Living in screens,
Or they in me.
And separating these mirrored dreams,
My eyes and feet and body inertly
Metal, it shone,
And then stopped,
dulled by the fire of you
which licked every refraction dead-
chopped like veins
and dripping infected blood.
Fingers trace walls that aren’t,
Come back doorless
wounds without whys.
I’m eighteen and I can vote. If you’d asked me last year what I was more excited about, the alcohol or the polling station, I’d have voted the latter. Now, I’d rather drown myself in whiskey and set myself alight than face that piece of paper: Conservative, Labour, or Lib Dem.
We’re living in a dictatorship, trapped by a voting system that could have saved even Hitler if only he’d had the sense to pretend. To pretend there was a hope for his people; to pretend they could choose. To quote John Locke on human freedom: ‘Suppose a man be carried, whilst fast asleep, into a room where is a person he longs to see and speak with; and be there locked fast in, beyond his power to get out: he awakes, and is glad to find himself in so desirable company, which he stays willingly in, i.e. prefers his stay to going away. I ask, is not this stay voluntary? I think nobody will doubt it: and yet, being locked fast in, it is evident he is not at liberty not to stay, he has not freedom to be gone.’ We, the electorate, have the illusion of choice. We believe that a vote for the Tories is a vote for the upper classes and a vote for Labour, the lower classes. We evidence this assertion with clichés and statistics: 200,000 children forced into poverty by benefit cuts whilst the wealthiest 2% receive a £3bn tax cut (that’s a Tory policy, by the way, identifiable by key words such as ‘wealth’, ‘tax cut’ and ‘child poverty’.)
Yet is there a palpable difference between the two? Had we access to a parallel universe in which Labour won the 2010 election, perhaps there would be evidence of their promised living wage and tax cuts (a couple more key terms for you there- you may recognise the latter from somewhere…) But we don’t. All we see is crisis after crisis, created and fixed by interchangeable parties, arbitrarily cheered and booed and defended by their respective voters. I hate the Tories because I’ve been taught to, but neither am I enthralled by Labour’s push for a flexible fiscal policy which seems like just another phrase for Osbourne’s ‘rolling target for the deficit.’
So what does it mean- this disillusionment? Is it an awakening? The beginning of change?
Well no, actually. Because as a sixth form student faced with long figures and long words that I don’t understand, I have two options. The first is to decipher what they mean. Yet it will be difficult to do so without first accepting that they do mean something, after all. Politics is not like philosophy, where one can understand the attributes of God without believing in him. Politics is politics. To enter is to be within God himself; you must have faith to explore. You have to choose, you have to declare yourself: ‘I’m a Tory’ or ‘I’m a Communist’ or ‘I vote Green.’ You have to swallow the theory and fall on a side. A Wittgensteinian Language Game, politics exists on its own terms and these terms have meaning only within the game.
The other option is to oppose it. To attack it as meaningless; a fideist science. Yet to do so would be seen as ignorance: ‘Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.’ It would be to rid oneself of all credibility.
It would be no more constructive than giving up.
Smashing things up?
That’s how I keep from killing you.
From slitting a knife down the parting in your hair
like a cut-here line,
and taking a hammer to your skull
and then looking down into the bloody mess that is your brain,
wires arranged all wrong, their ends frayed with static.
I’d take out all the bad bits, reconnect and snip. Make normal.
Would the face in your grave be the same? A shame, if not saved, because I’d like to do that for you.
and a diary, a past torn to pieces.
Then a mirror.
Watching the final episode of Andrew Marr’s* History of the World on Sunday, I was shocked by his manipulation of the events leading up to World War Two. After describing Nazi persecution of the Jews, there was a mere pause before he moved on to discuss the ensuing war. This pause should have wielded tales of pacts, appeasement and expansionism. Instead, it assumed the form of a knot, tying the two ideas together, persecution and war; a bond of causation. The persecution of the Jews + war = Allied intervention on humanitarian grounds. On reflection, I realised that this implication has been perpetuated within Britain for decades. It has taken me until now to recognise this simply because, until now, I was under the same illusion as many others. Although nobody has ever explicitly said to me ‘Britain waged war on Hitler with the aim of ending the Holocaust’, their silence on matters of appeasement and protectionism have, just as Andrew Marr succeeded in doing, implied exactly that.
