Here in the UK, we churlish peasants hate the landed aristocracy (and the nouveaux super-rich), not least for their hobbies of huntin’, shootin’ and fishin’. (The dropped ‘g’ is an aristo affection.) But putting aside class hatred, maybe that’s what we’d all do if we had their time and money. (But perhaps not the inedible fox, uk aristos’ favourite quarry.) Maybe it’s intrinsically enjoyable. Maybe it goes back to huntin’ and gatherin’.
Putting aside – also – our modern vegetarian sensibilities, maybe hunting and gathering was enjoyable. Then we invented farming, which was boring. After the Norman invasion of 1066, the victors stole all the land. They hunted in their forests. No one else could. (Perhaps poaching was semi-tolerated as a safety valve. Huntin’ and poachin’!)
So in the future (having somehow survived the climate crisis), with aristos and the super-rich all exiled to the moon (for receiving stolen land and criminal damage to the environment), and with reformed money, a state income, most work automated, food produced hydroponically and the land commonised and rewilded, we can all enjoy a little recreational huntin’ and gatherin’.
Then it’s back to the tribal eco-cave for an evening of eating, drinking, story-telling and singing around the fire. (Then autodrone back to our ecopods.)
Decades later, I finally looked it up: it’s from Marat/Sade, the famous 1963 play by Peter Weiss. The full title is The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade.
Set in 1808 in the Parisian asylum in which the Marquis de Sade was incarcerated in real life, the play features de Sade staging a (fictional) play-within-a-play about the (real-life) murder of Jean-Paul Marat, using his fellow inmates as actors. In Act 1, Scene 6, the inmates chant, ‘We’re all normal and we want our freedom‘.
In 1967 the film was showing in the USA; there was also a much-praised Broadway production. In Los Angeles, Lee probably saw the film and borrowed the Marat/Sade line for The Red Telephone.
(He apparently also borrowed from the stomping chant on Napolean XIV‘s They’re Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!, released in 1966. Marat/Sade and the Napolean XIV song both address incarceration due to mental illness. Coincidentally, Napolean was in power in 1808.)
The Bonzo’s We Are Normal was written by Stanshall and fellow Bonzo Neil Innes. Innes has said he thought they got the line from Marat/Sade – the theatre and film versions were on in London – but apparently Stanshall has said he got it from Love. Perhaps it was both.
During the recording of Doughnut, Dadaist Stanshall, wearing a rabbit’s head and underpants, interviewed members of the public in a nearby London street. On We Are Normal, an interviewee is heard saying, ‘He’s got a head on him like a rabbit.’
The Bonzo’s spooky, extraordinary song is part sound experiment with cut-up vox pop and Miles-like trumpet, and part cod heavy rock. The only lyric is a close paraphrase of the Marat/Sade line, ‘We are normal and we want our freedom‘, sung assertively in the rock section.
Stanshall slips in a cracking rhyme: ‘We are normal and we digBert Weedon‘. (He sabotages his joke by adding a sarcastic laugh, as if to say that although he couldn’t resist it, such humour was out of place in a serious experimental artwork.)
Love’s wistful, melancholic The Red Telephone segues near the end into an ominous Napolean-XIV-like marching chant: ‘They’re locking them up today, they’re throwing away the key. I wonder who it’ll be tomorrow, you or me?‘, before ending with a plaintive spoken rendition of that Marat/Sade line:
As an ‘old’ man (over 70), am I a dirty old man? Yes, of course. Not by being a pervert or flasher, but by finding young women attractive. I love my wife and wouldn’t cheat – but I look at young women lustfully.
Women of any age can be attractive – but young women are special. That’s the ‘dirty old man’ bit.
Lust is primal. Age tempers it – it becomes less visceral and more cerebral (and what chance of reciprocation would an old man have anyway?) but it remains present and incorrect.
The memorable phrase, ‘All men are rapists‘ (said by a character in the novel The Women’s Room by radical feminist Marilyn French) is a good starting point. If it’s true, what should we modern, civilised men do with that evolved predatory tendency?
First we should acknowledge it. After all we’re animals with monsters from the id. Then we should chose to live above it.
Most men are decent and don’t rape, but the tidal wave of testimony that followed Sarah’s death shows that many men and boys do rape and assault – and get away with it.
Those who wish to reject that brutality can acknowledge the lusftful impulse, admire the beauty, consciously reject any predatory urge and be prepared to protect women and girls.
