Meanwhile, cranes have taken a conceptual turn and gone mobile!
STOP PRESS: The Mutually Assured Distraction cabaret is confirmed for the evening of 28th June 2018 in the Cowley Club in Brighton. Watch this space for confirmation of very special MAD guests...
Meanwhile, cranes have taken a conceptual turn and gone mobile!
Last night I went out to see The War Game (watch here), a docu-drama from 1965 about the aftermath of a nuclear attack in Britain. It is still a great piece of film making and must have been highly innovative for its time. Alex Cox reviews it and its significance. I've never seen it before and it definitely still packs and intellectual and emotional punch... Based in Kent, Peter Watkins' drama is based on what actual happened after bombings in cities like Dresden and Hiroshima. Commissioned by the BBC, the corporation and the government of the day - interestingly the Labour government of Harold Wilson - judged the film too horrifying to screen (in their own status quo serving terms, they were surely right!). The War Game is nothing if not disturbing. Despite effectively being banned the film won the 1966 Academy Award for best documentary. Near the end, the film notes the virtual silence in the press, official publications and on TV about nuclear weapons and especially the effects of their use. Evoking hope, the narrator asks: 'But is there a real hope to be found in this silence?' It struck me that the silence today is even more profoundly deafening. I recalled my own memory of the distribution of the often evoked and much mocked 'Protect and Survive' official pamphlet from 1980... And I wondered how deep our contemporary silence actually was. From memory, I conjured the archaic sounding term 'civil defence' and Googled it. From what I read, it seems that we (led - of rather not led - by government) really do have out heads in sand about what to do in the event of a nuclear attack - the aftermath is not unimaginable, The War Game renders it all too imaginable. Perhaps there is no policy beyond burn the bodies that makes any sense... Thanks - I think - to Ceredigion Stop the War group for screening the film. Our project to publish Nuclear Refrain, arrange an evening of MAD cabaret, fold peace cranes and make an action and exhibition etc seems more urgent now, if only to whisper into the silence of connivance with horror.
I have a new-old phone with a rubbish camera because I fell in the sea with my other one. Still, these cranes brightened my morning-after The war Game mood.
Last week Lotte was on a computer based Welsh course near Llanidloes. On Day 3 she noted that she had not time on her hands but time for her hands. So, she began folding cranes as she listened and learned. Astoundingly, she averaged one hundred cranes per day for the next three days. Moreover, she taught her fellow students how to fold peace cranes. One woman took the technology home and it enthused and engaged her daughter. Iola is totally into the project and contributed her own folded cranes to the tally: This challenge is in the bag!
Oh, and look at the cloud covered sea that happened a couple of evenings ago!
Last night activist choir Cor Gobaith renewed the cranes flying from the peace tree in Aberystwyth. One of my own cranes joined them to nest there too. The choir went on to sing at a protest against the UK's participation in bombing Syria without parliamentary debate, UN approval or a strategy to help bring about a ceasefire or a lasting peace.
And then there was Theresa May entering a sycophantic alliance with Donald Trump, which also snares nouveau Blairite populist Macron, to bomb Syria before having public proof of a nerve gas attack by Assad on Douma, without UN sanction, without UK parliamentary debate and a vote, and on dubious legal grounds... So, as well as frantically folding cranes in the encroaching shadow of World War III, I've been helping organise public protest in Aberystwyth. Here we go again, not siding with genocidal dictators like Assad (see Saddam Hussein) but campaigning for a political response that is not the short-sight (sic) eye-for-an-eye politics that blinds the world to moving beyond violence, macho-posturing and killing.
If you haven't seen this band live, just do it. With thematic albums on public service broadcasting itself (songs from some revealing stories of the 30s, 40s and 5Os), the space race and, now, the demise of coal mining and the culture and identities of the south Wales Valleys, culturally PSB are the ultimate critical celebrants of modernity. Their music is built around sampling sound and visual archives, which quite evidently must take loads of time and effort. It's amazing to listen to and retains a freshness that keeps them on always neat the top of the cd pile. Also, especially, in the case of Every Valley, some tracks are beautiful, poignant and evocative. To really bring the music to life you have to go to a gig and see the film footage that goes with the music - archive footage ingeniously inter-cut with live footage of PSB's live performance. I'm told an album about the Titanic is in the offing... I half-joked that listening to and seeing this band is the only history lesson anyone would ever need, especially if they combined it with watching Cunk on Britain for the UK angle!
