The Triumph of Propaganda

Christmas celebrations in Aleppo after liberation

Christmas celebrations in Aleppo after liberation

So, aside from the celebrity deaths, the big news last year was about fake news.

It was all over the place, in our newspapers, on the TV, on the radio, in the mouths of our politicians and media pundits: everywhere.

The principle claim came from a group calling itself PropOrNot (“propaganda or not”) which published a list of websites it said routinely relied on Russian propaganda.

The report was taken up and repeated by all of the main news outlets.

Unfortunately for them PropOrNot is itself a purveyor of fake news. Not Russian propaganda: American propaganda.

Included amongst the websites it listed as fake news sites were Wikileaks, Truthdig and Antiwar.com.

None of these are fake news sites. They are sites critical of US foreign policy, which is an entirely different thing.

It’s a measure of the triumph of propaganda when all opposition becomes labelled as propaganda.

And, let’s be clear: pretty well all news outlets these days, including those you would normally consider reliable, are infected by the fake news virus.

To take one example: as the Syrian Army was fighting its way into Aleppo in December last year, there was a news report about a massacre that had taken place.

I’m sure you remember it. The figure was very precise: 82 civilians shot. It was all over the media, in the left as well as the right wing press, on the BBC as well as CNN.

Here is an example of one of the headlines, from the Independent: “Pro-government forces slaughter at least 82 civilians while closing in on Syrian city, UN says”.

Trouble is, the UN didn’t say that. What the UN said was that it had received a report about a massacre.

Reporting the report of a report isn’t news, it’s Chinese whispers. It was uncorroborated at the time and, in fact, has never been corroborated.

It is a prime example of what, had it been reported on an opposition website, would have been described as “fake news”.

Instead, it was reported as real news at the time, and then quietly forgotten about when it turned out not to be true.

*************

From The Whitstable Gazette, 19/01/2017

The editor welcomes letters on any topical subject, but reserves the right to edit them. Letters must include your name and address even when emailed and a daytime telephone number.
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The Editor, 5-8 Boorman Way, Estuary View Business Park, Whitstable, Kent CT5 3SE,
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People who achieved so much in their short lives

2016So we’ve come to that part of the year again, when the Gregorian calendar clicks forward a notch and we say that another year has passed.

Many people died in 2016. About the same number as died the previous year, and who will die again this year no doubt.

Nevertheless it was an extraordinary year for celebrity deaths, starting with David Bowie and Alan Rickman in January, and ending with Debbie Reynolds, the day after her daughter, Carrie Fisher, in December.

Hardly a month has gone by without the announcement of yet another well-known person dying.

You could say that some of them died too young. Prince, who passed away in April, was 58 years old. George Michael and Caroline Aherne were only 53.

But who’s to say really? These people achieved more in their short lives than many of us can even dream of.

A number of friends also died this year, amongst them Richard Stainton, who campaigned for the peace bench in memory of Brian Haw. The bench will serve as a memorial to Richard too I feel.

Also Robert McDonald, who was a flat mate of mine for a while. Both will be remembered with undying affection by all of those whose paths they crossed.

So in the light of all this evidence of our mortality, and as a reminder that we are all only passing through this world, let me end with a few new year wishes.

May you find your heart’s calling in this complex web of life.

May your thoughts be ever searching and your actions always true.

May you find joy in the companionship of your friends and family, and may you be deserving of their respect.

May you be bold when boldness is called for, but cautious for the truth.

May you be astute enough to ask the right questions, and attentive enough to hear the answers when they are given.

And finally: may you find the love you are seeking, not only the love that is given to you, but the love that you can give.

A happy new year to all my readers.

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From The Whitstable Gazette, 05/01/2017

The editor welcomes letters on any topical subject, but reserves the right to edit them. Letters must include your name and address even when emailed and a daytime telephone number.
Send letters to:
The Editor, 5-8 Boorman Way, Estuary View Business Park, Whitstable, Kent CT5 3SE,
fax 01227 762415
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Politics and Spirituality

“a young adult in the 70s”

Revolutionary times

So first of all I thought I’d tell you a little about myself:

I was born in 1953, in Birmingham in the UK, from a typical working class family. My Dad was an electrician, my Mum a hairdresser. Dad was in the Navy when I was born, so I saw very little of him in my early life, although we did go to Malta when I was about 3 or 4 years old, from which I retain certain vivid memories.

So I grew up in that post-war consensus, which saw living standards rise and continue to rise for three decades or more.

I was a child in the fifties, a teenager in the 60s, and a young adult in the 70s.

Read more here.

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I believe in Father Christmas, not Santa Claus

xmasGreg Lake, of Emerson, Lake and Palmer, became the latest celebrity musician to die in 2016, joining such luminaries as David Bowie, Prince and Leonard Cohen.

