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Archive for the ‘Reality’ Category


The word is that the unions in the UK are contemplating an all-out General Strike to coincide with the Tory party conference in October. Possibly it may include Black Friday.

I don’t belong to a union, only the Society of Authors, and the withdrawal of my freelance labour will hardly make any impact on the world of work. But like every adult in the UK, I am encouraged to  want, desire, buy, consume and grab as much stuff as anyone is willing to flog me.

Usually I enjoy shopping, either online or for real. But I am sick of a government that nourishes and encourages the worship of only one value – money. Trade, business, dealing – whatever you want to call it – is not the motivating force in my life. I believe in people’s ability to care about others, to go out of their comfort zone to let our fellow human beings know their lives are as important as mine, to help and support those who, through no fault of their own, are at the bottom of the squalid heap this government has created.

Tories do not care about values  I cherish, like compassion, kindness, or unselfishness – funny, isn’t it, when so many of them profess to follow the teachings of Jesus?

So, here’s my suggestion. Let us make the General Strike even more powerful by refusing to buy stuff for as long as the Strike lasts. I don’t mean food and vital necessities – I mean the large luxury items that the City wants to see us buy to prop up the failing pound. I do not care about The Pound, nor about The City, because they are not concerned with the well-being of citizens, they are interested only in what is in our wallets.

Will you join me? Will you stop being an obedient little consumer for a brief spell? Will you tell your friends, and any group you are part of?

I passionately hope so.

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‘Hello, your Majesty. May I form a government, please?’
‘With the DUP? Supported by Loyalist terrorists? We don’t think so. Ask Mr Corbyn to come and see me. He has the integrity I don’t see in you and your grubby little deal.’
But… your Maj, I am so strong and stable -‘
‘Oh, give it a rest, will you, Theresa, or I’ll set the corgis onto you.’

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I feel some compassion for principled Tories who have had nothing to do with masterminding the election campaign presently being fought by the Tory élite and their paid Rottweiler, Lynton Crosby.

It is surely under his instruction that May and other highly-placed Tories have agreed to lie and slander in order to sneak their empty promises past a damning array of facts, to try and snatch this election from the man who is, at the moment, winning without deceit and with a generosity of spirit his opponents could do worse than try to emulate.

We have all learned through social media how the Tory campaign from the outset took its methodology from the architect of ‘strong and stable’ power, Adolf Hitler, who ended his second volume of ‘Mein Kampf’, written in 1926, on that confident assertion. He it was who laid bare his philosophy on the correct use of propaganda:

‘The PSYCHE of the broad masses is accessible only to what is strong and uncompromising. Like a woman whose inner sensibilities are not so much under the sway of abstract reasoning but are always subject to the influence of a vague emotional longing for the strength that completes her being, and who would rather bow to the strong man than dominate the weakling–in like manner the masses of the people prefer the ruler to the suppliant and are filled with a stronger sense of mental security by a teaching that brooks no rival than by a teaching which offers them a liberal choice.’

Hitler, Adolf. Mein Kampf (p. 34).  . Kindle Edition.

Does that seem familiar?

How about this?

‘The interests of the working class were not allowed for a moment to cross the path of this purpose; for in politics the application of economic pressure is always possible if the one side be sufficiently unscrupulous and the other sufficiently inert and docile. In this case both conditions were fulfilled.

 

Because, at the very heart of the Tories’ campaign, is an icy disdain for ordinary people:

…for everybody who properly estimates the political intelligence of the masses can easily see that this is not sufficiently developed to enable them to form general political judgments on their own account, or to select the men who might be competent to carry out their ideas in practice.

Hitler, Adolf. Mein Kampf (p. 57).  . Kindle Edition.

 

So, with the Tory PR machine grinding into gear, the next step, according to Hitler, would be to get the Press lined up and obedient:

‘It took the Press only a few days to transform some ridiculously trivial matter into an issue of national importance, while vital problems were completely ignored or filched and hidden away from public attention. The Press succeeded in the magical art of producing names from nowhere within the course of a few weeks. They made it appear that the great hopes of the masses were bound up with those names. And so they made those names more popular than any man of real ability could ever hope to be in a long lifetime.

Hard to believe that was written in 1926.

