Martens

Martens have attitude! Like the boots of the same name, they have a reputation to live up to that has ‘if you see me comin’ better step aside!’ written all over them. Weighing in at 21 inches and three and a half pounds they are the equivalent of a gang of skinheads on speed!

skinheadsdon’t make eye-contact!

Just as your average skinhead is some mother’s son, so Martes foina – the Beech or Stone or White Breasted Marten (thanks for the heads-up, John) has its admirers too – J and me, for a start! We have a family of them living somewhere nearby and they visit us every night. Actually, it would be more accurate to describe their visits as visitations because we have never actually seen them!

We became aware a few years ago that something or other was raiding J’s compost bins and, as well as eating a lot of the stuff, was lining things like half-oranges, egg shells and coffee filters along the wall. An infra-red, motion detecting night camera soon had the culprits in the frame.

Over time their brazen kleptomania has had them doing Olympic-style gymnastics to get at the food on our bird tables amongst other things. (click here for other videos of these rogues) Lately, we have been awoken in the dead of night by the sound of burglars throwing stuff about downstairs. We’d come down to a scene that has become typical of the way that the ‘modern’, degenerate young thief doesn’t just nick the family silver but chucks stuff about before crapping in the middle of the carpet or sofa!

pine marten crapbiologists tell this is ‘spraint’ – territorial marking – I call it mindless vandalism!

. . and this is the culprit!

beech marten

‘Fagin’ aka ‘One -Eye’ aka Beech/Stone/White Breasted Marten – Martes foina (leader of this gang of four or five tow-rags)

Pine-martens

together with the apprentices The Artful Dodger and Charley Bates

Pine Marten

the better-known European Pine Marten – Martes martes (stunning photo from markcauntphotography.com)

beech marten 3the SAS in action at the Iranian Embassy siege (Martes foina)

cap_badge_of_sasWith semi-retractable claws like a cat and a set of dentures that owes its lineage to Tyrannosaurus rex these little cuties are the SAS of the animal kingdom and, just like the real thing, it is not a good idea to underestimate what you are dealing with – unlike a certain Swiss footballer by the name of Loris Benito who, to protect him from ridicule, shall remain nameless . . .

fool1

pine attack

fool2

The score was 1-0 after injury time – ‘Who Dares Wins’? – nah! ‘Who Dares Is Stupid’!

Finally, here’s a bit of video I’ve strung together of our pitiful attempt to distract the vandals:

Things That Go Bump v3.0.2 from Alan Fenn on Vimeo.

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

Martens

A Half-Braked Idea

Gulay and SerifeEven occasional readers of this blog will know about Gülay Çolak. Gülay is paraplegic, paralysed from the chest down after an appalling accident about 15 years ago. What is not paralysed is her love of life (most of the time) and her indomitable spirit. Her attitude has won her countless admirers and friends. Here she is with her daughter, Şerife, at the Çaliş Christmas Fair.

 

During the past eighteen months or so, she has had a rough time with ulcers on her foot that failed to respond to medication. After two failed skin grafts the prospects for her were not good and the cause of the problem lay in her inability to exercise properly and get her blood pumping around her limbs.

So it was that a good mate of mine, Ahmet, and I put our heads together to find a solution. We designed and built a prototype exercise machine that would work-out her arms, heart, lungs and get her legs moving. I’m not going to bore you with details all over again, you can read about that here and watch a video here.

The machine worked, her ulcers healed and the exercise routine is helping to ensure that there should be no recurrence.

If only life were that simple! Gülay has now developed diabetes, and this, too, is directly related to her inability to work-out properly.

It was head-scratching time again! Gülay has considerable strength in her arms – you wouldn’t want her to put you in a head-lock, for example! Exercising on her machine with those arms was altogether too easy and she was hardly getting puffed on her 40 minute sessions – something had to be done to put some serious ‘grunt’ back into the job.

There have been various suggestions made, from fitting one of those fan things you see on rowing machines to nicking an electric retarder from a long-distance coach! Come on guys, I’m working out of what amounts to a garden shed! My idea, based on what I know I can manage, was to fit one of those disc brakes that you see on modern mountain bikes. Great idea, but could I find the parts? Could I hell-as-like!

In the end, in desperation I messaged a friend, Jane Akatay, from Land of Lights newspaper. Jane knows everybody in Fethiye and she facilitated contact with Gareth Patten, a cyclist and, as it turned out, all-round decent chap (even if he was ‘born in Wales, by the grace of God!’ (according to his FB profile)).

Gareth FethiyeSpor

Gareth is the flagpole for FethiyeSpor!

