Faded out, driven out or burnt out/

because of the killing moods in the minds of men/

made manifest in the killing seasons./

We are filled up,/

and fill ourselves up with/

all manner of notions/

about how the world has been,/

and should be./

It's something we all do,/

for we all have our view-points,/

and only the dead are truly neutral./

It's understandable,/

for we all have our own lives and struggles,/

some better, some worse, than others./

But, it's unforgiveable,/

when we ball up fists, pick up weapons,/

and go forth, like so many Christian, Muslim, Jewish or other soldiers,/

marching, not as to war, but war itself./

It's criminal when, in the name of our god, gods, constitutions or creeds,/

we loot, burn, rape and kill./

It's stupidity itself,/

when we lie to ourselves and others,/

in saying that all is justified and sanctioned,/

even if by the ancient and mere excuse,/

"They had it comin', for being on the wrong side,

wrong place, wrong time, wrong colour,/

when men fell into the killing mood,/

and the killng season began./

If they had it comin',/

so do we all./

For self-sorrow, dis-satifisfaction,/

jealousy, envy and hatred can consume us all,/

if we let them./

Loneliness, frustration and bitterness/

can make the best into beasts,/

and the bestial into far worse./

If we let them./

When we do,/

we've got it comin',/

just as they do,/

and revenge takes its course,/

the bells and gongs sound again,/

'cos of another killing mood,/

another killing season./

Some say that's the cost of freedom,/

and that some principles matter more than life itself./

Maybe so, but they who say such things/

have either never suffered loss at the hands/

of those gripped by a killing mood in the killing season,/

or have grown callous and stupefied by their loss./

It's so easy and cheap to run one's mouth,/

in one's living room, bed-room or bar-room,/

and call for the deaths of others, who one neither knows nor cares about./

It's much harder and dearer to actually do,/

in the killing mood, in the killing season./

Fine speeches,/

full of wonderous, or maybe just ordinary,/

oratory, at funerals and ceremonies,/

are made over bags of dead meat,/

whether freshly-killed or long since dead./

The causes for which they died were always fair and just,/

the deeds they performed heroic, and the dead immortal./

But, this ignores that the causes may have been dubious,/

the dead, when alive, mixes of fairness and failibility, same as anyone else,/

and that the dead are dead and gone, never to return in the state known in life./

Bodies change and transmute,/

shedding flesh and muscle,/

bone and marrow,/

until they become something else entirely./

Don't expect to see them,/

as they were,/

ever again./

Too much damage has been done,/

and too much time passed,/

to un-do the deeds made by men/

gripped by the killing mood/

in the killing season./

Words comfort the living,/

but do nothing for the dead./

Words are for the living,/

not the dead,/

for only the living need comfort,/

however small and dubious./

The dead are beyond such cares and considerations./

The sun rises and sets,/

as our sphere turns 'round it./

The wind gusts and settles,/

and gusts again, as the patterns dictate./

The leaves sprout, flourish, tremble, fade and die,/

and new ones sprout again, as the seasons change./

They go on, and shall until it's their turn to fade and die./

They don't see, hear, think nor feel about/

the stupidites, follies and crimes/

of men gripped by the killng mood in the killing season./

Only men can do those./

Only we poor, stumbling creatures,/

under leaves, wind and sun./

14 April 2009

Showdown At The No-Where Corral(poem)

This has been inspired by what have read about various mass shootings and the like over the years, especially recently, the descriptions of the personalities of their perpetrators that have read in various news accounts, and also a bit of lookin' into myself. Can see where I've a fair degree in common with such folks, the anger, frustration, puzzlement and wondering why am not doing better in the world, feelings of entitlement and self-pity, and so on.

By stating this, does that mean that am going to do of the same??? Hell, no. To the points that have worked it through, the end results don't justify the costs, to others or myself. Rather, am trying to do what the late Yukio Mishima put it, when asked why he wrote his novels, plays, etc, as he did, because he otherwise would have been a mass murderer. Not the most pleasant reason, surely, but it worked for him for a long time. His 1970 suicide doesn't entirely abrogate the logic behind that notion, I think. He did that for a variety of reasons.

As for me, well, suicide, even for political reasons, is a mug's game to me. Sure, you get your name in the media and some people will remember you after you're dead. But, being dead's just that, and there's sweet fuck-all one can do once one's in that state.

We all die at one time or another. But, the important thing is how one lives while one's here. I know, big talk comin' from a poor autie-boy who lives with a cat. Well, even poor autie-boys with cats occasionally get it right.

Enough blather. Let's do it to it, and hope you like this.

The sun beats down, yet another day, on yet another part of the world and the poor creatures under it/

Big city, suburb, small town or village./

The difference matters not./

The sun beats down, like it did on small towns like Tombstone, Bodie, or Lincoln in the Old West./

It beats down, just as it did on Western movie sets, from Bronco Billy Anderson's to Clint Eastwood's./

It beats down, just as it did on places like Austin, Texas, San Diego California, and little towns and villages in Finland and Germany,/

on the days when ill-raised human kittens picked up a weapon or two, or four, or however many to do the job,/

and had themselves a gun-fight at the No-Where Corral./

Picked up a weapon, and were far from the only ones in history to do so,/

to go settle some long-standing disputes they'd with the world,/

bosses, co-workers, school-mates and family,/

and with themselves./

Picked up a gun, knife, or whatever else struck their fancies./

One even used a flame-thrower, made at home with his own two hands./

All to settle some long-held vendetta or blood feud with the world around them./

Not that others haven't ./

Oh, they did, usin' politics, economics, race, religion, whatever, for their reasons,/

to do cheap and nasty deeds in foul and stinking wars, feuds, vendettas and such./

And all of the dead had it comin', but we've all got it comin', dependin' on whom ya talk to./

No-one's immune from hatin' bad enough to kill,/

and no-one's immune from bein' hated bad enough to be killed./

Yet, we're always surprised when Showdowns and Gun-Fights at the No-Where Corral happen./

We're always shocked, shocked, shocked to High Heaven when this happens./

But, we're never shocked enough to do somethin' about it,/

or the poverty, desperation, alienation and loneliness behind it./

Never shocked enough to knock off glorifyin' the shameful./

Never shocked enough to put enough of a check on our assumptions and appetites./

Never shocked enough to really examine ourselves and see the potential mass murderer, serial killer,/

nasty murdering button man inside us./

The part of us that, like a tom-cat killing kittens to bring a queen cat into estrus again,/

can and will use violence if felt necessary or pushed hard enough./

Shocked, my arse, we are, by all this./

We're long past shock and into deep numbness, if not coma./

There is only so much bad news that one can take,/

before we slip into the waking dreams of complacency, fear or anger./

Just as the doers of such deeds live in a waking dream of anger,/





and loneliness./

The long waking dream time born of frustration after frustration,/

failure after failure,/

humilation after humilation,/

all of which builds,/

piece by piece, link by link,/

second after minute after hour after day after month after year after decade,/

until some folks run amok, whether with a kris, pistol or rifle./

The weapon matters not so much, as the result./

Dead and wounded strewn about the field of massacre,/

like so many store dummies scattered by a tornado or hurricane./

Just like when 19th year olds play at armed diplomacy,/

on the orders of older "betters" who never have and never will./

Just like kids shoot each other over slights and insults./

Just like when dealer kills dealer over turf./

Just like when husband beats wife, or wife husband./

Diffferent people, different causes, and same sorry results./

Everyone has their reasons, I've mine, you've yours, he's his and she's hers./

Everyone can kill, man, woman, child, adult and ancient./

Everyone can die for no good reason./

It's what in our heads and the world around us, as much as the instruments at hand,/

that can kill./

It's the voices from inside and outside that we let dictate to us that can kill./

It's the stupid assumptions, pre-conceptions and prejudices we have that can kill./

It's the anger, fear, indifference and self-indulgence we have that can kill./

They are the motive force, the weapons are the instruments,/

of the longing to butcher./

But, this is forgotten, usually, in the debates and dramas that arise in the aftermath./

Debates driven and dominated by monists, some saying it's guns that are responsible, others saying we need more guns in every place and in every hand./

They are both wrong, because in their maniacal monism, they don't see that/

neither unarmed nor armed societies are polite ones, if the ground rules aren't changed./

If more emphasis isn't given to Mercy, Hope, Charity and the better qualities of our nature,/

If people are seen as dolls or objects, and the ethic is what can you do for me,/

If stupid arrogance is given its head,/

there is no meaningful change,/

and no peace, merely truces until the next blood-bath./

Some blame the media and others blame drugs, licit and illicit, and alcohol./

They play their parts, sure./

But, they aren't alone in this./

There is no one sole cause, and no sole solution./

This isn't the movies or a television episode,/

with everything neatly wrapped up by the end of running time./

This is life, as messy and complex as it gets./

This is death, with all its stink and rot,/

and this is what comes of the thought that using a weapon solves all./

There are no quick, easy, simple solutions to this,/

just add water, mix and pop in the oven./

There are no guarantees,/

and if one wants one, better buy a toaster instead./

There are only us poor creatures under the sun,/

that shines down on us all alike,/

on scenes of beauty and horror,/

as it has before we came and will after we've gone./

One day, perhaps, it won't shine down on Showdowns at the No-Where Corral./

But, that's up to us, 'cos the Sun's just a star in the sky,/

and like God In His Heaven, Or the Czar of All The Russias, is very far away.