Here’s how the Tory propaganda machine planned to ensure their tired old dogmas would take on a sprightly freshness:

The art of leadership, as displayed by really great popular leaders in all ages, consists in consolidating the attention of the people against a single adversary and taking care that nothing will split up that attention into sections. The more the militant energies of the people are directed towards one objective the more will new recruits join the movement, attracted by the magnetism of its unified action, and thus the striking power will be all the more enhanced

Because, at bottom, Tories despise you. They think any old guff will do, if it’s sold to you hard enough. And any old leader will do, as long as she can put up a decent show. Oh, and they make sure to use a limited vocabulary repeated until we fully comprehend it, because we, collectively, are not considered very bright.

‘Here the art of propaganda consists in putting a matter so clearly and forcibly before the minds of the people as to create a general conviction regarding the reality of a certain fact, the necessity of certain things and the just character of something that is essential.

But as this art is not an end in itself and because its purpose must be exactly that of the advertisement poster, to attract the attention of the masses and not by any means to dispense individual instructions to those who already have an educated opinion on things or who wish to form such an opinion on grounds of objective study-because that is not the purpose of propaganda, it must appeal to the feelings of the public rather than to their reasoning powers.

Did I say already that politicians using this type of propaganda have only contempt for the intellects of millions of us?

All propaganda must be presented in a popular form and must fix its intellectual level so as not to be above the heads of the least intellectual of those to whom it is directed. Thus its purely intellectual level will have to be that of the lowest mental common denominator among the public it is desired to reach.’

So last night we saw Theresa May, that shy, retiring flower who has so successfully avoided meeting real people in her tightly-controlled campaign, answering questions from the public.

What for us voters was a deadly serious Q & A, she saw as another opportunity to slander and lie about Labour politicians. She twice said, during the Question Time programme, that Diane Abbott wants to destroy police DNA files of criminals, when that was not at all what Abbott said. Abbott has pledged to remove innocent people’s DNA once a crime has been solved. She quotes the case of a fourteen year old girl having to submit her DNA to the police for a crime in which she was not even a suspect. Would anyone want to start their adult lives with a police record they have done nothing to deserve?

But it is their latest effort which has reached an all-time low. They have produced a video which has been edited and altered to mean the exact opposite of what was said. I won’t give a link to it because it is so despicable.

Corbyn was being asked if he would condemn the IRA bombings. Corbyn’s sincere condemnation of all violence, loyalist and republican, has been trimmed in this video to make it seem as if he is refusing to condemn the IRA bombings. This is an out and out deceit. And it is the most watched video of the Tory campaign [clearly, the others are forgettable]. The fact is that, when he was asked by Mo Mowlam to help her start peace negotiations for the Good Friday Agreement, he met, talked and listened to Ian Paisley. After they met, they continued to have a civilised exchange of letters. As Corbyn says, in order to achieve peace, sometimes you have to talk to people whose views you dislike.

The Tories’ tactics smack of desperation. They cannot campaign on their record or their achievements – apart from the well-deserved success of same-sex marriage legislation – they have done nothing to be proud of in the past seven years of power. The vaunted economic recovery beloved of Osborne has made no difference whatsoever to the lives of millions. Calculations of strength or weakness of The Great British Pound are irrelevant when you haven’t got enough pounds in your pocket to put down a mortgage or even rent a house, or when, even though you are working full time, you are humiliatingly forced to accept the charity handout of food banks.

So, is this the gang of dishonest brokers we want to negotiate our Brexit arrangements? How can Barnier trust anything Boris Johnson or David Davis says, when they seem to be perfectly comfortable with a campaign based on lying? Is this the calibre of man we want representing the UK and our interests?

And why on earth is May talking about Brexit discussions as if we are already at war with the EU?

I leave the last word to Hitler. He was a vile human being, but he certainly knew how to build a dictatorship. He would have recognised with a smirk the Tories’ ‘coalition of chaos’ soundbite.

The leader of genius must have the ability to make different opponents appear as if they belonged to the one category; for weak and wavering natures among a leader’s following may easily begin to be dubious about the justice of their own cause if they have to face different enemies.

 

Happy voting on June 8th.

 

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Is there one? Oh yes.

I am seizing on the fact that he is there, in our faces and our media, and will be there for the next four years. On the campaign trail, it was evident to me that personal popularity ranks very high with him, and he gets irritated very easily if people get under his oh-so-thin skin.

As a writer of riper years, I’ve been saddened for a long time by the lack of engagement of the arts worlds in the UK and Ireland with urgent, world-wide issues – climate change, the emergence and prevalence of harmful, hurtful, violent opinions, the damage done to our cultural lives, our humanity, by a succession of neoliberal governments, and, further back, the damage done to the NHS by its creeping privatisation under Labour, the destruction wrought on the fabric of British society by Margaret Thatcher, and the austerity choices made by increasingly right-wing governments in London and Dublin.