Gareth understood instantly what I was trying to achieve and sourced the parts to do the job. When we met up in Fethiye to exchange bits for bobs – a bob was a shilling in old money – this splendid fellow refused to take payment. Said it was his contribution to the project – how generous is that? Thanks, Gareth. When you meet Gülay you’ll no doubt get one of her special hugs/head-locks!

Gareth's packet

Gareth’s contribution – just about perfect!

From here on the pictures can do the talking – it was a bit of a struggle over two days to get the thing set-up as precisely as it needed to be considering it’s not fitted to pre-positioned mounts. Suffice to say, it works a treat and is now back home with Gülay. She is busy preparing for the big, four-day Marble Fair in Izmir where she and her family are honoured guests of the Denizli Marble Manufacturing Chamber. She has a commission for a whole bunch of portraits, painted on marble, of the various bigwigs like provincial governors and mayors, to get finished and I didn’t want to bother her by asking for her to pose with the finished machine. I’ll get some pics when she’s back home and not so stressed.

here she is with a couple of the not-quite-finished-yet portraits

crank

Stage 1: wreck a perfectly good crank

disc crank

Stage 2: fix disc to mutilated crank

create lash-up

Stage 3: create lash-up to fix position of calliper mounting bracket

calliper mounting bracket

Stage 4: callipers mounted and aligned (above and below)

disc and callipers mounted

Stage 5: and her special leg supports re-fitted

micro-adjustable brake control

Stage 6: micro-adjustable brake control fitted

IMG_7434_1

Stage 7: cabled up and waiting to be reunited with the other bit – job jobbed!

So, once again, thanks Jane for the intro; thanks Gareth for sourcing and gifting the parts.

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

A Half-Braked Idea

Cycle Recycle

I have a deep aversion to parting with things – J says I’m a compulsive acquirer and hoarder, which is hurtful because I firmly believe that if I hang on to something long enough I will eventually find a use for it. When something breaks down and is unrepairable I strip it for every nut, bolt, rubber foot, clip, plug and cable I can find and store all these bits and bobs neatly in containers to await the day of their recycling.

bins2

I use old ice cream containers but you get the idea

I think such frugality saves fuel on trips to the purveyors of these things and is therefore good for the planet. It is also why, when I do have to buy some new bits I always double up on what I need for the job. As I say, they’ll come in handy at some time.

Anyway, let me get back on track – as some of you know, J has been having treatment from a physio team in Muğla on a daily basis. This is now week three of being heated up, pulsed with electricity, gently twisted and manipulated by a charming lady, cranking a wheel, stretching up a ‘finger-ladder’, pulling a strip of giant balloon elastic and hauling her arms up and down on a pulley-thing. We both realise that doing this daily journey for any length of time is not realistic so I began to cogitate on how to bring as much of this equipment home as possible.

Yucelen physio

We made the charming physio a very good offer but she declined with a blush – I think I may have phrased the offer too loosely! So, I took some photos of the gear and, when we got home, I wandered into my workshop and assessed the stock situation.

physio wheel

IMG_7356_1

IMG_7358_1

So it was that a bicycle wheel, a few bits of steel, a couple of wheels from a garage door and a rack for ‘clocking-in’ cards were recycled and pressed into service.

DIY physio exercise wheelfresh coat of paint, looks like new!

DIY physio exercise wheel

J up to speed!

IMG_7366_1

DIY physio exercise gearthat works too!

DIY physio finger ladder‘clocking-in’ card rack – don’t ask – it’s an antique!

IMG_7387_1efficacious!

Now, I went through my electrical bits and I reckon I have everything I need to knock together one of those things that make your muscles jump about and I did offer to fix J up really good. I feel a bit miffed because, after all I’ve done, she declined!

junk1

frank1

Personally, I rated my chances . .

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

Cycle Recycle

Truckin’ Hell!

physio wheelJ has been having physio at a hospital in Muğla every day these past couple of weeks. There’s a lot of pushing, pulling, twisting and turning of items reminiscent of the crank in Victorian prisons. It’s just a bit of a driving chore that, for me, has been relieved by the pleasure of spectacular views as we travel the D550 road that starts (or ends) from the Marmaris turn off of the D400. As it climbs behind the village of Akyaka, it zig-zags through a series of billiard-table smooth hairpins before peaking at 670mts above sea level. It is, in my opinion, a beautiful piece of highway engineering.

 

sunset

We’ve watched it grow over the years from a bumpy, pot-holed little lane into a wonderful, motorway class super-highway! It has real ‘Weeeeeeeee!’ qualities – especially on the downhill run when every bend seems to open up ever more glorious vistas over the Bay of Gökova. If you get your timing right the sunsets are amazing.

