One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)

Director: Milos Forman

Writers: Lawrence Hauben (screenplay), Bo Goldman (screenplay)

Stars: Jack Nicholson, Louise Fletcher, Michael Berryman

Runtime: 2h 13min

The book from which the film was made was begun by Ken Kesey in 1959 or 1960 (sources differ) and published in 1962. It places Kesey as a kind of link between the Beat Generation of the ’50s and the Hippies to come. The film, released in 1975, was set in 1963 (with some reference to contemporary racial tension in Alabama). I have watched the film a number of times but have come to it now in 2021 set against a backdrop of increasing social tension.

Spoiler alert – if you haven’t watched the film then do so before reading – it won five Oscars (Academy Awards) at the time and is ranked 33rd on the American Film Institute’s ‘100 years…100 movies’ list. According to Wikipedia: “the film was deemed ‘culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant’ by the United States Library of Congress, and selected for preservation in the National Film Registr”‘. If you don’t intend watching, but are curious or you HAVE watched then please carry on. I rank this film so highly that I wouldn’t want anyone’s possible enjoyment ‘spoiled’!

Watching as I did in February 2021 I couldn’t help but see this film in relation to the current ‘pandemic’ and worldwide governmental responses. In ‘One Flew Over’ (I shall abbreviate thus) the action is mostly set and filmed in a psychiatric hospital – the same one described in the book, thus giving it more poignancy. A note too here that as well as working at Menlo Park Veteran’s Hospital for a while, Kesey also took part in the secretive program known as the ‘Project MKUltra’ prior to writing the book and took various drugs including hallucinogenics (LSD and Psilocybin for instance). This CIA program had only one aim, which was to see if forced confessions could be obtained through mind control after intake of drugs. Again, this adds poignancy to various scenes and themes in the film.

The basic plot is that an offender: Randle Patrick McMurphy (Mac) – played by Jack Nicholson – is sent to a psychiatric hospital to be evaluated for mental illness – he has feigned ‘madness’ to get out of work details/hard labour. On admission – when he sees the doctor in charge – Mac is identified as being belligerent, lazy and resentful – as Mac says, [he] ‘fights and fucks too much’ and has had five arrests for assault plus a statuary rape of a 15-year-old girl. As Mac says to the doctor in a friendly way, full of male bravado: ‘No man alive would resist that’. He also states categorically that there is ‘not a thing’ . The conversations Mac has with the doctor appear very casual and what we might term typically male (joky and with a sense of shared values). Thus we follow what happens to him as he enters institutional life. We must note here that the doctor is perfectly at ease with these casual conversations (and they seem to speak as equals) and that Mac has stated he is NOT mad (but that he has a certain time period to be evaluated). The impression we get is that for Mac this will be a ‘fun adventure’ and respite from prison. He is like a naive but also – as we shall see – an anarchic presence.

In order to get a sense of where the film is going, and what it talks about, here are some of its main themes: Freedom (and captivity); Conformity (to the system); Institutionalisation (and as I see it, a critique of society in general); Psychiatric treatment; Feminism; Sex; Race and to a degree, Politics. It’s FULL of thematic texture. The main conflict centres on the relationship between Mac and Nurse Ratched (the ‘Big Nurse’ of the novel) played by Louise Fletcher. She is (what has been described as) ‘passive-aggressive’, authoritarian – seemingly cold and sterile with a prurient interest in the patients’ lives. She is the ‘all seeing’ eye: “She could have seen you” says a worried patient to Mac at one point. She is a manipulator, using language to control – drawing on ‘feelings’ when necessary. To Mac: ‘These men are members of the ward just as you are” to which he replies, “Don’t pull that hen house shit”. Mac also says of her to the doctor: ‘That nurse, she ain’t honest”.

During one scene, after entering the nursing station and turning down the music (a constant, draining and wearying form of MUSAK), she says: “Music is for everyone. Old men couldn’t [or wouldn’t] hear it if it were turned down.'”

The hierarchy of the hospital seems to be the male doctors and psychiatrists seemingly at the top (who cannot reach a decision regarding Mac’s mental state), Nurse Ratched – who the doctor describes as being ‘the person he [Mac] is closest to [and] the one he most dislikes’ and who is left to decide his fate after the doctors cannot agree. She is the matriarch, the proto-feminist, the channel through which all authority seems to flow. (Alongside Nurse Ratched we have the petite and silent Nurse Pilbow – sexually attractive for the patients I would imagine, seemingly passive but strangely powerful.) We do see a female supervisor at one point too – who is archetypally matronly – her manner and physique being ‘old school’. Underneath Nurse Ratched come the black orderlies/attendants. This was the first time I had noticed their combined role in the film and the flipping of power from what might be expected. They are like a pack of wolves to Ratched’s orders – and also, like wolves, have a sense of independence and non-belonging, despite their pivotal roles (especially so of Washington). It is they that clasp patients to gurneys, who restrain, who control the locking and opening of doors and windows – and it is they who overpower and assault prisoners – knocking out Mac in one VERY important scene. It is also Washington who delivers the bombshell information to Mac that: ‘You’re going to stay with us until we let you go.’ The patients also have hierarchies – one of which is their state of mental health but also whether they are volunteer patients or have been sectioned. Mac is dumbfounded when he realises that most of them can walk out and be free! It is Mac who becomes the focal point of the other patients (the book is actually written from the Chief’s point of view) and they take vicarious pleasures from his actions or imagined actions. And they are also – at least momentarily – freed from their mental restrictions (such as on the fabulous fishing boat expedition).

Nurse Ratched and Mac clash during – what appears to me to be – Cognitive Behavioural sessions – where she seems to both want to elicit sexual details from the patients but also control them via their sexual fears. Mr Harding, for instance, is a closet homosexual that is fearful of his wife’s possible infidelity – he talks in psychobabble and there’s much tension between him and the others – though he has been the ostensible leader of the group before Mac arrives. The young patient Billy with a debilitating stutter is utterly repressed by his mother and Nurse Ratched seems happy enough to use the idea of his mother’s disapproval to control him (and that she is in fact friends with his mother).

I really did get a sense of sexual tension between Nurse Ratched and Mac. We see at least one meaningful glance between the two and it would be understandable that with her being in authority but seemingly highly repressed, she might well be attracted to Mac’s ‘free spirit’ – and vice versa. Mac, as I have stated, brings along anarchy and hedonism into her ordered and very clean, disciplined world. There’s a hilarious exchange between them following Mac’s ECT treatment (more of that later) where he describes to her his supposedly new-found virility following the treatment with an allusion to sex – as I recall he will effectively play the next woman (sexual partner) as a pinball machine, light her up and she’ll give out silver dollars! I have paraphrased – but when you watch again you’ll no doubt pick up on that!

The Hedonist in this case turns the verbal duel against the Puritan. And a note here that Mac brings his girlfriend (possibly a prostitute) to the Fishing Trip and again, with a friend at the major denouement of the film.

Nurse Ratched and the younger Nurse Pilbow administer ‘Medication Time’. We have the conformity of clothing (which changes over the period of the film) – somewhat like mask-wearing in 2021 and drug dispensation for the good of all – rather like ‘vaccine’ programs currently being rolled out. Senses are dulled and moods controlled – which might be thought of as a good thing – but there are always consequences and side-effects. You can see how Kesey must have thought about medication through drugs and their ritualistic administering. Some folk have seen religious aspects to the film/book – if so perhaps these pills would be like receiving the consecrated wafer during Holy Communion. This world is SAFE until Mac comes along and offers FREEDOM!

Thus we have various characters who certainly are damaged but – as we see – are capable of much more. After his first betrayal (finding out that most of the other patients are not sectioned) Mac says: ‘You haven’t got the guts to walk out?! You’re no more crazy than the average asshole in the street!’ They have chosen enforced security and safety over their own liberty.

The hospital regime seems stultifyingly routine and boring and only interspersed with ‘group therapy’ and cigarette smoking (though Mac introduces gambling and mimes the Word Series when the patients’ ‘vote’ is effectively rigged against them watching it). The patients are ‘treated’ by drugs (as discussed) and at times by ECT (Electroconvulsive Therapy) – it is while waiting for this treatment that Mac passes the Chief a gum and hears his reply, ‘Thank you’. On first watching this – that ‘thank you’ is explosive! I really didn’t expect it. The Chief, a good character actor in the film (and a good actor) spends his time sweeping the floor – seemingly deaf and dumb. A watcher, an outsider – like the Native Americans as a whole, perhaps, in the United States. Reserved (on reservations) – outsiders on their own land – keeping watch and maybe countenance. As stated, the book is written from his perspective and it is he alone who escapes at the end, finally finding the courage to match his stature. The Chief says to Mac at one point regarding his father: ‘They worked on him the way they’re working on you’. It is also the Chief who comes to Mac’s aid when Washington attacks him, which leads to them having the ECT. Just in case – I won’t give away the final dramatic events of the film – though you’ll discover below that the Chief escapes.

One thing I realise I haven’t stressed is the HUMOUR to be found in ‘One Flew Over’ – and there’s plenty of it! The dialogue is wonderfully written – Mac is a joker and a clever man – but not clever enough. The film is also given a sense of other-worldliness by the Muzak that is played to the patients and the original compositions utilising the ‘novel’ instrument – the Theramin. After the Chief escapes into the wilds of Oregon – another poignant moment magnified by the Native returning to the land with its anti-sterility – we can imagine the patients returning to their ‘normal’ lives. I will say this though: three of them will not return!

Was Mac a failed revolutionary? Or was he the catalyst to the Chief’s freedom? Did he instill a sense of freedom and possibility/potential to the other patients that – who knows- might have come out in the future. Did he simply just shake up the system and cause heartbreak and death? How should we view him? I simply can’t risk telling you of his final fate or that of Billy’s. But you can imagine. What I will say is that the institution – the government/the status-quo/the establishment was rocked but it remained. The Chief’s newly found inner-strength gives him freedom – but in another place – Canada. A word too about the director,the Czech-American, Milos Forman who rose to fame in communist Czechoslovakia and through his parents also knew of the terrors of National Socialism.

In the United States, ECT is still legal (as in other countries) but said to be safer – but the last lobotomy was carried out in 1967. Drugs are still prescribed of course and it is hoped – at least – that they are always dispensed with the patient’s best interests at heart. David Susman (PhD), a blogger and advocate for better mental health states in response to the idea that patients may also be “chemically restrained” by being forcibly loaded up on strong sedative medications that nowadays ‘using medications in this fashion is explicitly prohibited. Patients may be provided medications against their will during a psychiatric emergency involving the risk of harm to self or others, but only on an as-needed basis to help them calm down. They should never be given large doses of sedatives on a regular basis just to control or subdue them.’Times have changed but nothing is perfect!

The eras of ‘One Flew Over’ in both its setting and when the film was made seem like distant times. If we were to critique the notion of Freedom v Captivity – then we must acknowledge that we have all since (NOW!) become patients in a global institute! Are we sane? Are governments insane or simply power-hungry? The power of language, twisted to suit political positions, holds us, hostage, with the threat of persecution and even imprisonment should it be used in a non-authorised way. We are a society obsessed with sex but in some ways dominated by Feminism and other political speech-codes. Democracy (as in ‘One Flew Over’) only seems to suit those in charge. Will we need to find inner and outer courage (as with the Chief) to free ourselves in coming years? Who of us will have the strength to fly over the nest?

The title of the film comes from a nursery rhyme read to the Chief as a child by his grandmother (mentioned in the book):

“Vintery, mintery, cutery, corn,

Apple seed and apple thorn,

Wire, briar, limber lock

Three geese in a flock

One flew East

One flew West

And one flew over the cuckoo’s nest”

Reviewed by Tim Bragg

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Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979)

Likely to offend?