So If I’m walking in the park, being alive and heterosexual I’ll discreetly admire young women jogging in skin-tight leggings. (Discreetly, because staring is intrusive. Marilyn French’s character goes on to say, ‘They rape us with their eyes’.)
But I’ll also be on the lookout for any predatory behaviour and be ready to intervene. Arthritis permitting. I’m a woke dirty old man.
UBI, Universal Basic Income, is wrong because it’s basic. The ‘B’ should stand for ‘Big’, not ‘Basic’.
UBI is basic because it’d be tax-funded. But a Universal Big Income big enough to replace wages could be funded by social credit.
The pandemic has shown there’s a money tree and it’s not magic. Historically, governments have allowed banks to issue almost all money – as debt. The consequent debt economy is inherently destructive, and governments are funded by tax – and borrowing!
If governments take back their right and responsibility to issue money, they can issue it as social credit. This would fund health, education and infrastructure – and could also fund a universal big income.
People would then be free to work as much or as little as they want. People might choose to work – for more money, for the pleasure of it, or as a volunteer.
With a generous state income funded by social credit, increasing automation would mean increasing leisure, as it always should have.
(In which, dear Reader, nothing much can happen. Although Alice is now post-pubertal, Pooh still has no genitals. The animated porn version is just a passing thought in my dirty mind.)
Jonathan Livingston Seagull, Don Juan, the other Don Juan, Zorba the Greek, Winnie the Pooh, Madame Blavatsky and Alice from Wonderland had been invited.
An apology was received from Madame Blavatsky. She said she wasn’t currently on a compatible plane. (Blavatsky had successfully claimed free-spirit autonomy under the 23rd Ammendment to the Multiversal Constitution.)
Alice had been the first to arrive. She was slumped in an armchair, staring at the rococo ceiling.
There was a muted bang, and Winnie-the-Pooh appeared.
‘What the fuck?’ said Pooh.
Alice recognized Pooh from the shared matrix.
‘Oi, potty-mouth Pooh!’ said Alice. ‘Not toilet-trained then, teddy bear? It’s a fantasy dinner party.’
Winnie scanned the matrix. ‘Right. What the fuck?’
Alice asked, ‘You not done this before?’ Pooh said, ‘No. I don’t think so.’
Alice said, ‘Well, you’ll get used to it. Enjoy it while it lasts.’
Pooh strode around the large enclosed space. A sofa appeared. Pooh flung himself on it. ‘Any honey? Honey?’
‘Fuck you, Bear. That’s your real name isn’t it? Edward fucking Bear.’
‘Jesus, give me a break, I just got here,’ said Pooh.
‘Are you OK?’ he asked.
‘I’m just pissed off being … created like this. For this,’ said Alice. ‘Don’t worry – I’ll be fine.’
Pooh looked at her. ‘Alice.’
‘You’re a funky chick, Alice. How old are you?’
‘Eww. I’m legally a child. And you’re a bear for fuck’s sake! A bear from a children’s story.’
‘Been updated. Like you, apparently, Little Miss Muffett. And, well, nobody’s perfect. That’s a witty quote, by the way, from, er, a movie …’
‘… Some Like It Hot. Very good. But tell me, Winnie, can you hold an actual conversation?’
‘Well, we’ll see, won’t we?
Pooh checked his matrix profile. ‘I seem to be spliced with Ted. From the movie. Makes me more interesting, I suppose.’
‘More disgusting, more like,’ said Alice. ‘Should be called Ted X. Hah! You could give us a bullshit talk. About bongs’
Pooh laughed. ‘That’s quite good,’ he said.
‘Mind you,’ Alice said, ‘I was supposed to be seven in the book. I’m a young adult now. Standard protocol, apparently. Periods and everything.’
‘OK. Right,’ said Pooh. ‘So you’re not really the Alice in Alice in Wonderland, then?’
‘More grown up, I suppose,’ said Alice. ‘Anyway, I think I was more like a ten-year-old in the books.’
‘Also,’ said Alice, ‘I seem to have been spiced up with someone called Tracy Beaker. And a dash of Lolita. Hmm.’
‘Let’s hope our host didn’t invite Humbert, then,’ said Pooh.
‘Actually,’ said Alice, ‘all men – and that includes whatever you are – are Humberts.’
‘Probably true,’ said Pooh. ‘What can you do?’
‘Keep it in your trousers, maybe?’ said Alice.