So, ‘Why ‘Weeee!’ and not ‘Ahhhhh!’?’ you may well ask. That has much to do with the fact that sweeping bends and hairpin bends are great levellers of the playing field between our FIAT Doblo and your average BMW 5 series! Now, with ‘duel’ lanes up and down, trucks grinding up or down using their crawler gears are no hindrance to anyone and so there is much less risk to other road users from self-flagellators chancing life and limb with idiotic, penile enhancing overtaking manoeuvres. Driving is very pleasurable.

That said, since the road has been upgraded, we have often commented on the lack of any run-off areas and the chances of a runaway truck looming in the rear-view! So, we were pleased to see a run-off of a standard to match the quality of the road being constructed just prior to the last hairpin. Compared with the mound of sand currently provided on that bend it is an impressive bit of gear!

truck run-off Gokova hillImpressive as the engineering is, it has come a little bit late for these guys just a few hundred metres further down at the bend.

truck crash

truck crash2

truck crash3

the driver and his mate have finished with the police and are sitting awaiting the salvage crew – the cab hangs over the abyss!

truck crash5

J’s nifty camera skills have brought you these world exclusive pictures.

Alan Fenn and J looking forward to another round tomorrow!

Truckin’ Hell!

Extinction

There have been five previous mass extinctions in the relatively short history of life on earth. The biggy came at the end of the Permian Period around 250 million years ago when an estimated 96% of all species were wiped out! That might seem like a lot and a long time ago but it’s a drop in the bucket and the blink of an eye in the 4.5 billion years since Mother Earth coalesced from the womb of our sun.

Amazing as the figures are, they are controversial for some. There are those out there who, according to biblical calculations, put the age of the earth at 4000 BCE + 5 days (prior to the creation of Adam on the 6th day).

Creation Museum

a scene from the Museum of Creation somewhere in Texas where they know about these things!

I’m not here to discuss pseudo-science or the co-existence  of humans and dinosaurs and so I stand by my figures and move on . .

It is estimated that there are currently 8.7 million species (excluding bacteria) living with us on planet Earth. It’s an estimate because we haven’t had the time to track them all down. Species have gone extinct since they ‘jelled’ in the primordial soup, it’s a normal and natural selection process – some make it and some don’t! The background, pre-human extinction rate stood at 0.1 per million species per year – pretty minuscule you might think. That said, species are presently going extinct at a rate that is approx 1000 times greater than the background rate! We are losing what we have never known we had faster than we discover new wonders and the cause of this staggering increase in die-off is us – you and me and the corrupt system that rules us!

Australian humpback dolphin

new species – Australian Humpback Dolphin

Edwardsiella anemones

new species – a sea anemone that lives on the underside of sea-ice

Liropus male skeleton shrimp

new species – Skeleton Shrimp

I’m not here to waffle on about climate change; burning less fossil fuel, saving the Amazon or the plastic gyres in the oceans – it’s too late for all that! Scientists first reported on human-created climate change effects back in the late 19th century – nobody in a position to do anything cared then and nobody in a position to do anything cares now. Anyway, it’s too late – unstoppable Anthropomorphic (human-induced) Climate Disruption is a fact. Extreme weather is here to stay and it is and will continue to get worse. Methane gas, a far stronger greenhouse gas than CO2, is erupting from the melting tundra leaving great sink holes.

siberian sink2

methane

doesn’t look so dramatic, but trust me, it is!

The same gas is ‘boiling’ out of the Arctic ocean at phenomenal rates – this whilst lobbyists for fossil fuel corporations and their lackeys in parliaments around the so-called ‘developed world’ deny there is even such a thing as climate change!

We are in the midst of the Sixth Great Extinction!

So, if it’s unstoppable, what should we do? Be kind to those species, including our own, that surround us. Care for and enjoy this still beautiful planet whilst you still can. Go out and discover something new – it might not be a new species but it could easily be a new view from a new place or you could smile more often for no better reason than when you do there’s usually someone who will smile back. Your day and theirs will be a little brighter!

moody Okcularmoody Okçular

walk with a viewalways look on the bright side of life . . de-dum de-dum-de-dum-de-dum

J and I did just that one day last week when Mother Nature eased off a bit and relaxed – a new view from a new path, about 40 minutes drive away from home, that led to a small but significant discovery. As we passed a vertical buttress of rock I spotted what happens to be one of the rarest plants on the planet.

kocagol walk alkanna

did you spot it yet?

alkanna mughlae

Alkanna mughlae – a new location – has it made your day too?

First discovered some 15 years ago in two isolated and still secret locations in Muğla Province here in SW Turkey, I was lucky enough, 10 years back, to find it growing in profusion in Kocadere Valley near my house. What we have on this latest find is a colony of no more than half a dozen individuals of this critically endangered endemic by the name of Alkanna mughlae. So, not a new species but a new location for a fragile survivor and that has me smiling and happy. So happy that today I made Chelsea Buns!

chelsea buns

chelsea buns and coffee

Jolly nice they were too! As Nero once famously said, ‘ You hum it son, I’ll play it!