07 April 2009

For What It's Worth(Yep, am stealing from Buffalo Springfield here)

Have been mentally churning, discussing and debating with myself, about a whole range of topics and how best to present them here and elsewhere on-line over the past few months, weeks and days now.

Really still have no idea of how best to do it without going off onto my usual rambling rants, etc. At the same time, have got to get some of the notions I have out of my head, however imperfectly yet readably.

So, am giving it yet another go here, with a mix of of aphorisms and short phrases. Don't know how successful will be at this, nor if anyone will read any of this.

Still, best to spew this out, before it makes me even more troubled and embittered than already am.

So, here goes.

Mao Ze-Dong was right when he said that revolutions are an act of violence. They can't be done gently nor politely. It means doing whatever it takes to successfully get and hold power, no matter how immoral, amoral, vile or foul.

It also means, especially for the successful revolutionary, having to live with oneself and one's deeds for the rest of one's life, and especially with hard and unpleasant memories.

Forget who said that revolutions devour their own children, but whoever did was also right. Look at the histories of most revolutions, and one finds a particular faction within any revolutionary movement grabbing power from others, and purging their opponents in one way or another. If one goes down the revolutionary path and is successful, best to be prepared to purge or be purged at one time or another.

Revolutions and wars create expectations that, generally speaking, will be dashed in peacetime and reconstruction. High ideals and hopes are necessary to starting and keeping a revolutionary or war effort going, but, especially with the many compromises and hard realities involved in administering and builidng a new society, many of those will either be greatly diminished or set aside.

If one's aiming at seizing and holding power, one had best be prepared to deal with the small, niggling details of governing and administration, as well as with the grand issues of politics. This means worrying as much about the macaroni ration per person, as it does the construction of a new economic order. If one's not prepared to deal with the many small, irritating details and duties that come with political and economic power, one shouldn't aspire to having it.

These are horribly uncertain, anxious times, in which everything seems to be falling apart, with the centre unable to hold. Maybe so. On the other hand, one doesn't have to look that far back into history to see that there have been many such occasions, some of where that perception turned out to be accurate, and others where it wasn't. While perceptions matter, so does truth. That means paying as much as much attention as possible to what's going on around oneself, comparing that with others, especially those who aren't as like-minded as oneself, and always, always, considering the source of whatever information one gets.

Eyes and brains, Watson, as Sherlock Holmes used to say.

Above all, resist the temptations to fall into an anxious, panicked state as much as falling into ones of either fatuous complacency or fatalistic escapism. None of those states do one or others any good at all.

Have trouble with those states myself, so can understand the temptation to go into any one of those and stay there. But, being in a permanent state of alarm, torpor or resignation aren't terribly helpful in solving problems, or even simple survival.

Don't forget to laugh, especially at oneself when one's being silly and taking oneself overly seriously. This has the dual advantage of endearing oneself to others, and, more importantly, keeping a sense of logic and proportion about oneself's and one's abilities.

All of us like to think that we are, in one way or another, the smartest, sexiest, wisest beings who ever lived. That's a quite natural way of perceiving ourselves, really. But, we all do and say silly things from time to time as well. My goodness, we all have to use the toilet, just as our ancestors did, and our descendants will after us. No one is especially dignified in that state, not even, say, George Washington or Simon Bolivar. If they strained while evacuating their bowels, well, so do I, you and everyone else on this planet.

Most of all, don't lie to oneself or say that you can't be suckered, because that's when one really sets oneself up for being suckered very badly and on a grand scale. Will admit, however humiliating it might be to me, to having been suckered many times in the past, and have no doubt that can be suckered now and in the future. The trick is, I think, not to fall for the same kind of con over and over again. There will always be new and different, or at least new variants on older cons, to fall for. Just keep your eyes and brains actively working, and be prepared to admit, cheerfully or not, whenever you're wrong or have been suckered.

As for lying to oneself, well, I think that that's one of the worst sins that one can commit against oneself and others,'cos it creates false expectations and hopes that can't be fulfilled, and, sooner or later, it will be seen for what it is. If one's going to be a bastard, which I don't recommend, at least be an honest bastard, especially with oneself. In the end, that's to whom one really has to answer, most of all.

Personally speaking, there are times I can be intelligent, witty, even charming and kind. But, I can also be angry, bitter, frustrated and greatly disappointed, both in myself and others. I can be quite nasty when I want to be, but also cowardly. I have often engaged in silly, fiery rhetoric on many occasions in my life, and regret having done so. I try not to do so now, but don't always succeed. I can lie to myself and indulge myself in self-pity and fits of pique, the same as anyone else.

I can often despair, both for the state of the world and myself, and feel hard done by. Maybe, in some areas, I have been. But, such feelings can't and won't get things done and make life better, for others nor myself.

Most of all, am no plaster saint. Am a human being, with at least some of the virtues and many of the defects, that all of us have, in one form or another. Haven't read The Lives Of The Saints, but, from little have heard about it, even the many Catholic saints were themselves highly flawed, imperfect, human beings.

Maybe, that's the most important lesson of all from such tales, whether one believes in deities, saints and all the rest of that or not. We are all poor, imperfect creatures struggling under the sun. What matters most are the choices, decisions and actions we make while we are alive and kicking. That goes for me as much as for any of you.

If you should read this, I hope you'll find some, if not all, of what have had to say here to be sound and of some value. If not, well, that's your choice to make, and more power to you. If you do, wonderful, as am just egotistical enough to be flattered whenever someone thinks I've something of value to say or do.

If you've made it all the way through reading this, whether you agree, disagree, or don't care either way, I congratulate you on making the effort, and taking the time to do so.

On that note, I leave you, and, as always, leave you with a line from one of my favourite television shows of all time, "The Prisoner", Be Seeing You.

05 April 2009

How Fast Can You Clear Leather?(poem)

How fast can you clear leather????/

That's what I want to know./

I've heard you, and so many others,/

talk so much crap about making a revolution,/

on-line, off-line, all the damn time./

Don't matter what ideology you espouse,/

Left, Right, Centre, whatever./

I hear a lotta mouth-running,/

shrill, hysterical and wanna-be brutality./

I see a lotta paranoia,/

whether from New World Order types,/

9/11 Truthers, Anarchists, Libertarians,

Neo-Nazis, what the Hell ever,/

all bellowing about this, that and the other./

Folks believing the world'll end in 2012./

Better stock up on guns, ammo and freeze-dried food,/

'cos supplies are going fast./

Isn't that it???/

The sheer, savage joy of being among the “elect”,/

“The Chosen”, destined to survive./

The ones with all the inside dope,/

straight up, no God-Damn chaser./

Not like the “sheeple”, those on whom you look down./

The mugs, the suckers, the peasants destined to work for you in the New World to come,/

