What do we do in the Middle East? An alternative view

Let me paint a very simple picture of recent history. In the Middle East, the West backed the wrong horse, and has paid the price ever since.



Backing this particular Arabian stallion has, however had its advantages. The House of Saud have been providing petroleum for our cars, central heating systems and aeroplanes since the 1930s.

The price for this has been our reticence – to the point of complicity – regarding the regime’s human rights abuses, a silence which, through decades of ever-increasing dependency on oil, has only grown louder.

A few more churns on this sickening cycle have been notched in recent days. First, a High Court ruling that arms sales to the Saudis – arms which are pouring over hospitals, water plants and schools in Yemen – are lawful (useful, as BAE finalises the transferral of the last of 27 cruise fighter jets to the Arabian Peninsula).

Days later, Home Sec Amber Rudd withheld the classification of a document detailing where funding for domestic terrorism was coming from. Last year, another secret report was leaked, highlighting the link between the Saudis and the instigators of the attack on the World Trade Centre in New York, the provocation for a ‘War on Terror’ which shows no sign of ending.


More still, in her revealing new book Oil and the Western Economic Crisis, Helen Thompson reveals how a drastic change in the price of ‘black gold’ precipitated the fall of the Global Economy in 2008. This completes the outline of the world’s principle power relation: one in which Western powers, drunk on the tantalising fumes of petroleum, sacrificed their liberty for one more hit from a dodgy dealer.

Now, like any addict, we have reached breaking point. Our continual financial and military aid for the Kingdom must now be explained to a Western populace with increasingly hostile views towards ‘Islamism’.  This caricature of Islamic culture – conservative, sandy and intolerant of democracy – appears in part to stem from our legitimisation of the Saudis.

We must find another horse in this increasingly bloody and complex race. The question is: which?

This is a question which Mark Levine’s 2008 book Heavy Metal Islam attempts to answer.

Heavy Metal Islam. Seems like an oxymoron, right? Yet there is something inherently radical about an oxymoron. It burns through your imagination, producing a sense of something unsettlingly new. For an instant, an image pierces your retina; collapses on to your psyche, fades in to familiarity. The light becomes dark; the dead are enlivened; what was false now appears as true.


Levine’s book rebukes the kind of cultural myopia which leads Westerners like me to view Heavy Metal Islam as contradictory. Iraqi guerrilla filmmaker Oday Rasheed politely illuminates this ignorance, telling Levine ‘I know all your artists and cultural figures – Jimi Hendrix, John Coltrane, F Scott Fitzgerald. But I also know my culture – Oum Kalthoum, Farid al-Atrash, and Adonis. How many (Westerners) even want to know my culture, let alone take the time to do so?’

It isn’t simply the traditional culture of Middle Eastern society which fails to register in Western minds, however; Heavy Metal Islam is an account of Levine’s five year exploration of music genres with indelible roots in Western culture: Islamic rap, metal and rock.

Journeying across six different Islamic nations, Levine finds a musical movement of staggering diversity. Yet a common thread unites the book’s protagonists: fear of persecution from the authorities.

In Egypt, we find a scene still smarting in paranoia from the arrests of 100 metal heads in 1997 on charges of Satanism. To conservative regimes, metal’s aesthetic is provocative enough to warrant surveillance and repression, even if no explicit political message comes with it. The Egyptian chapter ends with one of the scenes leading musicians – known to the reader as ‘Marz’ – demanding his full name be printed: an act, in context, of defiant heroism.

Yet it highlights how limited the scope is for these musicians to resist authority. Readers searching for a perfect X Factor ending will find Levine’s book disarmingly inconclusive. Many musicians offer only veiled critiques of their leaders. Many have given up even trying.

Existence, however, can often be politically potent in and of itself. For Levine these scenes matter beyond their artistic output, because they symbolise an interpretation of Islam that is ‘far more radical than (that of) the supposed radicals of al-Qa’eda, Hamas, or Hezbollah, who are distinctly reactionary in their reliance on violence and conservatively grounded religious and political imaginations’.

These are the cultural terrorists, hidden in the recesses of their society, and evoking the kind of latent fear which only those in the shadows truly can. When considering who to throw our lot in with, we can often look with immediacy to the conventional corridors of power. In doing so, we fail to spot the dark horse in the outside lane.

The music scene in Palestine is perhaps the most chaotic, restricted yet fascinating that Levine explores. Rap groups like Ramallah Underground and Palestine Rapperz, unable to develop internally, rely on the support of foreign fans to survive and flourish.

