“WAR ON DRUGS” VIDEO & TEXT

A talk at Extra Second London 21/2/17:

TRANSCRIPT:

“There are 100,000 marijuana smokers in the US, and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their Satanic music – Jazz and Swing – results from marijuana usage. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others.” It’s 1937 and the speaker is Harry Anslinger, formerly a commissioner in America’s Bureau of Prohibition then from 1930 he was promoted to chief of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. Everything you need to know about the War On Drugs is there in his words: obviously the racism, that root hatred of the Other; the fear, the disgust of sensuality and enjoyment in those sneers about “entertainers” and in the weird misogynistic need for government-officials to concern themselves with whom white women are “seeking sexual relations.” But besides all that there’s this key word “Satanic,” their “Satanic” Jazz and Swing and marijuana usage, the War On Drugs goes way back and it’s a Holy War, a crusade against Sacraments which aren’t Christian and are therefore of the Devil, Sacraments which are very different to the Eucharist where the Body of the Lord is a little white wafer, and the Blood of the Lord is a grape that has rotted; marijuana on the other hand manifested with music, with Jazz, with Swing, not music to sit and listen to but music that makes you move, sounds to take you out of your stillness, ex stasis, and so, in response, we see a continuation of thousands of years of Authoritarian war against the senses, against the body, against the brain, we see Harry Anslinger alongside fellow 1930s cryptofascist William Hearst who was the Rupert Murdoch of his day, and this lot kick up a bit of a campaign: Reefer Madness. Soon men with letters after their names, PhD, MD, are warning the world that marijuana “not infrequently leads to violence,” marijuana “makes the smoker vicious, with a desire to fight and kill,” and on and on and on. One interesting thing about the anti-drugs crusaders is just how quick and eager they are to lie.

Although… Consider tobacco: it’s really fallen out of favour with governments recently, there’s been the various smoking-bans and restrictions on advertising and packaging, there’ve been efforts to ensure that everyone knows and sees images of the risks of smoking, and all this, I think you’d have to say, is a war on tobacco; not a war on the people who use tobacco. But compare that with psilocybin, “magic-mushrooms”: you can spend up to seven years in a cage plus have to pay an “unlimited fine” for eating a mushroom. If it’s such a fucked-up awful dangerous mushroom why not just tell everyone how fucked-up awful it is? There are mushrooms that can kill you or seriously damage you, there are poisonous berries and leaves: we cope. The thing is, psilocybin isn’t dangerous, it isn’t toxic, you can’t overdose on it, nor is it addictive; in fact a recent study suggests that people who use magic-mushrooms are less likely than average to be addicted to any substance. There haven’t been many clinical studies involving psychedelics but the Holy Inquisition has allowed a few, there was this one on addiction while another claimed to demonstrate a link between psilocybin usage and “new psychological understandings and personal insights,” you can find that online if you want to see how they quantify “new psychological understandings and personal insights”; also, psilocybin was used in the early 60s in prisons to aid the rehabilitation of prisoners, and more recently it’s been trialled with promising results as a treatment for problems ranging from OCD to cluster-headaches; there’s no indication of any long-term side-effects and we’ve had plenty of time to find that out, the use of magic-mushrooms has been traced back to prehistoric times in Europe and North Africa while in Central and South America we know it’s been used for centuries at least, because we know that when the conquistadores swarmed over from Europe and spread across the continent destroying everything and enslaving everyone, they encountered religious-ceremonies involving magic-mushrooms, they banned the ceremonies, they banned the mushrooms. The War On Drugs goes way back…