or die and be buried like dogs in unmarked graves./

Maybe, they are,/

maybe they are, /

I dunno./

But, before you get too damn smug and secure/

in your knowledge and righteousness,/

I gotta ask,/

how do you know you're not being played?/

How do you know that you won't be the poor sap up against a wall?/

Who made you God with the right to decide who lives or dies,/

and how fast can you clear leather???/

One day, maybe, someone will ask you that question,/

and he or she'll have a gun in his or her hand,/

same as you./

When they ask you that,/

it'll be Put Up or Shut Up Time,/

'cos that's the way it is in revolution and war./

Put Up, Shut Up, or be Strung Up, if you're lucky,/

by your heels from a gas station ceiling, /

a tree or lamp-post./

Left to twist, rot and stink in the wind,/

'till cut down and thrown in a hole,/

Like a discarded beer can or piece of rotten meat./

There's plenty wrong in the State of Denmark,/

Sweden, Britain, Canada, the US, Colombia, Zimbabwe,/

almost anywhere and everywhere you care to name./

There's plenty broken, corrupted, rotten through and through./

There's plenty of work, long, hard work, that we need to do./

Lotsa blame to go 'round,/

to politicians, pundits, officials, academics,/

policemen, soldiers, sailors, marines,/

insurgents, resurgents, mujahideen,/

poets, publicans and the public at large./

'Cos we all played our parts/

in these sordid little dramas./

Spurred on by propaganda, rumour and fear,/

that turned to anger and hatred./

We let our glands do the walking, talking,/

fighting and killing./

Or, at least were content to let others do it for us./

Vicious little colonial wars,/

in which Yankee and Raghead,/

Ethiop' and Somali,/

Russkie and Chechen,/

all going at each other./

Going for blood, land, goods./

Going all the way,/
'Till one side or the other ups and dies./

All spurred along by idea and word pimps,/

with their half-truths, quarter-truths and plain old lies./

Some of them fought and died, sure./

But, most are still around, still peddling/

their wares for all the suckers to lap up,/

like a dog sucking up water from a dish./

Yeah, it's a real inspiring picture to see,/

a great little spectacle to take in,/

so edifying and wonderful to behold./

Oh, yeah, such gratifying grievance and hatred to see, hear, taste, touch and smell./

Why not have a go at each other???/

There's enough needless cruelty, death and misery,/

and y'all wanna add on some more???/

Sure, go ahead. Why not???/

Kill 'em all and forget about keeping score./

Just so long as they're dead, right?/

Guess that's the clue./

Just so long as they're dead,/

except, of course, for you./

But, revolutions don't necessarily work out the way/

that one plans./

What with the murder, maiming, demolition and destruction,/

the purges, show trials and firing squads./

The bitter disappointments of peace that follow the exaltation of war./

Building's never quite as sexy as destroying, at least for some.,/

and they would find the ideals for which they fought,/

betrayed by those who were quicker, smarter, more cunning and better organised./

In the end, they'd be either pensioned off, shunted aside or purged/

to make room for the party hacks and opportunists/

that always come along and make a social order their own./

If you want real change, then make it, and make it good./

But, know what you're about./

Read, discuss, debate, figure, plan./

But, most of all, THINK!!! before you act./

Think long, hard and all the way through./

Think before you pick up a weapon./

Think before you pull a trigger or a pin./

'Cos if you don't, then someday, somehow,/

your choices and actions will come back on you./

It may be a revenge killing,/

made by someone whose loved one you shot./

It may be a show trial and purge,/

launched by comrades you once knew and loved./

It may be simply being crushed by the weight of bad memories/

and lies, as you lay a-bed, waiting to darkness to fall over you/

for the last time./

There's more than one way of making change./

More than one way of running a rail-road./

More than one way of getting things done./

Force and compulsion may win wars, but they never convince./

'Specially over the long run./

If you wanna be a self-fulfilling prophet of doom, go ahead./

That choice is yours./

But, so's the responsibility for everything you say and do,/

now and in the years to come./

And, if you should lose, don't whine, cry, shirk nor plead for mercy,/

'cos if you've not shown it to others, why should it be shown to you?/

That's the logic that wounds, the logic that kills,/

and it don't make a dime's worth of difference how true or pure you are./

'Cos, that's what comes of clearin' leather, no matter how noble the cause./

So, how fast can you clear leather?/

That's something you'll be needing to know/

if you go down the violent road.

Johnny Got His Gun And Used It

Originally posted this on my Facebook profile at 2:50 AM this morning, and am republishing it here to share with those of you out there who aren't on FB. Whatever conclusions you draw from this, if any, I leave to you.

Sitting here at home, bored out of my mind, feeling lonely, horny, and all the rest of that good hoo-ha, and frustrated at not being able to connect with Embarq to pay my phone bill.

Had thought about going out to the Beauty Bar where a friend of mine was dee-jaying, just to say Hello to him and to get out of the house for a bit. But, realised that had got up too late, and, by the time I got through doing my ablutions prior to going out, waiting for and getting on the bus and all that, not to mention the all-important question of money, which, for someone on a pension like me, can mean the difference between being reasonably comfortable later on in the month, or barely, and I mean barely, scraping by, and decided not to do it after all.

This leading to further frustration and anger, at myself and others, combined with perserverating on a variety of topics that pop up when am feeling this way, and could see that was working myself up into a fine snit.

So, how to deal with this??? Well, there are a variety of ways of doing it, some more or less successful than others. For me, I chose trying to reconnect again with Embarq, which I successfully did a few minutes ago, and what am doing now, which is to write about my feelings in the context of this essay, which is also about the recent shootings in Binghamton, New York and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and the kinds of frustrations and inability to deal with them constructively that these shooters, and many others like them, had.

So, now the focus shifts from my little microcosm to the larger picture of those shootings.

From what have absorbed from the various AP, CBS, and BBC news videos have down-loaded from YouTube on those shootings, as well as the few AP news articles via Yahoo News that have read thus far, Jivverly Wong and the Pittsburgh shooter, whose name eludes me at the moment, couldn't have been more different in age, national origin, or motives for their deeds.

Wong was a 41 year-old Vietnamese American of Chinese extraction, who had immigrated to the US in 1990, had worked at a small number of firms in New York and California, but whose command of English remained limited. This was a constant source of frustration to him, and an extremely sore point with him as well, if the sources cited above are correct. He was described as a loner, who had a strong work ethic, but few close friends, and who felt that he never got the respect he deserved.

He'd been taking English courses at the immigrant centre in Binghamton where he waged his one-sided shoot-out on Friday, but was also out of work and frustrated by living on the $200 a week unemployment insurance payments he was getting, and being unable to find work.

The Pittsburgh shooter I know far less about about, save that he was 23 years old, of Polish-American origin, and was extremely fearful that the Obama Administration was coming to take away his rifle and pistols. He was also known around his neighbourhood as an often quarrelsome, contentious young man who had engaged in fist-fights with some of his neighbours on one occasion, and was generally avoided by them.

Either way, both of them, as well as so many of the perpertrators of mass shootings and other forms of mass murder, not only in this country, but in Germany, Finland, the UK, Canada, Australia and Japan, among others, over the past 60 years, and there are cases, albeit much fewer and far between, that go back to around 1890 or so, in this country, seem to have been men(there have been a few, but far fewer in number, female mass murderers, like the young woman who became notorious as the perpetrator of the 1980 San Diego schoolyard shootings), who were either only partially- or poorly socialised into their respective societies and cultures, had a hard time finding work and other social activities into which they fit, and who had an extremely difficult time coping with the various failures and frustrations in their own lives.

According to one article, a LiveScience one, whose author's name I can't recall, that I read after the Alabama shootings two or three weeks back, alcohol abuse may also play a role in at least some mass shooters decisions to engage in one-sided urban combat, and certainly the current economic situation and its anxieties and frustrations may as well. Also, a strong interest in war, things military, and weaponry may also be another factor.

But, these are all parts of what, why and how some people make the decision to go out and kill or wound as many people as they possibly can, before, as in many cases, they commit suicide.

From my perspective, which is derived from my own personal experiences as well as the readings that have done, on-line and off-line, about these, it seems to me that such killings are a combination of extreme frustration and rage, both at oneself and the world and the world around him or herself, strong feelings of entitlement, self-pity and personal failure, weak or non-existent social support networks, and a tremendous feeling to total, or least partial, alienation from the society and culture around oneself.

Even then, these factors, like the others have mentioned above, don't always guarantee that one will pick up a gun, knife or other weapon(In the case of one German mass murderer I read about in the Wikipedia entry on mass murders, a home-made flame thrower was the weapon of choice for him), and go out to kill or wound one's neighbours, work-mates, acquaintances or complete strangers.

Many find some other outlets,whether it's posting comments to news articles on-line, drinking, what have you, for their rage and frustration.

