This is how Berlin looked in 1945

I hate comparing myself to Hitler.

I haven’t even started doing it yet but already I know I’m not going to like it. My present situation increasingly reminds me of Hitler’s last days, trapped in the bunker and going slightly insane at the hopelessness of it all.

Thankfully, there are a few minor differences between the Führer and myself. Firstly, although not spotless, my human rights record stands up pretty well next to Adolf’s: I’ve even attended Amnesty International meetings. Voluntarily.

Another major difference between a bunker-bound Hitler and little old me is that, whilst the German dictator was awaiting the might of the Red Army, I’m encircled by supermarkets, offices and employment agencies.

With the days, hours and seconds totting up, I have reached a point where I’d rather just be employed: y’know, do work, get paid for it; something crazy like that. So I’m going to have to confront the idea that – rather than writing witty little pieces on Combine Harvesters, Jude Law or the Mini Disc – I’m going to have to do a boring job like everyone else. I know, cry for me.

Anyway, I can feel Morrisons and Norwich Union breaching Berlin’s defences: my days are surely numbered. Happily, though still fearsome, my foes should be less predisposed to rape. There’s always a bright side.

The final difference that I can be bothered to think of right now is that I still have a glimmer of hope. Though my future employers are marching past the Reichstag and have the Tiergarten under their control, for me – unlike Hitler – there is still a route of escape.

For most Nazis, escape meant Argentina: my ‘Argentina’ is this blog. By giving it one final last push I might, just might, be able to get noticed, get employed and live happily ever after. Whilst we’re all pretty glad an escape wasn’t attempted in 1945, I beg you to show mercy on this occasion: the alternative is beyond my comprehension. It scares me.

NB: I’m sorry if describing your life as ‘like Hitler’s’ is offensive.

I try not to waste days.

 After all, we’ve only got about 30, 000 of them, and that’s if we’re lucky. So I’d rather not have that my-whole-life-flashed-before-me moment and see nothing but 10%-off day at Homebase sales and plates of Chicken Tonight.

 On occasions, though, wasting our time is an unavoidable drag: sometimes we have to do things the wrong way just to show others we listen to their opinions. Other times we have to fill out forms so that the state doesn’t take too much money from us (even if we believe that the state takes too little and are proud to fund schools and hospitals).

 As these hours are unavoidably ‘lost’ forever it seems callous to splurge more time on nothing much in particular. That’s why, even though I’m now considered ‘long-term unemployed’, I haven’t yet watched all the series of Come Dine With Me or learnt the names of all UK Prime Ministers off by heart. It’s been tempting though.

 With my will power stretched but my resolve standing firm, I’ve got little sympathy with those who’ve been so clearly wasting their lives in the past few weeks.

 Firstly, we have Sarah Palin’s followers; many of whom have been queuing overnight to meet their oh-so-folksy hero. If that wasn’t idiotic enough, Twilight’s New Moon has caused a queuing frenzy amongst the western world’s teenagers: what are they all doing?

 Sure, queuing is occasionally necessary for Wimbledon or the Post Office but queuing for Palin? For a film that will be available for everyone in six hours?

 Gary Younge reckons that Palin’s fan base is almost entirely the same as the 25-33% who approved of Bush’s economic record after the Lehmann Bros collapse and who backed his response to Hurricane Katrina. Okay, so they’re not the most cerebral of people but surely they still have some cousins left to impregnate?

 And those young vampire fans… It makes you want to smack them round the face and shout: ‘when your parents were young they were marching against the US army’s involvement in Vietnam and the inequality of your country’s Federal institutions! What the hell do you think you’re doing, eh?’

What are they doing? Really?

 Instead, both groups should be sitting by their computers, writing blogs and contacting busy journalists with time-consuming requests… something really worthwhile and life affirming like that.

I'll be old but I could be here

In Halberstadt, Germany, something strange is going on. Since 2000, in the city’s church of St. Burchardi, a unique ‘concert’ has been performing John Cage’s “As Slow as Possible” as slowly as it can. The full piece will take 639 years to complete and commemorates the years – from 1361 to 2000 – that Halberstadt had been building and playing organs.