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

ps J has just proof read this – she says I’m weird but the grammar is OK!

Extinction

1984 Revisited

It’s hard to know where to begin with this post as it is so removed from the guff I usually ramble on about. So, bear with me as I struggle to put some order to it . .

Awaiting the Report Stage in the House of Commons is Home Secretary (Minister of the Interior) Theresa May’s ‘Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill 2014-15‘. (the link will take you to a PDF of the full bill) ‘So what!’ I hear you say, ‘Countering terrorism and providing security at home has got to be a good thing, hasn’t it?’ I would argue that countering the UK’s foreign intervention policies would do more to counter terrorism and improve security at home than any other factor in any equation you care to consider. But that is not the way these things work!

That said, the point of this post is to draw the attention of any of you who haven’t ‘yawned-off’ by now to the above mentioned Theresa May bill. It is probably the most insidious and subversive piece of legislation ever to passage through the so-called Mother of Parliaments. If any single thing marks the beginning of the fulfilment of George Orwell’s prescient predictions in ‘1984’ it is this bill.

Whilst we in Turkey are distracted by the antics of the current president more and more draconian laws are being passed. As those in the US were (and probably still are) agog at Kim Kardashian’s arse, Obomba signed into law the National Defence Authorisation Act which effectively stripped the Constitution and Bill of Rights. In the UK it’s immigration and UKIP that provide the main distraction. Behind the smokescreen the government is quietly putting in place the legislation required of a founding member of Oceania.

1984_map

Oceania-blue, Eurasia-red, Eastasia-green, disputed-white

Oceania, you may recall from ‘1984’ was the entity made up of the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Does that ring any bells re: the present make-up of the English speaking, Anglo-Saxon ‘Security Five’? It was the land of ‘Newspeak’, the ‘Inner Party’, ‘Outer Party’, the ‘Proles’ and ‘Big Brother’. The UK (Airstrip One in the novel) was on the front line of the War Against Whatever. Ding-dong-ding-dong!!

So, let’s get back to the legislation; at first glance it appears to deal with such matters as surveillance, withholding passports, travel documents, other travel restrictions, etc of suspected terrorists. Fair enough, you might think. But then, on page 13 of the bill we get this:

PART 5

RISK OF BEING DRAWN INTO TERRORISM

CHAPTER 1

PREVENTING PEOPLE BEING DRAWN INTO TERRORISM

21 General duty on specified authorities

(1) A specified authority must, in the exercise of its functions, have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism.

(2) A specified authority is a person or body that is listed in Schedule 3.

Which puts a duty on those who run said specified institutions (which I’ll come to) to report those they consider at risk of being radicalised or drawn into terrorism ie Thought Crimes. Specifically, “due regard” to prevent people under whatever care the institution provides for them, from developing or holding what the British government considers to be “extremist” viewpoints as defined by them. Is that thought crime or not? These are not people who have done anything wrong. They are just being fingered by some largely untrained person as being potentially problematic at some point in the future. What marks some potential future terrorists? It’s the way they think, the way they react to authority, the way they question the system.

So, what are these ‘institutions’? There are all the usual ones that you’d expect, local authorities, prisons, etc but there are also the following, and this is the really scary, Big Brother bit.

Listed under Education, child care etc on Page 47 of the bill:

The governing body of an institution within the higher education sector within the meaning of section 91(5) of the Further and Higher Education Act 1992.

A person with whom arrangements have been made for the provision of education under section 19 of the Education Act 1996 or section 100 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006 (cases of illness, exclusion etc).

The proprietor of—

(a) a school that has been approved under section 342 of the Education Act 1996,

(b) a maintained school within the meaning given by section 20(7) of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998,

(c) a maintained nursery school within the meaning given by section 22(9) of that Act,

(d) an independent school registered under section 158 of the Education Act 2002,

(e) an independent educational institution registered under section 95(1) of the Education and Skills Act 2008, or

(f) an alternative provision Academy within the meaning given by section 1C of the Academies Act 2010.

A person who is specified or nominated in a direction made in relation to the exercise of a local authority’s functions given by the Secretary of State under section 497A of the Education Act 1996 (including that section as applied by section 50 of the Children Act 2004 or section 15 of the Childcare Act 2006).

Think about that – heads of schools and even those who run Nursery Schools are going to be required to finger those children they suspect of having subversive thoughts and to hand them over to so-called panels that will be set up for what? Re-education? And those at the head of these institutions will feel compelled to act on their ‘suspicions’ because if they don’t there will be those below keen to appease the powers-that-be and further their own career in the ‘Party’. No doubt, as is normal with these things there will be performance related benefits or penalties to encourage the wavering to fill their quotas. The country will be over run by informants and amateur Thought Police. Is that ‘Orwellian’ or what!