There have been some brave attempts which stand out because of their rarity – Ken Loach, whose writer Paul Laverty distilled his research for ‘I, Daniel Blake,’ into a screenplay so plausible it has the credible punch of a documentary, but whose uncompromising truths remain compartmentalised by the mainstream media as the ravings of a ‘lefty luvvie’. And at the National Theatre in London, this year I saw a verbatim theatre piece called ‘Another World’ about the radicalisation of young men in Britain.

In Ireland, ‘Hinterland’ by Sebastian Barry looked at party political corruption and the exigencies of political reality.

But who has written a play about Irish Water? About the mounting numbers who emigrate, as they did in the eighties? Who has written a play to tell our children honestly what the world is becoming?

The dancer and choreographer Catherine Young is the only creator I know of in Ireland who has recently given us a response to the political chaos our rulers helped to create. Her compelling dance piece, ‘Welcoming the Stranger’, was inspired by the stories of migrants and refugees from Gaza, Iraq, Syria, Africa – all whom have made Kerry their home. At The Everyman in Cork, Artistic Director Julie Kelleher has sought out women’s voices, from Carmel Winters ‘Witness’ to ‘Sisters of the Rising’.

Ireland’s great national theatres have been focused this year on the past glories of 1916, rather than looking at the present, or ahead to the chaos we are creating for future generations.

Writers! Musicians! Artists! Choreographers! We have a once in a lifetime chance to let our talents rip in the service of humanity. With wit, imagination, humour, words, gestures and music we can provide a robust alternative to the carping voices of bigotry, hatred, narrow-mindedness and paranoia. If the spectacle of Trump cannot inspire us to great satire, nothing will. If, out of the dystopia his world view will create we can weave a counter-narrative for our children and grandchildren, if we can restore dignity to our citizens who are disabled, old or poor, if we can keep our spirits buoyant and our eyes fixed on a goal which is not about wealth or power, but about a living planet fit for humans and all other species to enjoy, then our art will truly be serving the people.

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I’ve seen this used as an explanation by the right wing media for the anger that is currently  being expressed, both inside and outside parliament. Wealthy people know in their hearts that the poor want everything the rich have got, and they will never be satisfied until the rich have been stripped of all their assets and beggars get to ride upon horses. To paraphrase  Alan Duncan, a Tory backbencher, anyone who isn’t a millionaire has only themselves to blame. We could all be rich, if we really tried.

I’m writing this to try and explain to the wealthy people currently running our country  why their beliefs are wrong, why their actions have aroused such anger, and why our anger is light years removed from envy.

I was born in 1947, along with the NHS. My early life was peppered nights of pain from ear abcesses, horrendous earaches,  frequent visits to our GP, Doctor Shanahan, and visits from district nurses who gave me penicillin injections. I was four when I had my first experience of hospital, to have my tonsils and adenoids removed. [ I don’t know if that hospital still exists as I can’t remember the name of it. Searching for it, I found this website. Look at what we have lost -and this is only in London. Lost hospitals in London. Somehow, we could afford to run all these, at a time of post-war hardship. The reason, I hazard, is because those in charge of our finances were able to think in terms of fairness, and of values other than money]. The children’s ward was full, so I was alone in an empty adult ward. In those days, parents could only come at visiting hours, and when my mother arrived with books for me to read [from the library], I could not tell her what an ordeal I was going through. Enemas. Examinations. Baths – one day I was given three, because I was too frightened to tell the nurses I’d already had one. The NHS was primitive then, but all the medicines and treatment I had, until I got big and healthy, would have been an impossible expense for our family. We lived in a rented basement flat off the Portobello Road, in a crumbling Victorian house with holes in the floors and mice and mould everywhere. That house is worth millions today.   I showed promise at school. I passed the 11+ with the 90% marks required for me to have an interview for Godolphin and Latymer, in those days a state maintained girls’ grammar school for high achievers. It is now a private school. Many of the girls went to university and went on to careers. I was lucky; there were full student grants in those days. I was the first child in my family to get a degree.

During this time I was forging out my own values. What would be my guiding principles through life? How would I see success? What would make me happy? The fact that I chose to work in the arts is an indicator that wealth was never a factor. I never, ever expected to be rich, and I didn’t see that as a goal. I am not good with figures – like George Osborne, I only managed ‘O’ level maths – and buying and selling did not appeal to me as a way of life. Acquiring money was of no interest to me – and I was ambitious, and I have succeeded in making a living in the arts – writing plays for children, working on community drama projects, travelling the North East to bring theatre to people who had never seen it –  all my working life. If I failed to achieve my childhood ambition of fame, my more mature self is heartily relieved to have escaped the merciless spotlight that is our media.