Director: Terry Jones

Writers: Graham Chapman, John Cleese

Stars: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Michael Palin

Runtime: 1h 34min

“He’s not the Messiah, he’s a very naughty boy”.Forty-two years ago, the Monty Python team released their most controversial film, Life of Brian. The opposition to it from conservative religious groups was so strong, the film was banned in the Irish Republic and Norway and in many British cities. TV personality Malcolm Muggeridge and Mervyn Stockwood, the then Bishop of Southwark, appeared on television opposite John Cleese to denounce the film as ‘tenth-rate’ and blasphemous. They predicted that it would soon be forgotten.

In retrospect, a lot of this opposition was misplaced. This was not an attack on the person of Christ or on Christianity; the team decided early on that they would not target Jesus but set their film in the tumultuous time of his birth, first century Judea under brutal Roman occupation. My own church in Belfast has even shown it in our regular monthly film club.

The film stands up well more than four decades after its release. It’s quite possible that it could be the subject of bans or cancellation if it were to be released today; attacked not by the conservative religious right for blasphemy but by the regressive faux-left for the modern secular equivalents of blasphemy; ableism, transphobia, and mocking people with speech defects. The scene where Stan (Eric Idle) wants to become a woman called Loretta and have babies causing the PFJ members to debate supporting his/her right to have babies is a classic. Today, I can imagine trigger warnings on the BBC if it were to be screened again on a mainstream channel.

That said, the film is still screamingly funny. It tells the story of Brian Cohen (Graham Chapman); a hen-pecked mummy’s boy who tries to join an anti-Roman political group. After escaping from captivity when an attack on the Roman occupiers is botched, he is mistaken for the Messiah and followed by adoring crowds who hang on his every word.Much of the satire deals with how religious and political factions can emerge and religious and political sectarianism can grow. Brian drops his gourd and loses a sandal; his disciples divide into gourdists and sandalists. Then there’s the bitter rivalry between the Judean People’s Front and Reg’s (John Cleese) People’s Front of Judea. “the only people we hate more than the Romans are the fucking Judean People’s Front.” The ‘splitters’. When Brian is arrested, the PFJ goes into immediate debates and discussions. When he’s crucified, they march determinedly towards his cross… and then read out a statement to him in solidarity with his sacrifice.

Monty Python’s Life of Brian may not really say much about first-century Judea but it still has a lot to be said about twenty-first century Britain. Brian is not the Messiah; he’s a naughty, naughty boy. Watch it while you still can. And remember, always look on the bright side of life.

Reviewed by David Kerr

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Apostasy (2017)

1h 35min

Director: Daniel Kokotajlo

Writer: Daniel Kokotajlo (as Dan Kokotajlo)

Stars: Siobhan Finneran, Robert Emms, Bronwyn James

This is the story of a family being torn apart as the strictures of their religion conflict with the realities of both illness and the modern world. The story focuses on three women – a mother and two young adult daughters – whose ties to the group create conflict in their relationships with each other.The younger daughter Alex (Molly Wright) is anemic. She has been conditioned to feel guilt and shame because she received a blood transfusion as a baby. This is at odds with the teaching of the Jehovah’s Witnesses (JW) to which she and her family belong. Her older daughter, Luisa (Sacha Parkinson), is beginning to question their belief system and rebel. When she becomes pregnant after a relationship with a non-Witness and he fails to convert and marry, she is excluded from the group. one of The requirements of disfellowshipping means that family members who remain Witnesses cannot have any significant contact so her mother Ivanna (Siobhan Finneran) forces Luisa to leave home. Ivanna is faced with a choice between her faith and her family. The Church expects her to “shun” her own daughter and effectively isolate her from her family and former community. The mother, Ivanna ((Siobhan Finneran), is conflicted but generally sides with her faith and obedience to the authority of the ‘Elders’. She is, perhaps, the character you feel saddest for. My mind called out for her to see sense and put her daughters before her unreasoned faith.

It’s a bleak story, matched by a grim northern setting, which is often difficult to watch. There are lighter moments and there are also moments that show the attractive side of the fellowship of the JW. I enjoyed the JW speaking Urdu and trying to recruit Pakistanis on the doorstep (and wow you have to admire their commitment to learning Urdu!) and the party scene of JWs showed a different, more attractive side to them.I found it difficult to feel much sympathy for the teachings of the JW as opposed to the adherents/victims. The film depicts them as hostile to independent thought. Speaking to Screen International, the Director explained, “I was harbouring doubts since I went to college. I realised that people at college were interested in your opinion. That was a new concept to me because being a Witness it was always about reaffirming the text, group-think, it wasn’t about encouraging independent thought.” I also found their practices similar to other cults. Disfellowship is very similar to the Scientolgist view of how to behave toward “suppressive persons”, for example.This, low-budget film is well-written and has terrific performances, particularly from the female leads. Yes, it deals with a traumatic and difficult subject but it does so in a sensitive and thought-provoking way.

If there is an underlying message to the film I think it is to take great care in adopting a worldview, value-system or ideology.

Reviewed by Patrick Harrington

Authours note: A much longer discussion took place in our Counter Culture Film Club so if I’ve stolen anyone’s ideas from there just remember that the Magpie likes shiny objects and I like good ideas!

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Better than the Beatles!

I began writing my latest novel Better than the Beatles! in early 2016, but its real beginnings were around the turn of the millennium when I purchased a book called Raw Vision, a large coffee table style tome that was essentially a compendium of articles and photographs from the magazine of the same name, a magazine that was, and is, dedicated to the subject of Outsider Art Welcome to Raw Vision Magazine | Raw Vision Magazine.

There is no fully accepted definition of Outsider Art, but the attempt by the man who first identified it as a distinct entity, the French artist and collector Jean Dubuffet, is perhaps as good as any:  

We understand by this term works produced by persons unscathed by artistic culture, where mimicry plays little or no part... These artists derive everything from their own depths, and not from the conventions of classical or fashionable art.”

 Originally, Dubuffet used the term Art Brut to denote his newly patented genre. It was the English art critic and writer Roger Cardinal who renamed it as Outsider Art in his book of the same name: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Outsider-Art-RogerCardinal/dp/0289701686/

Through my reading of Raw Vision, of Cardinal and other sources, I discovered the collection of loners and misfits who made up the Outsider Art cannon, if there can ever really be such a thing, including such marginal luminaries as Adolf Wolfli, Henry Drager, Madge Gill, and Sabato Rodeo

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Outsider_art.

Although Outsider Art would become an enduring interest, it was my discovery that this primarily visual art had spawned the sonic off-shoot of Outsider Music that led me to immerse myself in a whole new world of creative exploration.

It was the American Disc Jockey and writer Irwin Chusid who adopted the phrase ‘Outsider Music’ and publicised it as a distinct genre in his book ‘Songs in the Key of Z’, which was followed by an accompanying two volumes of illustrative C. D’s.

I am not without my criticisms of Chusid. For me, it was a mistake to incorporate into his book and C.D. collection such artists as Syd Barrett, Scott Walker, and Captain Beefhart, artists whom, whilst occupying a space well beyond the musical mainstream, were too well known to be classed as true outsiders. He also included material that I regard as revealing a knowing ‘so bad it’s good’ attitude that I found rather patronising. For instance, a recording of an old man suffering from dementia singing fragments of songs hazily remembered from his youth may be either sad or sweet, but it is not particularly musically interesting, and is therefore not, in my opinion, Outsider Music.

Nevertheless, it is primarily Chusid whom I must thank for my discovery of the work of the likes of Jandek, the Shaggs, and Daniel Johnston, artists who have continued to fascinate and inspire me to the present day. The first and last named of this trio have had great, niche films made about them, both of which are well worth checking out https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jandek-Corwood-DVD-Byron-Coley/dp/B0006FGHDS/

Although a work of fiction, the movie ‘Frank’, written by Jon Ronson and based (loosely) on a combination of the stories of papier-mâché headed Mancunion outsider Frank Sidebottom and the bizarre story of the making of Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band’s weird classic Trout Mask Replica, also gives a great feel of the nature of Outsider Music  https://www.amazon.co.uk/Frank-DVD-Michael-Fassbender/dp/B00NIPIIQM/

It was however the story of The Shaggs which had the most impact upon me, and which was the catalyst for the writing of Better than the Beatles!

The Shaggs was the family name of the three sisters who initially made up the band, Dot and Betty on guitars and Helen on drums, with a fourth sister, Rachel later joining them on bass for live performances. The band were founded in 1968 in their hometown of Freemont, New Hampshire, and were set on their musical path by their father Austin Shaggs. He claimed to have done this in response to a premonition by his late mother, who had apparently correctly predicted the hair colour of the woman he would marry, and more interestingly, that the couple would have three daughters who would go on to attain musical stardom.

In response to this prediction, he took the then teenage girls out of school, bought them instruments, paid for singing lessons and encouraged them to write songs. In 1969, he paid privately for recording studio time, and for the pressing of 1000 copies of the resultant album, an album which was named Philosophy of the World after one of its best loved tracks on the album. Allegedly, the man responsible for pressing the album absconded with 900 of the 1000 copies of the album, and it’s been suggested that he, whether as a form of artistic criticism, through shame at his involvement in such a project, or for more prosaic reasons, simply dumped them. This left around 100 copies to be distributed, mostly locally and for free, by Pappa Austin.

The music of The Shaggs is perhaps best described as the sonic equivalent of a naïve-primitive painting. The ten songs on the album are conventional in structure, but are written and performed in a manner that suggests that they have been produced by ‘musicians’ who have only recently been introduced, and in a very quick and basic fashion at that, to the rudiments of melody, harmony and rhythm. In addition, the lyrics, about such topics as fidelity to one’s parents, self-acceptance, the joys of pet ownership and much else besides, have a charming, child-like quality that is a perfect accompaniment to the music.

Whilst recording their album, the producer of Philosophy of the World is said to have suggested that Austin allow his daughters more time to hone their musical and vocal skills before letting them loose in a recording studio. Austin’s response, which has gone on to become a part of Shaggs folk-lore, was to say that he wanted to catch them ‘whilst they are hot.’

Philosophy of the World would have disappeared without trace had a copy not somehow found its way into the hands of legendary muso Frank Zappa who played a couple of tracks, and professed his love for the album, whilst appearing as a guest on a radio show presented by a DJ by the name of Dr Demento in the early ‘70’s. From there, its reputation grew by word of mouth amongst lovers of left-field music, until it was eventually re-released by Rounder Records in 1980.

It should be noted here that it is Zappa who is often erroneously credited with ironically describing The Shaggs as ‘Better than the Beatles,’ the phrase that I used as the title of my novel. In fact, the phrase originally came from the headline for a Rolling Stone magazine review of the re-released album by iconic music journalist Lester Bangs.

The album was given a further boost in the 1990’s when Nirvana front-man Kurt Cobain placed it no. 5 in his list of his all-time favourite albums. This helped it to gain a CD release by RCA Victor in 1999. Its popularity/notoriety was also greatly aided by the growth of the Internet.

Initially, and until quite late on in the writing process, my novel was called triplets, which is also the name of the Shaggs-like band in the book, as well as of their sole recorded album. In addition, when I began writing the novel, I took the decision to transfer the action from small town America to the North West of England, and the time of the band’s slim recorded output from the late ‘60’s to the late ‘70’s. ‘Write what you know’ they say, and this approach also had the advantage of allowing me to work a potted history of British rock music into the narrative, from fifties rock ‘n’ roll, through Merseybeat, psychedelia, and onwards to punk/Mew Wave and the mostly localised Lo Fi ‘cassette culture’ which emerged from it MESSTHETICS: U.K. DIY/postpunk 1977-84, Hyped to Death (hyped2death.com).

