“Obama as Hitler”

Never was there a post more needing illustrated by Godward- pictures of sane, beautiful people doing their thing to balance out the descriptions of madness. I did a google image search, but would not pollute my blog with the stuff that emerged. Do it only if you have a strong stomach.

There are pictures of the President with a toothbrush moustache, pictures of Obama, Hitler and Stalin, pictures of him waving with the subtitle “Seig Heil”. One picture compares calls for those other than the little people to pay taxes to Hitler inciting hatred of Jews. “Fiscally responsible achievers who paid mortgages on homes they could afford are responsible for your misery!”

Mmm. That is an interesting one. I do find Leona Helmsley hateful, but that is based on reason. The way the richest one percent take more and more of the wealth while others are squeezed is more a product of globalisation and the greater increase of people with skills than work for them to do- and if globalisation is the cause, that does not mean trying to prevent globalisation is the solution.

Mmm. Maybe I should take down that Leona Helmsley reference. It is an appeal to emotion. I am dealing with the whipping up of fear and hatred here, so should be particularly careful to avoid it myself. I leave it in to illustrate the matter, and, well, because this is a blog. I criticise it because Leona Helmsley is not typical. So we see a way of propagandizing: that cartoon seeks to widen the Good People to people who have paid off their mortgage, and people who still believe they can- place a divide just below them, to the scrounging improvident workshy. My allusion seeks to widen the Good People who should be on my side, and portray the bad people as the rich: anyone richer than you, perhaps. This us and them, they are the enemy, is so destructive- indeed disastrous.

It is so tempting. If you do that google image search- one of the main horrors of it is the exuberance, the joy of invention of it. It is as creative as tax avoidance schemes (Oops).

When a fbfnd described going to the post office and finding two men outside with an “Obama as Hitler” sign, who catcalled her, a commenter said that had happened to her too, again outside a post office. “But that’s insane”, I think. The reality of it is terrifying.

When some in Rwanda dehumanised others, they called them “cockroaches”. Dehumanising the President, some call him “a Muslim”. It is so hard to ascribe degrees of vileness to such hatred, but I think the American tactic is slightly viler. Not the people who employ it, though, as that is to fall into the same trap. When I am absolutely clear about abhorring the sin, that is the time to make sure I love the sinner.

Gaiety

“Gaiety is the most outstanding feature of the Soviet Union” said Stalin in a speech in 1936. He had started his show trials, working up to the Great Purge in which the archives admit that the NKVD shot 681,692 people; Solzhenitsyn gives a death toll of sixty million ascribable to Joe. What was he thinking when he said that?

The first thing you hear is the title of the exhibition, which is that quote. I wanted to see new Russian art, though I learned quickly it is a Stalin quote, and so had that dislocate in me: the quote is related to reality in a twisted, evil way which makes a straight lie seem pure and good by comparison. I had not been before to the Saatchi Gallery, the former Duke of York’s Headquarters in Chelsea, south of Sloane Square: a Georgian building with huge, thick columns in front of open grassed space in a still mainly Georgian square. I am uncomfortable with such an assertion of personal wealth, even one so clearly philanthropic.

The first gallery is monochrome photos of “criminal” tattoos. What makes a Russian have “Gott mit uns” on his chest? Another has St Basil’s Cathedral there, one has tattooed eyelids. Men have their arms around each other: given the Russian official antipathy to “promoting homosexuality” I thoroughly approve of that, and I can imagine some interest and sympathy of the photographer for his subjects: that sympathy, that hominem scias, is necessary for the art to be Moral.

Now, an installation: booths or cells, with faceless manniquins in suits. One has his forearm removed, and nailed to the wall. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d3/Kuznetsov_004.jpgOn the website, the photo shows the overall shape, but not that detail. The next photos are playful in comparison: people sitting on window ledges. Will they jump? Where is the camera? There are concrete cityscapes, and one with trees, people looking desperate, thoughtful or playful. I liked them, until I saw the pool of black plastic on the floor vaguely in the shape of a broken human being, arms and legs strangely thin.