The fact is that the Jews had absolutely nothing to do with Allied action against Hitler. Otherwise, there would have been war in 1935 when Hitler laid out his Nuremberg Laws which removed, among other rights, German citizenship from the Jewish population. But at this time, Britain and France were far too busy appeasing Mussolini’s use of mustard gas against civilians in Abyssinia to give a thought to the civilians of Germany. Although this was done in order to retain a key ally against Hitler (it was feared that resistance would drive Mussolini towards the Nazis), Allied motivation lay in self-interest, rather than humanitarian concern. Neither country could afford another war and Mussolini’s friendship made war less likely. Sorted.
And it wasn’t only Mussolini that was subjected to the desperate caresses of Allied politicians. Hitler too, in spite of his anti-Semitic campaign, was essentially receiving encouragement from Britain in his every endeavour, namely his dismemberment of the Treaty of Versailles. Hitler wants to rearm? Good on you, old boy! An Anschluss with Austria? You deserve it, my friend! Concentration camps? It’s nothing to do with us.
Admittedly, Hitler’s peaceful portrayal of Germany at the 1936 Berlin Olympics may have misled Britain as to the extent of Jewish persecution. Yet it can’t have been too difficult to see beyond the facade of a single part-Jewish fencer, generously permitted to represent Germany at the games, at a time when human rights were being violated so blatantly. Essentially, German domestic affairs held no interest for Britain and, whilst Chamberlain did relax immigration controls in order to accept the Jews fleeing the Nazis, this was proactivity at its least active. The predominant concern of the Allies was for foreign policy and the effects that Hitler’s extreme ideology might have on them.
Even in 1942, when evidence of genocide within Germany had become so overwhelming that it could no longer be ignored, Allied governments merely issued a declaration of condemnation. There was a hint of promise at the resultant Bermuda Conference, where Britain and America toyed with the idea of evacuating the persecuted to safe havens. However the US Foreign Office feared that Germany “may change over from the policy of extermination to one of extrusion, and aim as they did before the war at embarrassing other countries by flooding them with alien immigrants.” Best not then- what’s a few Jews, gassed and burned, against the embarrassment of saving them?
It is true that the Bermuda Conference came during a time of uncertainty, a time when any diversion of resources could have cost the war and all hope of salvation for those fenced inside concentration camps across Europe. However, when in 1944, Jewish leaders implored Churchill to bomb the gas chambers and railways leading up to Auschwitz Birkenau, Germany was on the defensive and the Allies, certain of coming success. Yet still they refused help.
This evidence exposes Andrew Marr’s assertion that ‘Nothing was worse than what the Nazis did, but their job here [the extermination of Ukranian Jews] had been made easier by what the Russian communists had already done’ as limited. Rather, the Nazi’s job was made easier by what Western Allies did. Or didn’t do.
Silence can be as implicating as words yet somehow escapes the reproach levelled at verbal wrongs. It is difficult to accuse that which is unsaid, so something as small as a pause has the power to corrupt history, unchecked.
* Preempting his readership of this blog, may I point out that I generally boast clear skin, an adequate social life and a womb.