So what  would I like to pass on to my children?

A love of the countryside. Nature has always been inspirational to me. To be able to walk all day along footpaths, across hills and mountains, unspoilt since the Romans were here, to enjoy the public national parks and lands that were all that remained after the illegal Enclosures took much of our common land away. To know that this would be here for ever, for my children and their children, gave me that all-important thing, the thing Cameron is at pains to stress he wishes to give all of us – security. Now the Land registry has been privatised, our public lands are up for grabs. For the sake of profit, our ancient rights to walk and be inspired by the rare beauties of our country will be taken away from us. It’s perfectly legal – it’s an Act of Parliament. But is it fair?

Fairness is something that all parents try to teach their children. Sharing with siblings if you have more than they do. Not ganging up on others, not bullying, or lying to help yourself do better. A sense of what George Orwell called decency. To behave in such a way that your conscience does not torment you at night. I can’t answer for the current cabinet, but I wonder if their expensive schools taught them rigorously enough about fairness and decency?  If not, here is a fact for them: the present capitalist system is a triangle. At the top, a tiny number of the very rich, in the larger middle section, the middle classes, and the poor, the most numerous, at the bottom. Unfairness is built into the system, because it is only by keeping most people down below them that the rich can thrive. So to attack people for being part of that necessary structure is deeply unfair. It is bullying.

No one wants to be ill or disabled. I happen to be both, and I bless the NHS and its doctors and nurses every day of my life. They saved my life on a Saturday, by the way, when I had bilateral pulmonary embolisms and didn’t realise until I turned blue and passed out. That’s how close I was. So when Jeremy Hunt says that we don’t have a seven day service, he is not being honest. Honesty would be another quality I cherish. I have brought my children up to be considerate and kind, but also honest.  I passionately wish that our rich policiticans, who clearly were raised with so many material advantages, had been taught the importance of these three qualities. Because in the policies they have chosen to carry out, there has been an absence of these vital things.

I would like to bequeath to my kids and to all children everywhere,  hope in the future. A world that is cleaner and more peaceful. And to be able to say to them before I die that I did everything in my power to stop the powerful elites fracking, burning, despoiling, selling to the highest bidder, and by degrees killing the planet, is little consolation. To the rich I say, you cannot make money from a dead planet. Your children and grandchildren will not suffer the results of your policies as soon as we will. Their inherited wealth will keep them cushioned from reality until the very last tree has been felled. But this sick planet is what you are colluding in handing down to your children?

I’m not a Christian, or a believer in any religion. The way I conduct my life is by principles that, if I were to abandon them, would make me feel deeply uncomfortable. So it makes me angry when the only value that is considered worth discussing in Parliament, composed of nominal Christians, is monetary. Staying in the EU – it’s better for business. Fracking – great business opportunity. Selling our hospitals to the highest bidder – nothing wrong with profiting from illness. Refusing sanctuary to refugees desperately fleeing war? Never mind Christian compassion, brotherly love or even a remembrance of how Syria took in refugees and was known as a safe haven, until civil war, and war by proxy, turned the country into a dangerous, chaotic waste land – we can’t afford to have any of them here. Nuclear power stations – wait a minute. The new and long delayed station at Hinkley Point is uneconomic. It will cost us, the powerless, more and more as we pay the price for Osborne’s wrong decisions. A dose of honesty would be welcome here.

What has been lost, utterly lost, by today’s neoliberals, is any sense of sharing. Equality. Social justice. Those with the most helping those with the least – yes, even the undeserving, because, like Orwell, I don’t believe that people are automatically workshy. I hate to be dependent on others. I still work; I still write, even though my official retirement age was nine years ago. I don’t make money; I write because I love doing it. I have the most basic state pension, paid for by my own NI contributions. It isn’t much, because self-employed people don’t make much. But I don’t care, as long as I can live by my core values.

So David Cameron, George Osborne, Alan Duncan, Boris Johnson, and all who follow you-can you open your eyes to values other than than money? I don’t meant collecting art, or having a box at the opera, or taking holidays in Cornwall to enjoy the surfing. The values you seem to lack are the values that built the finest welfare state in the world. Visionary, revolutionary plans, inspired by ideals of fairness, bitterly opposed, of course, by the Tories then – and you have profited from it all. You’ve made billions for the exchequer by  selling off things that belonged to all of us. Not just this government, but the past four, have forgotten that what matters most is not money. You know the price of everything, and the value of nothing. How can we get you to understand?