And then more photographs, in colour, with a notice saying parents may want to shield children from some of these images. A penis with a strange lump at the base of the glans. A fully dressed man, in a coat, in a room, with a woman half-stripped, breasts and labia exposed. Here the most playful image is a boy pissing upwards, the arc of piss lit against the dark. All human beings are Beautiful, and these photographs obfuscate that fact. As one of the Rich, I want to blind myself to the sufferings of the poor, in civil wars or famines- here I wonder if these creatures are Poor I could identify with, in art for the Richest, made to humiliate and dehumanise me.

I do not want to hurry H on, or look at this Vileness. I stare at a white wall, and- cross myself. If my practice of acclimatising to disgust has meaning I must use it now. What I seek to achieve is perfect consciousness of emotion, so that I may have my experience, accept it, and function in the world. This “art” seems designed instead to cause overload and suppression of feeling.

In the basement, there is a pool of black, black oil covering the floor of one room. Its perfectly smooth surface reflects the room, as if it were twice its height with ceiling lights on the floor. It is perfectly beautiful, though I do not like the smell.

Initially I illustrated with this photo of a penis, which seems entirely appropriate to the exhibition, but disgusted me so much. So I have replaced it. Art changes the way one sees things. I presume Kuznetsov had some love in his heart when he painted Ms Kuznetsova, but now I see her as a Specimen.

London

We¬†took¬†the Piccadilly Line to St Pauls, where the camp was, until it was evicted by police and bailiffs at dead of night. It did not say much, says H. It was so disorganised, I would not want these people running the country. No, but “AARRGH! NO!” is a necessary and respectable part of the national conversation. It needs to be heard.

On across the Millennium Bridge, which always lifts my spirits, even on this so cold day, the two of us huddled under my umbrella. On our left is The Shard, which I had not seen before: I saw a cartoon of Boris as King Kong atop it, with Ken climbing up, without recognising the building. The tallest building in Europe has sprung up in months.

The Friends’ room at Tate Modern has a balcony. I felt safe there until I joked about jumping, and thereafter was slightly uncomfortable-¬†but here am shown to my¬†best advantage, happy¬†in H’s wonderful company.

I love to look down at the people. Here we are, on the bank holiday, the drizzle having abated temporarily, going for a treat. H and I go down to the empty, famous works of Damien Hirst.

On along the South Bank towards the National Theatre. Just by Tate Modern, there is a new development of one and two bedroom apartments, £1 million to £5 million: not all the 1% could afford that. We find it distressing. We look up at it, all glass, the rooms within on show unless covered by blinds.
-Inequality in Britain is as bad as it was in 1918.
-I heard it was worse.
Would it be better, leaving school in 1960 and getting a job in the car plant or cotton mill? You could probably¬†have kidded¬†yourself it was a job for life at least until your kids left school. You would associate with people on the same social level. A more constrained life, perhaps, than H’s or mine, but quite possibly happier, and arguably with greater achievement.

I want this city. I want to be a part of it, though I could perhaps afford a room in someone’s house, a hundred square feet with a double bed. H’s landlady is pleasant, she has use of the living room which is decorated in the Spiritual- Hippy- Whatever way I like, though I do not fancy not¬†being able to¬†cook meat. It appears that they talk like acquaintances rather than close friends, but there is Success in keeping the same room for three years. And so my possessions become- Stuff, even clutter: who needs CDs when there is Spotify, or books when there are libraries? I want Connection and Experiences, not ownership of Things, even though the continuity and security ownership of things may symbolise would be really nice if-

There are two groups of buskers I notice in particular, playing too loudly in a tunnel. I pause to listen, H half agrees. There is a lot of work in that fast trumpet playing, fierce frenetic¬†energy. We eat in Gabriel’s Wharf- I have been taken here before, about five years ago, I need to notice such places. You would be slumming it, coming here¬†from your ¬£1m apartment by the Tate- probably, that would be unthinkable- but I find the lamb juicy and the shoebox filled with tables pleasant enough. “Well done” says H, after we have ordered. Often it is difficult to agree a place to eat and be satisfied with it. It is important to notice ones successes, to keep irritation at the irritations within bounds.

