Archive for October, 2012

Shelley’s Sonnets

Posted: October 30, 2012 in Art, Politics
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The great Romantic poets frequently experimented with, developed and revitalised conventional poetic forms. The sonnet had been largely out of favour for over a hundred years until Wordsworth, Keats and Shelley revealed their innovative prowess with the rigorous, fourteen-line structure. Shelley, the revolutionary writer of A Defence of Poetry and the propagator of the idea that poets are ‘the unacknowledged legislators of the world’, composed immaculate, poignant gems by using the genre to condense and intensify his ideas. Shelley’s best attempts compare to those of past masters such as Petrarch and Shakespeare. ‘Ozymandias’ (reproduced below) is probably Shelley’s most renowned success with the form. This reading of ‘England in 1819’ ably demonstrates Percy Bysshe composed other great sonnets.

Ozymandias

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said – ‘Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.’

Sonnet: England in 1819

An old, mad, blind, despised, and dying King;
Princes, the dregs of their dull race, who flow
Through the public scorn, – mud from a muddy spring;
Rulers who neither see nor feel nor know,
But leechlike to their fainting country cling
Till they drop, blind in blood, without a blow.
A people starved and stabbed in th’untilled field;
An army whom liberticide and prey
Makes as a two-edged sword to all who wield;
Golden and sanguine laws which tempt and slay;
Religion Christless, Godless, a book sealed;
A senate, Time’s worst statute, unrepealed –
Are graves from which a glorious Phantom may
Burst, to illumine our tempestuous day.

Rhetorical questions. Some people claim they suck. Nonetheless I’ve got a few of ‘em this morning.

Ready?

Recovery. The powers that be expect us to be cock-a-hoop because our economy has grown from the bottom of an abyss by a measly pointblahblahblah per cent. Meanwhile it is reported that around five million of our workers do not earn a wage that sustains a basic standard of living. Given that the gap between the rich and the poor has dramatically increased in both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ times’ ever since neoliberalism stole our world, who stands to benefit from so-called ‘economic growth’? Should we therefore demand that society aspires to more than just ‘economic growth’? Is it really enough?

Yup. You might say I’m not at my sharpest this grey, cold morn. Still,  why do I feel such questions need asking?

Twitter. I created a Twitter account a hour or so ago. My first impression is that it is predominantly a tool for vacuous celebrities who wish to spill out their empty brains for the benefit of, erm, whoever. And quite a lot of folk seem happy to lap up the dashed dull grey matter. Hmm, it’s too early to think about zombies, and anyway, first impressions are not always the best impressions.

I haven’t deleted my Twitter account. Feel free to add me. @Billybibbit123Image

A Lost War, Wives, Rats and Stinking Serfs

Posted: October 23, 2012 in Art

In 1066 – as you’ll no doubt know – the Normans conquered England. Taking complete control, the invaders made Old French and Latin the land’s official languages. As a consequence the English language lost all status, was driven underground, and kept alive by the tongues of the lower-orders.

Three hundred years later English reclaimed the linguistic centre stage. It resurfaced as a vibrant, unstable, fragmented vernacular that had once again absorbed much of another language in order to articulate new ideas, concepts and experiences. Why did English make a comeback? Firstly, the Normans lost a war to the then much smaller kingdom of France and were cut off from their domain and culture on the continent. High-ranking males on these shores started taking English wives, who nurtured their multicultural offspring using the English language. Secondly, rats (allegedly) transported plague-carrying fleas up and down the country. The officials who had everyday contact with the people developed a tendency to die, quite horribly. When the plague retreated and society began to recover, new officials were needed. Surviving members of the English-speaking lower-orders suddenly discovered social mobility – too few speakers of Old French and Latin had escaped the pestilence.

A lost war, wives, rats and socially mobile, stinking serfs. Not an RP speaker or writer of Standard English to be heard or read when the English language really was in danger of dying out and in need of saviours.

Caxton introduced printing to these isles and selected, mostly for practical reasons, a regional dialect with which to standardise text. This dialect became known as Standard English. While Caxton was struggling to overcome the problem that a land of many dialects caused a pioneering printer (rather than privilege one variety of English over another), the wealthy, educated classes – who happened to use the dialect that Caxton selected – increasingly utilised their power to assert that language use was one of the variables that defined individual worth, social status and structure. One dialect and one accent were ‘correct’, and  all the others were abominations of the fields and gutters. Despite some notable dissenters –  such as William Wordsworth – language was exploited to promote the nefarious political idea of superior and inferior human beings. Language use became a bedrock of the class system.

Standard English isn’t inherently bad. It’s been a fantastic asset in the development of science, education and literature. It remains exceptionally important in these fields. Nevertheless the idea that a person’s qualities can be discerned through their use of standard or non-standard language has been dethroned. The inherent value hypothesis no longer rules… It was baloney, right? And that’s not all. Try to fix a language too much and it will die. People need a versatile tool to express all the facets of their identity, join or reject new social groups, take on board new ideas, address new cultures, movements, experiences, and so on. Standard English isn’t up to it all.

