Post Suffrage

I am sure we are a post-suffrage state. Less and less people vote in general and this seems to be especially true among the younger generations which I sadly think I have just exited in terms of age. People seem willing to ignore their hard won right and look the other way, surely politicians must understand this is fundamentally harmful even if it is expedient right now.

In the UK this state of affairs probably means that the Tory party are going to clean up by default for the next few elections. Labour has lost Scotland (thanks to Ed Miliband for working with Cameron and giving the SNP such a free run). The SNP seem pretty nonchalent about achieving anything, and Labour are in complete free fall. Boundary changes have underlined changing population statistics and it looks like the country has turned blue. Fair play to the Tory party, the past seven years has been a master stroke of loading the deck even if Brexit didn’t quite go Cameron’s way.

Twenty years time though, twenty years time from now when all the Baby Boomers are dead or senile, the country might start drifting leftward again as the populace who do vote reveal themselves to be middle aged anarchists activated and radicalised by Russel Brand.

Mr Brand (who I think is great) politicised huge swathes of the online world with the Trews and Revolution. The one thing about becoming politically aware is that you are unlikely to become non politically aware. Once Politics bites and you find that you do care about it you don’t really stop caring. People may drift around looking for different answers or representation in other places but people seldom turn their back on it absolutely.

How joyful it would be if the next generation of middle managers and accountants revealed themselves to be latent anarchists with a taste for green energy and spiritual awakenings. We’re going to need something to twist the narrative, because it looks like we will be closer to the end of the next decade before we see a non Tory government. If the pattern is for less people to vote, we have to start hoping that those who do are truly radical rather than conformist.

 

 

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Cyberpunk Roleplay

A lot has been written about Donald Trump recently, a lot figuring him as some sort of nightmare dystopian avatar come lighting rod conducter for evil and for all that is wrong with the world, and I don’t really disagree. I  do think the situation is more complex and interesting than that. I’m going to talk a little bit about that through the medium of cyberpunk roleplay games.

2020

First off, cyberpunk is not counter culture, not any more. It is absolutely a product and I believe reflective of the society that produces it. There was a brief time where it existed in a niche area of science fiction, but it has become heavily commercialised and has changed to reflect the reality in which it was produced. If you can buy music and computer games themed around something, its not a counter culture product. It is simply a style.

2020cyb

So, as above, I was thinking about Cyberpunk roleplay games recently, Cyberpunk 2020 in style and theme is very eighties and is ultimately about embracing free market capitalism where Player Characters provide services to the market, it is a fundamentally libertarian setting. It matches the predominant culture of the time, it does not offer transgressive ideas.

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Shadowrun is very nineties and envisions this weird activist culture where everyone (or at least cybered freelance hackers and mercenaries) has a cause and is struggling against “the man”. It is this odd blend of anarchist theory mixed with middle class politics and a lot of social justice stuff with themes of identity and integrity being compromised by a hostile technology. It is very much about individuals being able to change the world and disrupt the plans of business monoliths and that there is a value and place for the individual. Shadowrun is very effective in discussing attitudes to racism and class and has some legitimately interesting insights whilst simultaneously misunderstanding or misjudging major issues around it.

Shadowrun reminds me of news stories of Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd, Swampy the eco warrior and news headlines of hackers (or what people imagined were hackers) compromising credit cards. Unspoken at the heart of everything is an absolute compliance and engagement with the system hand in hand with a contradicting belief that an individual’s actions, the personal as political represented some kind of meaningful rebellion. During this time, recycling passed from a radical activity to a day to day performative function. Again cyberpunk of the time reflects mundane reality.

This time was the start of our engagement with the internet, a tool that should have set us free and made information limitless, but as Thoreau put it, we became tools of our tools.

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Contemporary cyberpunk games are bleaker and there is no longer a struggle against “the man”. Technology and business proliferates and dominates, and the PCs sit in a gap within the already conquered world waiting for a chance to react to what the neoliberal order has achieved. There is no question of turning the clock back or progressing to something else, this is what we have now. e.g. Corporation the RPG features the players as the unquestioning servants of a dominating and oppressive corporation carrying out missions to further its agenda rather than to line their own pockets or for an idealistic goal.

The game’s emphasis is on violent action rather than morality or personal motivations because there is no cultural space to discuss these issues within the context of a mission/game session. Surveillance and harsh punishment are assumed in it’s everyday society and everything can be bought, meanwhile punishments can be bypassed by the corporation’s loyal servants. It is a game of the now. Likewise, with the vicious shift of the Overton window, far more conversations have become proscribed than ever before. No longer can certain ideas be discussed because everywhere is watched, by covert infomation gathering or punchy trolling below the line. There is no option to imagine secret transgressions, the question is the extent to which we engage with the system.