 

Frances Kay is the author of ‘Micka’, published by Picador, 2010 and ‘Dollywagglers’ published by Tenebris books, 2014. Her play ‘Feast of Bones’ will be performed at the ASSITEJ conference in Birmingham this July.

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We live in poor times. There is poverty of vision and imagination from our rulers, poverty of spirit in responding to those who have been traumatised and terrified by war, and the numbing despair of financial poverty that makes every day an effort.

When I was asked to choose one of my plays for a rehearsed reading at the Everyman Theatre, Cork, the one called BURNING DREAMS struck me as uneasily apposite.

Dublin, 1941. Tenements. Hunger. Sickness. An idealistic young doctor wants to help everyone. Who is the ‘most deserving’ – a refugee girl, a tenement dweller, or an angry Trades Unionist. But how can he possibly choose, when there is not enough to go round?

What is most tragic is that the pitiful crumbs they were fighting over in 1941 are still all that is on offer to the poorest and most deprived in our society right now, seventy years later.

 

Embed from Getty Images

 

The play will be staged on 22nd March in the snug bar at the Everyman Palace Theatre, Cork. It starts at 8pm. Tickets €9.

It would be wonderful to see you there.

 

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‘Do you hear the people sing?
Singing the song of angry men?
It is the music of the people
Who will not be slaves again!’

To all of you with a drop of creative blood in their veins, writers, performers, community artists, actors, dancers, directors, singers, film-makers, visual artists – all of you who will be alive on December 10th to witness the dawn of a new democracy and to seize the day in a bloodless, peaceful revolution – I speak to you.
For years we have kept calm and carried on. We have paid our bills and their taxes, not to help us and our children, but to prop up a rotten system and keep our oppressors in the lavish lifestyles they think they are entitled to, as our elected representatives.
That gallant man who founded the Irish Labour Party, James Connolly, if he were alive today, where would he be now? At self-congratulatory banquets in Leinster House? Accepting another bonus, another pension? Driving past our placards in his official car (paid for with our money, of course), with panicky Gardai protecting him against the sight of us and our children being shoved aside as we ask only to be heard, to be treated with respect?
I don’t think so. I believe he would be with us, out on the streets, calling for justice – not in the narrow legal sense which our political masters decree is the only sense, but for the social, natural and humane justice we desperately seek, in a world that has lost its values. In an Ireland where law-abiding citizens have been forced to break a law that should never have been passed in the first place, (and passed with no proper debate), to charge us for our water, which their law now says is a marketable commodity, but which we know to be a right, without which we cannot live, is a crime.
James Connolly, the man who asked the question ‘Who owns the land?’ will be marching in solidarity and in spirit on December 10th, beside the Irish people for whose rights he fought and died.
What a shameful mockery of his vision today’s Labour Party has become, (a party I have always voted for, until now). A party many can no longer recognise as of the people or in any way for the people; a party who has in its shameful ranks a Senator, Lorraine Higgins, who describes this revolt by long-suffering, peaceful citizens as a ‘lawless utopia’. Her illiteracy, political and etymological, and the wilful ignorance she displays by that statement would be enough to make me despair, if people with her lack of vision and compassion were all we had to rely on.
I wish with a heart and a half that I could be in Dublin on 10th December. I am seriously ill, and physically unable to be there to sing our song of angry women and men, who will not be slaves again, together with the hundreds of thousands who are saying ‘Enough is enough’.
As a worker in the arts who has dedicated her life to giving a voice to those who are not listened to, may I urge all my professional colleagues, anyone who feels themself to be an artist of all and any kind to be there, to be part of the best theatre you will ever see in your lifetime?
Wear costume. Wear nothing!
Dance, sing and act your hearts out – make this revolution an artistic act of terrible beauty; make it yours. Don’t be audience, be actors.
Be there to witness the old betrayers of our trust faced with the inescapable truth; that they no longer represent anyone except themselves; that they serve only the interests of bankers, business and corporate greed.
Please be there, for me.

Frances Kay is a playwright and novelist who lived and worked in Ireland from 1990-2012. A serious health condition has resulted in her having to leave a country she dearly loves, but her pen and her passion are always at the disposal of the people, especially the children, of Ireland.
Her great-grandfather, Henry Kingston Kay, was Irish, and she is proud to know that Irish blood flows in her veins.

© Frances Kay 2014.

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