Greg was probably most famous for his Christmas song, I Believe in Father Christmas. It’s one of the songs that gets reeled out every December as part of the Christmas play list.

Actually, as Christmas songs go, it’s not at all bad. There’s a bitter-sweet quality to it and a quiet note of protest at the rank commercialism of the modern Christmas experience. The final words are “Hallelujah, Noel, be it heaven or hell, the Christmas we get we deserve.”

“What we deserve” these past few years appears to be a dose of slick sickliness, in the form of the seasonal adverts from the transnational corporations.

Take that Coca Cola advert, for example. It has every Christmas cliché in succession: a snow-lit scene, a heavenly choir, sleigh bells ringing, and a little boy generously distributing bottles of Coke to a variety of hard working people, including, at the end, to Santa Claus himself.

Yeuch! God save us from a Coca-Cola Christmas. God save us from Santa Claus. We all know he’s really called Father Christmas, that he’s skinny, not fat, and that he doesn’t always wear red.

Christmas is actually a very ancient festival indeed. It pre-dates both Coca-Cola and Christianity by several thousand years. It is attached to the solstice, the shortest day, when the light is at its weakest, and the world is at its most inhospitable.

Both Stonehenge in Wiltshire and Newgrange in Ireland are oriented towards the Winter Solstice, and there is clear evidence of huge fires and feasts being held at this time of year.

It was celebrated by the Romans as the Saturnalia, and by the Vikings as Yule, and it represents that moment when the days are growing longer, and the light begins to return.

The Christian idea of a new born child who is the light of the world is entirely in keeping with the spirit of the ancient festival. The idea of fizzy drinks is not.

Read more here:

The spirit of Old Christmas lives on

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From The Whitstable Gazette, 22/12/2016

The editor welcomes letters on any topical subject, but reserves the right to edit them. Letters must include your name and address even when emailed and a daytime telephone number.
Send letters to:
The Editor, 5-8 Boorman Way, Estuary View Business Park, Whitstable, Kent CT5 3SE,
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Is this really the way to run a railway?

ticket

2290217-whitstable_station_kent_england_whitstable

Whitstable station: the ticket machine is left of centre

I went up to London last week to visit some friends.

I was planning to catch the 10.38 to London Victoria. Only when I got there, with ten minutes to spare, the ticket office had just closed.

Why would they close the ticket office ten minutes before a train was due to arrive? It’s a busy train, being one of the early off-peak services that retired people use.

What’s worse, the ticket machine outside was out of order. There was a queue, with a young woman in the front, trying to pick up tickets she had bought online.

She was stabbing at the screen with her finger and cursing under her breath.

Someone else left the queue and went to bang on the window of the office, trying to get their attention.

Just then a consignment of boxes arrived, and the couriers were trying to get into the office as well. They were knocking on the door as the customer was rapping on the window.

Eventually the office opened, with barely a minute to spare. More people had turned up hoping to catch the train, and a large queue formed instantly.

There was a general air of angry frustration in the waiting room. People were laughing just a little bit too loudly, as if they were about to break into hysterics.

Most people managed to get their tickets, fortunately, and those that didn’t would have bought their tickets on the train, so nobody got hurt.

Even so, is this really the way to run a railway?

It’s all to do with privatisation. The way to increase profits is to squeeze down on staff costs. Less people doing more work means more income for the shareholders.

The big con, of course, is that when the rail system was privatised, we were promised that rail subsidies would cease.

In fact the opposite has happened. The rail system now costs the tax payer much more than it ever did when it was publicly owned.

Such are the joys of neoliberal economics. Less pleasure, more profit, and an end to civilisation as we know it.

*************

From The Whitstable Gazette, 08/12/2016

The editor welcomes letters on any topical subject, but reserves the right to edit them. Letters must include your name and address even when emailed and a daytime telephone number.
Send letters to:
The Editor, 5-8 Boorman Way, Estuary View Business Park, Whitstable, Kent CT5 3SE,
fax 01227 762415
email kentishgazette@thekmgroup.co.uk
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The Native Oysters Band at the Whitstable Labour Club

native

The Native Oysters Band playing at the Labour Club 2nd Dec 2016

What a wonderful gig at the Labour Club last night, featuring the inimitable Nigel Hobbins, and the revelatory Native Oysters Band, in aid of the Oval Campaign.

Nigel was brilliant as always, doing a poignant rendition of his Garden of England song, amongst others. These lines seemed particularly apt given the cause this evening: “For this is the Garden of England and it’s worth fighting for.”