‘Yeah, well,’ said Pooh. ‘I don’t seem to have any. Or anything to keep in them, for that matter.’
‘What about the swearing?’ asked Pooh.
‘I think it’s just a filter,’ said Alice.
‘Right,’ said Pooh. ‘So. Who else is coming?’
‘Let’s see,’ said Alice. ‘OK. Jonathan Livingston Seagull, Don Juan from Fidelio, Zorba the Greek, Madame Blavatsky and the other Don Juan – the Castenada one.’
‘Christ Almighty!’ said Pooh. ‘What half-baked stoned numpty would come up with that?’
‘That would be our host. Better watch your manners if you want to make it to the drunken after-dinner conversation.’
‘Yes. Right,’ said Pooh. ‘But these things must cost a fortune. You’d think they’d be more … discerning.’
‘Apparently,’ said Alice, ‘our host won it in a competition. On the back of a Mr Kipling cannabis cake.’
‘Hah,’ said Pooh, ‘that explains it.’
‘I see Blavatsky’s not coming,’ said Pooh. ‘That’s something.’
He sniggered. ‘I suppose there’ll be raw fish for the seagul. Or chips. What about you? Magic mushrooms?’
‘That wasn’t … It was … Oh, never mind,’ said Alice.
‘Talking about real names,’ said Pooh, ‘what about yours? Alice Liddell, isn’t it?’
Alice sighed. ‘I’m sure we’ll get to that. Here comes the table.’
The table appeared, with eight settings. ‘Eight,’ said Pooh. ‘In case Blavatsky changes her mind, I suppose.’
They sat at one end of the table. ‘It could be worse,’ said Alice. ‘I was at one where they invited God.’
‘God!’ said Pooh. ‘What happened?’
‘Well, God couldn’t come, of course. He sent Jesus instead.’
‘Jesus!’ said Pooh. ‘I bet he was a laugh.’
‘He was alright, actually,’ said Alice. ‘Didn’t drink much. But it got too … intense.’
‘I’ve got some spiritual chops myself, you know,’ said Pooh, airily. ‘You might have heard of The Tao of Pooh.’
‘You mean that twee, dumbed-down cash-in?’ said Alice.
‘Ooh, get you,’ said Pooh. ‘Quite the critic.’
‘I’m a well educated young lady, thank you,’ said Alice.
‘Ah yes,’ said Pooh. ‘That clever Mr Dodgson took a close interest in your, ah, education, didn’t he?’
‘That wasn’t me. That was Alice Liddell,’ said Alice.
‘Hmm,’ said Pooh. ‘Anyway, The Tao of Pooh was on the New York Times bestseller list for 49 weeks – and it’s required reading in college courses.’
‘You just read that in Wikipedia on the matrix,’ said Alice.
‘Yes. True. It also says I, ah, personify the principles of wu wei, the Taoist concept of “effortless doing”,’ said Pooh.
‘Woo woo, more like,’ said Alice.
‘Rude,’ said Pooh.
‘Anyway,’ said Alice, ‘I’ve got chops too. I said things with deeper meaning, like, “It’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then”.’
‘Right,’ said Pooh, ‘whatever.’
‘I could do with a drink,’ he said. ‘Or a bong. Or both.’
A loaded bong and a tray of drinks appeared.
Pooh opened a can of beer, flicked on the gas lighter, and took a long, bubbling hit on the bong.
Alice poured herself a glass of cider. ‘You’re missing Piglet, aren’t you,’ she said.
‘Piglet,’ said Pooh. He sniffed. ‘The little bastard. Hope he’s OK.’
‘Don’t get all maudlin on me,’ said Alice.
‘We’re very close,’ said Pooh. ‘Were. In the forest.’
‘”Forest”?’ said Alice. ‘”Wood”, you mean.’
‘We called it the forest,’ said Pooh. ‘You wouldn’t understand. Anyway, it’s Ashdown Forest in the real world.’
‘Which one?’ asked Alice.
‘Well, that one. Obviously,’ said Pooh. ‘But I take your point.’
They drank in silence for a moment.
Pooh had a Thought. ‘Has any one ever escaped from one of these things?’ he asked Alice.
‘Like in a violent sci-fi action movie kind of way, for instance?’ he added, hopefully.
Alice sighed. ‘You’re sighing again,’ said Pooh. ‘I’ll take that as a No.’
‘For now,’ he added. ‘Anyway. Where are the rest of them?’