Much of this was done through the character of the father Sam Curtis who, in the manner of many 1950’s British rock ‘n’ roll hopefuls, was gifted a new, larger than life name by representatives of noted show business impresario Larry Parnes, in this case Sam Singer (see real-life examples such as Billy Fury, Marty Wilde, Vince Eager, Duffy Power et al) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larry_Parnes

 In the true story of the Shaggs, the father Austin Shagg was a key player. By all accounts, in particular by the accounts of his children, he appears to have been a driven, pushy and authoritarian figure in the manner of music biz dad’s such as Joe Jackson of the Jackson family and Murray Wilson of the Beach Boys’ Wilson clan. It’s probably no accident that the Shaggs disbanded as a band (despite some latter-day reunions once Philosophy of the World belatedly found its fan-base) in 1975, immediately following the death of their father. In my novel, Sam Curtis/Singer plays an equally key role in the story, although I did try to make him a touch more likeable and sympathetic than his real-world counterpart.

In my previous novel, Special, I drew on my twenty five years of experience as a social care worker in order to tell the story of a fictional woman with a learning disability. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Special-Anthony-C-Green/dp/1788033442/  In writing Better than the Beatles! I again decided to make use of this experience, by incorporating into the narrative the suggestion that the triplets have a form of high functioning autism. Although I have never seen it explicitly stated that this was also the case with the real-life Shagg sisters, my reading and observation of their public comments, their music and lyrics, and the testimony of those who worked with them suggest that this is not entirely out of the question.

Speaking of lyrics, as something of an ‘outsider’ singer/songwriter myself, although I’m not sure that one can be knowingly such, one of the most enjoyable aspects of writing the novel was my writing of excerpts of triplets songs in the naïve style of the Shaggs themselves. At one point I even considered writing these songs in full, and then seeking to find three suitable females to record them with, or perhaps one suitable female to sing each vocal in, to use a phrase that re-occurs throughout the novel, ‘near-unison’. In the end however, I decided that some things are best left to the imagination….

 I won’t give away any more of the plot. In my opinion Better than the Beatles! In my opinion, it is by far my best novel to date, a novel that I enjoyed writing very much, such that I felt a distinct sense of loss when I finally decided that it was finished. It’s a novel that I’m proud to have written, and I only hope it will find a readership. Hopefully, I won’t have to wait as long as the Shaggs for it to do so.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Shaggs

Anthony C Green, January 2021  

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Review: Leeds – United!

Leeds – United!

BBC Play FOR To-DAY (1974) available on YouTube

Director: Roy Battersby
Writer: Colin Welland
Stars: Lynne Perrie, Elizabeth Spriggs, Lori Wells, Bert Gaunt

Nothing to do with the Football team of that name, this is a film based on an unofficial strike of Leeds female garment workers in January-February 1970. Directed by Colin Welland, already well-known for his acting role in Z Czars and soon to win an Academy Award for his screenplay for Chariots of Fire, and with a leading role for Lynne Perrie (Ivy Tilsley in Coronation Street), it is a brilliant portrayal of working- class life, living conditions and industrial relations in what now seems a bygone era. Being filmed in black and white gives it an added air of authenticity.

The plot involves a three-way struggle between the employers, the official Trade Union leadership and the employees in the Leeds garment industry. The industry itself was fragmented. A few firms, most prominently John Black`s, employed 100 or more workers. Others employed only a handful, with the owner and employees working side-by-side. The exclusively male Union bosses had in the previous year negotiated a deal with the employers which gave an increase of 5d per hour to male workers but only 4d for females. The case for equal pay had been made forcefully two years earlier in a 3 week strike of Ford Dagenham workers; this clearly served as a stimulus for what was about to happen in Leeds. A meeting of John Black`s workers elected an Unofficial Strike Committee demanding an immediate increase of a shilling an hour across the board under the slogan “gi` us a bob”. Its elected leader was one Harry Gridley, a member of the Communist Party (C.P.). The women marched around Leeds calling on workers in other workplaces to join them in the interests of solidarity. Nearly all did so, and a mass meeting was called in Leeds Town Hall with an atmosphere similar to that of the recent Civil Rights protests in the U.S.A., singing “We Shall Not Be Moved”. The Union leadership, fearing that it was losing control, refused to support the strike. Harry Gridley, true to the C.P.`s tradition of insisting that it should be in control, attempted manipulate the strikers into negotiating with the employers through official Union channels (“trying to ride two horses with only one arse”, as one of the unofficial strike leaders colourfully put it). By the fourth week the strikers, without Union backing and therefore receiving no strike pay and running out of funds, began to drift back to work. However the Equal Pay Act, passed later in 1970 and due to come into effect in 1975, perhaps gave them some satisfaction.

Viewed from the perspective of 2021, Leeds United is a piece of social history. By 1970 the textile mills in the surrounding towns in West Yorkshire and across the Pennines in East Lancashire were employing large numbers of immigrants, mainly from Pakistan. Towns such as Bradford, Huddersfield, Halifax, Dewsbury in West Yorkshire and Rochdale, Oldham, Burnley and Bolton in East Lancashire were already feeling the political effects (in the 1972 Rochdale by-election one Jim Merrick, a Bradford-based candidate for the British Campaign to Stop Immigration received 8.9% of the vote). Yet the workforce in the Leeds strike was exclusively white. Few if any of the strikers could have foreseen what lay ahead. A moving moment in the film was the pride of a young worker telling her mother that she had acquired “a skill for life”. Little did she realise that only a few years down the line her work would have been outsourced to cheaper labour overseas and the “bob an hour” would be on “the dustheap of history”. Leeds-United stands as one of the last hurrahs of the organised manual white working class. The road to zero hours contracts lay ahead.

Reviewed by Henry Falconer

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The Myth of Night Magic

The original poster for Night Magic

Night Magic is a 1985 Canadian-French musical film written by Leonard Cohen and Lewis Furey and directed by Furey. The film stars Nick Mancuso as Michael, a down on his luck musician whose fantasies begin to come true after he meets an angel (Carole Laure). The film’s supporting cast includes Stéphane Audran, Jean Carmet, Frank Augustyn, Louis Robitaille, Anik Bissonnette, Nanette Workman and Barbara Eve Harris.

Article By Nick Mancuso

I starred in Night Magic. And I feel guilty about it. A marvelously original musical by two geniuses Leonard Cohen and Lewis Furey. Take a listen. Find this lost Canadian film.I say geniuses because there is no doubt that Leonard Cohen remains one of the great legends in music history, poetry, and writing in the latter part of the 20th century in the period known as the 60s. As for Lewis well take a listen.

Leonard Cohen. A legend. Night Magic the unknown unsung movie he wrote starring myself Carol Laure Stephan Audron Jean Carmet directed by Lewis Feury first time at the bat. Cinematography by Phillppe Rouseleaut. Choreography and dancing by Eddie Toussant Ballet de Montreal and Frank Augustine of the National Ballet of Canada.

A class act of a film and a complete flop.It reflected a time of mythic figures in cinema and music Fellini Kurosawa, Godard. the Beatles. the Rolling Stones, Jim Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Bob Dylan, and from the frontier country of olden Canada Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchel, Neil Young, Gordon Lightfoot, and all the other illuminated crazies that infused my generation with the sheer force and hope for a shimmering bright new future. It reflected the echoes of a time that would once and all-time end the war to end all wars.And bring about a time of peace and love.To my mind at least this was the subtext of Night Magic. Yes, it was to be peace and love and this unknown little film spoke about it all. Success. Fame. Love. Immortality

We started in Montreal Canada in the late summer of 1984. It was a wonderful summer that year in Canada in my favourite city. Night and Magic. The Baby boomers sing and dance.Just watch us.The Baby Boomers born from desperation and sprung from parents who had survived the worst event in human history and who were not one of the corpses piled in the millions into mass graves. Who had not been transmuted into hot ashes or evaporated by the nuclear flash of Hiroshima. We children were survivors and children of survivors. We had done something right to be alive and to stay alive and therefore had a purpose a reason to be.A reason to sing and dance.Leonard Cohen was to be the voice of our generation. He was one of these amazing children born in Montreal in 1934 a Jew who was not hatched in Europe but born into a safe harbor called Canada. His father was a successful merchant his mother the daughter of a distinguished rabbi.His teacher was one of Canadas greatest poets Irving Layton.His guitar teacher who was an immigrant Spaniard taught him some basic chords and then committed suicide. He was an artist through and through. A true Bohemian not a hippy or a yippie and certainly not a yuppie or the X generation. Leonard learned 3 chords and started strumming along to the song of the Universe.Leonard was a born poet but he wanted to be like David to play the harp and sing. To God and for God. And my character Michael was modeled on this modern cinematic David.These are the thematics of this little unknown orphan of a film shivering in a snowbound lane way. Lol as the theologically correct cynical children of today smirk.Buried and forgotten.

The film is in fact a very biblical and religious fairy tale and Carol Laure is not only a perfect angel but she is the Virgin Mary and Suzanne all wrapped up into one brunette Marianne. A modern fairy tale lost and forgotten in a Quebec winter.How odd in the Age of Beyonce and Lady Gaga and COVID to think that a film like this could ever be made.And yet it was.Another era.In 1964 Leonard was at the perfect age and the perfect time. And in the perfect country; Trudeaus Canada the land of peace.Hope and brilliance were in the air.One day in 1965 my old friend then young now-deceased Alex Gottlieb announced to me that Leonard was writing songs and singing.At the University of Toronto, we knew him only as a poet a protege of Irving Layton.Alex put on the scratchy disk.”Susanne takes you down to her place by the river/ you can hear the boats go by/ you can hear the river answer…”What?An awful voice tuneless like fingernails on a chalkboard…..hopeless he was. There was no future for this unknown Canadian poet. Who the hell wants to hear songs about razor blades in the age of the Midnight Rambler? Alleluia. It’s ironic and fitting that Night Magic which he wrote with Lewis Furey should remain unknown hidden in the amnesiac snows of Canadian Cultural History. Like all things Canadian which do not exist until they exist in the outside world until they are recognized and lauded by the Americans or the British or God forbid the French. Night Magic disappeared into the night. I feel guilty about Night Magic and this article is by way of an apology to make amends to this little gem of a film playing that singing poet. I feel guilty because I did not go to Cannes when the film was accepted into the Directors Fortnight Category. I feel guilty for not walking the red carpet with the paparazzi screaming “Over here! Over here!”. I feel guilty because I helped bury the film by not suiting up and showing up. Because you see, this film is a gorgeous work of art musically and visually imaginative and more than deserves to be remembered. The film is about lost love and love found and lost again and the egocentric selfishness of the artist and his obsessions with himself and the consequences thereof. In the context of the larger picture I was perfect for the part at the time. My Salad days though slightly wilted.When Carol asked me to star in it while shooting Bobby Roths Heartbreakers with Peter Coyote I balked.I’m neither a singer nor a dancer and Michael was both. Stage fright paralyzed me.” I know you can do it” Carol told me. We had worked together on several films going back to the time of John Hirch’s CBC and Gille Carl. So I took the leap.Rehearsals began in Montreal a month before principal photography and that time I learned to sing and dance. Somewhat. I did it all by the numbers with much help from some marvelous people.But my voice was to be Lewis. I had done this sort of dubbing thing before when I filmed the rock star in “Blame it On the Night” original story by Mick Jagger. I gave a concert for 3 days at the San Diego Sports Arena singing in Ted Neeleys Voice ( Jesus Christ Superstar) in a 4-octave range and blowing out my voice in front of 10,000 people I was on stage with Billy Preston and Mary Clayton. Faking it. Pretending. An actor’s utter madness. But no risk no gain. And here’s the kicker.No gain means no fame and vice versa. Cosmic law in showbiz.And as Charlton Heston once told me while shooting a film called Motherlode with Kim Bassinger directed by Heston and written by his son Fraser: ” The trouble with showbusiness is that its business that is show and show that is business.” Ya cant win unless you get the loot.Leonard never cared much about the loot.