“bloggers seem to be socially inadequate, pimpled, single, slightly seedy, bald, cauliflower-nosed young men sitting in their mother’s basements and ranting**.” Andrew Marr, 2010
** I’ll give you ranting.
Walter Salles’ version of On the Road was never going to reflect the Beat classic with the exactness demanded of most adaptations. It would have been futile to attempt a precise translation of Kerouac’s enthused rush of words- ‘Wild form’ as he named it- onto the silver screen; the end product would have been unrecognisable. In the book, Sal Paradise is absorbed in madness and in learning of madness, his every word punched with such immediacy as to defy the laws of past tense narration. The result is a novel of nuances, of suggested emotion buried beneath exhilaration; fleeting feeling flashing over the faces of its characters. Subtleties like this cannot be replicated in film. The characters would become cold and superficial, a concept inconsistent with their roles as ‘New York intellectuals’, thinkers and writers. So, by augmenting the implied emotions of On the Road, by allowing Carlo Marx to grieve and Marylou to cry, and by treating these moments with such tender poignancy, Salles’ adaptation is as loyal to the novel as possible for a successful film.
‘Wild form’s the only form holds what I have to say- my mind is exploding to say something about every image and every memory… I have an irrational lust to set down everything I know.’ Jack Kerouac
In saying this, I am disappointed that the novel’s most affecting portrayal of Dean’s vulnerability, whereby he comes under attack from Camille’s friends for lacking responsibility, wasn’t included in the screenplay. To see him standing with his bandaged thumb aloft, taking the torrent of abuse in pathetic silence, could have generated pathos far beyond that which Salles actually achieved. Although we felt sorry for Dean throughout the film, we weren’t witness to his gradual degeneration. In the book, his confused lust for life culminated at this point, the point of his ‘final development.’ And the effect was harrowing.
‘where once Dean would have talked his way out, he now fell silent himself, but standing in front of everybody, ragged and broken and idiotic…’ On the Road
Not only does the film expand upon characters’ emotions, it also contains many scenes which I cannot recall having read. Seemingly, it takes some of its content from Kerouac’s original draft of On the Road: Carlo Marx’s romantic love for Dean comprises a large theme within the film yet, unless aware of Ginsberg’s influence on the former, it is not clear within the finished novel. The inclusion of Marx’s unrequited affection allows the audience to greater appreciate Dean’s immense appeal. As Sal says, he is ‘Beatific.’ And Kerouac would be sure to approve: when his agent demanded this omission, he retorted that she wanted ‘a road with all the curves out.’
‘Allen was queer in those days… Neal saw this and… wanting dearly to learn how to write petry like Allen, the first thing you know he was attacking Allen with a great amorous soul… I was in the same room. I heard them across the darkness…’ On the Road, original draft
The cast cannot be faulted. Most notable, was Garrett Hedlund’s performance: he captures not only the brilliant insanity for which Dean is renowned, but also the character’s battle to suppress the insecurities created by his father’s absence. Moreover, he succeeds in crafting an ineptness so innocent that the audience is enamoured, rather than exasperated.
Sam Riley, as Sal Paradise, is insignificant. Yet this is not to diminish his his skill as an actor- it merely reflects the function of his character. As the narrator, Sal Paradise is both nowhere and everywhere. He is the medium through which understand Dean; his mind is a filter which taints all. Yet he is not the protagonist. Thus the film cannot help but reduce his role to one of little interest for the audience; he is on the sidelines, watching, like us.
Yet from the moment the cast was announced, the attention has been weighted heavily on Kristen Stewart; On the Road is her big departure from the squealing, adolescent audience of Twilight. And, though her association with Bella Swan will never dissipate- like the cast of Harry Potter, she is tarnished for life- her portrayal of Marylou is so convincing that for two hours, she experiences brief release from the clutches of eternal damnation.
It is nearly 60 years since On the Road was first published. Nevertheless, Salles’ adaptation works. Being alive and wanting to enjoy it is a timeless concept, yet it is one which is rarely championed in today’s society. Which is why everyone should see this film.
The Duchess of Cambridge’s boobs have got me thinking: where do I stand on the privacy debate? With respect to celebrities, this isn’t a question I have ever properly considered, nor is it as clear-cut as I anticipated. Perhaps for this reason, the laws involved are hazier still. In the case of Kate Middleton, for example, the status of the château at which the pictures were taken is bizarrely uncertain, according to Duncan Lamont of Charles Russell LLP, ‘The château is rented out and there may be debate as to how truly private it was.’ A legal battle could take years to resolve. Not that media giant Closer has cause to worry: any fines enforced will pale in comparison to the revenue generated by this week’s issue.
