Saturday, 27 June 2009

Frankenstein's Michael

Although one tries to concentrate on the main topics that this blog is, well, mainly about, it is impossible to ignore the media frenzy around the death of the King of Pop... and it is strangely as relevant for my new and former home's societies, as his life was relevant world-wide.

First thing that strikes one is that his life is truly a post-modern story. He was a chameleon, yes, but as someone put it: he was constructed from many disjointed parts. Now people have to choose which part, or actually, which Michael Jackson to remember. There were too many - and each incarnation has been a combination of strange, sometimes loveable, often tragic, often tragicomically misguided and, perhaps his greatest tragedy, way too innocent child-like elements.

He truly was a creation of Frankenstein - but the misguided doctor in this case happens to be actually the environment around the star, showbiz, media and the public's insatiable hunger for sordid details of his life.

Perhaps his sometimes freakish childish innocence clashing with the immense pressure of the showbiz engine exacerbated everything - surely, we never had such a tragic case of a mega-star who was so devoured by, importantly, not just the media pressure itself but his own efforts to deal with it.

He was truly unique, whether one appreciates his music and/or his showmanship or not - and so was his quite tragic downward spiralling life which was, again, a truly unique and direct product of the showbiz machine. We had way too many troubled artists over the decades, but just looking at the series of physical and mental transformations this man has gone through shows one that we truly have an unfortunate and very special case in Michael Jackson.

Second thing that strikes one is the hypocrisy of the media which now uses every bit, byte, terabyte and every wavelength and every square millimeter of paper to give touching tribute to the often bizarre, consistently touched by genius unique mega-star.

The very same media that used every opportunity to speculate and use same bits, bytes, wavelengths and square millimeters to discuss Michael Jackson's bizarre transformations and, for the last 10-15 years, truly bizarre behaviour, is now talking about the same person with immense reverence.

The extremely obvious law governing the media here and in my former home (as indeed, they have evolved rapidly and aligned themselves to the best and worst levels of world media hypocrisy) is that they will say, write, show anything that sells whatever medium they use.

At this point in time, for a short while, as in the case of Diana, the Kennedys, Priestley, Monroe (yes we and/or our parents have seen all this before, many times), the best thing that sells is reverence, with cautious and occasional references to Jackson's darker side.

This phase will be followed by the newer and newer revelations about his private life and once all the biographies and back-catalogues are sold out, there will be new books and new documentaries dragging him through the densest mud the media can produce. This, too has been seen too many times.

But also, one hopes, invariably and certainly, once all these media phases expire, there will be his memory as a musician and showman and, not least, dancer - his memory as an artist, troubled as he may have been.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Racial statistics... and anti-terror law

From the viewpoint of someone that has a visceral reaction to any totalitarianism, whether honest in-your-face or covert by twisting democratic (?) legislation, the issue of the British anti-terror legislation has been covered in ample manner on this blog. Its lessons are valid for any country and any regime...

But it seems there is no amount of 'paranoid' speculation that would be sufficient to beat the plain facts of current British reality...

The Government's anti-terror watchdog has now revealed that "thousands of people are being stopped and searched by the police under counter-terrorism powers simply to provide a racial balance in official statistics."

There is virtually zero evidence that Section 44 which gives the police stop-and-search powers has any helpful effect as a counter-terrorism measure.

Lord Carlile has pointed out that none of the many thousands of searches had ever led to a conviction for a terrorist offence - also, the damage done to community relations was "undoubtedly considerable".

Also, it has been pointed out that the new legislation which allows police to challenge (and, as countless cases show, frankly and simply abuse) amateur photographers has been widely abused, exposing the police officers themselves to criminal prosecution.

This, I am sorry, is a police state, whatever anyone says - and in order to say the opposite, one has to be completely and utterly blind.

Monday, 15 June 2009

The paranoia race

In the race for reaching the state of complete and utter paranoia of truly Orwellian and, in some cases, truly Dickian heights, the UK and China have been head-to-head for a long time.

In China, the various surveillance measures (electronic and otherwise), control of the internet with the great help of great companies that herald their ethical and moral stature (just think of Cisco, which was, while advertising how it connects people, at the forefront of routers that allowed totalitarian regimes to intrude in and control the internet traffic depending on 'banned' keywords...) is all done in the name of a certain status quo, a certain regime opposing true democratising.

In UK, the citadel of democracy, well, it was all done in the name of anti-terror legislation and 'public safety'.

Thing is... the UK has finally won the race. Not yet at the level of electronic surveillance (unless the successors of the recently resigned criminally incompetent and unprecedentedly evil Home Secretary continue her epic thrusts in that direction), but at the level of general paranoia - and amongst its manifestations, the abuse of power stemming from paranoia when it comes to amateur or (semi-)pro photography.