The Native Oysters Band are a kind of funked up Brass Band, playing an extraordinary mixture of New Orleans jazz, soul, funk and classics, with a great singer and trumpet player, who sounded like Gil Scott Heron, two psychedelic sax players, a cool, laid back drummer, a keyboard player who stepped in at the last minute, and still managed to sound spot on, and the most wonderful tuba playing I’ve ever heard. Well I say “tuba” but I had to ask what it was. Actually it’s a helicon, which is a type of tuba made for marching bands. You would normally associate the tuba with oompah pah music, but this was ultra groovy. It sounded more like some funky fretless bass than anything you would hear in a German beer hall.

They looked great too, with their sailor’s caps with gold leaf designs on the peaks, with all the brass instruments, and with that great gleaming tuba in the background catching the spotlight: it was like the stage was lit up in a golden shimmering glow.

Lots of people got up to dance: except yours truly, who ran off into the bar when Julie Wassmer tried to get me onto the dance floor. You don’t want to see me dance Julie. It’s like Pinocchio on acid.

All of the musicians gave their time for free in order to aid the Oval Campaign, and Whitstable Society stalwart Graham Cox gave a great speech about the politics of the campaign.

This is not just a Whitstable issue: it’s a national issue. It’s about what a council can and can’t do with public land. If Canterbury City Council get away with selling off the Oval to the developers at a knock down price, then the same thing could happen in the rest of the country. This is a last stand for public land.

The Judicial Review takes place on the 13th, 14th and 15th of December and Whitstable people are encouraged to go along to show your support.

Funding for this vital case is still ongoing. If you wish to make a donation please go to: https://www.crowdjustice.org/case/judicial-review-october/

Listen to a medley of the Native Oysters Band’s songs here: https://soundcloud.com/user-206592470/the-native-oysters-band-medley

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Fake News vs Stooge News

Julian Assange: “1,700 emails” proves Hillary Clinton sold weapons to ISIS in Syria

Julian Assange: “1,700 emails” proves Hillary Clinton sold weapons to ISIS in Syria

So the news this week has been all about fake news.

A significant factor in the American election, we were told, was the proliferation of news sites deliberately propagating made-up stories.

Channel 4 had an exclusive. Ciaran Jenkins, ITN’s Northern correspondent, was in a small town in Macedonia where, he claimed, much of the material comes from.

The piece involved a series of interviews with people in the town, including two teenagers who admitted to disseminating fake news.

Prior to the interviews he gave examples of the kind of stuff he was talking about: “Some falsely report that Hillary Clinton is a paedophile,” he said, “and that she sold arms to ISIS.”

This last statement was accompanied by a picture of Hillary Clinton next to a picture of Julian Assange. Underneath was written: “Julian Assange: 1,700 emails proves Hillary Clinton sold weapons to ISIS in Syria.

The implication is clear. News about Clinton’s support for ISIS is as absurd as news about her being a paedophile. Like the Macedonian teenagers, Julian Assange is also in the business of spreading fake news.

But this was an example of deliberate misdirection.

Say what you like about Assange, it is not fake news he produces, it is leaked information, pretty well all of which is true.

Furthermore, while it can’t be shown that Hillary Clinton sold arms to ISIS, leaked memos reveal that she was fully aware of the fact that US allies were funding ISIS, and she turned a blind eye to it.

Underlying the news about fake news is the assumption that our Western media produces real news.

It doesn’t take much digging to show that this, too, is a false assumption.

Remember those weapons of mass destruction? A lot of that information came from a dissident Iraqi Taxi driver who has since admitted he was lying.

Much of the news from Libya and Syria has also proved, at best, unreliable, at worst, completely untrue.

It’s not that the Western media concoct fake headlines: it’s that they repeat unquestioningly false information fed to them by Western Intelligence Agencies.

As one of my friends on Facebook put it: “I tend to think of the news as propaganda; now I’m being warned not to listen to fake propaganda.”

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Money, Magic and the Imagination – Part VIII

Arthur on the steps of the Royal Courts of Justice in in 2011, attempting to get a judicial review into returning cremated human remains to Stonehenge

After St Paul’s we walked to the Royal Courts of Justice on the Strand, where King Arthur read out the Royal Proclamation forgiving debt:

I, Arthur Uther Pendragon, having been raised Druid King of Britain on the Coronation Stone at Kingston upon Thames in January 1998, this being the first day of the Celtic New Year according to some calculations, do declare a Clean Slate, and a state of economic renewal, according to powers vested in the ancient Kings.

Just as the Sun returns to the same position on the horizon each year, and the Moon revolves around the Earth; just as the land is revived season by season, and the Earth begins anew again; just as birds return to their nests and salmon to their breeding waters; just as Winter gives way to Spring and Spring gives way to Summer, so the money cycle must be ever renewed and returned to a state of economic equilibrium.

Let all debts be forgiven. Let all forfeitures be returned. Let those who were dispossessed reclaim their customary possessions. Let the records be wiped clean and the Jubilee declared throughout the lands, as it always was. Let those who are enslaved by debt be made free. Let those who are brought low by financial burden have the weight lifted from them. Let the power vested in government to create money be used for the benefit of all the people, and not just the favoured few.