1984 youth

remind you of the Hitler Youth, Young Communists, Pol Pot’s young murderers?

Mind you, not all ‘institutions’ will be compelled to comply with the law when it is enacted, and it will be! Here is a list of the exemptions from page 14 of the bill – you’ll find it revealing:

(2) The power under subsection (1) may not be exercised so as to extend the application of section 21(1) to—

(a) the exercise of a function referred to in section 21(4);

(b) the House of Commons;

(c) the House of Lords;

(d) the Scottish Parliament;

(e) the National Assembly for Wales or the Assembly Commission within the meaning of the Government of Wales Act 2006;

(f) the General Synod of the Church of England;

(g) the Security Service;

(h) the Secret Intelligence Service;

(i) the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ);

(j) any part of Her Majesty’s forces, or of the Ministry of Defence, which engages in intelligence activities (ie SAS, SBS my emphasis).

Did you get that? The Government, Parliament, MI5, SIS, GCHQ and even the bloody Church of England cannot be held responsible if they fail to prevent someone becoming radicalised or turning to terrorism (as defined by the above list of exemptions) but the head of a nursery school can! When you consider that British Special Forces training salafist, jihadi terrorists in Jordan and Qatar are exempt but you are not, that’s pretty rich.

So, when the principle at your local nursery fingers your child, grandchild (or great grandchild in my case) what happens to them? Pages 16-17 give you the answer:

CHAPTER 2

SUPPORT ETC FOR PEOPLE VULNERABLE TO BEING DRAWN INTO TERRORISM

28 Assessment and support: local panels

(1) Each local authority must ensure that a panel of persons is in place for its area—

(a) with the function of assessing the extent to which identified individuals are vulnerable to being drawn into terrorism, and

(b) with the other functions mentioned in subsection (4).

(2) “Identified individual”, in relation to a panel, means an individual who is referred to the panel by a chief officer of police for an assessment of the kind mentioned in subsection (1)(a).

(3) A chief officer of police may refer an individual to a panel only if there are reasonable grounds to believe that the individual is vulnerable to being drawn into terrorism.

(4) The functions of a panel referred to in subsection (1)(b) are—

(a) to prepare a plan in respect of identified individuals whom the panel considers should be offered support for the purpose of reducing their vulnerability to being drawn into terrorism;

b) if the necessary consent is given, to make arrangements for support to be provided to those individuals in accordance with their support plan;

(c) to keep under review the giving of support to an identified individual under a support plan;

(d) to revise a support plan, or withdraw support under a plan, if at any time the panel considers it appropriate;

(e) to carry out further assessments, after such periods as the panel considers appropriate, of an individual’s vulnerability to being drawn into terrorism in cases where—

(i) the necessary consent is refused or withdrawn to the giving of support under a support plan, or

(ii) the panel has determined that support under a plan should be withdrawn;

(f) to prepare a further support plan in such cases if the panel considers it appropriate.

(5) A support plan must include the following information—

(a) how, when and by whom a request for the necessary consent is to be made;

(b) the nature of the support to be provided to the identified individual;

(c) the persons who are to be responsible for providing it;

(d) how and when such support is to be provided.

(6) Where in the carrying out of its functions under this section a panel determines that support should not be given to an individual under a support plan, the panel—

(a) must consider whether the individual ought to be referred to a provider of any health or social care services, and

(b) if so, must make such arrangements as the panel considers appropriate for the purpose of referring the individual.

(7) In exercising its functions under this section a panel must have regard to any guidance given by the Secretary of State about the exercise of those functions.

(8) Before issuing guidance under subsection (7) the Secretary of State must (whether before or after this Act is passed) consult—

(a) the Welsh Ministers so far as the guidance relates to panels in Wales;

(b) the Scottish Ministers so far as the guidance relates to panels in Scotland;

(c) any person whom the Secretary of State considers appropriate.

. . prepare a plan for the identified individual . . they are talking about Re-education Centres people! Thought Control! ‘Give me the boy and I’ll give you the man.’ as the Brothers of the Society of Jesus were wont to say!

Rat Mask 1984if you think this is far-fetched consider that extraordinary rendition, waterboarding, rectal feeding, attack dogs, rape, etc are all ‘acceptable’ forms of enhanced interrogation. Who dies from extra-judicial killings by drones is discussed at the normal Tuesday meetings in the Oval Office!

1984_by_Schritt

1984 is a little behind schedule but has hit the jet stream and is making up for lost time!