What if those of us who lament Western cultural hegemony consciously attempted to undermine it? What if we gave the money we (typically) aren’t giving our local musicians to those in countries such as Egypt and Palestine? What if we began seeking political solutions not through parliaments and commissions, but through people, through art?

Heavy Metal Islam is an eye-opening book. For it to hold power, however, it should only be our introduction.

Pictures from: 





For more, check out this article on the metal scene from this year…


And Mark Levine’s companion playlist to the book, ‘Flowers in the Desert’.




Eons detected at Cern

By Matthew Higgins

Eons were thought to exist for centuries, but now, Scientists at Cern appear to have finally ‘cracked’ the long sought after particle, otherwise known as the Time Boson.
Eons are believed to play a vital role in a process known as Quantum Time Wasting- a process by which time disappears when observed at about room temperature.
The sonic instagram from this experiment confirms the alleged existence of this particle.
Pollock 3256985


We interviewed one of the scientists from the LHC to get an idea of what any of this means…

Scientist: “Similar to quarks in nuclide hadrons, eons themselves are composed of smaller epochs.”

“Ahh, sort of like how a pair of M&Ms crushed together could be thought of as piles of miniature M&M’s.”


Scientist: “Precisely. By colliding late antiquity with Post-modernism, clouds of positively charged imaginons and 1/2 spun mysterons start to emerge – as seen in this free-associative image.”

“So what does this mean for science, and for young people, now that this result will most likely effect them?”

Scientist: “Well, let’s not get too carried away. The net effect will most likely be a superposition of both useful and relatively non-useful for ordinary folk. It’s hard to
pin down just how much spin these particles are really getting. It may take a couple more eons for us to fully work this one out…”

Many scientists would say that we’ve always been aware of what time is, even before science was invented. But furthermore, scientists are now proposing a brand new Quantum Tense, which operates outside the standard liguistical tenses – past, present, and future – to help understand what these astonishing claims would potentially mean.

Here is what Michio Kaku had to say on this matter…


Michio Kaku: “If I were trying to describe an event which already hasn’t happened yet, which is something that can only be described on the subatomic level, then this tense will become already necessary for transcribing events in the lab.”

“So is there a way we can start learning this new Quantum
tense in order to understand what it is that you’re saying?”

Michio Kaku: “Not until you haven’t done so which may already took practise.”

At this point, Michio Kaku spontaneously transcended physical matter and became a pure light being in order to represent a second image of the experiment –


Anti-Pollock -3256985

Thanks to these efforts at Cern, the exciting world of obscure frontpage literature which noone really understands is continuing to accelerate faster than ever before. And with the use of new tenses, who knows what might already hasn’t happened yet around the corner?
What existing new discoveries might unfold in this strange world of quantum mechanics?
It may only take a few more eons, for us to find out…

Pictures courtesy of:







The act of modern viewing: Love Island Reviewed

Is Love Island Art? Is Reality a Dream? Will robots overthrow us and become our never ending slave masters? Some questions may forever be left to the mysterious ethers of time.

Averaging 2.8 million viewers, ITV’s cultural tour de force has swung in to the jungle of our collective consciousness like a waxed baboon. The appeal for many -behind the bleached teeth, chromatic tan lines and Victoria’s Secret bikinis – lies in the show’s naked humanity.

Love Island explores love – that prickly vein-bound substance – in an uncompromising, sadistic fashion. Islanders must couple up, successfully navigating lie-detector tests and spontaneous couple-splitting, or face eviction from the show. The more sincere; heart-struck; complete their love appears, the better the chance to remain.

That this is all filmed on a zillion peering cameras, or the prize for winning is fifty thousand pounds, or prolonging your stay on the Island can guarantee an Instagram following worth potentially far more, are trivialities of little consequence. In fact, it only adds to the theatricality. Did he write that poem from the heart or for his wallet?  Did she say I love you to his eyes or for the camera?

The show’s seduction transcends the televised, however. Social media allows us to scan the online archives of each Islander,  plunging to greater depths of love, hatred or sympathy with each character than a one hour show can typically afford.

Perversely, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook etc. endow these narcissistic castaways with relatable authenticity.

What Love Island encourages is the act of modern viewing: to passively consume from our Japanese flat-screens, while actively engaging with the show from our palms. Harmonious, horrifying synchronicity.