Do me a favour.

Shut the fuck up moaning about textspeak. Or non-standard spellings on Faecesbook or Twatter. You’re above nobody just because you write ‘I hate’ instead of ‘I 8’ on Pretentious Sophisticated B’stard’s daily post. Do you really want to turn into one of those dull old dragons who complain to the newspapers that bad grammar and Americanisms are devastating English civilisation? If only it was so easy, huh? A few choice glottal stops and a mantra of ‘racoon in a wigwam’…

Something is tearing up the social fabric, but it isn’t dialects or sociolects, uttered or banged out on a keyboard. You might like to glance over to the Eton reunion, where they all speak ‘proper’. That reminds me. The English language doesn’t exist solely to support our economy.  Stop drivelling and snivelling on about our school-leavers’ punctuation. Just because you’ve seen a hastily typed message on a social network site doesn’t mean we’re all going to be bankrupted. The ‘educated’ users of Standard English in the banks and the City have already made a colossal mess for us on that score.

Victorian prescriptivism. Stuff it up Michael Gove’s arse.

Thank you.

March Against The Criminals

Posted: October 21, 2012 in Politics

Has the ‘March For A Future That Works’ achieved anything? Will it achieve anything? Was it even relevant?

Considering at least twice as many people attended the event  than they did any Premier League game (on a weekend when Manchester United were at home), unless we’re suddenly arguing that the national sport is of little cultural significance, then the vast crowd that turned up to make a noise from The Embankment to Hyde Park –  and not forgetting Glasgow and Belfast – were the weekend’s real deal.

But it won’t make the government change course. So what was the point?

‘March For A Future That Works’ let all those people who can see through the austerity scam know that they’re not isolated, despite what Tory TV and the rabid right’s papers tell us. We’re not alone, even if we’re not all in it together. Everybody got a chance to meet up and to peacefully let off steam. Everybody got a chance to take stock. To build?

One thing that strikes me – after travelling home from London and reading several comments posted under various articles quickly floating down the misinformation highway – is that, beyond a few sound bites, the members of the public who are pro-austerity  are very, very confused. After making a few inarticulate points about ‘tightening our belts’ and bonds, they soon reduce themselves to irrational, hate-filled tirades against ‘scroungers’. Meanwhile, those in positions of power want us to unquestioningly accept anything they say. No surprise there, then.

Austerity is a crime.

Cut back several years to the financial crash and subsequent meltdown. Global capitalism’s elite, having believed their own hype about their infallible, godlike qualities, spectacularly screwed up. They proved that the deregulated, neoliberal system was never anything more than a catastrophe in-waiting.

Yet, while greed-driven, fraudulent dealing had become a constituent part of a hopelessly corrupt system,  the ultra-rich criminals did not ‘Go Straight To Jail’. Of course not. They’d so utterly monopolised power they could simply ‘Pass Go’ and collect a whopping handout, otherwise known as a bail-out, courtesy of the taxpayer. They never intended to pay it back. International con-artistry is great work if you’re privileged and immoral enough to get it.

But they also had to get away with it. Enter the criminal conspiracy a.k.a austerity.

Boiled down to the bare bones, it’s easy enough to understand. And the bankers,  free-market fiddlers,  right-wing politicians and media magnates really are all in this one together. Shame on the BBC for supporting the New Aristocratic Order.

What does the scam involve?

Well, in this country at least, when they couldn’t convince enough of the public to vote for their madness – and make no mistake the Tory party exist solely for the capitalist elite’s benefit –  they made backroom deals with a lesser, insincere political party, desperate for a few minor cabinet posts, chauffeurs and big black government motors. They used fear. Rumours. Lies. And they used their pals who own the mainstream media to convince enough frightened  members of the public that there is ‘no alternative’ to such a drastic plan. Pretty bog-standard Machiavellian stuff, some might say.

Whatever. The backroom deal rolls into action. State institutions that were originally intended to tackle inequality are sold off to racketeers, while the people’s democratically won rights and benefits are trampled underfoot…

Wait on. If everybody is so skint, who can afford to buy institutions like the NHS?

The same casino capitalism conmen who  received massive state handouts or the greedy multinational wretches who have avoided paying any real amount of tax for decades. The very same class who screwed up is to emerge owning everything.

Like all great criminals, the capitalist elite know the importance of keeping the actual scam simple. Just keep moving wealth to the already rich. That’s it. It’s the cover story that they attempt to complicate so as to bamboozle their victims, throw them off the scent, and reduce resistance. Make victims feel like they’re being saved.

That’s austerity. A whopping, evil crime.

20 October 2012 has given all those opposed to the crime of austerity a chance to regroup, individually and collectively.

It’s not an argument about whether some cuts are more viable than others. It’s about making the masses realise they’ve been targeted by ruthless international criminals.           Image