A photographer who worked extensively in both UK and China has recently reported his experiences during and after the Beijing Olympics, and one, after having seen the scary mass of stories on British authorities and Joe Public abusing photographers, is stumped reading his accounts.

In China, he could work for months unchallenged, even in highly sensitive areas - and could also do photography with tripods on , around and in official buildings without anybody stopping him, confiscating his equipment, arresting him etc.

Things he managed to do consistently in China as a photographer were absolutely unimaginable in today's Britain. The situation in the UK is simply out of control and despite petitions to Downing Street, endless fights via human rights organisations, the 'anti-terror strategy' with its campaigns has not only managed to make police regularly abuse their power, but also Joe Public with just one braincell (but highly evolved paranoia) is free to radically challenge and abuse even the amateur photographers.

The normality, which was experienced by him ironically in China of all places, is gone, if not forever, for the next generations in the democratic and oh-so-free and oh-so-Great Britain.

Well done, David Blunkett, Charles Clark, and especially the magnificently Fahrenheit 451-inspired (?) Jacqui Smith... you have been excellent Home Secretaries that any communist or other dictator would have loved to employ you... and you have left behind you a society so infused with the paranoia you cultivated that a person can actually discover how much freer he felt doing his job in China than in Britain.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Fascism and protest votes

The recent chaos around the British MPs, Government and the Labour party have led to interesting, well, deplorable developments and side-effects... far from the hilarious effects of the recent months of scandals.

The voting public vented anger in protest votes... both at the local and the European elections. This was predictable, so was the fact that with many staying away from the urns and others voting for just about anybody except the Labour party (or even the main parties) - after all, even the archbishop of Canterbury has made an official statement calling for people to go to votes and not let the fascists get seats in the European Parliament.

Of course one is talking about the BNP, its leader having been treated today to raw eggs in a serving that Gordon Ramsay would have deemed less than appetising. People chanted 'fascists get off our streets', while throwing eggs. Probably British eggs, locally made and sourced, not some foreign stuff BNP would soooo much more hate.

But it doesn't change the facts that while the BNP got less votes than five years ago, proportionally they've done very well due to the 'protest voting'.

It is a lesson in democracy.

Take a country that is a historical 'citadel' of democracy (minus what was done in the name of the anti-terror strategy that turned it into as despicable of a police state as any totalitarian regime did elsewhere).

Then screw up its political scene so much, even by such ludicrous frauds as those committed in expense claims. Get the people to hate the party at power and also the other two main parties.

Then sit and watch what happens.

The result is that while angry voters feel that democracy failed, that they lost any control over the country's politicians who they have elected in the past, we truly lose control as a result of the direct actions of those who feel they have one single weapon left: abstaining from voting or voting at random for minor parties.

And then, for the first time in British politics curing the existence of the European Parliament, we get extreme right, OK let's call it what it is, fascist party to end up in the European Parliament with two proud seats.

A dark day, no matter how many eggs were thrown at BNP's leader.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Post-modern D-Day

Recently, amongst all the political turmoil caused by or just exploded around the British Prime-Minster and MPs, there was this other conflagration of an international mini-scandal.

The fact that Sarkozy hasn't invited the Queen to the 65th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy, well, in itself is funny, bizarre, scandalous, take your pick. The Royal family's reaction and the media was again, well, funny, predictable, take your pick.

But there is a greater, quite philosophical significance around this farce.

Sarkozy said that the reason for knowingly not inviting the Queen was that, well, this was a Franco-American affair. And this truly funny comment lands us in a juicy debate around the Wikipedia history of the world, around the post-modern situation that as long as something is, as a convention or belief, accepted by sufficiently large numbers of people, it becomes fact.

The Hollywood image of history, built over so many decades of cinematic excrement, took weeks of international diplomacy to sort out a bit... but it doesn't mean it changed the understanding and perception of people on the street. Hopefully illuminated Sarkozy to a few facts...

Facts like... the Brits gathered most of the intelligence, from maps to detailed photos of even German radar stations. The Brits came up with all, OK, let's not exaggerate, about 90% of the entire plan for the D-Day landing. The Royal Air Force provided the main muscle in terms of air cover and the list goes on and on. And of course, half of the forces that stepped onto the shores of Normandy were British and Canadian...

But then cue Hollywood. Eminent history professors like dr. Mel Gibson and the like... OK, he hasn't truly screwed with WWII, but has done so with other bits of history. But there are vast numbers of Hollywood 'history lessons' that made vast parts of the 20th century an 'American affair'. Of something with a hyphen and still predominantly American.

Quite remarkable that media and pop culture distortions of (in time) not so distant facts can gradually, sneakily, become the new history.

What shows it more eloquently than Sarkozy's remark... apart from showing utter ignorance and silly chauvinism (well, what chauvinism is worthy of serious analysis), it shows how the countless celluloid 'outputs' and Americanisation of our global culture has led to a truly nice lesson in post-modern philosophy.