The show’s success has only added to the baffling and undecipherable times in which we live. A generation has become enamoured to a show about hyper-real sex chimps fumbling beautifully around an island; yet this is the generation who, mere months ago, had supposedly sworn allegiance to a 68-year old allotment dwelling socialist.

So are we all now Corbynistas, or are we all Islanders? Can you be both? Perhaps the only way to find out would be to place the Labour leader on the next series of the show and see how his renationalisation programmes and anti-austerity message go down poolside.

Latent fantasies aside, however; the ascension of Corbyn does mirror Love Island in each’s wrestling with the authentic. Amidst the bullshit circus of parliamentary politics, the Labour leader – like his transatlantic counterpart Bernie Sanders – appears as a man of unquestionable principle.

Social media has, once more, been foundational in this (Will Davies’ piece here is worth a read). It has allowed populist politicians a chance to bypass the mainstream’s caricatures, forging out new identities from the limitless archives of the World Wide Web.

If our age is to be defined, it is one of a click-addled populace baiting themselves in to a technological trap. Where this trap leads – and what its effect on us may be – remains to be seen. Our present moment, however, is defined by it: from the political tempest which has given us a tweeting tantrum of a President, to the idealised island-dwellers who we choose to spend our evenings, virtually speaking, with.

Perhaps now would be a good time to close your laptops.

Cultural Terrorism: Poetic Potential for Subversion

By Julian Langer

“Quotations are useful in periods of ignorance or obscurantist beliefs” Guy Debord

In The Revolution of Everyday Life, Raoul Vaneigem stated that human beings are in a state of creativity 24 hours a day, but freedom of choice has been lost; that spontaneity is the true mode of creativity, and true artists of the future will create new situations. “Poetry” claims Vaneigem, “is an act which engenders new realities; it is the fulfilment of radical theory, the revolutionary act par excellence”.

The loss of freedom of choice within neo-liberal capitalist civilisation is abundantly obvious. Political choices are reduced to 1 party or the other, while the Ed Sheeran effect dominates the market of available music: songs that simply repeat the same sound of the last hit, as a mass-produced vacuum-packed injection of notes, drums and vocals.

Does the Leftist/revolutionary movement Vaneigem was involved in, the Situationist Internationalists, hold any relevance for our contemporary post-modern British society (whatever that may mean)?

Situationism was a huge influence on the early punk milieu in the late 1970s in Britain, with its rejection of the boredoms and restrictions of the age. But punk too has largely been reduced to a mass production line of commodified unfashion, of songs that largely sound exactly the same.

The Situationists also influenced the events that took place in 1968 Paris. Volatile civil unrest led to a legislative election, seeing the Gaulist UDR party taking power, with the leftist parties failing due to their passivity. The British anarchist group, The Angry Brigade, inspired by the Situationists, launched a bombing campaign between 1970 and 1972 that targeted banks, Tory party MPs and embassies, as acts of property damage (though one person was slightly injured during the campaign).

But we are no longer living in the late 1960s or early 1970s, nor are we living in France in 1799. As I type this I am in the English countryside, in 2017, and I am assuming that most of the people reading this piece will also be living in Britain in the late 2010s.

I am going to assume that you, like me, are living in a near totally different world to those times: one with far more surveillance; technology and cultural conditioning; more effective weaponry for the police and army and less for the revolutionaries. A vastly different socio-economic-political landscape is in place, dominated by the neo-liberal postmodern cultural narrative for as long as many of the people reading this will be able to remember.

So is this(/the) Leftist/revolutionary project really relevant or applicable to our current historical conditions?

We’ve seen the failures of the Occupy movement; Anonymous; Arab Spring; of the Sanders and Corbyn revolutions and others over recent years. We know the history of Communist dictatorships and the genocides and ecocides they commit; so maybe it isn’t a project for contemporary radicals.

But maybe we can learn from it.

One of main methods of the Situationist project is the Dérive. In Theory of the Dérive, Guy Debord explained the Dérive as a technique of rapid passages through varied ambiences, involving playful-constructive behaviour and awareness of psychogeographical effects.

This involves, for the Situationists, a point of departure from the spatial field (part of the Unitary Urbanist Project – the project before their focus turned to what Debord called Society of the Spectacle, his seminal text). This can deploy détournement – subversive Situationist pranks – a practice that developed into the now well Established practice of culture jamming. Examples of this which can be considered Dérive techniques are parkour, flash mobs and free hugs actions.

After the Manchester terrorist attack, Backtash Noori’s free hugs action struck a particularly tangible chord with many of us.

Could this be because, as we become culturally and psychically immersed in what sociologist and postmodern philosopher Baudrillard termed the simulation of hyper-reality, with the news becoming more and more like green screen films we long for something as tangible and immediate as the touch of another’s embrace?

Perhaps it is a romantic notion, but equally perhaps not! Maybe, the immediate, the intimate, is our best means as radicals of creative approach and political attack.

Post-left anarchist and post-Situationist philosopher Peter Lamborn Wilson, also known as Hakim Bey, wrote about a type of project he call the Immediatist project, in his 1994 book by Immediatism.


This is, as the name suggest, an art project based on the creation of immediate situations and T.A.Z.s (Temporary Autonomous Zones) for radicals to subvert our contemporary cultural narratives and dogmas. In his book The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism, Wilson describes a type of activity he later describes as an Immediatist activity as (surprise surprise) Poetic Terrorism (shocking I know). Wilson describes Poetic Terrorism as –

“WEIRD DANCING IN ALL-NIGHT computer-banking lobbies. Unauthorized pyrotechnic displays. Land-art, earth-works as bizarre alien artifacts strewn in State Parks. Burglarize houses but instead of stealing, leave Poetic-Terrorist objects. Kidnap someone & make them happy. Pick someone at random & convince them they’re the heir to an enormous, useless & amazing fortune–say 5000 square miles of Antarctica, or an aging circus elephant, or an orphanage in Bombay, or a collection of alchemical mss. Later they will come to realize that for a few moments they believed in something extraordinary, & will perhaps be driven as a result to seek out some more intense mode of existence.”

and states that –

“The audience reaction or aesthetic-shock produced by PT ought to be at least as strong as the emotion of terror– powerful disgust, sexual arousal, superstitious awe, sudden intuitive breakthrough, dada-esque angst–no matter whether the PT is aimed at one person or many, no matter whether it is “signed” or anonymous, if it does not change someone’s life (aside from the artist) it fails.”

Perhaps Immediatism and Poetic Terrorism could be a potential means of radical art projects challenging this culture. And perhaps not.

Noori’s simple acts though, admittedly through the medium of a cultural spectacle, touched many of us who only encountered his action through screens. I can only imagine how it would’ve impacted those he created an immediate affect in. Within the hyper-real spectacle/simulation, and given the failings of the Leftist/revolutionary project, this may be a tangible means radical action through art.

“Only the dead are truly smart, truly cool. Nothing touches them. While I live, however, I side with bumbling suffering crooked life, with anger rather than boredom, with sweet lust, hunger & carelessness…against the icy avant-guard & its fashionable premonitions of the sepulcher. ”
― Hakim Bey

I personally play various Dérive games whenever possible and write about these types of Situationist and post-Situationist mediums, as a means of psychic rewilding, in my book Feral Consciousness, and believe they hold immense value as a means of disrupting the everyday normality of this culture. So I invite you to play and create, should you wish to try.

“If love is under siege, it is because it threatens the very essence of commercial civilization. Everything is designed to make us forget that love is our most vivid manifestation and the most common power of life that is in us. Shouldn’t we wonder how the lights that glimmer in the eye can blow a fuse for a time, even as barriers of oppression break and jam our passions? Yet despite a life stunted and distorted by mediated Spectacle, nothing has ever managed to strip love of its primal force. Although the heart’s music fails to overwhelm the cacophony of profit efficiency, bit by bit it composes our destinies, according to tones, chords, and dissonances which render us happy if only we learn to harmonize the scattered notes that string emotions together.” Raoul Vaneigem

Images from: https://uk.pinterest.com/pin/225391156321974097/ and

How the charts were overthrown

“Things fall apart” mused WB Yeats, “the centre cannot hold”.

Simple words, yet potent. In times of instability, either personal or historical, they have unfailingly echoed through my mind. At the moment, they seem particularly voluble.

Instability marks our present time like a rash: one which refuses conventional antidotes, and which with every passing day appears yet more terminal to the major organs of our society.

The print and televised media, once so powerful it imposed the adjective ‘mainstream’ on itself, is dying. Neoliberalism, if not quite slain, appears to have been muted. Polling companies, the modern-day oracles to their twittospheric congregation, have been humbled. Things, need we be reminded, really do fall apart.