We probably do deserve Trump, in that we clearly have the appetite as a culture for what is being offered by him. Those who passionately disagree with him would not dream of raising a fist, a brick or a gun beyond fantasy. The politics of the left and right now deplore violence in terms of direct action and accept the mandate that only the military and police may deploy it. There is no one to truly object and the passivity that our technology demands has rendered us compliant and as a product defined in data points. The passivity that has been created has been through making us comfortable. Everyone is invested in the system now, its just comfortable enough, just diverting enough to be not bothered by other matters. We don’t need to own anymore, but we do need to interact and this now is what we treasure beyond everything else.

The idea that the internet and other technologies would serve reason or truth or be an elevated platform rather than another tool to be misused is firmly over. Internet regulation through partitioning and censorship will likely be the final bullet in the dreamed of body of mass connectivity and bypass of artificial division.

I have always believed that a regime can do whatever it likes unchallenged to it’s population without threat or censure until it starts killing people. Eroding rights is awful but not surprising, its very in vogue right now. I am against it, but like you I am adrift.

Time to hope for a new life in the off world colonies.

Just an Update

I feel good about how my writing is going at the moment. I have “parked” my novel for the time being, I am 73k into it and thinking about how to finish the last incomplete section. It has been a few weeks but the mists are now clearing slowly. I think most of next year is going to be spent redrafting and editing.

More importantly, in the mean time I have been writing more and more little cyberpunk short stories. I am really pleased with these as I have been able to show them to a couple of people more or less finished, get some good feedback and then work them up into something fairly complete. I am going to push these up to ten in total and then put it out on Kindle for £1. Not a huge deal, but it feels like massive progress, writing something I am enthused about that I can see the end in sight with.

In other news, I have basically made my way through work now, last day in the office this year, work social things completed. Nearly finished all of this year’s actual work as well. Gift shopping is theoretically complete, if admittedly not in reality. Train tickets for visiting my partner’s family are in the post apparently, it could all be going a lot worse.

The Meat I Do Not Eat

When I was eighteen and at university I was hit by the suspicion that eating animals was wrong. I tried to become vegetarian, I lasted for three days. I didn’t tell anyone, I was more just feeling out the ground for myself. I was awful at cooking, didn’t really understand food and caved in to repressed carnivorous instinct, slightly sad, slightly regretful.

Over a decade later, a decade of cooking and shopping for myself, I began shopping at my local market. I made the decision and conscious choice to not buy supermarket meat anymore as I suspected it was full of chemicals and the contributing animals had been very badly treated. This way would be better and more virtuous. So in essence, I was swapping out a lot of meat and processing, for less meat that was of a higher quality and bizarrely enough cheaper due to no packaging. It was certainly nicer to eat, it felt good knowing that the animals I was eating were suffering less both in life and death.

I realised eventually that well-meaning as it was, that outlook is wrong. I was obviously still contributing to horrible, horrible cruelty. I began reading vegan and vegetarian cookery books and websites and gradually reducing the amount of meat that we ate at home. My partner used to be a vegetarian for several years and was happy to reduce the meat in our diet.

We now no longer buy meat when we go shopping, I am still in conversation with myself over fish which does seem different for some inexpressible reason, but for 90% of meals at home and at work I now follow a vegan diet. I am aware this does not actually make me vegan, rather an occasional meat eater who normally doesn’t use animal products. .

Part of my issue with true veganism is that it seems like a religion that ignores contradicting facts. One of the things that bothers me when I nip up the road to the local Sainsbury’s just before it closes is seeing piles of meat e.g. chicken thighs heavily discounted and about to go in the bin. For me, that kind of waste of food, especially of something that lived and was only kept alive to be slaughtered is unacceptable, that life, that suffering has been for no purpose. If you attach any sentiment to life then you have to consider the point of meaning in a life and the value of that suffering if it has to take place. Surely it is better for an animal to suffer and provide nutrition rather than to suffer for no reason and be committed to a bin? Both are horrific, but perhaps one is less horrific than the other, especially if you are interceding for some good rather than fueling demand of the horror. So I buy the chicken thighs, I freeze them, every now and again I cook chicken thighs. Thus the 10% of meals that I eat are non-vegan due to either salvaged chicken or discounted fish.

Likewise, in terms of managing a habitat, sometimes a few animals will need to be shot in order to manage the population in that area. The best thing to do in that situation to my mind is again to eat those animals. I suppose the counter point then is “Well why not eat humans when they die?” There isn’t really an answer to that, other than empty ones like how you would be arrested if you tried and that others might object. Is that a reason to not eat those animals from the managed habitat? Surely their lives have been good and the manner of their death divorced from slaughterhouse misery?