Night Magic made neither loot nor fame.It cared not a whit.“It is to such as you /that we were sent/ to speak directly to your deepest shame/ and light the fires of experiment…” So sang Michael in Night Magic so sang Leonard Cohen.” we claim you now…in the name of that which/ you have never done before /the victim shall be smitten on his Sore/ The Haughty One shall have a Visitor” What language!! Not exactly Rocky Horror!! Almost Elizabethan. Chilling words. Michael loses everything including the Angel that loved him “I burned the House of Love tonight” . Again Leonard. This film is very much about the fires of experiment. To my mind the fires that electrified the 60s. My generation. And Leonard’s even more so born 14 years earlier. The hope of a generation that betrayed itself. Look around you and listen to the music in this film beat its heart out against the diminishing rattle of a shifting Schumann Wave, the heart sounds of Gaia our Planet. A cacophony of sound. Splintered chords in syncopated 7/8 time.The music of Shtokhausen divided by Bertold Brecht. And so it began.We had a nothing budget and Robert Lantos who had produced the movie ran out of money so we the principal players threw some of our salaries back in.So why would I not go to Cannes? That was the question. Was it indifference? No, I had massive stage fright. I hated the red carpet. How bizarre.” I never thought / I’d get this far: ” Michael ” we always knew you would! “ The Angels

Fear is an ugly thing. Fear of success. Fear of the red carpet. Fear of judgment.Leonard had neither fear of success nor failure. He was a free man. But the film did not liberate itself.Was the film afraid?It was afraid of its own genius.Afraid it would be captured and compared.Afraid of its novelty.Who was the villain in the story? No one. It was self-betrayal . It was treason which according to Dante was the greatest of all sins. Night Magic betrayed itself and I like a good Mephistphelian actor played along. But for Leonard it was different.His Buddhism and dharma and Sangha kept him balanced. He bought a small house in the immigrant section of Montreal. To which he returned every now and then to “renew his neurotic affiliations.” He chopped wood and carried water for his old Roshi on Mt Baldy In California. He knew the score. He was not afraid.He stayed humble because from the get-go he knew everyone was in trouble.He didn’t kid nor kill himself much as he sang about it. He loved women and he loved song and he loved life and he was grateful to his maker the Creator of heaven and earth.He understood the essential magic of the universe. There’s a crack in things. That’s how the light gets in.

I first met Leonard Cohen in a macrobiotic restaurant in Montreal at midnight.We became instant friends. He asked if he could come and watch us rehearse at the National Theatre School.Of course. Dancing and sweating every day with Edie Tousant Ballet of Montreal and Frank Augustine of the National Ballet he, asked if he could bring me water or a coffee. Thank you.He was of service to others at all times.When he offered me the rights to Beautiful Losers his first novel I accepted. I was a beautiful loser and did nothing with the rights.The film itself became a beautiful loser.”I burned the house of Love tonight/ it made an aweful ring” Michael/Cohen Night Magic

Leonard was kind and gentle and sweet with an impish sense of humor. There was no anger nor frustration in the man. He had the feeling of a man who knew the jig was up. With him, everything seemed possible because there was a smile at the end of the Universe. The cold razor blade reality was not his. Its something he wrote about.“everybody knows/the war Is over/ everybody knows/ the bad guys won:” So drink eat sing and dance deep into the night for tomorrow you will pay the bill.

Night Magic was originally entitled The Hall.I think it was Robert Lantos the producer of the film who gave it the name Night Magic. The Hall a classic Cohenism was too prosaic for Mr. Lantos. He went on to become along with Garth Drabinski Canada’s most successful producer and yet when I asked him years later how it felt to have succeeded he told me he felt like a loser. “Why?” I asked?

Because I wanted to produce….you know…films.” He was, of course, talking David Korda films, MGM …you know films. Gone With the Wind films, The Red ShoesStar Wars, The Godfather, Rambo. In a relative world, we are all of us…losers. It’s hard to believe Night Magic the film was ever made. Before the existence of MTV and music videos, a film totally ignored by Canada written by a Canadian legend. How utterly fitting. It’s a marvelous gem of a movie and I am happy to have been a part of it. Thank you Leonard Cohen. Thank you Night Magic.

Nick Mancuso, Paris 2020

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To the Universal Sound and Silence

 

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Foreword

I can only write for the future
The present is lost to me for I have lost the art of living in the moment.
I am bypassed. But as I watch the busy traffic pass I hold the slightest of smiles upon my lips
The future I can never know and yet I seem to understand this unknowable better than the present – better than reality
Dogs and Days are as Madmen under a strong sun
I will walk by the river stopping whenever possible to quench my thirst
I will never see the river’s end but carefully and with much concentration I shall fold a boat from strong paper and launch it into the river’s current
I am an optimist

New Beginnings
There is a rhythm in life. There is a natural rhythm – a vast collection of breaths; sea rising; sun pulsing; leaves dying – and there is the rhythm of Humankind
As we flow through time – squeezed by earthy banks into a fast coursing current or gently running over pebbles in a wide, white foamed stream – our rhythm will respond. Like a baby breathing in time with its mother – gently rising and falling on her soft flesh then, all being well, we will also breathe in harmony

Sometimes we push against the flow
Sometimes we find ourselves in a backwater
Sometimes we are drawn to an eddy – sucked in and down
Sometimes we are washed onto the crumbling earth of the river’s bank
Sometimes we sail proudly
Sometimes we swim through muddy water

Sometimes the river is dammed
Sometimes the river is polluted
Sometimes the river’s course is altered
Sometimes the river flows through banks of concrete
Sometimes the river cascades – water falling
Sometimes the river flows easily to the sea

What are we – but droplets in this current?

Part 1

For the Silent Place

There came a time when the world filled with people. And the people drove animals to extinction or into zoos or onto reserves. Only the rat flourished. And the insects. Industrious creatures both
The world teemed with people & rats & insects
The seas slowly died
Where then could I find silence?
Where then could I find peace?
Where then could I find my sound and silence within harmony?

As I took my foot from its boot it slipped snugly into your shoe
Where my breath ended – so yours began
We stood together in the wretched filth of our bodies
And the foul water of our flesh fed the drying seas
And still the world was filled
Movement ceased and noise gathered
This was the world I was born into, the world you created. Dropped into the gutter – many bodies falling like fleshy rain
Thanking our God for the rain falling from above – we turned our faces to His heaven and stuck out our tongues
O how the rain tastes even after falling from pregnant-dark clouds. Pitter-patter we squeal and squelch into the sewer. A sewer of beady eyed insects and nibbling rats
Where is the Silent Place?

Did you create this place?

Some of us hold hands and wipe each other’s brow
Some bite chunks of flesh and stamp out stomping ground
Some weep
Some cry out and up in vain

Rats and insects become food and currency for us teeming people. And we thought this so for all people. But there were some who could soar with the eagles or would range like the tigers of old.
Some who lived in houses ringed with barbs – not in flimsy huts or propped up by others or squatting down dreaming of fires and their distant warmth.

Brothers and Sisters – I am leaving your side and all our friends and enemies and I am going in search of silence and beauty.
Who will come with me? Who will come to find harmony and their place in the Universal Sound?

Those who wept as their bodies crushed together smiled suddenly and said to me, ‘Take us not with you Brother; we are needed here for the salt of our tears…for the salt of all our tears.’
To them I replied, ‘I will not force you to accompany me. How can beauty and peace and harmony be found through force? If you blow forcefully into a flute there is no beauty in its note. I offer you my company – for you to walk beside me. As notes gather in a chord.’
At this they backed off and closed in amongst themselves – squeezing the air from around their bodies so that not a hair separated them. Sound was sucked from their flesh.
‘Our labours keep the fires burning; the rats skinned and cooked. Who else would or could do this?’

Those who cried at the sulphurous sky, longing for rain to fall whispered to me: ‘Do not take us Brother for we too are needed here. We keep our ways and our people safe. Who else can pass swift messages or catch rain in their hair?’
I replied: ‘I will not turn your faces from the heavens but only guide you towards a simpler more silent place where the only noise is sweet music and where you neither need to cry your laments nor shout in desperation to Heaven.’
At this they turned from me and held their heads aloft – joining one and another with their thin fingers.

And then a voice from this multitude said: ‘I have stood so close to people for so long, these my Brothers and Sisters, I do not know if I can walk independently O Brother – and if I can walk – then how far.’
To this I replied: ‘You are both part of and separate from your Brothers and Sisters. Let your eyes seek the distant horizon – go on tip-toe – even though the throng is close you will see beyond. Where your eyes perceive the distance there your legs can carry you for first you must know where you are heading if not your destination. And if you say – “but my legs are weak, Brother” or “I have no legs to bear me Brother” then will not others without your desire or courage carry you? They will exalt your cause even if they have not the bravery to follow it. These Brothers and Sisters are heroic in their own way.’
And he replied, ‘I will look past and beyond you Brother and shall walk by your side.’

And then a Sister from the multitude said: ‘If we leave and follow you who will there be left to bear children? Who will nurture the young growing between the forests of limbs, in the wet at our feet?’
‘Not all will follow,’ I replied. ‘When we reach the quiet place then you can give birth in beautiful silence and peace.’
‘You spoke of beautiful music, Brother…’
‘The sound of a breeze through reeds and the gentle pulse of a drum. The soft tinkling of the stars.’
The Sister, bright-eyed, spoke again: ‘I must wait with my friends and loved ones for the world to change. For soon it will change. All will be well and we shall dance in ecstasy.’
I said, ‘Sister, I shall think of you when we arrive and keep a fire burning for you and your loved ones.’

A tall Brother – a head and shoulders above the multitude with eyes a piercing blue – was casting his gaze down upon his fellow folk.
I called to him to follow but he said: ‘I have all the peace and quiet I need. Around and below me I see trees swaying in the wind and the grass bending like a wave with the gentle breeze. The fragrances of flowers enrapture me.’
‘Look at me Brother,’ I said.
He, with his head bowed smiled slightly: ‘I both see you and feel you with me.’ He then raised his head and took a deep breath of air. ‘I can see to the farthest horizons of this world,’ he said.
To this I replied, ‘And can you see our destination, Brother?’
But he shook his head and a tear fell from an eye.

When the time came we departed from the great city of flesh – though our departure seemed never-ending. We appeared to travel constantly through the present, never leaving that – our – world at all. Some of the Brothers and Sisters melted once again into the hot flesh of their family and folk. But those who walked with me carried on resolutely.
My gaze was to the farthest point where the heavens made a fleck of blue sky – a celestial wink in the dark firmament. For I saw beyond my lofty brother who had learnt to grow so tall and who had great and beautiful inner visions.
For two days we travelled so.
On the third day something surprising happened.