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

1984 Revisited

Seventh Heaven

I feel like the Buddha looks – smugly  happy, eyes half closed and with a nicely rounded belly that has followed a day of great expectation! That doesn’t read correctly, but you’ll get my drift.

It started with our very nice fishmonger at Ortaca veg market. After he’d safely pocketed the price of our çupra (sea bream), he went all conspiratorial on us. ‘Look, lady – taze karides (fresh shrimps/prawns), çok güzel!’ So we broke the first rule of survival in the commercial jungle and looked. Then we broke the second rule by agreeing with his pitch. And that was all he needed to start picking out the biggest and juiciest and arranging them under our noses on one of those styrofoam trays. ‘Not a kilo, a kilo is too expensive’, he said with his finest, unshaven smile. We ended up with 700 grams and considered we’d got away with a real bargain!

I don’t know how you like your prawns, but J and I enjoy them with shells on, cooked in olive oil with loads of garlic and sprinkled with chilli flakes, a splash of lemon juice (and salt and pepper to taste, of course). We serve them from the pan with chunks of bread to soak up the juices . . Heaven! Or, as our one Buddhist friend would say, ‘Seventh Heaven!’

garlic prawns 1

in goes the garlic

garlic prawns 2

lightly pepper-flaked

garlic prawns 3

Yorkshire Prawn Cocktail

garlic prawn 4sorry about the blur, I was all of a tremble!

So, there you have it – Archers’ first ever ‘foodie’ blog post. Now for a glass of rakı and a couple of episodes of ‘Dad’s Army’ my just rewards for J’s hard work!

Alan Fenn, very contented in front of the fire.

Seventh Heaven

An Open Letter to Russell Brand

Clifford Slapper, musician, composer, author and a member of the SPGB since 1981 has penned a superb open letter to Russell Brand who has taken a very principled position regarding the global, capitalist system in which most of the world’s population struggle to survive, he has taken a lot of flak in the process. Much of what Brand articulates has been the position of the SPGB since its foundation in 1904.

On his book, “Revolution”, Century, 2014

First, how do I come to be reading your book, Revolution? I have spent the past thirty years arguing the point whenever and however I could, that world capitalism has to be ended. Not just in its most excessive manifestations, not just when it is run for private corporations and shareholders as opposed to state bureaucracies, but in every conceivable form it might take. How can you tell if the system in operation is capitalism? With a simple check-list. Employment – the exploitation of employees (French for the ‘used’) by employers (users) via the legalised robbery of the wages system. The market; in other words, the buying and selling of things which could instead now be created in such abundance that they could be taken freely by anyone in the global population, without the need for any system of money, vouchers, tokens, barter or trade of any kind whatsoever. Also, state power: governments, armies, police, who enforce the class rule by a tiny fraction of the population who own and control all productive resources.

Your book is disarmingly honest about your past, your faults, your flaws, thought processes, previous ambitions and resulting disillusion, the sources of your unhappiness, your latest hopes and desires, your continuing self-doubt, your determination to continue speaking and writing uncompromisingly and unashamedly what you believe to be true, and your refusal to give in to the pressure from snobs and hypocrites. These are people who have often attempted to silence your expression by mocking almost everything about you from your accent to your origins, your supposed lack of education, your poverty, your wealth, your hair, your profession – and, when all else fails, by misquoting, misrepresenting and distorting the ideas you express.

I hope it will make a refreshing change to have it suggested that, far from advocating the impossible or going beyond the thinkable, rather that you need to go one step further by demanding the so-called ‘impossible’. Your book is a brave step in promoting discussion of revolution to end the capitalist system we have throughout the world today. You make several cogent and absolutely essential points which are not only true, they cry out to be endorsed and adopted by the thousands who have already read your book – and the millions of others who would relate to so much of it. Points such as:

1. Do not vote – IF there is nothing worth voting for. Do not feel obliged to give moral and practical consent to the status quo by endorsing it, through voting into power one of several parties, each of which are openly pledged to defending, running and upholding that status quo in one form or another. Most of your opponents in the wake of that Paxman interview conveniently ignored the second half of this proposition, pretending that you had some kind of bizarre antipathy to the concept of voting, under any circumstances. More heinous still was their subtle exclusion of even the possibility of allowing a different way of running society: ‘you have Labour, Tory, Liberals. Lots of ways of running Capitalism. What more do you want? Now get out there and vote for one of those! And be damn grateful for having this wonderful choice once every five years!’ runs their mantra.

2.  Global society is currently organised in a way which is designed purely to benefit a tiny (even less than one percent) minority, who have unfathomable wealth and power, who own and control the Earth and its resources – and who in doing so are depriving the 99 percent of access to the riches and comforts those resources have to offer us all. This is an insane, anti-social, irrational, illogical, unacceptable premise and starting point on which to found our global society. It is therefore urgently in our interests as that majority to end that regime completely and utterly, now. Another word for such a huge and urgent change in the way society is run is revolution, so clearly the fact that this is needed is beyond dispute.