Let a new bank holiday begin, a holiday from banks. Let the banks be made accountable to those they have indebted. Let their privileges be revoked. Let those who hoard money be cured of their addiction. Let the money be free to circulate as it wills. Let it flow freely throughout the economy, like irrigation in a barren wasteland. Let the financial canals be opened and the land be brought to life again.

We are planting a seed here in the heart of the City of London, City of Cities, the birthplace of the old economy, where all debt is created, and to which all debt must be returned.

It is the seed of monetary Justice, the seed of hope for a bright new future, the seed of the new debtless economy, where usury and interest bearing debt give way to sovereign money in the hands of the people, and all of the people are free.”

He read it from the steps of the Royal Courts, from a scroll which he had fashioned himself, and which added proper gravitas to the reading. The whole thing was witnessed by the assembled company, the forty or so people who had accompanied us on our journey, after which the scroll was sealed with wax from the burning candle which had been lit in the concourse outside St Pauls, and then carried here.

rcj-free

Royal Courts of Justice: like someone’s fantasy of a Fairy Castle

The Royal Courts is an extraordinary building. It’s Victorian Gothic, in the same mould as the Houses of Parliament, only even more elaborately picturesque. It’s like someone’s fantasy of a Fairy Castle brought to life, with turrets and towers and vaulted arches by the dozen. You can almost imagine a giant fee-fi-fo-fumming in front of its Cathedral-sized front door, as an enchanted princess lowers her tresses from one of its many turrets, to allow a prince to ascend.

It is the perfect place, in other words, for a mythical King to read out a proclamation of great spiritual and political significance.

Actually Arthur is very familiar with the Royal Courts of Justice, having been here many times before.

Most recently, in 2011, he was here attempting to get a judicial review into returning the cremated human remains, dug up by archaeologists at Stonehenge in 2008, returned to their previous resting place near the stones.

He was also here in 1996, during the Newbury bypass protests, when he was brought under police escort from Bullingdon Jail in Oxfordshire, where he had been incarcerated for refusing bail conditions, in order to fight an injunction against him attempting to ban him from going anywhere within 100 metres of the contractors’ goods or chattels anywhere in the world.

They were claiming – falsely – that he was planning to go to Holland to lock-on to one of their cranes.

Each of the petitioners – the Highways Agency, the Department of Transport and Costain, the contractor – was represented by a “Learned Barrister” and his team, while Arthur represented himself.

So you can picture the scene if you like: the majestic court room, with its columns and arches and vaulted ceilings, with its wooden panels, its shields and plaques; the barristers in their wigs and robes, flapping about like crow’s wings, the judge in his shoulder length wig and ermined robes, raised on his platform; the police and prison officers in their uniforms; and Arthur, in the dock, in his battle-frock, with his circlet about his head, representing himself as the reincarnation of a Dark Ages Battle Chieftain, claiming Druid immunity on the battlefield.

Yes, that’s right, say it again – “Druid immunity on the battlefield” – quoting from the Classical writers, Strabo and Diodorus, from the first century BC.

The Learned Barristers laughed out loud when they heard that, but were soon silenced when the Judge adjourned the case to seek legal clarification on the matter.

On his return, the Judge ruled that Arthur was correct, but as he couldn’t show that Druids had practised such a right prior to the reign of Richard I, in and around Newbury according to local custom, it did not apply. However he did agree with Arthur that the conditions of the injunction were beyond his jurisdiction, applying not just to the UK, but to the rest of the world. He also agreed that they were impracticable. As Arthur pointed out, he could be driving anywhere in Britain and come upon temporary traffic lights or traffic cones belonging to Costain, and break the injunction without knowing it. In other words, put simply, Arthur won the case, beat the injunction, and was free to go on protesting at Newbury.

The ruling about Druid immunity on the battlefield being based on local custom, by the way, could also have been argued on the basis of national custom: which leaves the door open to the possibility of someone making the claim again at some point in the future. And if ever anyone feels like trying it out, they can refer to this court case as the precedent.

This is one of the things about Arthur that makes him so fascinating. People who don’t know him or who have never met him, often think he’s crazy: at best eccentric, at worst, certifiably insane. The man you meet, however, is just an old fashioned, working class biker-dude turned Druid: a bit rough around the edges, but obviously intelligent.

It’s the use he puts his assumed identity to that makes the difference; and, let’s face it, he’s not the only one with a penchant for fancy-dress. Those Learned Barristers too – the Judge, the court officials, the police and prison officers – all of them wear distinctive clothing to define their office.

The court room too is full of symbols. Take a look at the plaque on display in every court in the land, the famous “Lion and the Unicorn”: it’s a shield with the rampant lion on one side and a unicorn on the other. The unicorn has a crown around its neck, which is chained to the ground. What does that mean? Arthur says it represents warrior energy unleashed, and magical energy chained. Whatever it is, it is a potent symbol of British imperial power.

Arthur pits his own symbols against these: the rampant dragon on his chest, the silver crown with a flying dragon in the centre, the pentagram, the Celtic cross, the sword, which he insists on swearing upon in place of the Bible, and which was once brought to Reading Crown Court with a motorcycle escort, blue lights flashing, from Charring Cross Police Station on the order of the Judge. And if Arthur claims, as he does, that it is the “Sword of Britain” and the Judges allow him to swear on it as such, then doesn’t this make it legally true; legally binding in a British Court of Law?

It is through these symbols that he is claiming an authority which precedes and overrides that of the British State. And it is an authority which the Judges – themselves most often steeped in their own form of magical practice as Freemasons – almost invariably recognise.

Let’s face it: it is all symbolic.

Legal authority, power, status, wealth, democracy, the Crown: all of these are expressed in symbolic language.

And money too: those intricately designed notes we carry around with us, with the Queen’s head on one side and national folk heroes on the other; with the “promise to pay the bearer on demand”, which, when you put it into practice, means merely swapping one identical note for another.

You can’t get more deeply symbolic than money: a note which symbolises itself.

What Arthur does is to remind us that all real authority comes from ourselves.

Arthur has elaborated his own status into a recognisable system, a set of symbols by which we know him. But we don’t have to wear a white robe and a crown to be known and recognised for who we are; we simply have to know in ourselves that everything claiming authority over us is symbolic and create our own symbols in return.

And, this, of course, is what we’ve been up to all day. We’ve been addressing the world of money and finance with the symbols of our own creative power.

This is what magic is all about.

Can it change the physical world?

Maybe not.

But it does change the symbolic world, the psychological world. It changes those who practice it. It opens up the doors of the psyche to other possibilities, to other ways of being.

It unleashes imagination into the world. It creates a world in the imagination. It allows us to step aside from the world that is imposed upon us – through the financial system, the class system, through war and propaganda – and to look at it with fresh eyes, with a fresh mind, with intelligence, wit and sensitivity, in the hope that we can transform the world, and begin to make it new again.

To read the whole sequence please go here, and follow the links at the bottom of each page.

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Money, Magic and the Imagination – Part VII

The concourse in front of St Paul’s Cathedral: “Of all the places we gathered that day… the most perfect, the most precise, the most resonant with contained energy”

So we’re coming towards the end of our tale now. Two rituals done, two to go.

The next took place on the concourse in front of St Paul’s Cathedral and was lead by John Constable in the guise of John Crow, his alter-ego.

John is the kind of person that the word “charismatic” was invented to describe. He goes his own way and is unique and completely uncategorisable. He’s an actor, a poet and a playwright, as well as an urban shaman and a latter day voodoo priest. He wrote The Southwark Mysteries, a modern mystery play cycle, first performed in Shakespeare’s Globe and Southwark Cathedral on Easter Sunday, 23rd April 2000, and has presided over a monthly vigil at the gates of the Crossbones Cemetery in Southwark since 2004. Prior to that he led a Halloween ritual which culminated in a procession to the gates, and this year marks the 20th anniversary of what he refers to as “the Goose visitation”, when the spirit of one of the dead at Crossbones descended upon him during a late night walk through the streets of Southwark: on the 23rd November 1996.

Southwark is just over the river from the City of London, and was the place, just outside the jurisdiction of the City, where the well-to-do burghers, the gentry and the clergy would repair for rest and recuperation: which is to say, it was the place where the whores would congregate and where a god-fearing citizen from the other side of the river could cast off his pious cloak and indulge his more corporeal fantasies for a time.

The first time we’d met to discuss our plans had been at the George Inn in Southwark, after which John had led us to Crossbones and given us a guided tour.

When Jon Harris and I had reconnoitred the City a few weeks before, we’d selected a series of places where there was a little space in which to perform our rituals. We had no idea, then, what anyone would want to do with them.

It was John Constable who chose St Paul’s as his location, and forgiveness as his theme.

It is forgiveness that characterises Christianity as a religion, remember. Forgiveness of sins. Sin is another form of debt, which the Redeemer offers his life as payment for.

Of all the places we gathered that day, the concourse in front of the Cathedral was the most perfect, the most precise, the most resonant with contained energy.

It is laid out as a circle of stones around a central pivot. There’s a small hub in the heart of it. John lead us to this place and gathered us around to talk, while he drew a six pointed star in chalk on the floor and placed various objects at the points of intersection.