While we were in Swansea to see Public Service Broadcasting, we folded some cranes with friends late into the night in the after gig euphoria... Here's one with the PSB cd cover and a genuine piece of Ffos-y-Fran coal, a souvenir from Wales' last (please God) open-cast coal mine. In the age of climate change our view of coal in Wales as a immense reserve of energy and source of jobs has changed...
sSo, cranes pondered for a while what the material grounds for solidarity between refugees in Calais and our critique of deterrence, mutually assured destruction and so Trident replacement… But, in the end, it was as plain as the beaks on our faces: violence and profit, war (or the prospect of) and the arms industry. Conflict and capitalism are best buddies and refugees from Afghanistan, Iran, Syria and Eritrea are economic externalities – lives wrecked and unpaid for. But how would a left-wing / green defence policy work? Is there any reason beyond pacifism – can people in a place really plan to defend themselves militarily this late in the nuclear age? Where would defence preparation stop? At nuclear deterrence? It seems the Labour Party in the UK, at least, can’t think outside that box. Yet, cranes felt safe in Spain with no nuclear weapons, without deterrence…
p.s. I know I’ve started to speak as the cranes – affectation maybe, but it’s a way of thinking beyond me, and they do seem to be taking on a life of their own!
p.p.s. How eclectic is this little gallery of photos? Today a woman painted a mural of a laundry on the side of a container at the Calais warehouse, later I ran into Churchill and de Gaulle, last night I attempted a photo of Eritreans around their campfire
On the second stop of one of last night’s distribution runs, the young Eritrean men developed a sudden and quite spectacular interest in more than skinny jeans, hoodies and black socks in small size that actually fit them (donors please take note). Tonight they wanted condoms, ‘preservatives’, and in orgiastic proportions. ‘We don’t understand?’ we said in English, French and head-shaking, shoulder hunching gestures. Shyly, the guys tried to explain: something to do with cars, very intimately to do with cars. The three of us on the distribution run were, I think, trying not to let our minds fix on images of young me having sex with some part or other of a car. Hugely amused by our obvious befuddlement, when he could stop himself laughing a jovial guy took time out to explain: the condoms are for urinating when someone does manage to stowaway on a truck making the long journey to the UK. Of course, I should have known! Well, actually no, I shouldn’t because I have never in my life been anywhere near that desperate to be somewhere else so that I could have the chance of making a peaceful life with a reasonable degree of well-being.
The condom bonanza maybe signalled that there was something in the offing for these guys soon, perhaps tonight. Because some people are managing to get to Britain, either by their own devices taking the all too imaginable risk of grabbing and clinging on to an articulated lorry or, if they have the have the money, putting their lives in the hands of people smugglers. My friend on the distribution run, Florent, talked with them and listened to the young men’s dreams of how life will be in the UK. He has no right, he tells me, and I agree, to disabuse them. What should we say: you are the despised of the Earth; most people in the UK fear and loathe you; you are not wanted there or anywhere else in the world. And what happens when these young men do make it to the UK, evade the authorities and try to live their lives? Will they be exploited as illegal labour? Will they have shelter? Will they be safe? I can only dole out the preservatives and hope that someday they find somewhere and some people they can call home; somewhere that they can find a measure of security and the good life.
In a diversion from their flight path, cranes have touched down in Calais. These odd birds have two reasons for doing this. First, they thought they'd like to help refugees a little bit. Second, in France there is an anti solidarity law - can you believe it! So cranes have taken time out from Trident to fly in the face of the law and express their solidarity with all the people working to help refugees in Calais and elsewhere, especially their special friends Utopia 56. Here's photos of cranes arriving in Calais and 'working' in the warehouse from where volunteers distribute food, clothing, firewood and much more to refugees
I am he as you are he as you are me, and we are all together