The reason why this whole thing unsettles me is because I have to confront the distinct possibility that I shan’t see this gig’s ending. In fact, when that last note has finished, it’s more than likely that I’ll seem as old fashioned and dead to the audience as people in 1361 seem to me: that just doesn’t feel right. Me? Out of date? Forgotten? Nah.

Whatever people say about watching their family grow up or seeing all the places they’ve always dreamed of, the worst part of death must be the knowledge that there will be series of Spooks you’ll never watch, albums by the White Stripes that you’ll just never hear or endings of gigs you’ll never be present at.

Think of all the people who’ve died in the last 49 years – Idi Amin, Gianni Versace, Biggie Smalls – who’ll never know how Coronation Street ends. My money, for what it is worth, is on ‘The Street’ being demolished to make way for en suite apartments for Manchester’s student population and an octogenarian Ken Barlow going on a killing spree to take revenge. Just a hunch.

This is why I could never be a builder: imagine working on things you knew would out live you? I’d rather be a baker and watch my creations going helplessly stale within three days.

Luckily, though, I’m still quite young.

This means that, when the Government releases Climate Change ‘strategies’ for 2050, I should see them failing first hand. It’s comforting to know that I’ll likely out live even the Government’s most long-term policy. Similarly, if scientists can pull their fingers out, I should see mankind’s first steps on Mars or a cure for lung cancer developed. There’s still time for so much to happen.

 Seen another way, however, if my present bored poverty is anything to go by, maybe the next 50-odd years will drag on a bit… Hm.

PS. In light of this post’s subject matter I have decided to ‘touch wood’ as much as possible for the next few months.

What can be more shocking than a young lefty-liberal writer attacking the Daily Mail, eh? Spaghetti, Geology, Carpet Right; the list goes on .

People finally (but only metaphorically) got off the arses last month to attack Jan Moir’s vile and homophobic words but have yet to mobilise in the defence of the poor, the non-white, the Muslim and all other groups who are targeted by (DM editor) Paul Dacre’s newspaper. Until its properly held to account I think I’m okay (but admittedly unadventurous) to pull them up once more.

Anyway, I have a vested interest. I’m half Polish and unemployed: can you imagine?

And yes it may be easy but this article

"Oh no", said the doctor, "this one looks feminised!"

 is just too infuriating to ignore. According to the report in today’s edition (16th November): ‘Chemicals used in plastics are ‘feminising’ the brains of baby boys’. The story is a development on one that has been around for years; that some of the crap we pump out to create what we laughingly claim to be ‘civilisation’ might cause  defects in young and unborn children’s genitals.

Though I’m not an organic fundamentalist I have to say that, like the Mail, I’m not particularly keen on the idea that the household objects I use or the nylon clothes I wear could cause so much harm to me or those around me. At least with smoking you feel relaxed whilst you murder your neighbours.

The Daily Mail, however, has added to these long-standing worries by reporting that boys who are surrounded by high levels of such plastics are ‘less likely than other boys to play with cars, trains and guns or engage in rough-and-tumble games such as playfighting’.

What’s this about guns? Isn’t the spread of gun crime one of the chief tenants of the ‘Broken Britian’ dogma?  Normalising guns must be okay as long as its not done in video games.  As someone who’s always thought that play fighting was about as enjoyable, useful and necessary as liver disease, I am immediately filled with hope by this report: what lovely chemicals!

In contrast, the report is apoplectic at the idea that ‘those exposed to high doses in the womb are less likely to play with ‘male’ toys such as cars’. ‘Male’ toys? Cars? You can’t help feeling that ‘a generation of woman drivers’ was the headline that they really wanted to use.

Message to post-feminists: HOW THE HELL CAN YOU THINK WE’RE ‘OVER’ SEXISM!?! Stupid women. And men.

Too many years in liberal universities has made me expect that writers deemed worthy of publication will be accepting our society’s major beliefs: ploughman’s lunches, tea, gender as ‘social construct’.