He reminded us that we are all implicated in the money process, that: ‘We all have our stake in the sum of human misery…’  It’s no good finger-wagging at the rich as this would tend to entrench them in their position. We all have to acknowledge the part we play. We all covet the products of the system. We all have mobile phones and computers. We are all guilty and we all need to be forgiven. We are all victims and we all need to be rescued. We are all slaves and we all need to be redeemed.

John then asked us to help to manifest an entity as a symbol of the system: a creature he called “Phatty”. Phatty is the Fat-Cat who feeds off human greed. We formed a circle and John did a performance of a poem invoking the spirit of this Being, as it resides in all of us.

(PHATTY from SPARK IN THE DARK by John Constable):

Phatty got a problem
Phatty in a fix
Phatty been got up to his old
not so clever tricks

Phatty got sticks
Phatty got stones
Phatty got a murky mix of
toxic home loans
Phatty get transfixed
by the things he think he owns

with his hypnotist inflections
and his wheedling little voice
Phatty project another trillion pound bonus
and an armour-plated Rolls Royce
and how we all get to trade our Freedom
for a share in his multiple choice

Phatty raid the kitty
Phatty pig the food
Phatty bank his fractions
on the price of Brent Crude
some say Phatty too fat to fuck
but somehow we all get screwed

Phatty he no Dumbo
Phatty know the score
Phatty know he been here not once
but many a time before
only this time how to wriggle out
Phatty not so sure
ENDTIME PHATTY NUKE REACTOR
MELTDOWN AT THE CORE

Phatty in a fluster
Phatty in a State
Phatty think about things he shoulda done
and wonder if it now too late
or whether he could buy a little more time
if he join in the Crisis Debate
and if he should use the time that he buy
to lose a little Phatty weight

Phatty need a chain reaction
Phatty need a juju man
Phatty need another distraction
like a Nuclear War with Iran
which is why we all got to disarm and defuse
before Phatty shit hit the fan
before Phatty money won’t buy no more time
and the Phatty bar-code don’t scan

till then scanning the dead
banks of CC-television
holed-up in his high-security tower
in his moment of decision
Phatty knows time and money just bought him
a luxury Phatty prison

for Phatty is a phantom
he feed on Phatty pricks
only this time his money won’t buy no more time
no matter how many digits he clicks
now when the Mob come howling for the Phatty Controller
it be Phatty head catching the kicks
or strung up from a lamp-post like Phatty Mussolini:
“That’s Phatty fixed!”

*

Or?
Phatty get sorted
Phatty get fit
light-bulb in Phatty head
be suddenly up lit
Phatty treat the Human Race
like he ready to run with it

but...
take more than a remix
or a bullet-proof Bugatti
PHAT as in BEAT
not as corporate catty
Race as in Human
when we flush out the ratty
as fat and thin we here begin
to bid a fond farewell

to Phatty.

He did this all from memory.

John then introduced us to the concept of the Long Dance performed during San Pedro ceremonies, in which participants dance for hours in a circle, first clockwise to release negative, destructive energies to the transforming fire at the centre – in our case represented by a single candle in the six-pointed star – then ‘widdishins’ to draw in and project positive, healing energies. He playfully announced that we would now perform our own ‘Short Dance’.

Which is what we did. We danced clockwise around the circle banishing and transforming Phatty’s energy, chanting these words: “Here Phatty’s Debt I now redeem / Awaking from his Deathly Dream.”

This went on for some time, maybe ten minutes, after which we reversed the circle and danced the other way to receive and emanate William Blake’s vision of forgiveness, while chanting lines from one of his illustrated books, The Gates of Paradise: “Mutual Forgiveness of each Vice / Such are the Gates of Paradise.”

William Blake too, knew these streets, living, as he did, in Lambeth, not far away, and would have walked them often in his epic jaunts around the London landscape. Blake was also prone to visitation of various kinds, and to an active engagement with the denizens of his imagination. If there’s any figure who unites all of us in our journey today, it is William Blake.

While this was going on someone I knew, Susanna, had exited the circle and was talking to a priest on the steps of the Cathedral.

She called me over and asked me to explain what we were doing.

The priest said, “I’m just wondering what’s going on here?”

I gave him a King Arthur £23 note and copies of our Positive Money leaflets. I showed him the picture of Arthur on the front of the note and he nodded over at Arthur in the circle and said, “ah yes, I can see him there.” I reminded him of the Jubilee from the Bible and the words of the Lord’s Prayer and explained that we were calling for debt forgiveness. He listened politely. He seemed a little sceptical but – let’s face it – who wouldn’t be?

After that I went back to the circle to continue participating in the process.

King Arthur made a very telling point about the space we were currently occupying. He said it always got on his nerves when pagans complained about Christians taking over what had previously been pagan sites. He said, “What is it about the words ‘Genius Loci’ they don’t understand? It means ‘spirit of place’. The spirit of the place is still here no matter what religion is being practised.”