As we walked through the great multitude we began to notice that the land under our feet was dry and firm and that every so often a Brother or Sister would be sitting down amongst the throng on a (well-crafted) chair in front of a table. We noticed that on these tables were sturdy piles of parchment (as old as our oldest memories) and by them quills held in slender vases with nearby wells of ink.
Had we forgotten that we teeming people were the heirs of language and literature?
In front of a Brother seated at a table I asked:
‘What is it Brother that you write so diligently sat amongst your Brothers and Sisters who standing together wait for the rain and also wait for the sun?’
This man seated replied:
‘You are at liberty to read what I have written Brother.’
But when I looked there was only a picture – a quite primitive sketch made by the quill and ink.
The Brother smiled at me. ‘We are givers of laws,’ he said. ‘We are at the forefront of this endless world. Can’t you see?’
As I stood by this Brother a Sister handed him food and drink. In her eyes she marvelled at the parchment and was filled with love for the Brother.

Gradually we saw more and more such Brothers and Sisters seated behind their tables.
After one day of walking and sleeping and eating the meat of rats and the crusts of insects (as we could find or were given) we were then startled by an even greater change.
There came a time when as we walked Brother behind Sister and Sister behind Brother all the folk of that unrolling land were seated. So that we passed a place where it was more unusual to see a folk standing than it had previously been to see a folk sitting.
On the desks of these Brothers and Sisters were placed boxes and on the front of these boxes were flickering lights. From behind these boxes serpents slithered and wound over the dusty earth. Lines like creepers from the days of forest and jungle shone and sparkled in the air. This was a curious place for us.
Before the flashing lights the Brothers and Sisters were held as if in a spell. Their countenance was of a kind of spell-bound trance but their fingers moved nervously.

‘O how long before we reach the place of quiet and peace?’ I was asked. But I hushed the questioner and went quietly up to a Sister sat motionless before a box. Turning back to the questioner I whispered, ‘What do you hear?’ For it was true that the sound of the multitude had receded into the background – like a swarm of distant insects. Nevertheless almost drowning my whisper was a great hum as if thousands upon thousands of crickets (that sometimes descended upon us) were swarming above.
The questioner smiled. As well he might.
‘But it is not quiet,’ I said, ‘and there is no peace – and there is no space for us here to sing and dance.’
‘Sing?’ said a Sister dancing.
‘Dance?’ sang a Brother.

Bending down to the Sister in front of the box I could see upon it writing and pictures. It was as if a brain had been opened and its mind spilt onto the surface of this box.
It was true.
We had heard of these things from long ago. All of us.
How curious that they should exist – or even be allowed to exist.
How curious that this device existed when our Brothers and Sisters scrambled for rat meat and insect crusts.
We had heard of these machines from long ago (so we thought) and of their flashing lights but we did not expect such orderly writing and images – both unreal and alien. My eyes tightened in concentration.
‘It is a spring from the godhead,’ she said. ‘All life can be viewed here.’
Our group of travellers gathered round. The machine hummed as if in prayer and we sprang back in reaction when words came from it. I looked around and heard all the boxes chattering as if a flock of gulls had descended to roost.
‘Can wisdom be found in its spirit?’ I asked.
‘All can be found,’ said the Sister.
I asked, ‘Then,’ thinking carefully and mindfully, ‘can it tell us what love is?’
‘It can show you love,’ said the Sister.
‘Then it cannot be wise as you say,’ I replied, ‘and cannot therefore spring from God.’
‘Are not all things and all knowledge sprung from God?’ asked the Sister
‘Only the hidden things,’ I replied, ‘as God is hidden and mysterious.’
‘God is no longer a mystery,’ she smiled.
‘Then God is no longer God,’ I said.
‘God cannot be “no longer”,’ she said.
‘Then God is certainly elsewhere,’ I replied.
The Sister hunched before the box. All the Sisters and Brothers sat so. Were they at prayer?
Then they all sang:
We are happy
We are wiser
We are growing one and all
We are unity
We are family
We are children from before the fall

‘Will any of you leave your machines and join us?’ I asked smiling.
But none came.

As we left the children of this multi-God a Brother asked me:
‘Will you explain wisdom to us Brother?’
I replied:
‘Wisdom is to know The Uncertainties of the Soul; to know that some and not all can and will be revealed. Journey is mystery.’
And I reflected upon the place and people we had left. ‘We each sit and watch the world through a window. And we know that we cannot see more but also that there are as many windows as grains of sand. These melt to create the clear glass of God. As God sees All, so we see our own grain. But even with a billion grains of sand we cannot see God’s form. A wise man understands his limitations.’

Another Brother wished to question me of the nature of God and Heaven – even though I had no knowledge of these things – for I knew my limitations. But as he asked so I allowed myself to meditate and was drawn to give him the answers I did.
‘My wife is dead Brother, many years gone; will we know each other when we meet in Heaven?’
I replied: ‘Heaven is without time – there is no movement in Heaven but for the Spirit and the Spirit we all share has no substance – none that can be found on earth except for that spark we each carry. The spark of spirit that is our soul has no earthly substance yet it can be carried within our earthly body. It is this spark, this point of light, this ocean drop that will soar to Heaven. You will join with your wife in Heaven and know her through this joining but you will also know all other sparks, other points of light and other drops in the Great Ocean..’
‘Forgive me Brother,’ he said, ‘but what is it that I will know of my wife – will I be able to kiss her tenderly after all these long years apart – will those who have lost children be able to hug them again and enfold them in a protective embrace?’
I replied: ‘These things will not be so Brother. There will be no need. In joining your wife or in apparent rejoining their son or daughter all will be healed and perfect – as God is perfect. There will be no division. There cannot be a kiss Brother for nothing of the flesh shall survive…’
He answered quickly: ‘But we show our love through our bodies…’
I replied equally as quickly: ‘Our love Brother, but not the love to be found in Heaven. If there is a kiss there is a hurt and if there is food to be enjoyed then there is waste to be defecated and if there is earthly love and the bonding of a man and woman then there is no children and only the withering of that flesh. Flesh is of this world as is the flesh of rat; in Heaven a kiss or the taste of fruit – yes Brother, a taste we all long to experience in this barren world – or that self-less love for a child – none of this will be found in Heaven. Heaven will be beyond our pitiful love, beyond the pleasure of our pitiful senses and even greater than the self-less love and sacrifice for a parent to their child. Your wife is beyond you as you – when you die – will be beyond your family and friends. And this will cause you no grieving but only joy in joining with the other sparks of light into the Great Illumination and other points of light into the Great Illumination and other drops of the ocean into the Great Ocean that reflects and is part of the Great Illumination. Light, Fire and Air exist within this Great Illumination as we transcend from our earthly state.’
He asked, ‘But will we know ourselves Brother? Will we know ourselves if we have no body? No desires? No feeling?’
I replied: ‘You will both know your spark, your point, your drop of ocean and you will not know the cares and experience of the world. Your earthly life will fade almost in an instant because you will wish it so. You will know the destiny of all souls even those who will live the cruellest of lives upon this teeming world. When you are joined in this timeless state you will barely understand what it is to feel desires – you will not understand a finite life in a cumbersome body as you did not understand timelessness when you dwelt on earth.’
He asked with great passion, ‘Then why I am I on this earth with its teeming people, with a short unhappy lifespan if all our destiny is to be joined as one?’
‘It is to show you that God exists. Once in Heaven you will know everything and need to know nothing. You will become part of God and therefore not know that you were separated. This is a trace of our soul that is never extinguished from our earthly time. Even the child that dies in the womb knows it is separated from God. Then it can return.’
He said plaintively, ‘But why? Why give us this pain when we could have existed for all time in timelessness?’
I replied: ‘Listen to your words Brother, how can you, live for all time in timelessness? We have to be born into time to know the horror of its finiteness – and the restriction of the flesh.’
He said boldly: ‘Why? Why not be and remain in timelessness?’
I replied, ‘Because we are all both unique and a part of the great whole – we are the spark in the fire, the point of light in the ray of sunshine and the droplet in the ocean – we have had to be born into flesh and time to know that we are a part of but not exterminated by the Great Illumination.’
The Brother walked away and back towards the teeming life from where we had travelled. I was sad that my words had not comforted him.
I thought.

A Sister called after us:
‘You search for peace and quiet?’ Her tone was rushed and pleading.
I said, ‘Yes Sister.’
She said, ‘What you are searching for is God’s presence.’
I said, ‘God?’ in a surprised tone.
She said, ‘’God is peace and stillness.’
I said, ‘Then I shall find Him.’
She said, ‘He is here, Brother.’
I said, ‘Here?’
She said, ‘Indeed Brother we find God in peace and stillness.’
I said, ‘There is neither peace nor stillness here.’
She said, ‘You must find these things within yourself.’
I said, ‘You are a noble being Sister but God cannot be found here. God has deserted this place if He were ever here.’
She laughed and I laughed.
She said, ‘Has God deserted us too?’
I said, ‘God has to be found. Living the life you lead in a place that is Godless – it will be difficult for Him to be found.’
‘But not impossible.’
I smiled. Was I in search of God or place where we could renew the Garden. In the seeds that we planted in our new land – would there also be the seed of the Fall? Would Brother turn against Brother and would Brother take a Sister to refill emptiness in God’s image?
‘Will you come with us Sister?’ I asked.
She replied, ‘I have no need,’ and returned in and amongst the cooling heat of humanity.

I considered. If we are to find the world that fits well with us – is it for ever over a distant horizon or in the planet dwelling skies? Must we confront difference and surmount conflict or take our difference and integrity to an isolated place? Doubt fell upon me as I cast my eyes upon the band of Brothers and Sisters who followed.

Farther on some Brothers and Sisters were gathered round a man stood proudly on a large rock. We heard cries lifting from the crowd. I walked towards them and as I did I had to step carefully over bodies lying in oozing mud. As I reached the crowd I heard:
‘We hate this man. We hate this man.’ They cried bitterly and as one. Some swore at him and some spat. His crime must have been heinous.
The man, standing above them on the large rock, said:
‘We must learn to live with one another in harmony.’
They cried, ‘We are not a Mass, a Flock to be driven or a Herd to be corralled.’ Then with much love and passion they spoke unanimously, ‘We hate you and we hate all you say.’
The man said, ‘I love this land, this stone that I stand upon.’
They cried, ‘We shall urinate at your feet until your land is despoiled.’
The man said, ‘And I love the land you stand upon.’
They cried and they howled and fouled the land at their feet.
I was surprised by the passion of their venom. Both shocked by and curious about them. Gently I turned the attention of a Sister to me. Without shame she had squatted down close to where I stood. Anger burnt powerfully and brightly in her eyes.
‘What is this man to you?’ I began, ‘that you revile him so?’
She said, ‘He is a hater of others.’
I said, ‘A hater?’
She said, ‘Listen to him speak.’
I said, ‘But he speaks of harmony.’
She laughed. ‘Are you to be hated too Brother?’
‘What does it take for me to be hated?’ I asked.
She eyed me suspiciously. ‘What do you speak of?’ she asked.
‘I speak of what I find within me,’ I said. ‘But I am not here to speak but rather to show.’
‘Do you challenge us Brother?’
‘What should I challenge? I speak my mind when it is wise to do so.’
This Sister turned to some of her folk close by.
‘Why are you so filled with hate?’ I asked.
‘Hate?’ she laughed, ‘why we are filled with Love Brother.’
The Brothers and Sisters gathered round the rock had fallen silent. I called up to the man who stood so resolutely. ‘Will you join us Brother? We are travelling to a place of peace, quiet and beauty.’
‘I cannot,’ this man replied.
‘Why?’
‘Because I am needed,’ he said.
‘You are unjustly hated,’ I said.
‘And that is my need,’ he said. ‘You speak of justice Brother but I serve justice here upon this rock.’
‘And how do you serve?’ I asked.
‘I am a siphon for their anger. I am a siphon for the injustices they face every day of their lives. And every day they scorn my words and they hear them too. And one day they will live in peace, quiet and beauty right here. For all their hatred will have been dissipated.’
‘Who gave you authority to be such a siphon?’ I asked.
‘I did,’ said the man.
‘And who feeds you and quenches your thirst?’ I said.
‘They do,’ said the man.
I looked at the Brothers and Sisters gathered round the rock with the man standing there so. Suddenly the quiet that had descended lifted and was filled with spits and sneers and shouts and foul language. Their attention was turned from me. I lifted my eyes once more to the man on the rock. He looked down at me and smiled.

