The Gateway Between Two Worlds

The following film was of a performance called “The Gateway Between Two Worlds” which took place on the 4th June 2016 on the spit of pebbles known as “the Street” near Tankerton in Whitstable.

The piece was organised and performed by Helene Williams and Mark Fuller and featured the work of  local wicker maker Sonia McNally, with music by Jowe Head & the Demi-Monde, and a poem by CJ Stone.

CJ Stone’s part begins at just after the 17 minutes mark. You can read the text of the poem here.

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Blair’s practised apology was painful to witness

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By some strange trick of fate I ended up watching Tony Blair’s press conference in the wake of the Chilcot report last week.

The word that came to mind was “hubris”.

It’s from the Greek. It means “arrogance before the gods”. It refers to a person in a powerful position who, deluded about his capabilities, and with extreme arrogance, performs an act that offends the natural order and who is then punished for his crime.

Such a man is Tony Blair. Vain. Conceited. Ambitious. Over-burdened with a sense of his own self-importance, serving power rather than questioning it, a stooge for the global ambitions of the neoliberal elites.

His performance before the TV cameras was painful to behold. The tremor in his voice, the look of practised sincerity as he made his apology and then retracted it immediately, saying that he would do it all again, made me sick with anger.

It was obvious that he had prepared his defence in advance, having had access to the report for many months. In fact it was probably Tony Blair’s interference that was partly responsible for its long delay.

He had clearly laboured long and hard over his speech: not just writing and rewriting the words, but working on every inflection to get exactly the right tone into his voice.

Chilcot had exonerated him, he said. The report showed that he had acted in good faith.

In fact, Chilcot says no such thing.

Here is an actual quote: “The judgements about the severity posed by Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction were presented with a certainty that was not justified.”

I remember quite clearly Andrew Gilligan on the Today programme on the 29th May 2003, a few weeks after the invasion, quoting a senior intelligence source saying that the evidence of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction had been, in that unforgettable phrase, “sexed up” by the government.

The intelligence source turned out to be Dr David Kelly.

Later that day Alastair Campbell was doing the rounds of radio and TV stations, just as he was on the day of the Chilcot report, vigorously defending Blair.

As a consequence of this Gilligan lost his job and Dr Kelly lost his life, but Blair and Campbell remained in place to continue their relentless spinning of the news.

Does that sound like “good faith” to you?

Coincidentally, while I was researching the notion of hubris I came across another word which is indelibly linked to it. That word is “nemesis”.

Nemesis is the spirit of divine retribution carried out on those who succumb to hubris.

In modern terms a nemesis is someone who is a long-standing rival: an arch-enemy.

How apt. It’s almost as if we are watching a Greek tragedy unfolding before our eyes, as Blair meets his nemesis, in the form of Jeremy Corbyn.

The two men couldn’t be more different. Blair is charismatic, duplicitous, manipulative and deeply dishonest; Corbyn is mild, uncharismatic, a little bit boring perhaps, but fundamentally honest.

It’s almost certain that Blair is behind the attempt to remove Corbyn from the leadership of the Labour Party.

We will just have to see how the drama plays out next.

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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 difference between leave and remain

Boris Johnson with a brick: can you tell the difference?

As I’ve stated elsewhere, I voted to leave the EU.

That wasn’t easy. It wasn’t easy to come to my decision, and it hasn’t been easy to deal with the fallout either.

I’ve been vilified, sworn at, called a racist, attacked, scorned. I’ve been labelled with any number of insulting names, and been unfriended by several people on Facebook, including by some who have known me for years.

I also have to admit that I wasn’t expecting to be on the winning side. Mine was a protest vote directed against the institutions of the EU and the political establishment, as I imagine it was for most leave voters.

We just wanted to tell them how pissed off we were.

The country was divided almost down the middle: 52% to 48%.

Interestingly, this is the exact figure that Nigel Farage gave for not accepting the referendum result had there been a win for remain, and the petition calling for a new referendum was set up by a leave supporter anticipating a win for the other side.

Isn’t irony delicious at times?

I’m also happy to agree with remain voters that it may still be too close to call. It’s not that I disagree with the result: it’s that I think the campaign itself was based upon a false dichotomy.

Both sides lied. Both sides used scare tactics. Both sides twisted information to suit their agenda. If the referendum shows anything, it’s that we are very badly served both by our media and by the people who claim to represent us.