Instead, I’m faced with a reality where the Daily Mail frame all their output as though we we’re living in some dystopian version of Midsomer county (without the calming influence of DCI Tom Barnaby, of course).

In it, all young boys are required to eat three spoonfuls of worm-infested mud a day and break their arm at least once before their thirteenth birthday. They‘ll be mischief makers who steal and bully but, because they’re white and middle class, they’ll be handed nothing more than a slapped wrist when the bobby-on-the-beat catches them taking one of old Miss Pratchett’s apples. Or something. All games involve heroic Imperialist conflicts where the English beat ‘Johnny Foreigner’ and every young boy’s imagination should be filled with something wholesome like the raping and pillage of the indigenous American people’s by European settlers. Cripes, what fun! As in all areas of Daily Mail land, it is always sunny in summer and snowy the rest of the time.

The unspoken end of this fantasia is the young lads going off to be mown down at the Somme: Is that what you want Mr Mail? Is it? You intolerant, ignorant….

Sorry about that.

Anyway, I thought I was supposed to be liberated from having to conform to some Alpha male stereotype: Isn’t that what we all wanted? Surely a feminised brain, rather than the root of all evil, would allow us to take a healthier look at gender roles. Ideally it would be like standing in a sweet shop:

“I’ll take a keen interest in football; four types of post shave product; an active dislike of brutality and some eyeliner for Thursday night, please… Do you accept Nectar points?”

The Mail, however, seemed to believe that – if we take all the harmful pesticides away – we can return to an ordered world where women are women and men return drunk from the pub and give their wives a chemical-free beating.

Moz

Morrissey knows...

People think that Morrissey is a glum, humourless caterwauler for ugly men who don’t get any: that, however, is only half his charm.

It always strikes me as curious that people complain that Morrissey, or Leonard Cohen, are ‘slit-your-wrist-music’ merchants. To quickly dismiss Mr Cohen from this accusation I’d like to make the point that the only thing depressing about the Canadian’s music, if you actually listen to it, is that he sounds as though he’s had a lot, lot more sex than you can ever hope to have.

With tracks like ‘My life is an endless succession of people saying goodbye’ and ‘Munich Air Disaster’, it seems as though Morrissey’s depressive reputation is far more warranted: who’d write a song that seems to revel in life’s disappointments?

Yet, to prove how wrong these dissenters are, all we need to do is conduct a quick experiment. I’m going to give you two scenarios and all you have to do is decide who is more desperate.

 

Scenario A

Our protagonist in scenario A has always been considered good looking by the girls in his class and, at this point (he’s 17), he has had a life of popularity and easy socialising: the hardest thing he’s ‘been through’ is last year’s school trip to Bolivia when he had to do physical activity that wasn’t rugby or squash.

About eighteen months ago person A, as we’ll call him, suddenly discovered that privately fixed teeth and skin tanned below the equator might not make him the complete package he’d always considered himself: girls were asking him about things like ‘thoughts’ and, more confusingly, ‘feelings’.

Understanding that he suddenly had to do a bit of cod-philosophising, our young man writes something down about ‘the leaves being so golden on this very, very autumnal day’ and begins listening to what he thinks is ‘deep music’.

At the point of time when humans are at there most emotionally intense, person A is on a diet of Coldplay’s ‘Fix You’, Green Day and a bit of Tenacious D- to make all that raw emotional intensity bearable.

In this teenager’s earnest and pointless mind Chris Martin (rather than Thom Yorke who is another purveyor of ‘s-y-w music’) is the apex of human cultural expression: able to recreate person A’s limited emotional range in the time it takes to perform an intimate 70, 000-seater stadium concert.

Once he’s qualified as a vet this youngster will DEFINITELY have a mid-life crisis and at least two divorces from women he can no longer satisfy.  

 

Scenario B

Person B is a happy chap most of the time. Even though he’s cynical, hateful and has murderous intent to anybody who’d declare themselves ‘bubbly’ or ‘living in the moment’, he has created a group of friends who are brilliant enough to deflect the horrors of reality pretty bloody well.