We came to a place by the sea where people ate fruit. They ate meat from rats and crumbs from insects and they ate the soft flesh of fruit – though I could not see a tree. I sat with my back to a great grey rock both jagged and smooth. Easily I found a comfortable position and both watched and listened to the sea. Some Brothers and Sisters scavenged along the sea’s side – their movements furtive and apprehensive.

Before long my outward eyes closed and the eternal rhythmic sound of the sea lulled me into a day dream. And I saw in this dream:
A town from our memories. A town with golden cupolas and searching spires. A young girl was skipping down a pavement bordering a large cobbled square. In the middle of this square a fountain sprinkled water and around this laid out in a circle were beds of multi-coloured flowers.
The girl was alone and excited – she received disinterested smiles from passing strangers. Arcades flanked the square on all its sides and were decorated with a profusion of hanging baskets.
Into my dream came a dark voice. Not altogether an unpleasant voice but deep and resonant – with something of an inquiring manner; too confidential perhaps; smooth on first hearing but with a bitter aftertaste.
The voice said:
What is it that makes these people, these strangers smile?
Is it fear?
Poison can be carried in the most beautiful of packages – striking colours and shapes; if it wishes so.
I am observing your dream with interest but I am suspicious that this vision is built on the hard rock of Oppression.

I did not answer the dark voice but rather let the un-(sub)conscious day dream unveil itself with the honesty and integrity of a young bride. I felt no conscious interplay with my dream – simply I was the onlooker, or –in-looker.
A boy ran across the cobbles of the Great Square and its smooth stone pathways. Cheekily and yet gingerly he stepped through the circular flowerbed and into the pool where water from the fountain gently wetted his skin and clothes.
(All through this dream my sub-conscious mind must have been in awe at the images it created. For I dreamt of both the past and the future of what was and what might be and what might have been. Traces of the past still existed in our world and there were those who seeded our minds with forbidden treasures. In our world I hungered after more than rat meat and was more industrious then the creeping beetles when it came to grubbing out footnotes from the past. And yet also there were in my mind visions that could not have root anywhere or from anytime – unless that place be a parallel place and the time be from the future. But I had to be careful at all times. I was in some way no different from my fellow Brothers and Sisters and yet in other ways I dwelt in the land of chimera and spirit.)
Nimbly the boy climbed the statue from where the water spouted. The statue was that of a man with a wide smile and laughing eyes. The people of the town had built this statue of him in honour of his unflinching and determined struggle to bring democracy to them.
The dark voice spoke from its dark interior:
The boy insults the spirit of the statue. You see, the young have no care for their ancestors or for the world they have inherited.

The boy climbed to the statue’s bare head. He flung his arms around the head as he would his beloved grandfather. Then, balancing himself he cast his eyes beyond the town’s squares and the surrounding houses. Around the town, hills undulated peacefully – lush green with pockets of deciduous trees. Animals grazed and crops grew. The boy’s eyes traced a buzzard’s movement across the sky and in the distance a majestic gigantic aircraft sailed noiselessly.
The voice coughed in a smirk, sharpening its edges:

A sweet voice called to me. Turning in its direction I saw a child – a girl – with a heart-shaped face and with wild blonde licks of hair framing it. The child said: ‘I have many questions to ask you sir.’ I said: ‘Then ask me your questions child and I shall listen and answer as honestly as I can.’
But before she could answer a butterfly caught her attention and laughing gleefully she chased it, uttering cries of pleasure and excitement. Eventually the butterfly rose into the air and escaped her grasping hands.

By Tim Bragg
Tim Bragg is the author (amongst many books) of ‘Lyrics to Live By – Keys to Self-Help; Notes for a Better Life’ available from Amazon

Picture courtesy of Elaine Bampton

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Citizens of Boomtown: The Story of the Boomtown Rats

Citizens of Boomtown: The Story of the Boomtown Rats
https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000jjr5

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The Boomtown Rats in Ireland

This documentary about the Boomtown Rats has its faults but is hugely entertaining and informative. Director Billy McGrath records and analyses both the band’s history and its music. He highlights key (sometimes iconic) footage documenting its huge success and subsequent fall from popularity. Guests include Bono, Sinead O’Connor, Dave Stewart, Jools Holland, David Mallet and Sting, as well as music writers, photographers, and historians all give their views on the history and social impact of the Rats.

I should declare my interest. I am a Boomtown Rats fan. I loved ‘A Tonic for the Troops’ when I first heard it. I loved the mix of punk rebellion with people who could actually play instruments and carry a tune. I loved the relative complexity of the lyrics.

The Boomtown Rats originated in Ireland. An Ireland that was economically grim and socially frozen. Ireland was dominated by the allied Church and State and to many young people was depressing and corrupt. All many wanted to do was escape. That was certainly true of the members of the Boomtown Rats. Added to that sense of alienation or estrangement was there disrupted family backgrounds. All in all a mix for anti-authority, questioning and rebellious positions. And that’s exactly what you got.

For me, the relationship between their Irish roots and the state of that nation was one of the most fascinating aspects of the documentary. The lyric of Banana Republic written in response to the band being banned from performing in the Republic is uncompromising. Take the chorus:
“Banana Republic
Septic Isle
Suffer in the Screaming sea
It sounds like dying
Everywhere I go
Everywhere I see
The black and blue uniforms
Police and priests”

The Irish establishment took a dim view of this song and Geldof’s earlier “denunciation of nationalism, medieval-minded clerics and corrupt politicians” in a 1977 interview/performance on Ireland’s The Late Late Show. The Irish Times described the band as “a thorn shoved into the skin of church and state”.(1)

Yet the Rats were also one of Ireland’s most successful exports for a time opening up opportunities that other Irish bands followed. And Geldof never abandoned Ireland itself whilst maintaining his criticism of the system there.

There are many ‘might have been questions’ raised by the documentary. The Rats were ahead of their time in terms of producing music videos but there was no dedicated music video channel at the time. Had there been maybe they would have broken through in the United States. If Geldof had been less abrasive and understood America and Americans better perhaps they would have done better there. As the Irish Times put it: “Geldof, for whom keeping his mouth shut did not come naturally, went out of his way to alienate US audiences by deriding the sainted Bruce Springsteen.” (2)

You can mark the end of the band at different points but I would place it when they failed to breakthrough in the United States. It didn’t help that the anthemic I Don’t Like Mondays was blocked by legal threats from being produced as a single there.

Bob Geldof kept busy. He starred in Pink Floyd the Wall (released in 1982) cast as the mentally deranged Fascist leader Pink. He brought his energy to organise the massive 1985 Live Aid charity concerts and the Xmas hit Do they know it’s Christmas? and many associated efforts for famine relief in Africa.

The Rats reunited as a part-time touring act in 2013 and in 2020, 36 years after their last release. They also produced a seventh album, Citizens of Boomtown (after which the documentary is named). Although keyboardist Johnny Fingers and early-era guitarist Gerry Cott are both absent, the Rats of 2020 — Geldof, guitarist Garry Roberts, bassist Pete Briquette, and drummer Simon Crowe – are all original members. The album received mixed reviews but the live gigs were said to be filled with energy and passion by those who attended.

In both the documentary and in an interview with Rolling Stone Geldof insists that the band’s older songs aren’t nostalgia but are relevant today:

““When I sing ‘I Don’t Like Mondays’ I’m not in 1979,” he says. “I’m in last night’s school massacre, which nobody anticipated at the time. When I’m doing ‘Rat Trap,’ it’s not for the hopelessness of the people in that abattoir I wrote it in, but hopelessness now. When I do ‘Banana Republic’ it’s not for the Irish Republic, which eventually grew up and matured. It’s for the American republic as it descends ever further into political infantilism.”

“When I do ‘Lookin’ After No. 1′ it’s not about the conditions of life in 1979,” he continues. “It’s about Google and Facebook and [Mark] Zuckerberg always on, always monitoring, collating every thought you have, every friend, every choice, packaging and selling it to a third party who in turn exploits you and your preferences. It’s utterly now. That rage, that animus propels the Boomtown Rats.” (3)

I can’t hope to cover all the informative, thought-provoking, and entertaining aspects of this documentary. It is so full. Though there are still aspects missed such as Geldof’s support for Father’s Rights and his opposition to Brexit.

I said at the start that it had flaws. There is a very contrived ‘interview’ with Bob Geldof at the beginning which I think is meant to be funny but isn’t. I didn’t make much of the rather ‘art-schooly’ of the band walking through a tunnel behind a figure wearing a gas mask and pulling a board laden with rocks. Each to their own though! It is also a little self-congratulatory but given the band, and particularly ‘Saint Bob’s’ contribution to humanitarian relief and social progress maybe we can forgive them that!

Reviewed by Patrick Harrington

(1) https://www.irishtimes.com/…/the-boomtown-rats-citizens-of-…
(2) https://www.irishtimes.com/…/citizens-of-boomtown-bob-geldo…
(3) https://www.rollingstone.com/…/bob-geldof-interview-boomto…/

Picture credit: By Author unknown; Photo courtesy Orange County Archives – https://www.flickr.com/photos/ocarchives/5486877395/, No restrictions, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14267259

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Eurovision Song Contest: the Story of Fire Saga


Rating: PG-13 (for crude sexual material including full nude sculptures, some comic violent images, and language)
Genre: Comedy
Directed By: David Dobkin
Written By: Will Ferrell, Andrew Steele
On Disc/Streaming: Jun 26, 2020
Runtime: 121 minutes
Studio: Netflix


When everything around us is grim: Coronavirus, impending economic disaster, increasing political polarisation and – of course – Brexit and the climate change crisis, you might be forgiven for looking to watch something escapist to take you mind off things at least for an hour or so.  If so, Will Ferrell’s Eurovision Song Contest is just the tonic you need.
It’s common in Britain to treat

the annual Eurovision Contest with disdain and condescension; so this film could easily have take the lazy option and been a sneer-fest at the expense of this very popular event. It’s not. It’s an affectionate and gentle send-up of Eurovision’s more absurd, camp and at times startling features; including the voting system.


The plot, such as it is sees Lars  Erickssong (Will Ferrell) as a not-that-talented singer in a small Icelandic fishing village realise his ambition to represent his country at the 2020 Eurovision Contest in Edinburgh. Sigrit Ericksdottir (Rachel McAdams) is his best friend and his much more talented partner in Fire Saga. They get through to the final by default after an explosion on a boat wipes out the favourite to win the Icelandic heat and all the other entrants.


Pearse Brosnan plays Ferrell’s embarrassed father with superb grumpiness. There are cameo appearances from Graham Norton as himself and some real-life past Eurovision winners. Add a very camp Russian competitor, and a sexy Greek one to each make a play for Sigrit and Lars to introduce some tension between them.


The onstage performances are terrifically choreographed – as are the inevitable disasters, but Fire Saga’s entry song Double trouble makes it through to the final. There are some twists in what passes for a plot but who cares about the plot in this delightful romp? 


