The Mediterranean is Becoming a Killing Field

I’d like to take you on a journey. Up in the mountains behind Malaga lies the small town of Alameda. It’s only a little place, around 5500 residents, but it was my home for 5 years. Many of you may also have spent time in similar-sized towns, regardless of where you’re from on this world. Now imagine that over the course of one year, over half of its population died. You never knew where they’d gone, but you knew they were dead. Then imagine that in the first four months of this year, nearly all of those remaining died.

All those people, with their own individuality, hopes, dreams, desires, loves, talents, skills, irreversibly removed from this world. The devastation you would feel would be intolerable, and yet death of this scale is happening as we speak, as so chillingly put by Dan Hodges in his blog for The Telegraph.

Since January last year, 3750 people are thought to have died crossing the Mediterranean Sea from Libya to Europe. Some are fleeing a wrecked state that the US and EU have barely helped since the Civil War ended. Others are fleeing Somalia, or Eritrea, or other countries in desperate situations. In the latest incidents, 1300 people have died in a single week. You’d think that such “civilized” nations would be trying their hardest to stem the flow of blood that is seeping into the Mediterranean from the bloated corpses of those who had the temerity to wish for a better life, but no.

Instead, Britain and the EU have cut search and rescue. Through some perverted reasoning, it is believed that instead of saving people, search and rescue actually causes more people to die. That they’re enticed across as the refugee believes they’re more likely to survive the crossing. In the perfected Machiavellian logic of conservatives, it must make sense – “this way we can pretend to care and cut costs at the same time!” Either the conservatives, who have likely never experienced such a crisis don’t understand the desperation of those fleeing a conflict zone, or simply see it as a way to seem hard on immigration, appeasing xenophobes.

The rise of the anti-immigrant UKIP political party in the UK, and the racist vitriol found in the right-wing press went some way to creating this policy too. It is possible that by the end of the year, 5000 or more people will have died making the crossing. Killed by this policy. The “immigrants taking our jobs and benefits” idea is riding high going into the UK General Election next month. Will any change come, regardless of who takes power? Looking at the parties, it seems unlikely. Even the ostensibly left-wing Labour Party are promising to be tough on immigration. This toughness has already killed thousands.

David Cameron, