non title4 by Ryohei-Hase

non title4 by Ryohei-Hase

I’m probably not alone in thinking this, but all the news at the moment seems to represent a kind of unravelling.

The Middle East and North Africa are in the throes of violent conflict that seem to have been wholly avoidable and yet all owe their origins from meddling by a United States government which encouraged the early versions of the jihadist movements in its conflict with the Soviet Union and then made many times worse by its ill-considered trampling into Iraq and Afghanistan. As they say: Fools step in where Angels fear to tread. And the fools in this case are George W Bush’s administration. and its earlier manifestations.

But Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and their puppet president (if reputedly alpha-male) aren’t the only villains in this piece. What series of presidents allowed Israel to evolve into the monster it has become: second only to ISIS in its disregard of humanity in pursuit of unobtainable ends. What combination of British and American administrations with the support of the news media and a complacent electorate has allowed such a disgraceful transfer of wealth from the taxpayer to the stockholder (and the consequent bleeding of public services). What has allowed the thoroughly predictable (and predicted) pressures of commerce and private interest to ravish the environment and bring about devastating climate change (still denied by well-funded climate sceptics).

All this is enough to make anyone despair.

But from a longer perspective, it seems more or less inevitable. Once the forces of vested interests and substantial wealth found a way to not merely challenge but to triumph over those who argued that perhaps the interests of the majority of humanity, the planet’s future and basic common fairness are more important than to further line the pockets of a decreasingly small number of increasingly rich people, well, the game was up. The allure of the neo-liberal fantasy has clearly won. The world is now on a path dictated by short-term self-interest and phenomenal levels of remuneration and everything less can go get fucked.

As, of course, it has.


The Scriptwriter

The Scriptwriter

The Scriptwriter

So, here comes my latest short story: The Scriptwriter, which is now available in all formats on my website and on the other usual suspects.

This is a case where form rather than content has definitely been the driving force as a cursory glance at the story will confirm. The entire story is in the form of the kind of script that I imagine would be written for a pornographic movie with the additional conceit that this pornographic film is about a scriptwriter of such pornographic movies. So clearly this is a short story that is deliberately self-referential as well as being slyly satirical of the very thing it pretends to be.

Interestingly, this is a story that has got a much more negative vote on Stories OnLine than most of my stories. That’s always something well worth considering because of what it reveals about the readership. I don’t think it’s been punished for reasons of plot, style and characterisation (as a glance at the most popular stories on the site will show: few of them have much in the way of redeeming qualities in those terms). It might be I’m being punished for presuming to be stylistically adventurous, but I wonder why someone confronted by prose that isn’t the normal series of short paragraphs with interminable dialogue should be bothered to even vote it down.

No. I suspect the cause is more like the reason my short story Her Husband’s Ex was voted down and that is because it is perceived as a criticism of the target readership. And in the case of The Scriptwriter I imagine that is because it satirises a form of entertainment that the target readers indulge in rather too frequently and in which they recognise something in themselves that they don’t like.

As I say, I’m don’t think I’m being punished for style, sexual content or even lack of sexual activity: there is considerably more of the latter than in most of my stories even if every half an hour of sex is reduced to a handful of short phrases and a note of its duration.


A Final Solution?

Freedom of Speech - Norman Rockwell

Freedom of Speech – Norman Rockwell

There are many possible responses I could make regarding the utterly disproportionate and indiscriminate reaction that the Israeli government are meting out on the Palestinians. However, it has to be said that we’ve got so used to it, that it’s difficult to be shocked by it any more.

But what has stood out for me isn’t just the violence. Nor the blatant hypocrisy where the stated excuse was the murder of three Israeli teens that had nothing whatsoever to do with Hamas, but where the real reason was Israel’s fear that the reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah had developed so far that there might no longer be any excuses for such behaviour in the future. Nor is it the way in which the United States forever stands by the State of Israel however outrageously it behaves. There are good electoral reasons for this in a nation which is captive to the vociferousness of powerful lobbies and is barely a properly functioning democracy any longer.

What I find most worthy of comment is outlined in this interesting article in the New York Review of Books. This is written by an Israeli professor who I guess could not be described as anti-Israeli and who has faith in his country’s future. He is viewing the conflict from the inside and what I found interesting in his article was just the extent to which anti-Palestinian sentiment has become so entrenched, so every-day and so ugly. Palestinians who are a long way from the West Bank and Gaza and may well be citizens of the Republic of Israel are routinely discriminated against.

He doesn’t draw parallels with other societies that have practiced discrimination of one kind or another against people whose ethnicity and race offends the ruling party, although the list is very long and, historically, includes the United States, South Africa and Tsarist Russia. And, indeed, includes countries more closely neighbouring the Middle East such as Iraq under Nouri Al-Maliki and Bahrain.

But the article makes me understand better the frequent assertions by Western Correspondents of the overwhelming support the Israeli Defence Force enjoys for its actions from the Israeli population and the bizarre footage of weeping and wailing Israelis for the relatively minor crime of kidnap over the much greater crime of murdering hundreds of defenceless children. And the rage against a few impotent missiles lobbed over the border to land nowhere in particular as against targeted drone strikes and aerial bombardment.

And in all this, is there much freedom of speech?

Theoretically, there’s probably a huge amount of license to say and publish as you please, but as we know from the UK and the United States, the power of the press is very much in the hands of the establishment and dissenting voices are soon silenced in an atmosphere of fear and hatred and the need to get on with one’s neighbours.