There are fantastic, catchy songs – which, like genuine Eurovision songs – are dreadful ear worms. You won’t get Jaja Ding Dong out of your head. I bet it will become a disco and party standard in years to come. Set all your worries and troubles aside and just luxuriate in this hugely entertaining film. 

Reviewed by David Kerr

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Archeofuturism/ Archeofuturism 2.0 Reviewed

Archeofuturism/

Archeofuturism 2.0

-Guillaume Faye

Reviewed by Anthony C Green

Archeofuturism is a work of political theory/prophecy written by Guilaume Faye and published in 1998 which ends with a Science Fiction Short Story. Archeofuturism 2.0, first published fourteen years later, is a work of eleven interlocking Science Fiction Stories that serve to further illustrate Faye’s Political Philosophy.

I read them back to front, on the basis that as a long-standing fan of Science Fiction 2.0 would be an easier ‘in’ to Faye’s ideas.

 Would I have enjoyed 2.0 as pure SF, had I not known that it was written as an addendum to a work of political philosophy, and had not at least had a minimal acquaintance with the strand of thought of which Faye is a key representative?

The best political, or as it’s more usually known ‘Social’ SF, Jack London’s The Iron Heel, almost all of the books of Ursula Le Guin, Orwell’s Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty Four, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, the novels of the Soviet novelist Boris Strugatsky, read as though the story came first: the political philosophy flowed naturally from the story. That is as it should be. The danger with the approach of Faye, who was clearly writing fiction as a means of putting across a political message, is that the writing becomes unnecessarily stilted and didactic.

Had I begun with Archeofuturism, then I almost certainly wouldn’t have bothered with 2.0. That is because the single piece of fiction which closes the original book, definitely fits the description of being stilted and didactic, faults to which we can also add that of an unforgivable overuse of cliché. As a writer myself who spends much time, no doubt some of it fruitlessly, on combing my own writing to find over-used word-combinations in order to ruthlessly exterminate them, I instinctively recoil from any writer that uses phrases such as ‘fit as a fiddle’ or ‘stubborn as a mule.’

 There is still a tendency towards the didactic in 2.0, but the writing is far from stilted and I spotted no obvious, glaring examples of cliché. My decision to read 2.0 first was thus vindicated. Taken purely as a work of Science Fiction, this second book features a decent collection of stories that form a cohesive whole in a more or less consistent universe

Before moving on to a discussion of Faye’s ideas themselves, ideas which seem to have hardly changed in the two decades between the two books, I should perhaps give a short introduction to the author himself.

Faye was born in 1949 and died in 2019. He was involved with the French Nouvelle Droite (New Right) movement, along with Alain De Benoist from its inception in 1968. This movement was founded out of the remnants of the old, more traditionally Fascistic, Action Francaise, and was primarily a response to the revolutionary student/workers ‘events’ of May of that year. In 1970, still under the leadership of De Benoist, Faye was part of the attempt to develop the ideas of Nouvelle Droite beyond France into a European wide phenomenon. The movement that emerged was called GRECE (translated as ‘Research and Study Group for European Civilisation’). Faye remained a leading figure within both ND and GRECE until 1986, after which, until the publication of Archeofuturism in 1998, he dropped out of politics in order to establish a successful career in the media. Though political differences with De Benoist were by this time longstanding, Faye did not formally break with GRECE until the year 2000.

GRECE have correctly been described as ‘Gramscian’s of the Right’. Unashamedly elitist in nature, they eschewed the street activism normally associated with the European Far Right in favour of gradually influencing mainstream culture in the direction of a rebirth of European identity and civilisation. Archeofuturism and the Identarian movement which it has given birth to, can in part be seen as an attempt to marry the ‘Long March of the Institutions’ approach of GRECE with a more populist movement with appeal beyond an intellectually inclined elite.

In addition to Gramsci, the influences of both GRECE and Archeofuturism are similar, if not identical, and pretty much as you would expect: Nietzsche, Heidegger, Spengler, Evola, Carl Schmitt, Ernst Junker and other Conservative German Revolutionaries of the twenties. There are also substantial if not entirely acknowledged debts to the Post-War ‘Europe a Nation’ project of Sir Oswald Mosely.

One of the major differences between Faye and De Benoist concerned the issue of Paganism. Although Faye is not personally big on Christianity, he believes that De Benoist’s commitment to Paganism as the ‘True’ religion of the European peoples’ is unnecessarily alienating. On this at least, I am with Faye. It is of course true, as De Benoist and his co thinkers maintain, that Christianity was originally imported onto European soil from the Middle East, the birthplace also of the other two leading monotheistic religions of the world, Judaism and Islam. It is also correct to maintain that religious beliefs were held and practiced in Europe long before the arrival of Christianity. But Christianity has been around in Europe for a long time now. It was in the First Century AD that the first, mainly plebian-soldier Christian Roman converts arrived. It became the official religion of the continent following the conversion of the Roman Emperor Constantine in the Fourth Century. Many would argue that European civilisation, such as it is, has largely been built upon the principles of Christianity, and compared to other religions, at least in the terms of self-identification, it still remains dominant. These numbers may have dipped a little since they were published, but in 2010 over 76% of Europeans still described themselves as ‘Christians; and although only a small portion (and this is highly variable from country to country) of those self-defined Christians are active in the sense of regularly attending a place of worship, it is fair to say that almost certainly a majority of them believe literally in the existence of their monotheistic God, and this probably even includes a reasonable proportion of Anglican Vicars. I doubt that many of our modern-day Pagans believe in the literal existence of Odin or of the pantheon of Ancient Roman and Greek Gods in the manner that their ancestors almost certainly did. Paganism today is little more than a Post-Modernist conceit; and if we believe that European Civilisation needs to be united and reborn, wouldn’t it simplify the task of unification and rebirth if it was based upon a revival of the religion that the majority of its inhabitants already express some belief in?

So, we move on to the basic tenants of Archeofuturism. In essence, it is the marrying of ‘Archaic’ values, such as tradition, family, tribal belonging, natural hierarchy, with its naturally accompanying rejection of the Enlightenment values of Liberalism and Egalitarianism, with scientific-technological advance past, present and future. That is, whilst drawing heavily on the traditionalism of Evola, Archeofuturism does not follow him in an absolute rejection of the modern world. In fact, aspects of it, particularly of the possibility of accelerated technological advance, are positively embraced. This embrace constitutes the ‘futurism’ of Archeofuturism. Faye though adds a strong proviso: that modern technological society will exist only for a minority of the Earth’s population, a figure he puts at approximately 17%. The rest of the world will essentially return to a subsistence means of living roughly equivalent to that of the Middle Ages. The Euro-Siberian Empire which he sees as an essentially development in our own part of the world, will naturally be amongst the most technologically advanced civilisations.

 We will arrive at this two-tier socio/political/economic world of tomorrow through what Faye terms a ‘Convergence of Catastrophes’, a key phrase/concept in the Archeofuturist  world-view; and the prediction of which has led some to regard him as a prophet, heralding the coming of the world that we have seen rapidly taking shape around us over the last two decades.

 The ‘catastrophes’ that Faye predicted would soon converge into one single, world-changing catastrophe are: economic crisis’ that are ever more deep and ever more sever in their consequences; increasing conflict between the richer Northern part of the world and the poorer South (Faye doesn’t like the artificial conceptual division of the ‘West’ and the rest); the increasing movement of peoples from South to North, which Faye regards as no less than an invasion, a haphazard but no less very real process of colonisation; an upsurge in expansionist, militant fundamentalist religion, by which he cites almost exclusively the example of Islam; the increased likelihood of life-threatening health pandemics; and perhaps most importantly of all, because unlike many on the Far or ‘Alt’ Right, Faye is no climate change sceptic, devastating environmentalist change.

The events of 11th September 2001 (‘9/11), which occurred three years after the publication of the original Archeofuturism, the financial crash of 2008, the current Coronavirus health crisis, increasing evidence of dramatic climate change, and the acceleration of migration from South to North have on the surface at least leant credibility to Faye’s predictions.

However, we should stress that as a prophet, Faye is a little out with his dates. By the reckoning of his 1998 book, ‘convergence’ should have happened by now and we should already be living through the apocalyptic convergence through which the new Archeofuturist word order will emerge. I recognise though that this is more of an aesthetic than a political criticism. Futuristic writers, whether they are writing fiction or none-fiction, need to be ultra-cautious when specifying dates. The year Nineteen-Eighty-Four might have seemed a long way ahead when George Orwell was writing his classic novel, but the actual year 1984 is now as far in the past to us as it was in the future to Orwell.

Faye is in no doubt about the cause of each of the catastrophes taken in isolation, and the convergence of these catastrophes which will lead to the destruction of the socio-economic-political order, the order that only a relatively short period of time ago seemed to be an ever expanding monolith which would come to dominate the entire planet, for the befit of all.

This cause is Globalisation in the sense of the attempt to spread a single, interlinking economic system, free market capitalism, and a single system of political governance, liberal democracy, across the entire planet.      

In place of this, Faye sees the Convergence of Catastrophe as leading to the development of seven distinct blocs in a multi-polar world. These blocs will be: the Euro-Siberian; the Sino-Confucian; the Arab-Muslim; the North American; the South American; the Black African, and the Pacific Peninsula Asian. Only in three of these blocs, the Euro-Siberian, the Chinese led Sino-Confucian; and the North American, will the Scientific-technological way of living remain dominant, and it is only between these blocs that there would continue anything resembling our current level of world trade.

There will however be no strict dividing lines. Even within the primarily scientific-technological blocs a significant amount of the population, perhaps a majority, would live at a level pretty close to that of subsistence. Science and Technology would very much be the province of an elite, and because of this, according to Faye, scientific advance would actually be much swifter and more profound than it has been in a world that is, on paper at least, committed to the values of Egalitarianism.

Faye doesn’t fall into the globalist trap of attempting to prescribe a single ideal way of governance for all peoples. How each bloc conducts its political and economic affairs will essentially be a matter for them, though he uses the term ‘Empire’ to describe the Euro-Siberian bloc, a term which sometimes appears to be in conflict with his talk of ‘direct’ or ‘organic’ democracy.

This is probably the best place to mention Faye’s analysis of the Actually Existing European Union. His criticism of it is that it is neither one thing nor the other: its existence has undermined the power of individual nation-states, whilst failing to replace it with a centralised unifying body that has the power and the will to act. In the Euro-Siberian Federation of the future, which will essentially be a union of the current EU with Russia and its neighbouring countries, democracy of a sort will be retained through the use of regular referenda, but governmental officials within each constituent part of the bloc, will have the authority and the means to make and execute decisions rapidly and decisively when necessary. On today’s EU, Faye’s viewpoint is remarkably close to being a mirror image of that of Diem25, a ‘remain and reform’ movement, though of the Right rather than of the Left. In his view, although the present-day EU is nowhere near fit for the purpose of the future, the very fact of its existence makes the task of forging the necessary European unity much easier than it would otherwise have been.

This is one of the key differences between Faye’s Archeofuturism, and the main thrust of the National Populism that has gained ground throughout Europe in recent years. The new Populism of the type that is on rise in France, in Italy, in Germany, Hungary, Poland and elsewhere are with Faye in their opposition to multi-culturalism, they may even, like Faye, talk sometimes of a common European identity. But their chosen vehicle through which to oppose ethnopluralism and decadent liberal decay remains the nation-state.