3. There are many ways in which the present organisation of society like a vast prison camp (disguised as a holiday camp) causes unhappiness, suffering and distress – way beyond the crudely economic aspects of poverty, crucial and painful though those are too. Terms like alienation, epidemics like addiction are easy to dismiss as in the first case abstract waffle and in the second a poor choice made by (millions of) individuals. However, these are in fact very real, almost universal side-effects of the global social system we have. Indeed, for many people in the huge cities of the more ’developed’ parts of the world – like London or New York – these are some of the most powerful prompts which drive many of us to question the way society is currently structured. The one percent are devoted to maximising the surplus they extract from the work of the rest of us, and this in turn depends on them maintaining a certain social landscape, the consumer culture, the stifling of true dissent, the separation of people from one another and from themselves.

As your book progresses, you draw on input from a variety of activists and social thinkers. Some are more credible than others. One of the more compelling is Naomi Klein, with her brilliant expose of the stark choice now forced on us, between saving capitalism and saving the planet as a viable ecosystem or human habitat, and she shows incontrovertibly how incompatible the two are.

In eventually sketching a plurality of ‘alternatives’ , however, you may be unwittingly over-complicating the situation. There are not ‘loads’ of alternatives; the one key issue causing all significant social problems is the way we organise society – the system of minority ownership and production for profit. The solution, the one solution, to this is therefore common ownership and production for use. That means no money, banks, finance  – and no ‘co-operatives’ selling goods in the market. Free access to all, for all! From each according to ability, to each according to need  – one worldwide co-operative society, no buying and selling.

Some notes you quote about the virtues of co-ops mention ‘raising capital’, ‘job opportunities’ and making agreements with governments. But the revolution to get rid of capitalism has to mean getting rid of capital, government, finance, money, ‘jobs’ – all parts of the capitalist way of running world society. Of course, on paper, the idea of having thousands of autonomous co-operatives, each run democratically within itself, and engaging fairly with all the other units sounds a lot more just and pleasant than the current control of the world, its resources and its population by a tiny, powerful minority of less than one percent of the population. But if we are talking about ending that, then let’s end it. All these models and reforms are variations on the market system which, if ever pursued, would inevitably lead us eventually back to where we started. The solution is for us to withdraw our consent from capitalism, as you say – but to create instead a society without ownership, in which the whole world and all its resources becomes the common heritage of all humanity.

Of course, this necessitates all of the democratic aspects of administration which you touch on, local, regional and continental, but the key point is that these are ways for the world’s population to run a planet no longer divided into owners and non-owners. In the model of separate co-ops which you settle on at the end of the journey in your book, you do not go far enough – after all, if each co-op autonomously owns its resources then those outside that co-op are still alienated from the resources in it. You still then have money, trade, competition, separation  – and the certainty of corruption, accumulation and minority power again flourishing.

You emphasise your belief in God. Connecting with our true selves and connecting with one another are positive parts of the revolutionary ending of property-based society. Belief in an all-powerful, all-knowing, benevolent force outside of ourselves is significantly less helpful in creating the freedom from oppression to which we aspire. On this I would be more inclined toward the healthy cynicism of the late, great American comedian George Carlin:

‘I’ve begun worshipping the Sun for a number of reasons. First of all, unlike some other gods I could mention, I can see the Sun. It’s there for me every day. And the things it brings me are quite apparent all the time: heat, light, food, a lovely day. There’s no mystery, no one asks for money, I don’t have to dress up, and there’s no boring pageantry. And interestingly enough, I have found that the prayers I offer to the sun and the prayers I formerly offered to God are all answered at about the same 50-percent rate.’

You rightly describe as mere ‘pipsqueak reformism’ the Swedish workers’ shares schemes (which in fact are a means of co-opting the impoverished majority into supervising our own exploitation). In one of your final chapters, you then make a list of demands which includes, for example, ‘State power to dissolve wherever possible to empower autonomous, democratic communities.’ Wherever possible? Although I have no doubt of your sincerity in sketching possibilities for what we construct in place of the wretched system we currently have, I would strongly urge you to reconsider the wisdom of listing multiple ‘realistic’ steps as the culmination of a book so rich in its often poetic damning of current social relations. The biggest tragedy in history, already played out myriad times, is this lowering of expectations as the first slippery slope back to cynicism and misery.