In fact, virtually the whole of the establishment was in favour of remain: the government, the civil service, the financial institutions, the banks, big business, the corporations, the White House, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, the Liberal Party, half of the Tory Party, most of the Labour Party, the majority of the Cabinet and all of the Shadow Cabinet.

The voices we heard from the leave side were entirely disingenuous. The campaign for them was a platform for their own personal ambitions. Take Boris Johnson. Before the campaign he was making pro-European statements, and famously wrote two columns for the Telegraph: one in favour of remaining in the EU, the other against. In the end it was the latter that was published and it makes clear that whatever deliberations he was making prior to his decision were based entirely on what was good for his career, not on what was good for the country. The leave campaign for him was a strategic maneuver in some Machiavellian ploy to take over leadership of the Tory Party, and the half-arsed way he stepped out of the leadership contest once he knew he was facing opposition shows just how detached he was from the result. He was obviously not interested in it or he would have made a point of staying on in order to finish the job he started.

All of the main spokesmen for the leave campaign have now stepped down, which shows the disdain with which they hold those members of the public they were previously claiming to speak for.

So who is left to speak up for the leave voters now, many of them from the poorest and the most deprived parts of the UK?

Do remain voters really think that all seventeen million, four hundred and ten thousand, seven hundred and forty two of them of them are racists?

In fact a recent poll by Lord Ashcroft, shows just how untrue that is.

Nearly half (49%) of leave voters gave the reason for their decision as “the principle that decisions about the UK should be taken in the UK.”

Only 33% said that immigration and control of borders was their main reason for voting to leave, and even this is by no means an indication of racism. People are concerned about jobs, and mass migration from the EU is having a depressing effect on wages. Itinerant workers from Eastern Europe are able to take low-paid jobs that British workers with a mortgage and a family cannot. If there is simmering resentment at people from other nations and other cultures, it’s not because people are racist: it’s because they are being priced out of work.

It is also notable that the areas in the UK that voted to leave are the among most deprived parts of the country, while areas that voted to stay are among most privileged. By a large margin – 61% to 39% – leave voters think that children growing up today will be worse off than their parents; they see more threats to their standard of living and believe that life in Britain is worse now than it was 30 years ago.

Needless to say, remain voters think the opposite.

And there you have it: the real divide that the referendum has laid bare for us. Not racists versus anti-racists, or socially liberal people versus socially conservative people: it’s between those who have fared well out of the last 30 years of EU membership (or at least haven’t lost out from it) and those who have felt the pinch of austerity, who have seen their communities decimated and their prospects destroyed, who have been finding it harder and harder to get a decent job or to make a living and who, for whatever reason, decided to lay it all at the door of the EU.

Of course, not every remain voter is well off, and not every leave voter is poor, but the divide is all too real. It doesn’t help that some remainers have been accusing the other side of racism and stupidity. If there has been a surge in support for the far right, it’s partially because millions of people in this country feel completely let down by the political process.

So I have one last question to ask of remain voters: how many of you were 100% behind the EU? How many of you are really convinced that the European Union has been beneficial to the people of Europe as a whole?

If you read Yanis Varoufakis or Paul Mason, and other left-wing remainers, they were perfectly clear that the European Union leaves a lot to be desired. Varoufakis said that, despite it’s many shortcomings, we had to remain in the EU in order to reform it from within. Mason said that there was a good case for Brexit, just not right now.

The decision to remain was a strategic one. Most remain voters that I spoke to were no more enthusiastic about the institutions of the EU than were leave voters, they simply had a different opinion about what to do about it.

Both sides had their extremes. For the leave side it was those racist elements on the far-right who have been emboldened by the result and who have been attacking foreigners on the streets ever since: for remain it was the neoliberal consensus, also right-wing and still effectively in power.

Most people disagree with both.

In other words, the differences between leave and remain are nowhere near as great as the results of the referendum campaign would have us believe.

 

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Corbyn and the Left Exit argument

Jeremy Corbyn on Channel 4's The Last Leg

Jeremy Corbyn on Channel 4’s The Last Leg

The sheer, brazen, nerve of the man: David Cameron telling Jeremy Corbyn at Prime Minister’s Questions “For heaven’s sake man, go.”

It has nothing to do with David Cameron who the leader of the Labour Party is. It has nothing to do with the media, with Laura Kuenssberg or the Daily Mail. It has nothing to do with the electorate until such time as there is an election, and while Labour MPs, of whatever stripe, have a right to voice their concerns, it is not, finally, down to them either.

It is down to the membership, and most of us want Jeremy Corbyn to stay exactly where he is.

Unlike the EU, the Labour Party is a democratic organisation.

It is remarkably convenient, isn’t it, that this news about the Labour Party is distracting attention both from the splits within the Tory Party, and from the grave mess that the country finds itself in? None of this is down to Jeremy Corbyn. He didn’t call the referendum. He didn’t hand the racists a platform from which to speak. He’s not responsible for a disastrous and divisive campaign that has ripped the country in half, turning friend against friend, brother against sister, father against son.

48% to 52% is still too close to call. The country is in turmoil; the markets are jittery; nasty, febrile racism is on the rise. People are being attacked on the street simply because of their race or nationality. None of this is down to Jeremy Corbyn. All of it can be laid at David Cameron’s door.

Meanwhile Corbyn is being undermined by his own side in what looks remarkably like a prearranged coup.

In an earlier article I described Corbyn’s position as “win-win”. I now think that it may be the other way round.

Everyone knows that Corbyn is an instinctive Eurosceptic. He’s a Bennite, Tony Benn’s favourite MP. It’s a matter of record that it was Benn who called the last EU referendum in 1975, and that Corbyn has always spoken out against it.

So the Blairites had him in a pincer movement. Had he come out against the EU prior to the referendum campaign, they would have laid into him then. Had the remain camp won, they could still have berated him for his lacklustre performance, while waiting for another opportunity. As it happened, remain lost, and they were able to trigger their coup attempt on the back of that.

Whatever happened, Corbyn was always going to be the target.

I love Corbyn. He seems constitutionally incapable of lying. Thus, on the Last Leg, when asked how much, on a scale of one to ten he was in favour of the EU, he wavered and said, “about seven or seven and a half”. Any other politician in his position would have blustered and lied and said 11.

But I think that Corbyn made a tactical error by agreeing to be the main spokesman for the party in the remain campaign, albeit for entirely understandable reasons. He was trying to keep the party together. Recent events have shown that this was doomed to failure.

Meanwhile he let down many Labour voters who were always going to vote leave.

The media campaign made it look like it was racists versus anti-racists, right versus left, conservative versus liberal, nice people versus nasty people – but it was never as clear cut as that.

There were always good, sound, democratic left arguments for leaving the EU.

By kowtowing to the right in his own party Corbyn failed to speak up for the millions of Labour and ex-Labour voters who, worried by the effects of mass migration, crushed by austerity, seeing their living standards being eroded, and their public services in crisis, decided to give the whole political establishment a good kicking on the back of the referendum campaign.

Corbyn has never been part of that establishment. That’s why we voted for him.

We needed someone in a position of power to articulate the Left Exit argument.

That person should have been Jeremy Corbyn.

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I voted leave in the name of democracy

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OK, so I voted to leave the EU.

It took a long time to reach my decision. I was pulled both ways. Pretty well all of my friends were voting to remain and it was difficult to find myself in opposition to people I love and who I had shared a platform with on more than one occasion, but that is where my deliberations lead me.

The national debate took place almost exclusively on right-wings terms. It was all about immigration and the money in your wallet, with both sides twisting the facts to suit their agenda. There simply wasn’t a proper informed debate.

If I was was a conspiracy nut, I might think that this was deliberate. With Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson leading the out campaign, people on the left were bound to go the other way.

But that made for some very peculiar bedfellows in the remain camp too, which included Goldman Sachs, Tony Blair and George Osborne, as well as Jeremy Corbyn and Yanis Varoufakis, and it was obvious that Corbyn was conflicted.

The arguments I heard from my peers were all couched in negative terms. Everyone agreed that the EU is profoundly anti-democratic, wedded to neoliberalism and austerity: but better this than giving the country over to the xenophobes on the right, they said.

So we were being asked to stay in the EU, not because it is any good, but despite it being bad, because some of the people who were voting to leave were doing it for the wrong reasons.

Really there wasn’t much of a choice. It was austerity on one side and austerity on the other. Neoliberalism, support for the banks, a fire-sale of our public assets: outside of the media sound bites both sides were offering the same future.

The difference being, of course, that we can vote out UK governments every five years, but this was our only chance to vote out the EU.

During the Greek debt crisis the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, said “there can be no democratic choice against the European treaties.”

That sums it up for me.

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The Whitstable Gazette.
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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Referendum – In or Out?

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Still trying to puzzle the referendum out. I hate the people who have been chosen to lead the Leave campaign as much as anyone. The debate so far has seriously sold the British public short, with lies and disinformation on both sides, and the main arguments focusing on people’s darkest and most negative emotions: anger, suspicion, hatred and fear.