There’s an early 20th Century writer, H. L. Mencken, an American journalist-essayist who was generally pretty cool, he went to war with redneck fucks wherever he found them, but he could be a bit of a redneck fuck himself: he’s one of those people, you’re reading him and suddenly he’s going on about the inferior races… Okayyyy; you’re a product of your time I guess… One thing he said was something like, Even if those inferior races turned out to be not so inferior after all, even if the grand theory of racism turned out to be wrong, even then it would make no sense for whites to treat non-whites as equals because whites have got fifty uninterrupted generations of Culture behind them, whites have got Shakespeare, whites have got Beethoven, whites have got “Love and marriage, love and marriage, go together like horse and carriage.” How could Negroes and Hispanics and Filipinos hope to aspire to these cultural heights? One obvious point Mencken missed was that in those same “fifty uninterrupted generations” these non-white races would themselves have been learning a thing or two, they’d have their own religions and arts to attempt to preserve and pass on despite Slavery, despite colonialism; and come the 20th Century there’s a level of freedom whereby these suppressed cultures can emerge, we see that happening in all sorts of ways but perhaps most noticeably, most profoundly, in music: suddenly there’s Jazz and Swing, there’s Blues, Gospel, new music which swallows the shit out of the bland, insipid culture of the time. New music accompanied everywhere by old drugs: so in America you’ve got reactionary old Harry Anslinger ranting about Satanic music fuelled by marijuana usage… I’m talking about America because America really leads the way with all of this, but the War On Drugs is by no means just an American thing or a White Western thing or a Christian thing, psychedelic paganism is illegal everywhere. Here in Britain, Jazz and cannabis led to the exact same moral panics, these manufactured scares that decent people, generally decent white women, were being corrupted by the heathens’ hashish and were dancing new dances in underground mixed-race dens while out in the colonies, in India and in Egypt, traders and diplomats and the sons and daughters of traders and diplomats were sampling the goods, getting the giggles under the strange eyes of strange gods: something older and weirder and more pelvic than Christ shakes free gets loose goes on a rampage and soon, by way of Rock & Roll and Beat poetry, nothing’s the same, the culture is utterly transformed, there’s a whole lotta going on going on and this is just the start, this is just hash and grass and saxophones, the munchies, the Fear, the Pleasure Principle, right-brain games… Laws that were specifically introduced to allow non-whites to be thrown into jails where the conditions of Slavery could be recreated were increasingly being used on whites too, the cops were chucking their own children into prison but as Elvis struts and thrusts strange-eyed strange gods make their next move.

Those magic-mushrooms: in Mexico in the Cold War 1950s a holywoman named Maria Sabina made contact with an American banker named Robert Wasson and his Russian paediatrician wife Valentina, Maria Sabina gave the gift of tryptamine molecules embodied in psilocybin mushrooms to the representatives of these two nations that had just figured out how to destroy all life on Earth and were looking like they’d maybe give it a try. Meanwhile in North America, in Canada, a psychiatrist named Humphry Osmond, who will later coin the magic word “psychedelic” in correspondence with Aldous Huxley, encountered the ritual use of peyote among the local indigenous tribes, Osmond went on to use this cactus-juice in various research projects, including giving it to alcoholics with very positive results, also to fellow psychiatrists and to philosophers. And again right around the same time, in South America a biologist named Richard Schultes similarly encountered the use of ayahuasca among the tribes that had escaped extermination. Ayahuasca is also known as yagé although the first name given to it by Western researchers was telepathine because of the amount of weird psychic phenomena that seems to accompany the drinking of this brew; it’s something you come across a lot in the literature of psychedelia, I’ve never experienced it myself but there are many reports of two people or several people being on the same drug at the same time and with their eyes closed they’re inhabiting the same abstract visionary landscape and it’s the same landscape, they can describe exactly what each other is seeing, and if something happens they all see it happening. Now that could just be deranged druggy bullshit… But you hear it a lot, and it would presumably be quite easy to design experiments to test that and if it’s true then right there we’ve got a new scientific paradigm because that doesn’t fit with anything we currently know about the mind or about chemistry.

And again, in this same 1940s-50s period, another psychedelic channel opened up, this one was in Europe and here the process was completely different, the invention of LSD was basically Alchemy. Briefly, a Swiss chemist named Albert Hofmann synthesised LSD in his lab, tested it and it seemed to be completely inert, no effect whatsoever. Quite some time later Hofmann had what he later described as a “strange presentiment” that he should have another look at LSD, so he did and doing that he spilled a tiny tiny tiny bit on his fingers… Shortly afterwards, Albert Hofmann got on his bike and started cycling home. Turned out LSD wasn’t completely inert after all and it’s active at tiny tiny tiny doses…