I recognise the courage and honesty with which you have put yourself on the line, derided your own celebrity status, taken on Paxman and others and often left them in gibbering defensiveness. Your regular podcasts, “The Trews” are a welcome window into reality without the twisting and obfuscation, the bullshit mediation of the media. In many ways it has been a breath of fresh air to see those hilarious and perceptive insights into the madness of capitalism viewed regularly by hundreds of thousands of people.

Let’s now take the next logical step and build a majority movement committed to the complete ending of capitalism, in all of its forms, with all of its trappings, and nothing less. On page 297 of your book you slightly misquote Marx in a way which could be significant. You say ‘From each according to his means, to each according to his needs’. On Twitter last year, however, you correctly quoted it as ‘from each according to ability, to each according to needs’. It was never about redistributing money, but abolishing it – and Marx’s slogan is even more relevant today than it was 150 years ago.

CLIFFORD SLAPPER    click the link to learn more about musician, composer, author, socialist and member of the Socialist Party of Great Britain or here to learn more about SPGB

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü (a member of the SPGB)

An Open Letter to Russell Brand

Azman

Every couple of days, summer and winter, J and I get up early enough to beat the sun and stretch our ageing muscles and creaky joints by pounding the track from our house to a little valley, known locally as Azmandere, just outside our neighbouring village.

kemaliye-azman-dede-hidrellez-senlikleri,-renkli-gecti-02

There the villagers have created a very pleasant picnic area with tables, benches, platforms and places for a ‘barby’. Many different trees have been planted and water, fit for drinking,  flows year-round. The village holds a very jolly communal picnic each year with live music and much singing and dancing – everyone is made welcome.

kemaliye-azman-dede-hidrellez-senlikleri,-renkli-gecti-03

The water flowing in the dere/stream is home to the beautiful Epallage fatima – the Odalisque damselfly. In the past I’ve collected DNA samples that have found their way to researchers around the world. Azman really is a little oasis in many ways.

Epallage fatime - Odalisque damselfly in tandem

Epallage fatime – the odalisque Damselfly in tandem (both photos from Azman)

Epallage fatime

The track has many flowery distractions as the seasons flow into each other. Now, as the heat of summer melts away into the gentle welcome of our ‘spring’ the bulbous plants are beginning their version of the Chelsea Flower Show alongside their tougher, heat-tolerant neighbours.

Urginea maritima (Sea Squill) 03_1

Urginea maritima (Sea Squill) 04_1Sea Squill -Urginea maritima

Colchicum variagatum 01_1the stunning Colchicum variegatum

Vitex-agnus-castus-Chaste-Tree

Vitex-agnus-castus-Chaste-Tree

the Chaste Tree – Vitex agnus-castus used for centuries to keep lustful monks in order

Scilla autumnalisAutumn Squill – Scilla autumnalis

Erica sicula

a variety of heather – Erica sicula

europea heliotrope2

amazingly tough European Heliotrope – Heliotropium europaeum

Inula_viscosa

much maligned Stink Aster – Inula viscosa

A few days ago, midst all this beauty, there was an ugly incident; on one of our non-walking days the body of a man was discovered dumped or left beside the rubbish bin on site. It appears that he was stabbed and shot! The investigation is ongoing. Azman is never going to feel quite the same again!

azmandere

Asman body

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

Azman

Lost In Space

lost in space

 

What is it with this stuff? I haven’t done anything, changed anything – I haven’t even had malign thoughts about Wordpress in general or any of its bloody widgets or plug-ins in particular – nothing! Suddenly, a couple of days ago replies I made to comments and any responses to that reply have disappeared – vanished into the ether – lost into bloody outer space!

Hours have been wasted, lost from what I have left from my (some would say ‘pre-ordained’) allotted quota! Plug-ins and widgets are the usual culprits to these things so there’s been much deactivating and reactivating, much fiddling with incomprehensible ‘settings’. Nothing resolved the problem – not even shutting everything off apart from security – Hiç, Zilch, even sacrificing even more hair on the altar to F$*&%”!, the god of utter friggin’ frustration, had no effect.

OK! A last, forlorn hope, I’ll change the theme. Hey Presto! everything works again! Or seems to, anyway – so, you tell me if you have any challenges commenting or getting a reply. Meanwhile I’m heading for a darkened room with a bottle of single malt and a straw! As for the ss in Wordpre**, you can read about it here. I’m convinced they’re out to get me!

Alan Fenn, (out there somewhere)

ps for those with an interest in these things, ‘forlorn hope’ is derived from A forlorn hope is a band of soldiers or other combatants chosen to take the leading part in a military operation, such as an assault on a defended position, where the risk of casualties is high – from the Dutch ‘voorloren hoop‘ literally ‘lost troop’.

pps nothing has changed and I have to say I really can’t be bothered to give this any more time – I have had it with WordPress and everything to do with it!

Lost In Space