For me, it is writing essays like these, as well as taking action figure photographs, or, when feeling particularly anxious or hard-pressed, writing or calling close family members or friends and talking with them about the anxieties, frustrations and other feelings that am having.

But, in my life, have also had many such times when have had no such outlets nor could I contact those family members nor friends and speak with them about my feelings of loneliness, etc. So, I had to get through it by simply gutting it out, letting the feelings I had happen, but not, and you can feel free to ascribe whatever possible motivations and circumstances you like to this, taking any actions that would have a severe and permanent impact on myself and others.

Mind you, too, while have often felt myself pushed to the point of despair where I felt like killing myself or doing of the same to others, I haven't, for a variety of reasons. Even then, I can also say that perhaps have never had my back pressed so tightly up against the wall that those were the only viable options I felt I had on hand. I hope to God that I never do feel that desperate, and also hope that I can find some other way, however stumbling, confused and uncertain, of resolving those problems and dealing with my feelings in a beneficial, constructive, for both others and myself, manner.

I do not know, and won't actually know, until am in that situation. In the meantime, all I can do is work with what I have, avoid feeling entitled and self-pitying(Stephen Fry's description of self-pity as being the most dangerous emotion strikes me as being the soundest, because it can, as he also said, consume everything, and lead to self-fulfiling prophecies coming true), and work as best I can on improving both my own life and the lives of others as best I can. It means my making more of an effort to get out of the house a bit more, and interacting with people in ways that I find fulfilling, and that I hope they will as well. It means, as E. M. Forster wrote in his introduction to Howard's End, "only connect", both on-line and off-line with others.

There is an element of gambling in this, as in most human endeavours, as much of the time, as have learnt from personal experience, many of these won't necessarily work out, for a variety of reasons, some of which I shall perhaps never know, nor know entirely. Nonetheless, the risk's still worth taking, even if only for its own sake, though would love to have greater rewards than that if possible. However, counting on getting those rewards, in my view, would be foolish. If they come, they come. If not, will be disappointed, surely, but will also find other venues and outlets to try.

Of course, could just sit home and do nothing, or next to nothing, and have guaranteed results, but those aren't necessarily the sort of results I want to have for the rest of my life.

Either way, anything beats stewing in my own mental juices, which I have done for much of my life, and many of these shooters, and many others beside, have done and do.

As for any suggestions or prescriptions I might have on the greater problems of mass shootings and other forms of mass murder, gun and other types of violence in its various forms and resolving the problems within the social orders of which they're a part, I've only the following highly inexpert suggestions and opinions to make at hand.

One's that some legal restrictions do need to be placed and enforced on the possession of military-grade weapons, ammunition and magazine clips available to the general public. This doesn't mean that criminals and those who are inclined, for one reason or another, won't be able to get their hands on some of these. Let's not make that mistake in assuming they entirely would be prevented from doing so. There are ways, especially through off-the record or illegal gun and other weapons sales or thefts, of getting weapons if one wants them badly enough, knows where to get them, and is willling to pay the requisite price for them, of obtaining them, and some will do it, as surely as the sun rises in the morning.

The idea is to make getting them a lot harder than is currently the case in the US. Even then, it's only one part of any overall solution to this problem.

Another suggestion is that institutions, public, private, religious and secular, need to do a better job of outreach than many of them have to people, especially in working-class and poor communities, who may be at risk of engaging in such behaviours well beforehand. There are, by now, at least some identifiable patterns and commonalities, so much so that the FBI, among other law enforcement agencies, have worked out profiles of mass murderers and their behavioural patterns. It means providing psychiatric, psychological and other social integration services, and getting the best available people and resources to do the job of, whenever and wherever possible, finding these individuals and stopping them from going on rampages, not through repressive means like imprisonment or confinement in mental institutions and the like, but through various forms of therapy and social integration that, I believe, would ultimately be much more effective in the long run than mere repression and confinement would be.

Again, that is only another part of any overall solution to the problem of mass murder.

Another suggestion still is for a real cultural change in the way that the mass media, off-line and on-line, depicts and describes such shootings and violence in general. Whether journalists, film-makers and other dramatists, what have you, there is too often the tendency to report mass shootings and other forms of violence as out-of-the-ordinary, freakish occurences, which, by now, they are most certainly not, with relatively little and superficially-explained explanations of the perpetrator's background and current circumstances, as well as the social, economic and political circumstances around them and their deeds, given.
Some of this is, I believe, because of the limitations of space and time in media presentations, whether journalistic or dramatic, and getting information on the perpetrator and his or her background, especially during the active police investigation phase of the aftermath of such incidents. Still, I believe the effort to get as much information about the perpetrator and the social context in which such incidents occur can and must be made as much as possible.
Some of this, however, may also be due to a reluctance, however understandable, to question many of the cultural, social and other general assumptions found within the culture in which these crimes occur, are reported or dramatised later on, about just how well and fulfiling that social order actually is for many of its members.

I also believe that the depiction of violence in dramas, whether film, television, or stage, needs to be made much more realistic, not just in the actual physical details, but, more importantly, in the psychological and social details of it, and its impacts on those who perpetrate it, its victims, those close to both, and the wider community around them. It means showing the psychological and social costs of the use of violence, whether by the duly constituted authorities, criminals, or other individuals, and the very real pain and loss that its use has.

There are some film and television dramas, like "Unforgiven", "Homicide: Life On The Street", and "The Wire" that have done that in the recent past, but, compared to the numbers of shoot-'em-up, martial arts and other violent(usually described with the euphemisms "action" or "action-adventure"), they are small in number, and I can't think of anything currently on right now, which says something about my relative ignorance of the current goings-on in films and television as much as anything else, that comes close.

There are very real costs, often hideously high, to the use of violence, and I think that it's important to show those as realistically as possible in order to get the point about those costs across to as many people as possible.

The last two suggestions that I've to make here are directed at those who are close, or relatively so, to people around someone who may be at risk of engaging in something like mass murder, and to those who may be at risk, or at least feeling desperate enough to give it a go.

To the first, I would say please, if you can, try to engage with your loved one well before something like this can even potentially occur. Yes, it's hard to try and communicate with someone who, for various reasons, is difficult, if not impossible, to communicate and reason with, and the effort may be self-defeating in the end, someone who is difficult, if not impossible, to communicate with, but making the effort, and, if you can't succeed, getting whatever help you can for your loved one wherever you are, is far better time and effort spent than coping with the aftermath and disgrace of being associated with the perpetrator of yet another mass shooting, or similar crime.

To the latter, if you can, and, more importantly, want to, find something, anything, that will help you to better cope with the many anxieties and frustrations of living, especially in difficult economic and social times like these. If it's a hobby, volunteering, walking around one's neighbourhood or a local park, getting out and socialising with the few friends you have and feel close to, doing something on-line, making some sort of artwork, etc, it's still far better than deciding to pick up a weapon and do damage to others and oneself. You may feel pressed up against the wall with no other options but to make like a hero out of any type of drama or "action" film you could care to name, but, unlike most of the protagonists of such dramas and films, your efforts will lead only to your doom, in one way or another, and the deaths or injury of others around you. Then, there will come, as they always do after incidents of this kind, the inevitable questions about why and how you did it directed at your friends and family, as well as the recriminations, blame and desire for revenge upon them by some of the victims' family, friends and members of the general public, and they will be left to cope with those, as well as the guilt, shame, anger and loss at you and your deeds by your own family to deal with.

You may think that you are taking a heroic stand against a world that neither understands nor cares about you, and you may well be right on those latter two points. But, ultimately, the stand is neither heroic, nor does it accomplish much of anything, besides more needless death and misery, including your own, nor, given the fast-moving nature of current news cycles, will it be remembered for long by most members of the general public, except as only one in a very long list of similar crimes. For your family and whatever friends you have, as well as your victims, their family and friends, and the law enforcement personnel and medcal personnel called upon to deal with the results of your deeds, those memories will be long and bitter ones indeed.

You'll have sown the wind and reaped the whirlwind, and gained nothing, except anger, hatred, brief infamy, and either death or worse suffering than you'd before in prison or a mental facility, and for far longer.