So this all happens right around the same time, and through to the early 60s it’s striking things how respectable the use of psychedelics is: before the law gets involved, before the media tells people what to think, it seems like pretty much every bright mind is interested, from scientists to Pentagon war-planners, from baseball legends to movie-stars, there’s the founder of “Time” magazine and the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, bankers and paediatricians, biologists, novelists, CIA operatives, in England members of both the House of Commons and the House of Lords, pranksters and poets, and psychologists, including Timothy Leary, a professor at Harvard: it was Leary and his team who gave psilocybin to inmates in jail. Leary first sampled Maria Sabina’s mushrooms in Mexico in 1960 and had, on that trip, encountered the three and a half billion years of DNA’s evolution not as a fact but as an experience, he’d seen what Psychology is made of, had seen that this was Religion, right here: Leary and his colleagues began expounding a scientific mysticism, an empirical transcendence, and after a period of intense… colourful… experimentation, they announced their findings, their strategy: “Start Your Own Religion,” they put out a mass-produced pamphlet called that, “Start Your Own Religion,” this was something new and incendiary there and then, they said take what you want from the past and from other people’s systems and traditions but the route to Divinity is the route you make for yourself so write your own Gospels, be your own High Priest, turn your house, your flat, into a temple, why not turn it all into a temple; Leary and his “League for Spiritual Discovery” preached a theological anarchism and people were listening, people were rejecting empty hierarchies and proclaiming their own spiritual authority, everyone could their own Visionary. There was an explosion of psychedelic art and sounds and fashions and beliefs, and festivals: these days festivals are banal, any yuppie who wants to let off steam can have a weekend here and there getting fucked up in a field, but don’t underestimate how bewilderingly pagan those first festivals seemed, there wasn’t really any precedent for them. And this wasn’t a few philosophers and psychiatrists with names like Aldous and Humphry, this was millions of working-class and middle-class men and women who were living a bright new faith.

Fortunately the world had a Hero to protect us from Heresy: Richard Nixon. At the height of the Vietnam War Leary was tagged “the most dangerous man in America” and busted; peace and love were criminalised and crushed. Nixon introduced the phrase “The War On Drugs” and from the start it was more than a metaphor: Dan Baum in his book “Smoke & Mirrors” starts in 1968, the year Nixon became President, and goes through to the Clinton 90s when the book was written, listing for each year what civil-liberties were suspended in the need to persecute stoners and trippers; what military forces were redeployed to wage war on those of their own citizens who might be using drugs; what Orwellian laws were introduced, including something called forfeiture. Again this is only in America at the moment but we’ll see how that goes: in America tight now the police are allowed to seize the property of anyone suspected of being involved in drugs, and even if those people are subsequently found Not Guilty or if the case never goes to trial the police can just keep everything; literally all a cop has to do is say “I smelt marijuana-smoke” and they can help themselves to whatever they want. A journalist named Sarah Stillman, in a 2013 article in “New Yorker” magazine entitled “Taken,” documents loads of cases of cops just pulling over people’s cars – mostly, as it happens, non-white people’s cars – and just taking that car, keeping it, keeping whatever cash and jewellery they’ve got; the homes of suspected druggies and the homes of their parents and even their grandparents have been seized by the police and sold by the police to raise funds for the police and, again, as one defence-lawyer has noted, “with real-estate forfeitures it’s overwhelmingly African-Americans and Hispanics.” This practice, this law, has been criticised, has been challenged, and the justification that has repeatedly been given for it is explicitly financial: these are tough times, the financial crisis, Austerity; how else can a poor struggling police-department hope to get by if not with the funds raised from forfeiture? but Sarah Stillman in her article gives examples of those funds then being donated by the police to anti-immigration groups, and to churches, and to Christian Evangelist programs, including one called “The Missionettes,” which aims to “teach girls to obey everything Jesus commanded.”

Amen.

REFERENCES/FURTHER READING:

  • “PIHKAL,” A & A Shulgin.
  • “Cosmic Serpent,” Jeremy Narby.
  • “Intoxication,” Ronald Siegel.
  • “Cosmic Trigger,” Robert Anton Wilson.
  • “Smoke And Mirrors,” Dan Baum.
  • “Changing My Mind, Among Others,” Timothy Leary.
  • “The House I Live In,” Eugene Jarecki.
  • “Shadow Dancing In The USA,” Michael Ventura.
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NO NEWS IS GOOD NEWS?