Stretch our neck beyond the self-indulgent political parapet, however, and we can see this phenomenon within wider culture. Since its inception in 1969 the Official Charts Company has compiled weekly lists of the highest selling singles and albums in the UK.

The charts, however, have come to symbolise more than just what sound is most pleasing to the population’s ears. They have been the rule-makers of idealism; the triangulators of normativity, providing a soundtrack to our mall-wandering existences.

This reputation has been endowed on the charts because, like polling companies, their mechanism for gauging what we think and feel is seemingly infallible.

The internet – with its infinite array of streaming sites and music-sharing platforms – jackhammered this illusion. And it was always illusory: a 90s nationwide investigation found Banghra –traditional Punjabi music – to be the most widely sold genre in the UK. As its sales were made predominantly through independent retailers, and in cassette form, the charts company failed register its popularity.

A similar negligence was commonly afforded to garage and grime artists, who mainly distributed their tunes through pirating platforms. The latter’s recent surge as a genre broadly coincides with alterations made to OCC methods for compiling sales data.

The apparent spontaneity of the charts, therefore, is heavily orchestrated. Artists who feature prominently in mainstream shopping outlets will be disproportionately favoured by compiling organisations.

Who decides which artists are on the front shelf? Major record companies, who can pay millions in marketing and sponsorship fees, ensuring that our ears keep ringing to the sounds of Katy Perry, Ed Sheeran et al.

A system of impenetrable dullness is thus manufactured, self-assured in its ability to reproduce itself ad infinitum. Yet the system has ignored Yeats’ observation: in the past few years, its solipsistic sanctuary has been rudely interrupted.

The first tremors came in 2009, when a Facebook campaign raging against the Cowell machine sent Killing in the Name Of, the anti-authoritarian anthem, to number one. Four years later, Margaret Thatcher’s death inspired Ding Dong the Witch is Dead to hit number two in the charts. Earlier this year, Captain Ska’s Liar Liar – a savage polemic against Theresa May that sent BBC HQ in to a censorphilic frenzy – reached number four.

Despite their popularity, these songs were typically written off as anomalous; the self-indulgent anti-authoritarianism which had no legitimate justification or majority support. The ‘Liar’ would be coronated, Cowell would continue writing our Christmas carols, Thatcher would remain a sentimental speck in every sensible layman’s eye.

The recent election decisively returned Socialism to the mainstream, both as a political demand, and as a critical lens of analysing social events, figures and phenomena. With hindsight, these tracks appear as symbols; as simmering precursors to a seismic change in mass culture.

Ding Dong the Witch is Dead is an illuminating example. It represented a belief that Thatcher was not only a bad politician; she was symbolic of an ideology – neoliberalism – which was so callous and toxic that her death could be celebrated. In the height of the coalition government, with an anti-austerity movement largely confined to the streets, it was permissible for pundits to write this belief off, and for regulators to censor it as insensitive.

ding dong the witch is dead
Today, as the consequences of deregulation and market-omnipotence become starkly evident around housing, defenders of ‘Thatcherism’ seem notably absent.

It is the context, rather than the content, which defined these songs. Songs with explicit content – misogynist, homophobic, even political – are, after all, ever present within the charts. The line which these particular songs crossed existed beyond glitzy anodyne bubble which pop listings wishes to reside. The implication of this is stark: the charts are not, as they claim, neutral free-markets. They have political parameters and these boundaries must be respected.

To dare to dissent; to break through boundaries that have been impermeably erected, is the ultimate aesthetic virtue. Such a movement demands attention; refuses to compromise; and with perseverance and tenacity it can lay to waste all who wish to silence it. Our era shows this to be the case, and be it in our music, our politics or our communities, these lessons should encourage us to do the same.

To breach an echo chamber and sing the unsayable is to dare to dissent. That these songs were built by grassroots movements determined to change a narrative of presumed impermeability is remarkable. That their adversaries – the X Factor (is it still going?), Thatcherism, Theresa May – are now confined to the bin of the past, is testament to their success. These songs now exist as stories which should inspire.

Pictures from: http://www.milenio.com/tendencias/mentirosa-theresa_may-cancion-liar_liar-captain_ska-reino_unido-milenio-noticias_0_965903602.html and https://izziemizery.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/killing-in-the-name-of.jpeg and http://azvsas.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/throw-street-party-in-every-town.html

Corbyn and the corporatocracy: John Perkins’ Confessions of an Economic Hit Man


Thomas Jefferson once claimed if a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.