You may say that am pissing in the wind by addressing these suggestions to you. Maybe so, but so's picking up a weapon and going at one's neighbours, because, in the end, you are merely one person with a relatively tiny amount of weaponry and ammunition going against forces that have more people, weapons and ammunition, and, generally speaking, more training and experience in using them than you. If you are that desperate and foolish enough to try, you will find out just how highly the odds against you succeeding are stacked, and I doubt you'll enjoy paying the price that comes with that.

That, too, is pissing in the wind, only with much, much worse results than my doing so here.

There are no easy, ready-made answers to the problems that you're facing, any more than there are to many of the problems that we are collectively facing, whether as members of one human group or another, or as a species right now. Many of these problems are of long-standing, duration and complexity, and will require a lot of time, resources and trouble to fix, and, even then, some mayn't be fixed, at least entirely, to everyone's satisfaction.

No problem ever is, really.

There are solutions that please the majority of people, but never everyone. How could they???

There are nearly seven billion people on this planet right now, as far as I understand it, each of them with their own wants, needs, desires, backgrounds and opinions.
Humans are often contradictory and contrary beasts that can be as stubborn as a Missouri mule when they want to be, and set in their respective ways.

Add on to that the fact that we humans have been playing the civilisation game for only around nearly 10,000 years of our approximately 1 million year existence on this planet, which is a relatively small amount of time to be doing that, and one can see that, while we've come a long, long ways, especially organisationally and technologically, we've a long ways to go, especially in reconciling the instinctive, animal parts of who and what we are with the needs and demands of living together in large groups.

There is no, in my opinion, one-size-fits-all approach to the many problems of living together in socially, economically, politically and ethnically complex societies like the ones we've at present. There are many of those out there, whether on the Left, Right and Centre, who make such claims, but, as has been seen over and over again throughout human history, while some of the various systems advocated have been better at solving some of these problems, others haven't, and some have only made them far worse.

Of course, there's always the option of doing nothing, or trying to push one's society and culture back into a nostalgic, "better", social order. but the prices of doing those are, in my opinion, far higher than actually trying to address the problems at hand, like this one, and making the effort to solve them. The prices and results of doing that mayn't always be worth the costs, but they are still worth more than the former two options.

It has been nearly four hours since I began this essay, and, while am cynical about the number of people who will actually read this essay now, or at any time in the future, and find it to be of any real valute, the time and effort expended here is still worth it, even if only in the respect of my finding some way of constructively dealing with many of the feelings I've about my own life and the world around me, and possibly, in turn, being of some benefit and value to others, even if just by letting them know that they aren't alone out there in how, what and why they're feeling the way they do.

As for my own life, well, that is something that will have to take on, one day and one bit of effort, at a time. It mayn't work out at all the way I'd like it to be, but that's part of the chance that I have to take, and it's a far better go than simply shrugging my shoulders and letting my frustrations and anxieties eat me alive, or ending up doing something entirely foolish and harmful to myself and others. Am no saint, not by a long shot. Am just another human being, like the rest of you out there, with my own wants, needs and aspirations. Some of these may be fulfilled, and others not. Only time and effort will tell.

In the meantime, Here Endeth The Lesson and Be Seeing You.

29 March 2009

Odds, Ends, Sods And Such(Part Six)

These are hard times, and, for the foreseeable future, they will get even harder before substantial improvements are made, if

at all.

In the meantime, I think that one thing that even someone as poor and obscure as myself can do, is to keep tracks of what's

going on in the world, using as wide a variety of sources as possible, whether domestic, foreign, etc, and across as much of

the ideological spectrum as possible, too.

It also means reading articles, listening to or watching on-line or off-line radio broadcasts, videos and streaming media, as

carefully, attentively and sceptically as one would read a newspaper article, magazine story or book.

It means talking with others, both off-line and on-line and getting their takes on such issues.

It means using one's own background and experiences to evaluate, analyse, and decide for oneself whose takes on a given issue

or set of issues comes closest to the truth of the matter under discussion.

Finally, it means not succumbing to the understandable urge to either panic, run riot or give up and settle into a fatalistic

apathy out of despair over the fate of the planet, one's country, or oneself. It's no sin to be uncertain and afraid,

especially when confronted by a stream of seemingly unending bad news.

It can be fatal, and often needlessly so, to do those, however.

Be aware, both of what's going on in the world, but also of what's going on in oneself. Think, question, analyse, and be

prepared to wrong, when need be.

Also, try to keep as much of a sense of logic, proportion and humour as best one can. They may not help all the time, but

they are certainly better to succumbing to fear and panic and engaging in the kinds of foolish behaviours that, sometimes,

end up in mass murder, if not genocide.

I say this as much to myself as to you out there, because there are days when I can succumb to those emotions too. All of us

can. The trick is not to let them sweep everything else in oneself away, including one's humanity.

Here Endeth The Lesson, and Be Seeing You.

Odds, Ends, Sods And Such(Part Five)

Conbined with the rise of various forms of alternative media, especially on-line news groups like the various Indy Media

outlets, which had been originally formed to cover the WTO riots in Seattle in 1999, but which came into their own during the

Bush Administration, as well as, on the Right, sites like Free Republic.com, and one can see where a considerable variety of

information became available to many Americans who'd not access to such information and view-points before.

But, perhaps the biggest problem with such open-source media is that, and yes, at least with the Indy Media outlets, there

were and are rules against the posting of spam, commercial messages, racist and other forms of hate speech, and so on, the

information posted on many of these sites is only as good as the source posting it.

As much as I can often detest the old form of journalism, with its many editors, sub-editors, and so on, one advantage to

that was, and remains, the existence of an editorial process, with its many editors, sub-editors, and even fact checkers, to

question and verify the veracity, or not, of information given out by any source.

This isn't generally a feature of many on-line, open-source, news outlets, especially many blogs, which tend to be one-man

bands operated on a shoe-string(am writing this from my own experience alone, and could well be wrong, especially when it

comes to group blogs), and it's pretty easy for factual errors, rumours, half-truths and lies to slip by, depending on the

personal preferences and ideological bents of the blog or other on-line media outlet poster.

Thus, at least to me, it doesn't come as an incredible surprise that a lot of bad, or at least incomplete, information gets

out onto the 'Net, and into people's heads, and with an ease and speed that makes even television news outlets look like 18th

Century newspapers by comparison.

It also means that, in turn, a lot of people, especially those who are already, and for good reason, freaked out by the

current world economic situation, the political and social situations in many parts of the world, and climate change, among

other factors, are going to look to any solutions, no matter how dubious in execution or outcome they might be, that promise

to end these problems and provide a meaningful, satisfactory existence for themselves and theirs.

These people aren't puppets, being strung along by cynical, evil types, though my guess is that some of those providing some

of this information and proposed solutions might be, but who have been buffeted over the years by a sea of propaganda of

various kinds and from various sides, as have we all, and who are trying to make the best possible choices in what appears to

be a pretty small and dismal range of them.

Odds, Ends, Sods And Such(Part Four)

The panic-driven aftermath of 11th September, 2001, is perhaps the best and most immediate example I can think of it

illustrate this point.

Within six months of the attacks on Washington D.C. and New York City, the US government, with the willing, if not entirely

knowledgable, consent of much of the US public, had passed the Patriot Act, created the Department of Homeland Security, and

had gone into Afghanistan to smash Al-Qaida and its Taliban hosts. Along the way, especially in the first days and weeks

after the attacks, some American Muslims were attacked, and even some non-Muslims who appeared to be so, like the unfortunate

Phoenix Arizona gas station owner, who was a Sikh, who was murdered only a few days after those events by a man who called

himself, "a damn American", when arrested by police for his crime.

Many others were detained, some for quite lengthy periods, and, following former Vice-President Dick Cheney's cue about the

US "going over to the dark side", a network of secret prisons and arrangements with other nations, like Egypt, Jordan and

even Syria, in which detainees were flown from the US and other parts of the world, placed in prisons in those countries and


All of this is now well known, as well as the use of the residual fear left from 9/11's aftermath by the Bush Administration

and the Republican Party to essentially either stifle debate, or, at the very least, restrict it to certain "safe"

parameters, both inside and outside of the governing classes, push through what would become the expensive, gruesome

misadventure known as the Iraq War, and begin chipping away at constitutionally guaranteed rights and freedoms in the name of

national security.