Because person B doesn’t have the Klaxons as the ringtone on his non-existent camera phone, people sometimes believe he’s a pathetic little “twat” who’s old before his time. He particularly hates shockwaves hair gel and the way that Channel 4 depicts being a teenager.

Like everybody, sometimes person B really wishes everything would shove off for a while: especially when he’s contemplating ageing or mortality. The perfect accompaniment to self-inflicted loneliness is music and his choice, when he’s in this kind of mood, is often to listen to Morrissey.

Obviously, as all sad people forget, the world is a pretty amazing place so any urge to get all self-indulgent about your momentary depression needs to be scourged instantly. Now, what’s going to do that? A week of listening to ‘Fix You’ – whilst you brood on the skiing you’re not doing because daddy’s got caught up in the Lehmann Brothers collapse – or this:

 ‘I was driving in my car, I crashed and broke my spine
So yes there are things worse in life than never being someone’s sweetie.’

Suddenly you have two things to jump you out of your doldrums. Firstly, Morrissey is giving you another example of someone who hasn’t – and maybe never – will be someone’s ‘sweetie’ (himself) which calms your feeling of inadequacy. Then, more importantly, he is telling you that you could be a lot worse off than you are so ‘shut up’. Talking sense into you and letting you know he feels the same leaves you with a comforting feeling of euphoria that let’s you carry on with your meaningless life with a renewed sense of hope.   

Now who would you rather be? The guy who drinks nothing but Coldplay or the Morrissey man? Of course there isn’t a happy medium: you have to choose one or the other, okay?

 Whatever you think, I don’t care: at least I think Morrissey understands what I mean.

It could get quite bad.

I’ve got two pears of ‘leisure’ trousers which I’m happy to be seen with in public; I’ve got one pair of fast-dissolving £7.99 trainers from Sports & Soccer and a pair of boot’s from when I was 14 which still, miraculously, fit. Add to that a pair of work shoes, a grey pair of ‘smart’ trousers and one black corduroy suit and you can see what I mean.

It might not sound like a clothe-less disaster but, as none of these items are in tip-top condition, I could be weeks away from a likely-catastrophic winter outing for my dungarees. I’m basically a fashion version of Rafa Benitez: one or two injuries

yfronts

These aren't actually my y-fronts

and the weaknesses of my squad will be laid bare.

Unlike the Liverpool manager, however, I’m not blessed with money to waste and a new pair of trousers, jacket or shoes could push me from ‘utterly skint’ to ‘housebound inactivity’ and possible death.

It’s therefore heartening to know that, in one respect, I’ve prepared well for the recession. Debenham’s have announced that the average 23 year old (I’ll be 23 in less than six weeks) buys 31 pairs of boxer shorts, y-fronts or other ball-holding cotton construct a year. 31 is a number of such intimidating magnitude that this alone may force me to give up any literary ambition, get a job in ‘sales’ and work purely to afford this extensive but ordinary underwear collection.

Yet I’m going to look on the bright side here: were my number of trousers anything to go by, my boxer short collection would comprise of four pairs of holey M&S numbers from the early 90s and a few hankies stuck together with bluetack. Instead I’ve been blessed with a large collection of, perhaps, 19 pairs of boxers which, though they don’t hit the higher numbers of the Debenhams survey, should see me through even a ‘W-shaped recession.

 These boxer shorts may not be of the highest quality but years of caring treatment through the good times means they’re still here for me during the bad. And finally there’s a positive aspect of living in Milton Keynes to contemplate: the complete lack of sexually interesting individuals (myself, of course, included), means that any ware and tear that occurs to my loyal under-garments will be a secret known only to myself and my God…

harriet-harman

Harriet Harman QC MP

If you want undeniable proof of the sexism that is still rife in the British media there is one area, even more than page 3, which provides quick and startling proof: the career of Harriet Harman.

It really doesn’t take too much research or reading to realise this but I think it’s worth standing back, just for a minute, and appreciate exactly how the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party is treated by the media and a significant number of fellow politicians.

So, for the duration of this unashamedly Harman-ite rant I will try and highlight at least some of the falsehoods which seem to be constantly peddled. 