A couple of things were happening nearby. One was a wedding. There was a photographer taking pictures of the happy couple, her in her white satin wedding gown with the veil cast back over her head: him in his suit and tie. No doubt they wanted this space for themselves. And not far away there was a gathering of foreign students being addressed by a couple of guides.

I went over and distributed £23 notes to them. Everyone wanted one.

There was other secret alchemy going on too, but I won’t say what this was as it would spoil the magic.

The amount of energy John Crow poured into leading this profound and engaging ritual was extraordinary. It was a privilege to have have been a witness and to have shared this experience with him.

Part VIII

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Money, Magic and the Imagination – Part VI

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Jacqueline Haigh as Melusine in Daisy Campbell’s revue, 23rd October 2016

Before we continue with our tale, let’s remind ourselves of why we are here.

Why have a bunch of strangers met on the streets of London, on a blustery cold November day, to act out a series of rituals which, to the public at large, would look like nothing more than New Age gobbledegook?

So let’s look at the issues.

In 2007-2008 there was a banking crisis. We’ll start there as this is the most recent and obvious indication of what might be wrong with our world.

The banks had been raking in the money for years, and growing obscenely rich, but, what we didn’t know, is that they’d been engaging in major fraud to do this. Yes, that’s right: fraud. Fraud on a massive, industrial, transnational scale: selling fraudulent mortgages to people who couldn’t afford it in the United States (so called “liars loans”) then disguising these loans as secure bonds by slicing them up and repackaging them in complex financial instruments known as derivatives, which were then sold on the open market: to pension funds and local governments and other investors, large and small, around the world.

The rating agencies, whose job it is to test financial products and grade them according to risk, were giving out triple A ratings to these derivatives; to what were, in effect, doomed investments. They were doing this because their business was so inextricably tied to the fortune of the banks that they daren’t question what was going on.

The whole business model was riven by fraud, from the bottom to the top, and the CEOs of the large banks, who were leading this process, were becoming rich beyond measure.

And then, one day, the whole system ground to a halt. Banks stopped lending to each other, and the whole economic system was teetering on the brink of total collapse. It was then that “we the people” showed up. We the people, meaning governments world wide, were forced to hand over trillions of dollars in public money in order to keep the banks from imploding, because, we were told, these banks were “too big to fail”. If they collapsed, then the whole system would collapse with them.

Fraud, remember. Fraud on a grand scale. Fraud on a scale never seen in the world before. And not one banker was gaoled for it. Not only was no one gaoled, they were rewarded for their efforts, paying themselves massive bonus’ using the public funds that had only recently been handed over, and pocketing it themselves. After which, it was business as usual; except that the huge liabilities that the banks had created by their fraudulent practices, were now dumped upon the shoulders of the public to bear, while they went on doing exactly what they had been doing before, getting richer by the minute.

That’s the world we live in now: a world where fraud is rewarded, and the savings of billions of people are compromised, in order to keep the system ticking over.

At the heart of all of this lies the question of money-creation. Where does money come from? How is it created? Who brings it into being and how?

This is where most people get confused. It’s not a question that is asked very often. People think that money is just there somehow. The government creates it, by printing it: isn’t that how it’s done?

Well yes. That’s how it is done. That’s the stuff you carry round in your pocket; but that only accounts for about 3% of the money in circulation. The rest of it is electronic money, that exists as numbers in computers all over the world, and this money isn’t printed at all. It is magicked into being by the banks.

When you go to a bank and ask for a loan, where does that money come from? Do they go downstairs into a vault, and lift a great big wad of fivers they had stored down there, in order to lug it back upstairs to hand it over to you? Of course not. They just tap the number into your account, and you agree to pay it back. But what you believe is that the money has some kind of existence somewhere. They are lending you something they hold. But this is the really startling thing, the really mind-boggling thing. They don’t. They don’t hold anything. That money you have agreed to pay back never had any kind of existence anywhere in the world until the moment you signed the contract agreeing to pay it back.

If anything has the right to be called “magic” in this world, surely it is this?

Money from nothing, conjured out of thin air, abracadabraed into existence by the simple expedient of tapping a few numbers into a computer.

This is the big secret that lies at the heart of the banking system. It’s called “fractional reserve banking”. Banks lend out many times more than they hold as savings. Many, many, many times more. Part of the fraud in the banking crisis was that, in some cases, banks held virtually no reserves at all. All the money they held had been leveraged and leveraged so many times it no longer had any kind of substance or reality. It was homoeopathic money: money so watered down as to have no real existence any more. It was only the fact that we all still believed in it that kept the system going. As long as we didn’t all turn up at the bank at the same time asking for our money back, they could get away with it: they could get away with lending money that didn’t exist and then charging interest on it.