All rational debate has gone out of the window. All we are seem to hear are the shrill pronouncements of prejudice and fear and meanwhile we’ve been seriously divided as a nation, with many working class people, worried about the effects of immigration on our way of life and our public services, being drawn into the Ukip orbit, while self-righteous leftists stand on the sidelines accusing them of xenophobia.

You seriously have to ask why most of the right-wing press is for Leave, while most of the financial institutions (Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and CitiGroup) are for Remain. Normally I can gauge who I am for by who I am against, but even Murdoch has taken both positions, with the Sun going for Leave, while the Times has gone for Remain.

Doesn’t that worry you? It worries me.

If I were a conspiracy theorist I might think that this has all been planned in secret meetings between the Bilderberg Group and the Bavarian Illuminati during devil-worshiping rituals in Bohemian Grove, but I don’t think even they could have come up with a scenario quite as wildly unpredictable and divisive as this campaign has turned out to be. And as if to confirm this Lord Rothschild is for Remain, and, as everyone knows, he’s the leader of the Lizard People.

It’s even happening inside my own skull. One half of me is with my left-leaning friends on the Remain side: with Jeremy Corbyn, the Greens, Yanis Varoufakis and the hope that we can change the EU from within. The other half says no, the EU can’t be reformed, but a Leave vote will certainly wreak interesting chaos. So I’m torn between my reason and my passion here, between my conservative good sense and my instinct for revolutionary mayhem, for casting the dice and seeing where it rolls.

The result will be entirely unpredictable. The people of Europe, many of them also profoundly disillusioned with the European project, are watching this debate with keen interest. A Leave vote would certainly encourage Eurosceptics, both on the left and the right, to start agitating for their own referendums.

Meanwhile, here in the UK, the results are equally in the balance. How long will a Boris-lead Tory Party survive do you think, terminally split as it is and with a wafer-thin majority? Would there be a General Election? And what would happen to Ukip once its raison-d’etre has been removed? It would certainly gain a short-term advantage, which would damage both Labour and the Conservatives, but in the long-term, I imagine, it would be reabsorbed back into the right-wing of the Tory Party where it belongs, where it will be condemned to sing Rule Britannia in an echo chamber forever more.

Meanwhile Corbyn seems oddly sanguine about the whole thing. It’s a win-win situation for him. He’s arguing for Remain in order to stop the Blairites attacking him from the rear but his instincts have always been for Leave, and he can work with either result. That’s my guess anyway.

As for me, I probably won’t make up my mind until I walk into the poll booth tomorrow.

And then regret it as soon as I walk out again.

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Pixi Morgan

Pixi with a couple of drinks, looking happy

Pixi with a couple of drinks, looking happy

Peacenik Pixi Morgan was at the vanguard of rebel society: Nomad, musician, protestor and punk, pagan. Christopher Stone sheds light on a bonafide fire starter, the frondeur spirit of nonconformity which characterised his existence now permeating coffeehouses and hipster hangouts throughout the land.

Interview by Saira Viola

Read the interview here: http://internationaltimes.it/pixi-morgan/

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Residents shocked at vote to cut their care services

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So what’s going on at Lang Court?

On the one hand they’ve just had new windows, new front doors and new kitchens fitted in every flat, at the cost of several hundred thousand pounds at least. On the other, the residents are being asked to vote on downgrading their services.

That’s right: just to show what a wonderfully democratic society it is we live in, some of the most vulnerable people in our community are being asked to choose which of two possible reductions in their care services they prefer: an almost total downgrading, or a lesser downgrading in which services will be reduced, but only withdrawn completely at the weekend and overnight.

What a choice! The option to keep things as they are is not on the ballot paper.

You may know Lang Court. It’s a lovely place: on the seafront, not far from the shops, with a great community spirit. Beautiful flats. Tranquil gardens. A safe and secure environment for vulnerable people to live, with lots of services on offer. It’s a model of what a decent caring community should look like. We should be building more of these, not getting rid of them.

The residents are naturally very worried. Many of them are in their eighties, some with serious infirmities. A few of them sold properties to move into Lang Court, on the understanding that the current level of support was part of the deal. It’s come as a complete shock to find out that it is not.

It is what is known as enhanced sheltered housing, one of four such schemes in the Canterbury area. All are being balloted on the prospective changes. It’s still not clear how the votes will be counted: on a scheme-by-scheme basis, or all together.

Eventually the schemes are to be decommissioned, when new builds have been completed.