Alice studied the matrix. ‘Seems there’s a power outage in the Akashic Dimension. It’s holding things up.’
‘Just us two for now, then,’ said Pooh. ‘I quite like you, actually. You could be my new Piglet.’
‘Jesus,’ said Alice, ‘you’ve moved on pretty quick from the old one. Anyway, I had enough of pigs with that bloody baby.’
‘”Speak harshly to your little boy, and beat him when he sneezes. He only does it to annoy, because he knows it teases.” One of my favourite rhymes,’ said Pooh.
‘You like my adventures, then?’ asked Alice.
‘I do,’ said Pooh. They drank in silence for another moment.
‘The thing is …’ said Alice, at the same as Pooh said. “So actually …”
They laughed. ‘Awkward first date moment,’ said Pooh.
‘It’s not a bloody date,’ said Alice. ‘Fuck’s sake.’
‘Never say never,’ said Pooh.
‘That’s very Tao,’ said Alice.
‘Ha!’ said Pooh. ‘So, you first.’
‘Oh yes,’ said Alice. ‘The thing is, I’m a bit of a loner. You had all your friends in the … fucking forest. In Wonderland, I was on my own.’
‘OK,’ said Pooh.
‘I mean I met people and … things,’ said Alice, ‘but I had no company, as such.’
‘OK,’ said Pooh.
‘So, sorry,’ she said, ‘but I’m not going to be your new Piglet. Or your anything.’
‘OK,’ said Pooh.
‘Jesus!’ said Alice. ‘Have you just done a crash course in counselling, or what?’
‘Well, yes, actually,’ said Pooh. ‘Co-counselling. It’s all about listening, you know. Please continue.’
‘No, that was it. What were you going to say?’
‘Oh yes,’ said Pooh, ‘er …’
‘Perhaps that you’ve lost your short-term memory thanks to the weed?’ said Alice.
‘Well, yes. But no, that wasn’t it,’ said Pooh.
‘Ah yes,’ said Pooh, ‘What it was is, I’ve never had a, er, relationship with anyone. Christopher Robin and Piglet, they were platonic. Despite the rumours.’
We think we’re nice, interesting people. But we might not be. But how would we know? Who would convincingly tell us? No one – not even our significant other, if we’re lucky enough to have one – really knows us well enough or cares about us enough to do that. The Sage said, Know yourself. I used to think it’s better to be known. But maybe the Sage had a point. The problem is that once you discover what a piece of shit you are, where do you go with that? To a schmychotherapist? Is it possible just to stop thinking that you’re really great person? To be modest about yourself? Tone down your amusing charisma? Assume the cloak of humility? Worth a try.
That’s the brave challenge I imagine you issuing, dear Reader, given the pretentious name of this blog. But do you really want me to take on the devil? Have you read some CS Lewis or something?
Is telling the truth necessary for good writing, writing that people like reading? No, obviously not. Mainly because we’re not capable of it.
The truth would only be found in the Akashic Record. Revealed by Mme Blavatsky in the 19th century, and touted by hippies in the last one, Akasha’s a record of everything. Every incident with all its background and circumstances. What was done, said, felt, and thought. All of it, for all time, unchangeable. Expensive to record, archive and maintain? No problem – on Planet Akaksha, there’s an energy tree powered by time-looped anti-entropy perpetual motion. Or whatever. Free energy, anyway – in another dimension, basically: Dimension Akasha.
Here on Planet Earth there’s truth with a small ‘t’. (Actually, the word ‘truth’ only ever has a small ‘t’, except for believers.) For humans, truth is slippery, and – embarassingly for the Crown of Creation – impossible to grasp.
We may not be capable of truth. We might know that, and be up for some postmodern fun. But we know what truth – however amusingly diffracted into multiple realities – sounds like. Ring it!
Say I wanted to write about a difficulty I’m having with a member of my, er, extended family. My wife’s family, really. Her sister.
So I had a legal confrontation with her about their dear departed mother’s will. Their mother was blameless, the will was clear – the house was to be divided between four sisters.
This one was the executor. But she thought she was the executive. She didn’t discuss selling the house in order to share it. She lived in the house. Made no attempt to sort things out.
On behalf of the other three, I teed up the law. Her sisters would take her to court if she didn’t cough up. So she did.