Across Westminster Bridge. A tourist leans back, the view up the River behind her, for her photograph: a tourist of wonderful beauty, relaxed and calm and self-possessed. I would like to¬†sightsee that huge church, so we walk towards it. Is it Westminster Abbey? H thought that was further along. It is. ¬£16 to go in. We decide we have had enough Culture for the day. “You could go in to pray. I couldn’t, God might not approve.” I explain that I am functionally atheist at the moment, I can only accept Spiritual truth if I can explain its value to a materialist.

Down into Westminster Station, to the Jubilee Line. Down in this great, grey, Grunge space, wide open, dark walls, huge pipes crisscrossing it, more, surely, than needed for services or structure. A yard-wide pipe I can almost reach up and touch. Down the long escalator. Then down another, then down yet a third. It is a magnificent space for a tube station.

The city vibrates at a higher pace, and I Want it, though I fear it. I could not bear it or tolerate it, I would have to grasp its value and- electrify my now gas-lit soul, to dance with it.

The little people

Inequality in the UK declined steadily from 1918 until the late 70s, and since then has climbed, under Tory and Labour governments, until it is approaching 1918 levels. Having said that, the 1% are a large group, 600,000 people in the UK, and their income goes down to £120,000 a year. I have socialised with some. Some are friends of friends. Above £120,000, incomes and wealth shoot upwards exponentially.

When I consider the Leveson inquiry, it is striking that commentary and rhetoric I read come at the issue from the interests of the Powerful against the Little People. The Press should be regulated, because they are in the ownership of the Multinational Super-rich, like Rupert Murdoch. Or, they should be left unregulated,¬†because they investigate what the Wealthy want to keep private, in the interests of the Plain Man. The Sun reports that the Ministry of Defence has spent ¬£7,440 on medical treatment ancillary to gender reassignment in the last thirty months, (nod to Jane Fae). Their line is that blundering civil servants are spending money badly, and that trannies are ridiculous, our “sex swaps” fake, rather than that the MoD has spent sensibly, in order to retain the services of valuable employees. They claim a decisive influence in our elections. It seems to me that the “Little people”- ie, me- will lose out whatever Leveson does. And while Captain Francesco Schettino of the Costa Concordia¬†has done dishonourable things, I dislike the focus of the media- BBC as well as the Murdoch press- on him rather than on the corporate culture and structures, or perhaps the sheer bad luck and accumulating circumstances,¬†behind those deaths. I distrust journalists picking on the easy targets.

In other ways I am incredibly prosperous and powerful, compared say to those maimed by American mines in Cambodia, or choking on the fumes of the Chinese factories which produce the consumer goods I buy. If the 1% is not the 600,000 in the UK, but the seventy million in the World as a whole, I have far more affinity, resemblance, and commonality of interests to that group, or the lower half of it, than to the bottom billion.

While I may have that affinity, not everyone in the UK has. Worship on Sunday was interrupted by a homeless man. B. gave him a mug of coffee and listened to him, but did not have one herself or invite him to sit down. He had walked seven miles from the night shelter, which is always full. He had slept outside and had a sleeping bag, clothes and the mobile phone his brother gave him to keep in touch stolen, he said. His former girlfriend will not put him up, but does allow him to launder his clothes at her house. There is no night shelter in our town, so people have to go sixteen miles, and cannot afford transport.

I spoke to a few people, and none of us have seen beggars in our town. One Social Services department I came across wanted to shut down the charity soup runs in the city centre. They said such services made homelessness bearable, and so prevented people from using services to get out of that situation. Perhaps the lack of services here drives the homeless elsewhere.

We do have a day centre for vulnerable homeless people (are there any other kind?). Angela is going to do a sponsored sleep-out this month, and they have got funding from Lloyds-TSB bank for three years, corporate funding in this isolated case replacing the funding the government is cutting. They do hot lunches, provide showers, and people drop in to socialise. They are open four days a week.

Despite the cuts, the Government is borrowing for public spending in a downturn, classic Keynesianism. The percentage of GDP they would spend is only very slightly different from the percentage in the plans of the Opposition.