A look at County Durham’s de facto decriminalisation of cannabis: http://www.southeastessexnews.com/countydurham.html

ALL SAINTS’ DAY!

I spent summer burying people’s poems in various sites around my hometown Southend. FULL STORY AND PICS: https://www.scribd.com/document/329524687/SEEDPOETRY
A mash-up of poetry, prose, art, guerrilla-gardening and psychedelia, featuring contributions from ANEES AHMAD, SAMANTHA ANDERSON, FIONA CLAPPERTON, AUDREY LANE COCKETT, JENNY PSOPHIA ELLEST, GARY GET, LISA LUXX, JACK PASCOE, OKTAWIA PETRONELLA, PALOMA PLAHAY, TOM SINCLAIR, AMY NEILSON SMITH & JILLIAN WINTER.

ZINEB EL RHAZOUI INTERVIEW

Hero

DARK ARTS 27/10/16

darkarthttps://www.facebook.com/events/1804654259814778/

WITH A THOUSAND FACES

A wooden chin, bearded with red feathers
And plastered-on leaves from the wishfruit tree
And dangling knotted threads and dangling beads:
A forest for a face! World in a mask!

Long wooden cheeks with spiderweb blushes,
Sculpted dimples, jut-out lion’s-teeth spots
And fragments of bone, fragments of mirror
And glistening smeared hyena spittle:
First face, truer face! Reality mask!

Wide wooden brow, fringed with twigs and petals,
Crowned with crocodile skin and iron nails,
Nails hammered in hard by the strongest man
And breathed on by virgins. From the forehead
Two stag’s antlers rise and entwine and rise:
Face of all things! The seasons in a mask!

Clownish big ears for babies to laugh at,
Ears of the hero who rescued the moon!
Strengthen our boats, our houses, our borders.
Icons droop down from twin timber earlobes:
An ape’s middle-finger, a crow’s dried tongue.
And slots through which a leather strip can pass:
Away face! Question mask, life in a mask!

Seashell lips suck sickness out of the air.
Dogmouth and catmouth, voidmouth, cosmosmouth,
The bits we hate of the people we love
Tell us things we’ve pretended to not know;
Recall forgotten prisoners-of-war;
Answer the riddles posed upon our death.
Ground-down scorpions and goat’s bones as teeth:
A castle for a face! Art in a mask!

Hooked bulbous nose; triangular nostrils;
Swirls fingered with sea-foam and dirt upon
Animal-skin stained with animal-blood:
Make us all equally ugly and cruel!
Scare ghosts away, guide spirits safely off!
Appease storms! Deflect sorcerers’ curses
And let kindly imps infiltrate our midst.
Intervene in the inevitable:
Temple face! A mask for rain, for the crops!

Blank eyes, the eyes of everyone who’s died:
Oval egg eyes, grinning-slit terror eyes
With fine painted lashes and engraved tears,
Tears for the tree that had to fall for this;
For the future deaths of one’s descendents;
For the uninitiated, the blind.
Coloured rings radiate out from the eyes,
Infinity eyes! Make us a secret.
Unseen in full view of everybody:
God for a face! All the gods in a mask!

Synchronised-frenzy face! Praise mask, hunt mask:
To get us closer to the animal.
Family face, clan face, tribe face, world mask:
The sun brought to Earth, dreams dragged into day.
Origin face! Mask to mark our journey:
Stripes, scratches, crosses, wax, glue and ribbons.
A face to fix things! Strawman mask, war mask:
Paralyse foes for one fatal instant;
Force through to the land beyond the sunset;
Choose to reincarnate on our own terms.
Persistence face; this moment in a mask…

“THE FUTURE OF BRITISH POLITICS” VIDEO & TEXT

TRANSCRIPT:

There’s the 1%, the 0.01%, with their Trump Towers and their blasphemy laws, their supersized yachts and private jets, their armies and spies. They own newspapers; they decide what gets taught in schools; they own the money we use but they kindly allow us to borrow it; they’ve invested rather a lot in fossil-fuels so we’ll be continuing to emit massive amounts of carbon dioxide for the foreseeable future. The Power Elite, the Ruling Class: entrenched in their vast and forbidding citadel, their fortress built on privilege and other people’s labour, their great castle protected by barbed-wire and helicopter gunships but with just one minor structural flaw, which is that the front-door is wide open.