The Bush Administration and the GOP would go on to use this fear to win two key elections, the Congressional one of 2002 and

the Presidential one of 2004, and it wouldn't be, at least in my opinion, until the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the

dismal performance, on all levels of government, but especially the Federal government, in September, 2005, that much of that

fear which had many Americans in its thrall, would start wearing off.

By that time, and in the intervening three-plus years until the November 2008 Presidential elections, the deteriorating

conditions inside Iraq, especially in 2006 and 2007, combined with the beginnings of the sub-prime crisis that would

eventually result in the current economic mess we are in now, further eroded whatever remaining credibility the Bush

Administration and its supporters had with many members of the American general public.

Try as they might, neither the Administration, the GOP, nor its political and media allies could maintain the kind of fear

generated by the 9/11 attacks, at least outside of much of their political bases, to retain control over Congress, which they

lost in 2006, nor the Presidency. By that time, too much of what the Bush Administration and its supporters had said had

turned out to either half-truths at best, or outright lies at worst, and the McCain-Palin campaign simply couldn't overcome

the disgust and revulsion felt by many Americans at those half-truths and lies.

But, certainly it wasn't just the Bush Administration and the Republican Party who fell down on the job. Much of the

mainstream media, particularly in the first three or so years after the 9/11 attacks, failed to adequately provide the kind

of investigative journalism that the aftermath of those attacks, as well the US government's policies and practises, and

especially the build-up to the Iraq War, demanded, but didn't really get, from the majority of the US mass media.

There are many factors behind this, media consolidations, fear of looking "un-patriotic"(a fear which also paralysed, or at

least disabled, many Democrats as well), shrinking budgets for foreign news desks, etc.

But, even when one takes these factors into account, the fact remains that, when the American and world public needed solid,

truthful, information the most, much of the US mass media stood down.

Odds, Ends, Sods And Such(Part Three)

Some would say that that's the exclusive province of the Left, to which I say "Banana Oil".

The Nazis, first with the German and Austrian Jewish communities, and then, during World War Two, engaged in one of the

biggest, if not the biggest, mass robberies seen in European, if not world, history, in which whole countries' lands, labour,

and other resources were grabbed wholesale and used to enrich Germany, and especially the German elite. In turn, those

Europeans who collaborated with the Nazis found, at least for a short time, that their masters' "Aryanisation" policies could

be quite profitable, even if not as profitable for them as the good German boys and girls above them.

That's just one example of such large-scale larceny in world history, and, anyway, is kinda beside the point, except to maybe

illustrate another, and that's any dirty deed, whether theft, murder, whatever, can be done and even glorified, given the

right ideological justification, and it doesn't matter from which part of the political spectrum, nationality, race,or

wherever else it comes.

The history of the Americas shows that even ostensibly liberal democracies, like the US, Canada, Argentina and a number of

others, can and have engaged in campaigns of mass murder, rape and theft(just ask any member of the various Amerindian tribes

found in the American Hemisphere about that), just as conservative, or, much more rarely, if only because there have been so

few of 'em, left-wing dictatorships have. Even the various Amerindian groups, especially large-scale civilisations like the

Mexica(or Aztecs, if you prefer)and the Inca engaged in such practises for religious reasons, among others.

The principles at work here are psychological, at least partially so, in that one has to either feel hard done by another,

or, from the other end, feels that one's neighbour's so utterly and irredeemably inferior to oneself, family and friends,

hard-pressed, which is as much a matter of perception as fact, and that the course in which one engages is the only sound,

"logical" and "just" one available that coshing one's neighbour's head in becomes, at least in theory, the best and easiest

one at hand.

God knows, I've struggled with that part of myself in the past, and do so, from time to time, even now. It's the meanest,

most ungenerous part of ourselves, rooted in our basic survival instincts and biological needs, and which come out, in

generally more elaborate forms, in human beings whenever they are, or at least feel, pressed up against the wall.

These are uncertain times, to grossly understate it, and people, like any other variety of animal, can and will respond to

uncertainity with fear, and, depending on the individual, even panic, in one form or another.

Fear and panic, like any emotion, can be useful survival tools for getting oneself or one's group out of a dangerous


But, particularly when used by politicians, media figures and outlets, and even so-called ordinary people, it can make an

already bad situation far worse than it is.

26 March 2009

Odds, Ends, Sods And Such(Part Two)

As I see it, the on-going world economic crisis, at least for most of the world, as India and Iran, for reasons of their own, haven't been affected as badly as many Western and non-Western nations, hasn't yet been fulled revealed in its scope and extent. But,from what has been seen thus far, it's broad, deep and wide-ranging in its extent and reach, and won't be solved easily nor quickly, regardless of the various nostrums, suggestions, commands and threats made by politicians, pundits, economists, and so-called ordinary people from all portions of the political spectrum across the globe.

This, of course, has most people, except for perhaps the professional purveyors of apocalypse, running anxiously, if not straight-up scared, and am no exception, as, being on Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income, with few other resources, I feel particularly vulnerable. After all, one of the first things that politicians, especially right-wing ones, can and will call for is a thorough purge, if not out-right abolition of, welfare and other social support programmes for the poor and working class.

Have lived with the anxiety of having my benefits either greatly reduced or entirely cut off since the 1994 Congressional election and the resulting Republican Congressional majority that lasted until the 2006 Congressional elections. Thank God that my anxieties didn't come to pass, but don't know either way if this time 'round, they won't, in some form or another.

But, these anxieties are nothing compared to those who've either lost huge chunks of cash thanks to the economic policies and practises that resulted in this crisis, or those either in the workforce or who were only marginally so, who now have lost their positions and are looking at taking posts that are part-time at best and poorly paid enough that it becomes either difficult or impossible to have more than the barest standard of living at all. This is particularly true for those out there who've families with children to support.

I could go into a long spiel about how this is the end result of economic, social and tax policies that have generally favoured the upper and upper middle classes at the expense of the lower middle class, working class and poor over the past thirty plus years, the de-industrialisation of much of the American economy, which, together with the policies just mentioned, has resulted in a tremendous growth of social inequality in the US in that time, the financially, politically and socially draining effects of fighting two medium sized wars, as well as engaging in the various operations and interventions abroad that characterise the "War On Terror", and financial sector policies and practises that resulted in large segments of the American people using credit cards and home equity to cover gaping holes in their weekly and monthly budgets that their incomes couldn't and wouldn't cover.

In fact, just did that with that whopper of a sentence, which would make any good newspaper or magazine editor run screaming with horror into the night. But, either way, while it's good to know the various causes of our present dilemma, and who's responsible for it, knowing these isn't, by itself, going to fix the problems nor provide practical solutions that benefit, or least, least hurt, the vast majority of people in the US and internationally, especially the poorest and most vulnerable.

Even if every banker, hedge fund manager, stockbroker, payday loan store operator and other financial service provider in the world were dragged out into their respective town squares, hanged by the neck until they were dead, dead, dead, and Good Riddance(Ptui!!), their families run out of town on a rail, and their homes burnt down to the ground, these problems wouldn't go away. Whether we like it or not, this is the situation with which we're stuck, and are going to be for some time to come.

Cold comfort, in fact, no damn comfort whatsoever, I know. But, here we are.

So, it's understandable that a lot of people, some uneducated, others only semi-educated, and a number of educated ones, reach out to theories and solutions that sound great, at least theoretically, and to the prospects of getting those responsible, or likelier, those people whom they already despise who are close to hand(a principle that any schoolyard bully instinctively understands-if one can't get the target one wants, the most convenient will do in a pinch), and their possessions.(continued in Part Three)

Odds, Ends, Sods And Such(Part One)

Well, time for the occasional bit of psycho-sociological spew that I call an essay.

Have been busy noodling around on the 'Net, or at least in certain small corners thereof, after getting my new computer, courtesy of my loving family, back in mid-February, and, considering that I don't get out much, nor pay any attention at all to off-line media anymore, it has become an extremely important part of my life.

So, much of what you will see here are reactions to bits, bobs, odds and sods that have seen on-line in that time, and whatever limited and poor analysis that have made of both them and myself.

One of the most disturbing trends that have seen, though, mind you, it's been a sort of underlying thread throughout much of the culture, at least on-line, is all the talk of conspiracy theories, revolution, the imminent end of the world, or at least of civilisation as we know it.