Today, the children of Jefferson’s beloved nation don’t seem to have taken the hint. A Newsweek survey found that three-quarters of Americans didn’t know why they had been involved in the Cold War. Around two-thirds of respondents to a National Geographic poll couldn’t find Saudi Arabia or Iraq on a map of the Middle-East, while a Washington Post survey in 2005 found 70% to believe that Saddam Hussein was personally responsible for 9/11.

In the midst of this amnesiac haze, 2004 saw a book reach the top of the New York Times bestseller list that threatened to teach the citizenry a thing or two. John Perkins’ Confessions of an Economic Hit Man would go on to sell more than a million copies; yet it contained unsettlingly weird chapter titles for the average American reader. ‘Panama’s President and Hero’; ‘The Saudi-Arabian Money Laundry Affair’; even the Bible-Belt antagonising ‘Jesus seen differently’, in which Christ appears to Perkins – not as a blonde and blue-eyed Californian – but as an Indonesian beggar.

Perkins’ personal story is, however, unambiguously riveting. He plays an ‘Economic Hit Man’, rebelling against a sanitised upbringing by entering the corrupt and conniving world of the ‘corporatocracy’. His official role as ‘Economic analyst’ belies his true role as an Empire builder, forcing nations around the world to take on prohibitive loans while paying American corporations for their infrastructural development programmes.

The narrative contains everything a good thriller requires: crime, intrigue and Jesus hallucinations, eventually ending in our protagonist’s cathartic renunciation of his evil ways. CEHM’s bad guys are really bad: corporate bosses, Saudi kings, Ronald Reagan; its heroes on the other hand – defiant populists like Omar Torrijos and Jaime Roldós, leaders of Panama and Ecuador respectively – are inspirational.

This, however, isn’t a novel. In what novel would the heroes die in secretive and mysterious plane crashes, and the villains keep on winning? Our tendency in the developed world is to regard the assassinations, corruption and corporate ownership of poorer nations as tragic yet detached political concerns. Stories like Perkins can almost feel fictional in this way; his dramatic writing style, though powerful, threatens to leave us with a sense of detachment to the events it recounts.

This ambivalence is all the more unsettling given the tragedy of it all. Take Perkin’s account of a mammoth Ecuadorian oil rig: 75% of its profits go directly to the (American) oil company, while of the rest, three quarters goes to paying off national debt, and ‘less than 3% goes to the people who need the money most, those whose lives have been so adversely impacted by the dams, the drilling and the pipelines, and who are dying from lack of edible food and potable water’. It is impossible not to feel the injustice; but when it is happening so far away, we have a tendency to overlook.


Change, however, is in the air. Reflecting on the indigenous Ecuadorians affected by the oil rig, CEHM concludes that their desperate situation means ‘All of these people…are potential terrorists’. Last week, in the midst of the present electoral circus, the leader of the opposition dared to echo this view. His wording was cautious, measured, tentative; yet its symbolism cannot be underplayed.

Jeremy Corbyn is a pacifist, a socialist, and a lifelong critic of Western foreign policy and its vast network of corporate interests. Should he walk in to Number 10 on June 9th, his victory will legitimise a field of previously fringe views regarding global politics and the location of power.

This poses a serious threat to what CEHM calls the ‘corporatocracy’. Corbyn will be entering a political conflict with an international order ruthless in its disposal of regimes that oppose it. Perkins’ book tragically illuminates this, and if we are, as progressives, to regard his narrative as detached from own political moment, we risk falling prey to the very same mechanisms Perkins once was complicit in.

Over half of our stock market is foreign owned. Hinckley Point, the controversial nuclear facility under construction, is funded by China and France, while our Trident missile programme is, predominantly, American. With the help of modern Economic Hit Men, Britain is being colonised. As it is, the distance we feel from Perkins’ stories of Panama, Ecuador, Singapore and Iran should be drawing in.

Yet for most, it remains an invisible subject within political discussion. In his essay The Lion and the Unicorn, George Orwell claimed that most of the British public were unaware of the Empire their society was built on. Today, that ignorance lingers, both regarding the active role we take in ensuring the dominance of modern corporate Empires, and how that same system is expanding its control over our own domestic landscape.