Let’s come back to that in a minute, I want to talk about something else first. There’s a picture you might have seen, from an old Punk zine: there’s a diagram of a guitar-chord and next to it the words “Here’s a chord,” and under that another diagram, “Here’s another chord,” one more, “Here’s a third” and then: “Now start a band.” And it worked: with stuff like that and the energy of The Sex Pistols in particular, people started bands, people who couldn’t play instruments picked up instruments and played them anyway, that created a Movement which fit into this procession of countercultures, Punk was of course to an extent a reaction against the Hippies who were a blossoming of the Beats who in turn had their own roots, then after Punk you got the Rave scene which was partly a synthesis of the Punk and Hippie energies, and then after Rave…

Well: not so much. Obviously in the past couple of decades there have been all sorts of interesting, rebellious, progressive individuals and groups, there have been bubbles of counterculture, but we haven’t had any cohesive, unifying Movement, it’s been a long time since there was a real sense of an Underground threatening to turn the world upside-down. Why?

Hunter S. Thompson was asked that question, in the late ’90s someone asked him why weren’t the kids in America rebelling? There were personal, local acts of subversion but why wasn’t that adding up to a collective, focussed attitude of rebellion? And Hunter S. Thompson said, it’s because “the dark side of America is in control now.” So that’s a vision of counterculture as having been neutralised, bought and sold, co-opted, corrupted…

But maybe that isn’t actually the case. “Here’s a chord, here’s another, here’s a third,” so you grab a guitar and… make jingly-jangly noises, one of your mates goes bang-bang-bang on the drums, someone else can sing or shout or scream into a microphone, and for a while that is revolutionary, you’re not consuming culture you’re creating culture, you’re not idolising distant superstars you’re your own superstar, you’re challenging authority in your lyrics and your stance, you’re connecting with others who think the same, so you all get together, and you… make jingly-jangly noises. Subcultures have formed around the arts, mostly around music, and although music as music will always be powerful and relevant and important, maybe as a tool for provoking social and political change it has its limits. We can raise the consciousness of everyone whose consciousness can be raised, we can spread the message, but having done that, all artists can then do is find new ways to repeat the message to each other. So maybe, without quite realising it, we have just lived through the peak and subsequent decline of counterculture.

And at the same time we’ve witnessed what I think will be seen as the historic failure of the Left. In the first half of the 20th Century, Communism was a spectre haunting the world: societies shook, governments fell, there were Revolutions and the Revolutions were shit: Marx understood economics but he didn’t understand power, he didn’t understand that a dictatorship of the proletariat would function as a dictatorship full stop. And elsewhere, the Revolutions failed: America and France in particular, around 1968, were in a condition of, basically, civil-war; and one side won and the other side lost. It’s obvious really: Revolution is defining the State as an enemy and challenging it to a fight, but then as per duelling rules they get to choose the weapons… Post-1968, the Left has mostly degenerated into expressions of protest, and the authorities are fine with that, they’ll help organise marches against themselves, yeah go on a big demonstration and you feel like you’re doing something, you’re confronting power, you’re fighting power, you’re advancing your agenda but what you really are on a protest-march is, you’re some people saying some words in a street, that’s all. But go along and let off steam, shout at some buildings, maybe scuffle with the police then head home and sign another bloody petition and unwind with some songs that are really powerfully passionately slagging off those authorities who are ever more entrenched in their position. Thatcher said in the ’80s “There’s no such thing as society,” that’s where we’re at, we live in a society whose architects do not believe in society. “Greed is good”: the Yuppies won and a Yuppie victory – look around – it’s mean it’s dull it’s dispiriting it’s stagnant, and nothing has worked against them and things are getting worse.

So: what if we took democracy at its word?