Much of this, especially from the Left, is an outgrowth of the Bush Administration years, although, depending on which segment of the American and international Left one's discussing, it's been going on, in one form or another, since the 1870s. From the Right, which was stunned by the repudiation of its ideas and policies in the recent US Presidential elections, many of the conspiracy theories and revolutionary rhetoric that have since appeared are of considerably more recent vintage, mainly dating back to the late 1950s and early 1960s, though some wrinkles in it, like the New World Order hobby-horse, are even newer, dating only from 1991.

The point is that these theories and rhetoric neither popped out of someone's head fully-formed just within the last four months, nor, thus far, have they borne much in the way of real results.

Yes, there have been the occasional out-breaks of left- and right-wing terrorism in the US, whether the Weather Underground and Symbionese Liberation Army of the 1970s from segments of the American far Left, or the deadlier and more effective, at least temporarily, outbreaks from US Right groups like the Order and Posse Comitatus in the 1980s, or the Aryan Republican Army, which launched a number of bank robberies in the lower Midwest in the mid-1990s, and which may have had at least a tangential connection with Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, the perpetrators of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, as well as the militia movement of the 1990s.

But, ultimately, these groups were either suppressed, disbanded, or found themselves pretty much as they were when they started out, rather unimportant and marginal groups in American politics.

So, what is it that makes the re-emergence of these ideas, rhetoric and groups worrying to me???

I think it has as much to do with the current state of US and international politics and culture, the current economic situation, and my own situation, as anything else.

12 March 2009

Get The Rope(poem)

“Get the rope” said one fella to another in a small town one fine day./

So, the other got the rope, while the first got some friends./

And they all went and got some poor bastard, whom they'd never liked,/

pulled him out of his house, and dragged 'im down to a nice, tall tree./

On the way, they cuffed, punched an' kicked 'im good,/

callin' 'im and his mother every name in the book an' more./

He plead for his life, but weren't nobody listenin', 'cos he was just a son of a bitch,/

whom nobody liked./

So, they told 'im to shut up,/

an' shut his God-Damn mouth with a couple of shots,/

upside his head./

When they got to the tree, they asked 'im if he'd anything to say,/

but, when the fool opened his mouth, they smacked it shut,/

an' told 'im he was gonna die like a God-Damned dog./

So, up went the rope, onto the strongest branch of the tree./

'Round his neck went the noose, which they pulled good and tight./

On a box somebody brought, went his feet, 'tho' they wouldn't be there long./

Then, after sentence was pronounced, and finished with, “And may God have mercy on your soul, you sonuvabitch!!!!”,/

the box was kicked away./

Dunno how long it took 'im to die,/

maybe 15 minutes, maybe a half-hour./

Don't matter, y'see./

Same goes fer whether he was guilty or not./

Don't matter the crime nor the reason,/

'cos nobody liked 'im, and nobody missed 'im,/

so they hung 'im, an' that's that./

But, that was years ago,/

an' all of us're in the bone-yard, now./

Layin' in the ground,/

long-past worm food, now./

Nobody knows,/

nobody cares,/

'bout the fella,/

an' what we did,/

so long ago./

We're in the ground,/

an' so's he,/

an', from this view,/

seems to me,/

we weren't any better/

than the poor dumb son of a bitch/

we put in the damn ground./

We all stank,/

we all rotted,/

same as him./

We thought we were better,/

maybe we were./

But, down here, don't matter a bit,/

'cos we're dead./

That's what matters now./

The rest, I'll leave you to decide.

26 February 2009

Playing The Fiddle(action figure story)

The noon sun shone high above the grassy plain along which the party of about a dozen or so figures were moving northwards on the cold, early March day of 2009.

At its head was the Lieutenant, a beaten-up,vintage blond Eagle-Eyed Action Man,who wore an ill-matched assortment of military and civilian figure and doll clothes of various makes,marks and vintages, and strode along with a determined,if weary,air.

About half a foot or so behind him on his right were the members of his squad,an assorted mix of action figures of various types, Modern GI Joes, Modern Action Men, 21st Century SSAMS and one or two off-brand figures, all dressed, like the Lieutenant, in bits and bobs of military and civilian kit with mis-matching accessories, and carrying a variety of firearms, ranging from old GI Joe M-1 Garands with the barrel tips broken off to knock-off versions of GI Joe and other brand name M-16s, and even a vintage Ken doll or Big Jim shot-gun or two.

At the same distance directly behind the Lieutenant, trudged a line of half-a-dozen figures of various sorts,all tightly bound together with string tied around their wrists. They were prisoners, the last survivors of the Commune of Harmonia, a small village republic of farmers,artisans and scholars that had been one of the many settlements that had once flourished in the northwestern corner of Dystopia, or, as it had been known before the two major parts of the world's largest action figure and doll collection,Centralia and Pacifica, split apart in April, 2002, Occidentalia.

From that time on,Occidentalia,along with its eastern neighbour,Orientalia,fell into semi-organised chaos,with action figure communities of various sizes going at each other over resources, territory, ideology, religion and racial, ethnic and brand-name bigotries.

Some,like the People's Republic of Oceania, patterned after its counter-part in Orwell's 1984, rose to greatness before the April, 2007,Centralian-Pacifican War, during which the Oceanians fought alongside the Centralians and lost.

Most Dystopian territories, like Harmonia, and the Bailiwick of New Wessex,in whose army of three dozen figures the Lieutenant was an officer,were small,even tiny,village states of no more than a few dozen inhabitants at most,and had,since the Great Dissolution,as the Centralian-Pacifican split of 2002 was known,alternately traded and fought with each other as relations between them warranted.

For most of that time, the wars between them,and their other neighbours,had been characterised by a low level of violence because of their small populations,and the corresponding horror of casualties that even beings like action figures,capable of being revived a week or so after death, had.

But, after the Centralian-Pacifican War of '07, all that changed, as mercenaries, fugitives, criminals, fortune-seekers and refugees, mainly Centralians, whose government dissolved in the wake of defeat, but Pacificans,too, poured into both halves of Dystopia, bringing with them new beliefs, manners and ways, including a ruthlessness in waging war that most Dystopians hadn't before experienced. Combined with increased anxiety and competition over territory and resources, it was enough to break all of the previous restraints on violence,and so they were.

Villages were now routinely pillaged and burnt to the ground,with all living things in them either killed or enslaved, and a new slang term, “Playing the Fiddle”, meaning cutting the throats of unfortunate captives, usually after a raid or battle,came into use in the various local languages.

It was that very task to which the Lieutenant and his squad were leading their captives,as they would have been led, had their respective fortunes been reversed.

The Lieutenant squinted hard into the immediate distance to find the right spot for the execution ground, while protecting his eyes against the harsh late winter sunlight and wind.

He fumbled in his upper right-hand jacket pocket, pulled out a cigarette and stuck it in his mouth.,next reaching into his right-hand trouser pocket and producing a lighter from it. The Lieutenant stopped for several seconds,cupping his hands to protect its tiny flame from the wind whipping around him,as both soldiers and prisoners behind him simultaneously and wordlessly halted .

He drew hard on the cigarette,sucking the smoke into his chest cavity, then started walking forward again,looking for just the perfect spot to finish the job assigned him and his men.

The Lieutenant took another puff, while thinking of nothing at all,a state he found becoming more and more common with him as he aged. There were times when, in a state of repose, he would think back to when he was first de-boxed, “Was it thirty or thirty-one years ago???,” the Lieutenant would wonder, and then he would ask himself, as he always did,“Where did the time go???!!!”.

Gone, the time and the events in his life had, going first from one collection to another, ending up in a charity shop, being bought by a collector, who, after a while, had sold him on Ebay to an American acting as a buyer for the organics of whose collection which he was now a part, and ending up in New Wessex just a little before the Great Dissolution.

From there, it had been one struggle after another to keep going, with one,or was it two?, wives, both dead now, a girl-friend or two after that, and all the while,working in his small shoe shop, when not out on operations in the field.

All of that had been chopped and mashed up,blended, and fused in his head long ago,and there were days when he found himself unsure of where he was,when it was,and even what his own name was. That, and the Lieutenant found himself increasingly tired, it seemed to him,of everything and everyone, even himself.

He felt his joints and elastic loosening every day, two of the fingers on his right gripping hand were already gone, and a third looked about ready to go as well, his fuzzy hair was patchily spaced on his head, and it seemed about the right time for him to finally lie down one sunny afternoon, go to sleep and not wake up ever again. At least, not as the same figure .