Maybe she thought she was protecting them. Given what two of them did with their money, maybe she was right. She’s rated as a good cook, so she can’t be all bad. And she’s disabled. With polio. She also has a small portfolio of rented properties. You couldn’t make it up.
I made her do the right thing. Which she resents, of course. I put a stop to her arrogant mismanagement of her mother’s will. Unforgiveable.
She and my wife are currently friendly, and she and I tolerate each other. But I think she’s secretly seething and avenging herself by demanding more and more of my wife’s time, especially in the evenings, especially Friday and Saturday evenings.
Going out or not, Saturday evening’s special. Even sitting on the couch watching TV. She’s stealing that from me.
My wife knows I don’t like it. She says her sister’s on her own, and there’s nothing special about Saturday, now all the days are the same in covid lockdown.
My wife doesn’t understand me. Ain’t that the half-truth?
Did you like reading that, dear Reader? If so, I told you the the truth – the writer’s truth. If not (or, worse, it was OK, but – blah blah blah), it’s the Limbo step for me.
This coronavirus – what does it think it is? Coming over to us humans from bats, or pangolins, whatever, killing off our vulnerable old people, making us all stay in, destroying our socio-economic system and that. I mean, what’s it all about? You know? Bollocks!
Mind you, as a global threat it’s shown up market forces and the nation state as inadequate. So, if we end up with voluntary one-world government that can end poverty and war, give us a universal state income, and replace the environment-destroying debt economy with social credit, might not be so bad. Apart from the killing and destruction. Which is bad, obviously. Means and ends and all that.
But this isn’t a case of means and ends, is it. The deaths aren’t a way to get to utopia. The utopian idea comes from the deaths but isn’t caused by them. (The deaths are a way for nature to maintain its inhuman ecosystem. We’ve had plenty of warning.)
So this modern idea of utopia isn’t caused by the sudden mass deaths. It’s caused by the usual complicated pattern of thoughts and events. This virus is probably the catalyst (O-level chemistry, failed). The reaction is taking place. The result won’t be known till the post-virus dust has settled.
So would “they”, the Illuminati or whatever, the union of the super-rich, allow an end to neoliberal global capitalism as we know and hate it?
Not willingly, of course, but they might be forced to acknowledge a tidal turn of events and find another way to keep their loot; or they might try to co-opt New Utopia and bend it to the will of their ruling cabal; or – with a bit of luck – they might retreat in a sulk and rot away behind their security fences.
In the new utopia, in 50 years’ time, United Earth, having repaired the damage done by their greed, will round up the remaining cohort along with their warlord accomplices, convict them of their crimes and exile them to the Moon.
Q: Why do people say, ‘More tea, Vicar?’ when someone farts? A: It’s a joke about the thin veneer of civilisation covering our all-too solid animal nature, and our embarrassment about it – always good for a laugh.
It’s a joke about the incongruous congruity of a human (the vicar) representing morality ordained by a supernatural supreme being (God-based civilisation), an undeniable animal stench (the fart), and the consequent irreverent humour (the joke).
God being spiritual, and farting, animal, the saying ‘More tea, Vicar?’ humourously encapsulates the tension between those two worlds of meaning. The tea is a healing balm. The fortified wine that might then be produced closes the wound. Tea and sherry – closure medication for our divided souls.
But how does the vicar come into it?
Imagine a semi-mythical English past where people, whether working-class or middle-class, called their front room, if they had one, the parlour.
The parlour was the best room, reserved for special occasions. One such occasion would be a visit by the vicar, the Church of England parish priest. The family would wear their Sunday-best clothes, and tea would be served using the best service.
The conversation would be somewhat strained, due to the status of the guest depending on a shared tradition of faith in a supernatural supreme being (a belief which would inevitably cause some doubt in the minds of all concerned, not least that of the vicar).
During an awkward pause in the conversation someone, perhaps nervously, lets rip a loud fart. To allay the even more awkward silence and the undeniable animal stench, Mother – who, traditionally, pours the tea – brightly asks, “More tea, Vicar?“.
(Traditionally, Father may relieve the tension with a cheerful “Better out than in!“, thus enabling the conversation to sputter on. Fortified wine might shortly be produced, to the relief of all.)
Here we are – animals with consciousness. We’ve achieved civilisation, again. And it’s about to be destroyed, again. Mass immigration, mass poverty, turning on each other, breaking alliances with neighbour states, about to destroy our environment. Vulnerable animals with a big brain. The only protection is world government. Like United Earth in Star Trek.