Reading Perkins’ book today, with less than a week to go until the impossible dream of the British left may be realised, is humbling. Jeremy Corbyn may overcome the machinations of his own party; of the mainstream media; of the most entrenched political establishment in the world. It would be nothing short of a miraculous achievement should he do it. But Perkins’ book is a warning: far greater opponents will lie in store. The tragic stories of Omar Torrijos and Jaime Roldὀs are reminders, moreover, that their destructive capabilities must not be underestimated.

Americans may (mostly) be able to point to the UK on a map of Europe. But this will not exempt us from the consequences of disobedience. Were their closest ally to turn red, America will act, just as they have done throughout much of the world. After he was elected Labour leader, an anonymous General told the Times that a coup would ensue should he be elected Prime Minister. Suddenly, the events of Perkins’ book seem a little less distant…

Picture from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confessions_of_an_Economic_Hit_Man



Who is Ed Sheeran?

Who is Ed Sheeran? What is Ed Sheeran? Well. He’s a man. A small, ginger man with tattoos and wristbands and a worn out guitar. He’s also a man who’s headlining Glastonbury, and whose latest album, ÷, has taken up a position of embarrassing dominance in the UK charts.
÷ indulges in the crass aesthetic docility of commercial music with a vampiric lust. Put a couple more voices on it and you have a One Direction record. Give it a female chanteuse, and these could be the anodyne pop hits of Ariana Grande, Rita Ora et al.
Pop music, by which I mean music deliberately targeted towards mass consumption, is self-consciously conservative in this way.

The artistic content of figures like 1D and Sheeran remains so imbued with our conscious awareness and sympathies to the people, these icons, these ubermenschen, that it is rendered impossible to analyse their work for any pure, intrinsic value. Doing so misses the whole point of their popularity, and they (Sheeran and co.) know it.

Yet as identities constructed through popular culture go, Sheeran remains something of a perversity. He is credited with (at least co-) penning every song on ÷, which remains the depressingly low barometer from which pop authenticity is attributed. But he also represents a divergence from that culture’s scale of perfection in a sense which his new album, for all its generic production, identifies.

The album begins with Eraser, a first-person reflection on his journey from a ‘small town’ to the awards and recognition of today. He tells us in a slurred monologue that ‘when the world’s against me’s when I really come alive’; that he’s ‘caught in the trappings of an industry’.

If Sheeran represents the aspirational pinnacle of our culture, he remains convinced of his outcasted, insurgent status. The album’s ubiquitous reminiscences on parochial romances and alcohol-fuelled travailles enshrine this image. He is resolutely not some detached celebrity leading a hyper-idealised, exotic existence.

This is the nuance to Sheeran’s identity. It may not mark him as a totem for counter-cultural subversion, but it’s enough to get him on the Pyramid Stage on Sunday night, a space unlikely (though not unimaginably) to be occupied by Harry Stles any time soon.
It is an identity which speaks to a world in which brazen opulence is starting to appear a little tactless, and where the Brexit/Trump effect is politically awakening millions of Millenials on both sides of the pond. Some are mobilising to the soundtrack of Beyonce and Kendrick, while others are clambouring after artists like Sheeran to anaesthetise the shock. ‘Life can get you down so I just numb the way it feels’, he sings on Save Myself, a sentiment which my own near-comatose state responded well to by the latter half of the album.

But is this auburn-headed crooner really able to wholly mitigate the tide of our political moment? On What do I know?, Sheeran’s Lennon-esque proclamation of music’s ability to ‘change this whole world with a piano’, the singer tells us how ‘everybody’s talking ‘bout exponential growth, and the stock market crashing and their portfolios while I’ll be sitting here with a song I wrote saying love can change the world in a moment, but what do I know?’ Sheeran is leading his sizeable band of supportive outsiders against ‘everybody’ still fixated with these abstract and incomprehensible signifiers of our world. He wants to put us on a little wooden boat, pick away on his rustic guitar and sing to us about his maladroitness until we snuggle up against his unkempt beard and fall in to a dream full of innocent Irish jigs.

Commercial culture’s capability to construct the models to whom we aspire is diverse. Sheeran is self-consciously antithetical to what we could call the mainstream of the mainstream. He is correspondent of the people, but nonetheless is conservative in his critique of the spectacle. If One Direction teach us how to conform, it is Sheeran’s task within popular culture to teach us how we should resist: in the most banal, generic and pacified way possible.


Pics from: http://celebmix.com/ed-sheeran-announces-tour-dates-uk-europe/  https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/÷_(album)