In my opinion, if a person doesn’t want their photograph published, it shouldn’t be. End of. Yet we live in a society where many celebrities covet the front page, even if it takes an untamed armpit hair to get them there. So how is the paparazzi to know where exactly the ‘red line’ (as it was termed in a statement by St James’ Palace) lies? Of course, one would be stupid to have imagined that the Windsors (with the exception of Prince Harry) were likely to accept such scandalous amount of boobage with a mere sporting laugh. But in many instances, the boundaries must be damn confusing: whilst celebrities are unable to endorse every shot of them pre-make up, such coverage is often welcomed by those needing greater publicity. It is as vital to them as a personal statement is to a university applicant (topical simile right there.) It screams ‘I’m just like you! See there, look at craaazy me disgracing myself after too much Dom Perignon. Take me into your hearts, love me, want me.’ Or something like that.
And we do want it. I expect that half of those currently condemning Closer have been just as fervently tapping Kate Middleton’s name into Google Images. The other half are making a bomb in newspapers such as The Guardian, reporting on the scandal with the same level of intimacy as any nude photograph.
So we can’t exclusively blame the press; the issue over privacy is much bigger than a few shutter-happy reporters. Either we stop our obsession with Paris Hilton’s knickers (or lack of), or simply accept the gossip-centred world that we live in. With laws so easily twisted and ignored, I can see no middle ground.
‘Indie’: a much used term and one which my ears have become increasingly accustomed to in the past few years. Until now, though, my understanding of it has been fairly hazy. For me, Indie has always meant a particular type of person: someone beyond the mainstream; wearing quite a bit of denim; Docs perhaps; a few piercings here and there; eschewing Chart pop in favour of obscure guitar bands. An abbreviation of ‘individual.’
I was partly right. Perusing Wikipedia for more information, the words ‘outside of mainstream’ crop up several times. But the term is less anthropocentric than I first thought, at least if we take it at its original definition. It surprises me to find that Indie is actually derived from ‘independent’, having been coined in the mid-1900’s when more and more bands were signing to independent record labels. The Velvet Underground, Pixies, The Smiths, etcetera.
Now I know that many of you, having lived through that era (no offence- it sounds quite a good one), are already aware of this, but I’m not so ignorant as I seem. From what I can deduce, Indie is more of a label today than it ever was when used primarily to classify types of records. Although the ‘Indie kid’ has existed from the beginning, rising alongside its favourite bands and becoming a subculture in its own right, it now seems to have swallowed up the term’s original meaning. To your average teenager in 21st century Britain, Indie may have musical undertones, but it relies to a greater extent on other information (dress sense, drug preferences, favourite films, blah blah.) Indie is predominantly a person.
And it’s also a bad thing.
You see, although approximately a quarter of the country’s young people could now be comfortably described as Indie, the term is generally used as an accusation rather than the positive acknowledgement of style that it once was. ‘He’s so Indie,’ or more commonly, ‘He thinks he’s so Indie,’ are as defaming as allegations of chavdom. Its sharp incline into the mainstream, which began in the 90’s, has tainted the term with unsavoury whiffs of wannabe.
And so, for the very reason of its popularity, Indie has now become one of the most unpopular labels out there. Nobody wants to be associated with it. Even those who are so neck-deep in vinyl that they can’t reach this week’s copy of NME would rather break their Rickenbacker than have you accuse them of being Indie. Especially them, in fact. Former self-declared Indie kids, those that were happy to bear the once-revered label, are turning on their own style; in hitting the mainstream it has become everything that it shouldn’t be.
But Wikipedia needn’t change its definition just yet: Indie culture is headed for a sharp decline and will soon find itself ‘outside of mainstream’ once again.