As to what will happen to Lang Court then, who knows? One of the residents I spoke to said she thought it was on the list to go private. Given property values in the area, I wouldn’t be at all surprised.

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The Whitstable Gazette.
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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It’s like voting on who gets to kill your granny

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I’m starting to think this whole referendum debate is based upon a false dichotomy.

A vote for Leave is a vote for Boris Johnson and Michael Gove to rewrite the British constitution in favour of their rich friends.

Anyone who thinks that the majority of the Leave campaign are for the NHS are simply deluded.

These are free-market capitalists, Atlanticists, who want to reduce public services and sell off even more of our public assets than they have already.

According to John Major, Gove wants to privatise the NHS, Johnson wants to charge people for its services and Ian Duncan Smith favours an American style private insurance system.

If you you think they are really against an an unaccountable, bureaucratic, undemocratic organisation imposing itself upon our sovereignty, then ask them why they aren’t interested in pulling out of NATO?

But equally, those on the Remain side who talk about reforming Europe are talking codswallop. The EU has neoliberalism written into its constitution, and is profoundly anti-democratic. You only have to remember what they did to Greece to know that.

As Tony Benn said: “the Treaty of Rome… entrenches laissez faire as its philosophy and chooses bureaucracy as its administrative method.”

So a vote for Leave is a vote for less democracy, while a vote for Remain is a vote for less democracy.

Either way there is a democracy deficit and the democratic process turns on which undemocratic outcome we are going to have to live with after.

The constant trumpeting of individual campaigners shows up even more how false the choice is. Nigel Farage on the same side as George Galloway. Jeremy Corbyn on the same side as Jeremy Clarkson.

Personally I found the sight of Sadiq Khan sharing a platform with David Cameron—who had been denouncing him as an extremist only days before—wholly unedifying, and it inclined me to trust Khan less, rather than Cameron more.

It’s like a vote about involuntary euthanasia turning on who gets to kill your granny, and by what means: strangulation or a pillow over her face?

The only choice is no choice. How depressing.

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The Whitstable Gazette.
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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The Gateway Between the Worlds

This poem was written at the behest of Helene Williams for the performance at the end of the pebble formation known as The Street in Tankerton, Whitstable.

On the threshold of the horizon
In the betwixt and the between of this liminal landscape
Where these two ancient rivers meet and merge into the sea;
Where the land invades the sea and the sea invites the sky
At the gateway between the worlds;
What ghosts may linger, what ancestors may wander
And mingle with the memories
Of those who are still alive?

This wide Estuary,
The rivermouth that breathes the wind
Along the North Downs to Bromley South
To Bermondsey and Southwark;
The river of air that enriches the brain,
That fills the lungs and rings the blood
And keeps the City alive:
What history does it carry,
What dreams does it remember,
What hopes and thoughts and incantations are carried on the breeze?

Does the English Channel channel the English
Like a psychic at a séance?
Was the English language planted here
Amongst the rocks and trouble here
To put down roots and send out shoots,
To delve down deep
And crawl and creep
To make this land its own?

And those of us who are gathered here
At this opening in Time
In the ever changing present
At the gateway between the worlds,
Are we not also mystery,
Part liturgy, part history,
Of untraceable ethnicity,
Elemental, elegiac, poetic, prosaic,
Earthbound and roaring,
Secretive and soaring,
On our own and holding hands
With one as lonesome as we?

For this is an interdimensional portal
At the crossroads of the Evening,
Where elemental creatures meet
And quest secrets from the deep.
And when we are born we are born from Earth,
And when we die we return to Earth
And as we live we give thanks to Earth
For the blessings of the day.
And the breath of life it is from this Earth,
And the joy of life it is from this Earth,
And the springs of life are in the Earth,
Which we can never trade away.

And the Earth it never ponders, never questions, never reasons,
Never adds up or takes away, never scorns and never treasons,
Never gives up, never gets sad, never gets lonely, never grows old,
Never tires of its duty, never gives up on its soul,
Never wakes up in the morning not wanting to get out of bed,
Never falls asleep late at night off its box and off its head,
Never mourns for the loss of things it held onto for too long,
Never lies about its feelings, is never false and never wrong.
It's never early for an appointment, never late for a date,
Doesn't murder, doesn't torture, doesn't tell us how to hate,
It never makes a promise it knows that it can't keep,
Doesn't put down, nor turn its back, nor sell itself too cheap,
Doesn't have self-pity, never makes a fuss
Because these things it knows we bring
And it can trust it all to us.

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