Participatory democracy has been a progressive force at points throughout history, maybe that engine’s got some juice left in it. Whereas Revolutionary politics, okay so you overthrow the State, well done you, yeah yeah yeah, then there’s that Post-Revolutionary phase which tends to be a bit grim but you navigate your way through that and then, the day-to-day politics then, in this future world or this escapist fantasy utopia world, are pretty much identical to the day-to-day politics now. Down this street there are all these properties, the people in them expect that when they turn their taps water will come out, the water needs to be clean and to drain away into a sewage-system; they put their bin-bags out on the street, that rubbish has to be collected, that street might have issues with litter or potholes or accidents, what’s your strategy for preventing accidents, maybe you can put in traffic-lights or a zebra-crossing or even speed-cameras although even in a post-Capitalist society there’s still the question of the allocation of resources and if you put these things here you might not also be able to put them over there where they’ve got the same problems and also over there’s the hospital, there’s the schools, there’s… It’s so boring! and it goes on and on and on: most politics is dull, you get your moments, you get your scandals, your causes and clashes and controversies, mostly though politics is endless fucking boring meetings about fucking boring things which are fundamentally necessary to our civilisation.

Almost exactly a decade ago, I got this idea to try and create a new political-party, I’d started thinking there was something inherently progressive and energising in that, create a political-party, I really thought I was committed to taking it seriously, standing in elections, but almost straight away the weight of that tedium crushed me and I fucked off and did other stuff instead.

But, that is why the Right Wing wins, that’s why they’re winning: because the authoritarian mind has a higher tolerance for boredom than we do. Most people, given the choice between spending tonight studying a thousand-page document relating to where to put streetlights, and then debating the matter with other people who’ve read those thousand pages but have come to a different conclusion, or swallowing a pill and dancing all night in a fucking forest, getting stoned and fantasising about being a Jedi knight… Some people thrive on the boring stuff: and by involving themselves with the minor low-level politics they naturally get into positions where they end up dealing with the major politics, why shouldn’t they? Because conversely, if we don’t or we can’t or we won’t engage with this world as it is, as we find it, why should we then expect to deserve to ever get the chance to engage with the world as we would prefer it to be?

Just over a year ago I got invited to a meeting of the Green Party, I went along, I wasn’t massively interested, like I say I had this idea that political-parties are the McDonalds and Burger King of democracy, everyone should be their own political-party, and even though I had tried that and abjectly failed, still I figured somewhere up ahead it’s the way forwards. But I went to this Green Party meeting and to an extent it was the same old boredom, agenda and minutes and apologies for absence and treasurer’s report and blah blah blah… But anyway I liked the group and I didn’t disagree with any of their policies so I suffered through the boring bits, and I ended up standing as a candidate in the elections this May, just the council elections not the big Parliamentary ones. I live in Southend, it’s a large town but I can’t speak definitively about London or the major cities, I imagine though that Southend is a microcosm and there the smaller parties – which are still very large as cultural entities, everyone’s heard of the Green Party, everyone’s heard of UKIP, you may even have heard of the Liberal Democrats – they have a constant ongoing need for people to represent them. Southend is divided into seventeen wards, there’s a local election most years, so pretty much every year every party is looking for seventeen people to stand for them. The bigger parties have would-be career-politicians queuing up to join them but the smaller parties don’t, they’re desperate for people! Being a candidate in local elections doesn’t cost anything but you need to collect signatures from people who live in the ward and you need to fill in zillions of forms, one advantage of political-parties is that they have election-agents to help with that. And then… If you do stand it opens some very interesting doors, both for you as an individual looking for new challenges, new routes to explore; and as someone wanting to represent and advance a social/political agenda; and also from an artistic point of view.

For instance, the first thing I did as a candidate in my ward was I designed a leaflet, two sides of A4 to post through a few thousand letterboxes. On my front page I somewhat controversially attacked our local football-team’s threats to build a new stadium in an area that’s currently all fields, Southend’s already got a football-stadium but they want to build a new one, this new stadium would be built alongside a proposed “retail park,” we’ve got more than enough shops and vacant units and brown-field sites, what we don’t have is clean air, like London Southend’s air-pollution levels have reached illegally high levels but yeah, concrete over what fields we’ve got left, create an out-of-town shopping-complex that you can only get to by driving: genius! And what I’m planning to do in a future leaflet is, because the Green Party obviously opposes the bullshit “War On Drugs,” I’m intending to stick into people houses a leaflet that’ll have a picture of a cannabis-leaf on and some text relating to that. Personally I don’t think there’s anything going on in any music-scene or art-gallery that’s as potentially subversive as that: you might see or hear wild, shocking things in those places but you’re in an environment where the wild and the shocking is expected and encouraged and therefore banal; but treating people’s letterboxes, their doormats as your venue, that’s some whole other thing…