So, a bit of mental napping every so often relieved him, just so long as the Lieutenant could be mentally sharp and focused when he needed to be.

It was while engulfed in that mental fog,eagle eyes moving back and forth, right and left,that the Lieutenant found the perfect killing ground,a flat semi-grass-covered patch of a ground about a foot or so away from him on his left.

He wordlessly looked over in the direction where his sergeant, a 21st Century Soviet Spetsnaz sniper named Dzerzhinsky was heading the squad file, called out, “Sarn't” to the latter, and pointed at the patch.

Dzerzhinsky nodded affirmatively at the Lieutenant, called the squad to turn left, and, leading the right half of the crescent-shaped formation that body took to herd the prisoners to their destination, briskly strode over to where the Lieutenant stood.

Practically nothing was said by anyone,aside from some commands from the sergeant to the prisoners to turn and hurry up, as the group went along.

The Lieutenant simply stood and watched as Dzerzhinsky and two soldiers led and herded the prisoners into a line not more than half a foot in front of him and the squad, the remainder of which formed into a file directly across from where the prisoners stood.

No thoughts, or at least any conscious ones, passed through his head, as he watched the process unfold. He took another drag from his cigarette, inhaling, then, a few seconds later, exhaling its smoke, before extinguishing it and replacing it in his right trouser pocket, as the sergeant finished up his work and began walking over to his superior. Every bit of the process went just like clockwork,, just as it had many times before,and probably would if,or more likely when, their own time to be taken and shot came, the Lieutenant mused to himself.

Dzerzhinsky approached him and said, “Ready when you are, Sir,” and stood ready to receive his officer's reply.

The Lieutenant coughed, telling himself he'd have to give up smoking very soon, and told his junior, “Right. Take your place, Sergeant.”

Dzerzhinsky's reply was a terse “Sir”, then he headed over to where the squad was, and took his place on its extreme right, awaiting, like the rest of his mates, the Lieutenant's next order.

The Lieutenant turned his head in the prisoners' direction, looking them over, which he'd not done before, and scanned their faces from left to right. The expressions he saw on the first three were, or at least seemed to be, blank,though, he thought,one could never really tell what was going on in anyone's mind just by reading what was on his face, and the expression on the fourth prisoner's face was one of resignation, as if he was simply wanting them to get on with the whole dreary procedure.

The last two prisoners' faces, however, interested him most.

The fifth prisoner, a Sideshow Toys Get Smart Chief, seemed to be wavering between his figure type's typical sardonic weariness, disbelief at the situation he was in, a possible urge to beg for his life, and stoical acceptance of what was coming, more or less simultaneously. Most amazing, the Lieutenant thought.

The last prisoner, a blonde Fashion Fever Barbie who was the only woman in either group, was in angry, defiant shock, and hurled a stream of bitter invective at her executioners, describing them, their makers, and their parents in a blend of obscenity and blasphemy that would have done credit to a drunken Dutch sailor on a Saturday-night spree who just been nabbed by the cops.

The Lieutenant listened to her outpourings for what was probably 10 or 15 seconds, but which must have seemed much longer to everyone present, admiring her courage and spirit, if not her sense, before looking away from her and her companions, and tuning out her insults.

After all, he thought, best to get the job done and over with, especially as the wind was getting colder and was biting right through his clothes.

The Lieutenant placed his hand in his left trouser pocket, fumbling around for the sheet of paper with the ritual statement that was read to the condemned on such occasions, then decided to dispense with it entirely and finish this before he and his squad all turned into blocks of ice.

He turned his head toward the squad, and called it to attention. It did so,waiting for the order to make itself ready to come out of his mouth. That followed directly, accompanied by the sound of gun safeties clicking off.

Next, came the order for the squad to aim its weapons at the prisoners, which was carried out as soon as the squad heard it.

The only sounds that could be heard as the squad aimed its weapons were the wind starting to blow gustily across the plain and the woman's insults, nothing more, so it seemed to the Lieutenant.

Finally, after about a second or two's delay, he gave the order to fire, and the wind and the woman's voice, along with any other sounds there might have been, were drowned out by the rifle pops combined with the blasts from the squad's two shot-guns, that made up a short-lived, communal roar of weaponry.

The prisoners were hurled backwards by the impact of the squad's bullets, hit the ground in a variety of awkward positions, and stayed where they fell, the string binding their wrists being the only thing keeping them together in death, as it had in the last minutes of their lives.

Now, the only sound remaining was the wind, blowing hard, followed by a cigarette cough from the Lieutenant.

He'd been looking off into the distance during the execution, regarding neither his squad nor the prisoners. But, since the main part of the show was finished, the Lieutenant again gazed in the latter's direction, looking for breathing or any other signs of life coming from any of them. There wasn't, as far as he could tell, but standard procedure called for a head shot for each victim to make absolutely sure, and he wasn't about to deviate from it this time, just as he hadn't in the past.

So, the Lieutenant strolled over to where the prisoners lay, carefully inspecting them for life signs yet again as he did so, saw none, while pulling his .45 calibre self-loading pistol from the holster on his web belt's right side, taking its safety off, and pulling back its hammer, cocking it to fire.

He first walked over to where the woman lay on her back, face-up, her final expression one of fear and anger now giving way to dead nothingness, aimed his pistol and fired a shot directly into her forehead.

After that, he made his way down the row of prisoners, some of whom, like the woman, were laying face-upwards, while others were either face-down or had their heads turned to one side or another, and fired a single shot each into their heads.
When he finished with his part of the execution, the Lieutenant gave an unthinking sigh, replaced his pistol into its holster, and turned away for the last time from his victims. There was nothing more that he could either say or do about them or their condition, anyway.

He called out to Dzerzhinsky to have two men come up and untie the prisoners' wrists, which was quickly carried out, while the Lieutenant made his way to the squad.

Lives were cheap and plentiful in this part of the world, but not string.

Ordinarily, there would have been a vehicle, or at least a horse or donkey or two, which would have carried the prisoners' corpses back to New Wessex for cleaning, and, perhaps, either revival or sale to one of the various wandering body dealers, colloquially known as “Scavengers”, “Vultures” or “Buzzards”, who traded in such items, as well as weapons, clothing and other accessories left behind after battles, all over Dystopia.

But, there had been too many of their own people killed and wounded while taking Harmonia, and none could be spared to transport the bodies of slain prisoners.

So, they would be left where they fell, and if someone picked them, fine. If not, they would be left to the mercies of the weather and whatever animals, figure or organic, that came upon them, and that was that, the Lieutenant thought as he passed down the squad's line after complimenting them on their work.

He walked over to the squad's far left, taking the head of the line it would make as it headed for the ruins of Harmonia, where they would meet up with whatever remaining members of their army stationed there after the looting and transport of whatever was taken, along with their dead and wounded, finished.

The Lieutenant heard, then saw Dzerzhinsky as he came up and told him that everyone was back in line and ready to go. He replied, “Good,” to that statement, and told the sergeant to order the squad to move out, staring straight ahead towards the wisps of black smoke going up into the sky that marked Harmonia's ruins and their penultimate destination before shoving off home.

Dzerzhinsky thanked him, saluted, looked back at the waiting soldiers, called out, “Left face,” then gave the order to “Forward, march,” while making his way to the squad's rear, where he took up his place.

The Lieutenant took two steps forward, with the rest of the squad following behind, and the long walk home for them began, leaving behind the prisoners who would most likely never take such a walk ever again.

There was no singing, chatter or any other sort of noise coming from the squad as it marched, only he steps of the men as they walked away, and the sound of the March wind blowing as it had for millions of years before.

Two weeks after the execution, New Wessex, like Harmonia, was taken, sacked and burnt, and its inhabitants, the Lieutenant and Dzerzhinsky included, either killed in battle or killed afterwards.

By the time a Centralian peacekeeping force, heading east to central Occidentalia to help the unfortunate survivors of a massive uprising and war that had devastated that part of the Dystopian
lands, passed through the region where Harmonia, New Wessex and their neighbours had been at the end of March, 2009, there were only ruins and a very few frightened and starving survivors, who fled from the very sight of the force's vehicles, to be found.

Everyone and everything else were either dead or long since gone, leaving only ruins, ghosts, the grass and the wind.