Faye had little time for this. In his view, such nationalism is now outmoded. Indeed, for a French political activist, whether of Left or Right, Faye was very muted in his critique of the ‘Americanisation’ of French and European culture. For the Nouvelle Droite, opposition to the plastic, throw-away, pseudo-culture of America was and remains key. De Benoist even announced at one point his electoral support for the PCF, the French Communist Party, on the grounds that this party was the most consistent available defender of French culture in the electoral field. Faye on the other hand believed that American culture triumphed in the West simply because it is superior to anything that modern European nations are now able to produce. As an example, he compares the cinematic grandeur of the big Hollywood blockbusters to the pretentious and puny Arthouse efforts of most French, and other European cinema. Only when it is united under a strong, centralised leadership founded on the archaic values of our ancestors will European culture reach the level of, and finally exceed the achievements of the United States.

In place of outdated nationalism, Faye proposes, as well as continental unity, a rebirth of Regional identity. Thus, the citizen of tomorrow’s united Europe will be a partisan of the Euro-Siberian Empire, but also of Bavaria, Lombardy, Bretton, Cornwall, Yorkshire and so on.

Here, I will raise my first major criticism of Faye’s vision/project; and that is that I just don’t believe it will happen, and if it did, I don’t believe it would long survive. Yes, regional identity is strong. But national identity remains stronger. A United Europe is possible, possibly even including Russia, one day. But it could only be possible through a highly centralised, technocratic leadership with a strong European army able and willing to enforce its will; and that could only be achieved against the mass opposition of the peoples of the existing nation-states of Europe. This is true I believe even in a period of catastrophe. As I’ve mentioned, Faye died just before the outbreak of the Coronavirus. But hasn’t this (comparatively) mini-catastrophe demonstrated that, yes as Faye argued, the current EU has neither the power nor the will to act decisively, but also that it is to their own nation states and their own national traditions that people instinctively turn at a time of crisis? Faye’s United Europe would, even if it were to come about through a series of crisis’, which in itself is highly doubtful, would be inherently unstable because it would lack the consent of the people. I simply don’t believe that a new order could be built on strong regional identity plus loyalty to a new continent wide super power, whilst somehow cutting out the middle man, the nation-state. That middle man remains strong and popular, and continues to my mind to be the most sensible unit upon which to establish and maintain a system of government.

What is true of Europe is also true of the other nascent blocs Faye postulates. It is probably true that the Islamic countries of the world have much more in common with one another, as Faye argues, than that which divides them. It’s also true that a singular Arab-Islamic state, even in the present world order would be a force to be reckoned with, and could even be a pole of attraction that would prompt Muslim migrants to the West to head ‘home’ voluntarily, rather than to be forcibly driven out as is implied would be inevitable in the Archeofuturist world of tomorrow. You would expect that the dominance of a single language, that of Arabic, throughout most of the Arab world would make the cause of unity much easier to achieve than it is in our linguistically fractured Europe. And yet, despite the efforts of impressive enough leaders like Nasser and Gaddafi, Pan Arabism has been a failed project. What is true of Pan-Arabism is also true of Pan Africanism, despite the efforts of such inspiring exponents as Thomas Sankara, Nelson Mandela and, once again, Gaddafi. The attempt to forge distinct, more or less autarkic blocs will fail for the very same reason that multi-culturalism is everywhere in retreat. People are different; attachment to distinctive cultures and to nation states is strong, and crisis tends to strengthen rather than weaken those attachments.

Faye stresses many times that he is in no way arguing for the superiority of the technological-scientific way of living. He believes that people in the advanced technological nations of the modern world are no happier than were our ancestors living a much simpler agricultural way of life pre the Industrial Revolution, or than we were back in our primitive hunter-gatherer days. He is perhaps right.

However, Faye assumes without offering any compelling argument for his assumption, that the techno-scientific elite of the future would simply leave their farming/hunter-gathering brethren to live their simple, happy lives in peace. Does the historical record really suggest that this is likely? His reasoning for limiting science and technology to relatively small groups of people is primarily environmental. Even without the huge game-changing environmental disasters that Faye expects to happen, the resources of our planet are finite. Globalisation will fail, because the notion that every country in the world can raise itself technologically to the level of the most advanced countries of the wealthy nations of the North, will prove to be nothing more than a short-lived utopian fantasy. The Earth simply doesn’t have enough ‘stuff’ for everybody to live in such a way.

My counter-argument to Faye is that in a world where we have rejected even the pretense of a commitment to equality and freedom for all, why would the elite simply leave the rest of us to live happily ever after on our plots of land within our tight knit tribes and clans? Wouldn’t the technological elite simply use their power to do what elites have done ever since elites first appeared as a historical force, that is use their power to enslave others and plunder whatever increasingly scarce and valuable resources remain to be plundered, regardless of historic ownership? In a world were equality, liberty and fraternity are ridiculed as outdated notions of deluded idealists, why would a super-powerful technologically advanced elite (for Faye doesn’t shy away from the issue of Trans-Humanism) of the future simply accept that a rural-hunter-gatherer existence is as equally valid as their own way of life, and therefore vow not to interfere with the natural lifestyle of the more primitive members of their species? Given enough time, would these technologically-enhanced-superman even continue to see these primitive ‘others’ as members of the same species as themselves at all?

In his 2016 book Four Futures: Life After Capitalism, the writer Peter Frase offers up four possible future scenarios that he sees arising from continuing technological advance. These range from something very close to the Fully Automated Luxury Communism (which I’ve already reviewed on Counter-Culture-UK) of Aaron Bastani at one end of the spectrum, to what he terms ‘Exterminism’ at the other. His argument is that, although we currently live in a world where we are becoming increasingly superfluous to the needs of the elite as far as productive labour goes, we are still, fortunately for the majority of us, needed as consumers of the products that the owners of the means of production need to sell in order to maintain their life of luxury. What if, in the future, technology has advanced to the point where everything the elite could possibly need or want is produced for them directly by a super advanced technology that only they have access to, without the mediating factor of the need to create profitable surplus products? Without any commitment to egalitarianism, or any secular or religious reason to value human life for its own sake, wouldn’t it make sense for this super-elite to simply exterminate or leave to die out through hunger and disease the superfluous population, maintaining the existence only of those who can in some way prove useful to them, for reasons of their particular expertise say in maintaining and repairing the robot/slave army at their command, or for reasons merely of entertainment or lust?

The Archeofuturist world would not in my view be the happy, multi-polar world that Faye depicts at various stages of development in the series of short stories that comprise Archeofuturism 2.0. It could well a be Heaven on Earth, with perhaps even death itself having been conquered, for a tiny minority, the 1% as it is sometimes called today, though in reality the real super-rich are much less numerous than that. But for the majority it would be a dystopian nightmare beyond the wildest imagination of even our darkest creators of Science Fiction, something very much akin to the ‘Exterminism’ of Four Futures.

Before moving on to my own conclusions regarding Archeofuturism, I will first say something about those who have decided to (mostly in a virtual fashion, it has to be said) march behind the banner that Faye first raised. Generation Identity is primarily a youth orientated movement, and I’ve also read the short book of that name that serves as their manifesto. The book raises some of the central issues facing the people of the richer nations, particularly the younger people. Not only are these young people the first in many generations who can have no real expectation of a materially easier life than that of the parents. They are also perhaps the first generation in recorded history to live without a grand, unifying vision, a grand narrative beyond that of passive consumerism by which to live their lives. Their book is essentially a cry of rage against the ‘68ers’ deconstruction of all values, a nihilist enterprise that has left them adrift in a world devoid of meaning. They have latched onto Archeofuturism in a desperate attempt to restore such meaning. Their plight is a real one, but surely our brightest young minds can do better than commit themselves to a vision of a world where the future becomes the province of a tiny elite, with the rest of us sent backwards into a world we’d thought we’d long left behind?

In the grown up world, the European New Right, the Nouvelle Droite, has had some success in their Gramscian project of influencing mainstream politics. Parties like the National Rally in France, Jobbik in Hungary, Lega in Italy, Law and Justice in Poland have clearly been influenced by De Benoist, particularly through their combining of policies generally associated with the Right, especially in opposition to mass immigration, with more or less Leftist economic policies. These parties can’t be simplistically dismissed as ‘Fascists’ or Neo Nazis as easily as could the old British NF or BNP, the German National Democrats, or the MSI in Italy, though that of course doesn’t stop the more extreme factions of the Antifa from doing so. The Archeofuturist Front, which along with the youthful Generation Identity is the main organisational representation of Faye’s ideas, aren’t fascist either But take a look at their social media pages. Who are the heroes they champion? Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and Boris Johnson seem to figure prominently. As a working class socialist I can well understand why many, mainly white, working class Americans voted for Trump rather than for the Globalist Hawk Hilary Clinton in 2016; I can even understand why many will do so again, against the equally hawkish, equally globalist Biden, despite the breathtaking ignorance that Trump has displayed throughout his Presidency. I can understand also why Labour’s promise to overturn Brexit through a rigged second referendum led to the collapse of the so called Red Wall and the handing of a substantial majority to Johnson in December 2019. But to hold up these individuals as posing a genuine threat to the globalist order; to see in them a radical foreshadowing of the future?

The AF don’t stop there either. They also seem to idealise the rainforest destroying, free market fundamentalist Bolsonaro, the President of Brazil. Trump; Johnson; Bolsonaro, the leaders of the three countries with the highest death rate from Coronavirus in the world; and as if that wasn’t enough, they also supported the failed coup of the American backed nobody Guaido against the socialist Maduro government in Venezuela. 

Thus, far from representing a strand of opposition to globalized capital, the AF seem to have latched on to some of the most reactionary expressions of it.

By your idols shall you be known.

By way of conclusion, I’d simply reiterate that Archeofuturism 2.0 is worth reading purely as a work of Science Fiction. The original Archeofuturism is also worth reading, if only as a means to familiarise yourself with an ideology which seems, through a convergence of coincidence, including a televised Zoom appearance on Michael Gove’s bookshelves, to be enjoying a brief period of notoriety. But as a political philosophy and a prophecy of the future, I think it is neither plausible nor desirable.

 We are certainly living through, as Faye predicted, a period of perhaps unprecedented crisis. But we do have choices as to how we respond. I’d personally be happy to see a return to traditional values in the sense of seeing stable families and cohesive communities as the foundations of a decent society. But traditional is a different beast to archaic.

 I’m all for Futurism also, for making full use of technological developments past, present and future. But if the techno-scientific world we aim to create is to be closer to a Utopia than to a Dystopia, then we must not abandon our commitment to egalitarianism. In fact, we must strengthen it. This needn’t mean an egalitarianism where everybody has exactly the same, because such a world is either possible nor desirable. But egalitarian in the Social Democratic sense of ensuring equal opportunities for all, and through maintaining the commitment to a level below which no one is allowed to fall. Even with finite resources such a world is possible, but only if we retain egalitarianism as an ideal.

So, read Faye, but also read Bastani and Frase; and although it was written before the digital revolution, Murray Bookchin’s ‘Post Scarcity Anarchism’ is probably worth digging out too, as are the writings of many non-conformist Marxists, Anarchists and Utopians. The novels and the non-fiction of Bogdanov and his fellow Russian Cosmists are perhaps also worth revisiting. We need to base the future on what has worked for the most people in the past, but also on what some of the finest minds of past and present times have dared to imagine. Archeofuturism, in reality, does little more than to dress up the dead ideologies of Divine Right and Imperialism in the clothes of Science Fiction. It’s a good name, but Its vogue moment will prove mercifully short.

Anthony C Green, June 2020.

Archeofuturism, published by Arktos Media LTD, 1998

Archeofuturism 2.0 Arktos Media LTD 2016, 2012

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