And of course you can go further. It’s something I haven’t done yet, I think you need to build up to it, but… It’d be crazy for any of us to just decide one day that we could or we would go and knock on some random door, and some complete stranger opens it and we’re like, “Hey let’s talk about politics!” – but you pin a fucking rosette to your lapel and you can do that! The person who opens the door, they might want you to sod right off, or they might be happy to see you cos they agree with everything you say, or they might be happy to see you cos they disagree with everything you say and they want you to know it! You have to construct for yourself a politician persona that’s able to improvise through whatever comes up, that is a performance. If we see ourselves as being any sort of artist we have to believe we are communicators and we have something worth communicating; there are dimensions to that we haven’t begun to explore.

Another thing, that I have been doing, I was quite cynical about it at first, I figured the sort of people who vote in local elections are the sort of people who read the local paper, so I started getting it and writing them endless letters to get my name out there, but I’ve gotten really into this. Obviously a daily newspaper has articles about all sorts of things, and the other letter-writers are talking about all sorts of topics, so you have to keep formulating your thoughts on all these different subjects and then try to express them in a very condensed, very pointed way. It’s satisfying as well because the local paper isn’t just read by the sort of people who vote in local elections but also by the people who stand in them, so if a councillor says or does something stupid and you come up with a particularly biting way of calling them out on that, it’s a good feeling seeing it printed on the page and knowing that – unlike if you’d dashed off a poem or a song – they’re reading it.

Another thing is, if in the lead-up to an election a group, a Residents’ Association or whatever, organises a public meeting of the candidates, you’re all invited. I had this back in April, I’d never done anything like it: there was a bunch of us sat at a table, the Labour candidate, the Independent, me, the UKIP and Tory guys, we had to give speeches and answer questions, there wasn’t a huge turnout but some residents of the ward showed up as did representatives from most of the political-parties, the politics editor from the local paper was there; it was intense.

But… The 1%, the Power Elite, the Ruling Class: we’re not going to be politely debating face-to-face with them anytime soon, we’re not going to be writing letters that they read. If they can crush armies, if they can infiltrate would-be armies to stop them forming in the first place, if they can get Johnny Rotten doing adverts, surely they’d be able to neutralise anything we could do within mere politics. Let me give you two brief examples of why I don’t think that’s necessarily wholly the case. In 1969 the age at which you could vote was lowered from twenty-one to eighteen: who were the first political-party to argue for that and put that in their manifesto? It was the Monster Raving Loony Party, they were calling themselves something different then but it was the same bunch. Obviously there wasn’t a direct causal link: the Monster Raving Loony Party says this therefore this happens, but there is such a thing as the zeitgeist: the Monster Raving lot used the political process to amplify their voice and that way they helped shape the 1969 Youth Culture zeitgeist which fed back into the political system and changed it. More recently, who ever actually wanted a referendum on Europe? Only UKIP; and what UKIP didn’t do was, they didn’t marginalise themselves, they didn’t locate the Establishment over there, as something they were disenfranchised from and oppressed by, they didn’t howl from the fringes with banners and placards about how much they wanted their referendum, no they got as close as they could to the Establishment, they got as close as they could to where power resides, to where decisions are made, and in doing that they got what they wanted.

Ultimately the future of British politics, one way or another, is us, it’s all of us: and I think one route from where we are now to a better future, a better politics, a better Britain is for us to try and invest in the political process some fraction of the energy we all currently give to watching fucking superhero movies and writing poems about what rebels and renegades we supposedly are. Because otherwise, if all the interesting people keep out of politics then politics can only get ever more even more boring. If the smart, passionate, arty people abandon the political mainstream then the mainstream will be crass, passionless and uninspired.

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