Myth: Harriet Harman is an extremist bent only on vanquishing men from all areas of public life.

Read most comment pieces about Harriet Harman and you’ll discover a woman who is to feminism what John Rambo is to peace-keeping. Each proposal she makes is dubbed ‘controversial’ and every action she takes is transparently careerist.

So what, then, is she doing? Is she requiring all cabinet members to be female? Will men no longer be allowed to play football? What could be so crazy that this woman has attracted such hostility from fair-minded Middle Englanders?

In fact, further reading of such pieces (like this unbelievable piece by the Daily Express’s David Robson) will show you exactly what this terrible woman is planning: more female representation in government and business, higher rates of conviction for rape and legislation to enforce pay equality. I know, I know… what is she on, eh?

It is a pretty sad state of affairs when attacking discrimination (that would never be allowed against black, gay or Jewish Britons) is ‘controversial’.

Myth: HH is a humourless, puritanical politician.

The press have colluded pretty well to create a ‘Harriet Harman’ that we can all, quite guiltlessly, hate. Part of the reason for this is that, whilst David ‘Dave’ Cameron, like Tony Blair before him, has ensured he is present on every chat show and populist cultural event going: Harriet (I’m going to call her Harriet from now on) hasn’t.

She, if you do believe the papers, is one step away from the unwashed feminist of chauvinist nightmares. Imagine a woman having the cheek to try and retain their dignity and professionalism during a career in politics? Mad.

 Yet this ‘straw man’ that’s been built up just doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Take a look at her Prime Minster’s Question Time appearance and her memorable Blair-era ‘Prime Minister Brown’ gaff: she is clearly able to laugh at herself even when she is dealing with criticisms sourced from a horrible far-right faction of politics.

 

Myth: She only cares for women’s rights    

A simple argument for any anti-feminist is to say that this is a purely Middle Class movement that seeks equality for women at the expense of the poor, immigrant communities and other discriminated-against groups.

There are a few who undoubtedly meet this generalised stereotype and, as a niece of the Earl of Longford, it is the easiest of put down for the Women’s Minister.

Yet, she is also the Equality Minister and is conducting a thorough report on how the much-maligned House of Commons can be more representative. Is it then her fault that, when she says that as a democracy our legislature should look more like the society it serves, her recommendations are deemed ‘controversial’?

If you happen to be Harriet Harman, even saying ‘chocolate is tasty’ or ‘aeroplanes travel in the air’ is likely to get you hauled into the pages of the rightist press and declared an extremist.

 

Myth: She hates men

I wonder how people like David Robson and Ed West want Harriet to fight for women’s rights? Should she, whilst batting her eyelids and looking coy, ask Gordon Brown for a law against employers paying women less?

And yet look at the tone of this Daily Mail article by David Thomas. It quickly becomes apparent that this isn’t about Labour’s deputy leader hating men: it is about men’s hysterical fear that women, if given half a chance, would wipe men off the face of the earth.

If these pathetic little fears were in anyway justified then how would this man-hating monster have survived for 32 years living with Trade Unionist Jack Dromey? If Thomas was right then wouldn’t we find his corpse underneath her patio tiles?

 

Myth: Men hate her

I don’t.

And clearly neither do those men that voted her in as Deputy Leader of Labour Party. I find it offensive that so many men peddle this line that men, as a gender, are predisposed to hating Harriet Harman.

I’ve written before how much it frustrates me that the liberal media will fuel this by asking only women contributors defend this champion of women’s progress: I don’t want anything to do with this overly simplistic analysis of British politics.

There.

I probably haven’t even said a quarter of what I could about this but its good to get some of it out. Harriet Harman is horribly alone amongst powerful female politicians: she’s unafraid to use her influence to smash a ladder through the glass ceiling.

I don’t know how this woman can gain respect from the Right without subjugating herself and abandoning her principles. A similar problem was felt by a British woman nearly a century before and she felt her only option was to step in front of the King’s horse.

We like to think that we’ve made a lot of progress since Emily Davison’s day but just look what happens when a woman forgets herself and uses her hard fought position to fight for tighter rape laws or equal pay…