It’s called “confidence”. As long as we have confidence in the banks, the banks will continue to thrive.

And therein lies the key. “Confidence”. Like a confidence trickster: a con merchant, a con artist. The con artist gains your confidence by some little act of trust, by making it appear that you will make some gain, after which they betray that confidence, and take you for every penny you’ve got.

This is exactly what happened in 2007. You were conned. I was was conned. We were all conned. But the confidence trickster, in the form of the private banking system, has been left in place to continue with his egregious abuses of public confidence.

But there’s another element to this. If banks can conjure money out of thin air, why can’t we?

Well we can. That is the other option. It’s called public banking.

We’ve been sold a narrative, a story. The story goes like this. A country is like a household. It has to live within its means. So, like a household, it has to go to the bank to borrow money when it runs short. Currently we owe lots of money to the banks, so, in order to live within our means, and pay back what we owe, we now have to “tighten our belts”. That’s called austerity. We have to give away our benefits, take a cut in wages, sell off our public assets, and allow private enterprise to run the world for us instead.

But a country is nothing like a household. It is much more like a bank. And, like a bank, it can magic money into existence. It can create money out of thin air. In fact the sheer absurdity of the story we’ve been sold is illustrated by the process known as “Quantitative Easing”. Quantitative Easing is money created out of thin air by the Bank of England which is then given to the private banks, so that they will lend it back to us.

Are you pulling your hair out yet? Are you screaming with frustration? Why are we having anything more to do with these con merchants? Why don’t we just create the money ourselves and then spend it into the economy, making us all better off? Quantitative Easing for the people. It’s been done before.

Just to give you one example: Abraham Lincoln issued his own money in the form of greenbacks during the American Civil War, which were not only used to pay for the conflict, but for large infrastructure projects too, including the United States’ intercontinental railway system, still in use to this day. Such is the conjuring power of money that it can fund gigantic projects that will go on to have centuries of use.

You are probably wondering what a bunch of magical folk engaging in public ritual have to do with any of this? But that’s the point. The processes by which money can be called into being and then stored and accumulated, is itself a form of magic. It is invisible, conceptual, with so little existence on the physical plain as to appear almost non-existent. Most of the money is the world is stored as numbers in computers, electronic blips on a computer screen, nothing more, and it is only our collective confidence in the system that maintains it. It is belief, in other words, faith: the same means by which religious systems are kept functioning; and just as religion needs its theologians to help justify its claims, so the money-god needs economists.

Religion is something that exists mainly in people’s heads, as does money. As does magic too, of course.

All of them are deeply tied into the human imagination. But whereas money and God appear to exist outside of us, as forces that own and control us, magic is the means by which we can reclaim imagination for ourselves.

Magic is the application of practical imagination in the world.

It is the collective conjuring up of forces that, instead of controlling us, we can control.

It is at this point, perhaps, that we may return to our tale: a bunch of people hanging round by Wellington’s statue, having just planted our money-sigil into the Bank of England.

This is the moment that Jacqueline Haigh appeared to the crowd in the form of Melusine, the double-tailed mermaid, Jonathan Harris’ recently divined symbol of money.

Jacqui Haigh as Melusine outside the Royal Exchange

Jacqueline Haigh as Melusine outside the Royal Exchange

I’d met Melusine a few times before. On our last reconnaissance mission Jon and I had gone into the Bank of England museum where he’d shown me a treasure chest where they’d kept the money in the early days of the institution. There was a cut metal filigree design on the inside of the lid which showed a double-tailed mermaid. This, Jon assured me, was Melusine. The symbol appears again on the Starbucks logo. Look carefully and you’ll see: she’s a crowned princess holding a fish tail in each hand.

20150722_091339-1Jon had first seen the image on the front cover of an art catalogue from Düsseldorf dating from 1978, called, in translation, The Museum of Money. He’d written about this in his Money Burner’s Manual. She had also featured in Daisy Campbell’s revue on the 23rd of October, when she’d appeared on a raised platform above the stage: Jacqueline Haigh wearing a silver tailed costume designed and made by Sophie Lodge, during which she had scattered gold coins and had golden confetti blown out from a gun between her legs.

Quite why Melusine is a symbol of money is more difficult to work out, but we’re in the business of creative iconography here, and Jon was lead to his conclusions by mysterious and magical means, so we’ll leave it be for the moment.

As to why Starbucks would choose a double-tailed mermaid as their symbol (which in its unexpurgated form has decidedly sexual implications) is another matter.

So, anyway, that’s how Jacqueline appeared this day, dressed as Melusine, doing her Melusine dance beneath the statue of Wellington in front of the Royal Exchange, thus evoking the magical being, thus allowing her space in our collective imagination to weave her spell.

Part VII

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