Finally, there is a part of me that embraces not conforming to any one diet, from a sense of non conformism to both a label such as veganism and also to resisting an industry instructing me what to eat without considering the consequences to my health and the world around me.

My views are still evolving, I am certainly progressing and I don’t think my journey is over. Perhaps this time next year I will be a full on vegan, though I do struggle with how I will get past the idea of meat being wasted and the horrible journey from cage to slaughterhouse being disposable cruelty unredeemed by grateful consumption.

Execution

Another short blog post.

I am against capital punishment for a variety of reasons.

But that is not what this post is about.

The entire time we have been fighting ISIS/Daesh, the media will report on the murders carried out by the group as “executions”. Today, I read about a brutal murder of two innocent people in the UK by two teenagers, again the killers were described as executing the victims.

An execution, from the dictionary definition is something done by a recognised authority, only states and the military can do it. It is a specific sentence for specific crimes.

It does not refer to political or religious murder, it does not refer to any murder. Murder is a crime, not a legal process.

Calling murderers like Jihadi John an executioner in a teeny tiny way legitimises ISIS and gives them a little bit of authority over the area they are presently dominating. I find the idea of capital punishment revolting, but there is a note of sobriety and solemnity, maybe even ritual in the word. The media, applying this to the slaughter of the innocent in any country is just another example of how we are dumbing down as a culture.

We do not recognise ISIS or common killers as an authority so why we extend the word execution to them is beyond me.

Rant over. Carry on.

 

Post Suffrage?

So allegedly ~44% of the US population able to vote did not.

Apparently ~33% of the UK population able to vote in the EU referendum, did not.

Those are big chunks of the eligible population in both countries who decided not to vote.

Regardless of where you come down on what the outcome of each vote should have been, are we really hitting the point of post-suffrage? Where voting just is not seen as important by more and more of the electorate?

Both of these votes were divisive –there seemed to be few potential voters who didn’t have a strong feeling on one or more of the potential options.

The stats which I won’t cite here as I am at work, suggest that less and less young people are voting, but young people for good or ill will be affected severely by both of these vote outcomes.

In Australia it is a civil offence not to vote, $200 fine.

Would people care if the right to vote was taken away from them?

Alt-Right

I feel sorry for the alt-right. The sincere part of the alt-right anyway, not the contrarian trolls who say things just for a reaction and who would dread to be caught actually espousing those views in public; I pity the actual people who really agree with and who really believe the likes of Vox Day, Roosh V, Davies Aurini and Jordan Owen. No one is born thinking that way, for sure you can have a natural character, but something must have happened to you to end up thinking that way. For that at least I feel sorry for them, they have had to make changes and decisions along the way to get there as well but hate is ultimately a personal choice.

Obviously that’s nothing in comparison to those who suffer online and publicly because of the Alt-Right’s views, but still, I think it is good to remember that they are people albeit damaged people. You can have whatever views of the world you like (wrong as I might think them) but when you actually start hating someone you’ve never met, you have lost out on something.

I’ve been aware of the Alt-Right for a little while now, the thing I find most alarming about them is the weird mish mash of libertarianism, hard Christianity, racism and of course misogyny that they are pushing. That each one of these component parts can become a gateway to the others through the overlap of cultural spaces. What can start as a mere misunderstanding of how society works can quickly become a full blown case of anti-Semitism and rape apology.

I was reassured when I looked at the numbers on Twitter and Reddit and saw just how small their followings are, which is probably more of a demonstration of the power of the internet to spread an idea from its darker recesses through to mainstream awareness than anything else and then amp it up and multiply it for media purposes.

In a time when centre right wing feeling is sympathised with and adopted more and more by some parts of society, it is warming to see that the true extremes remain limited, lurking in basements and on moderated forums. Whilst they should be challenged, and challenged robustly it is not the case that they are a true and growing threat, its more the last adolescent backlash of a changing culture howling to anyone who will listen.

The youtube money, patreon cash and similar does seem to benefit a few of them though, who would have thought that the far right would be reduced to that? Effectively begging online! I wonder if the true views of the leading figures are actually a lot softer, that what was once indignant fury has softened despite the revolving cycle of youtube views, donations, crowdfunders and the like; now less to stop a feminist movement and more to maintain a comfortable lifestyle. It’s a cynical view and a harsh one, who would wish to be trapped performing their younger politics for cash, becoming ever more unemployable after each dwindling incoming flush of subscribers?

Its right to feel sorry for them, as long as that sorrow is matched with opposition and mockery. Whether its the great minds behind the Sarkeesian Effect or the idiots below:

http://www.maidenhead-advertiser.co.uk/gallery/maidenhead/104800/men-s-rights-campaigner-announces-bid-to-oust-theresa-may-from-maidenhead-seat.html

Big or small, they hate and they are laughable because of it.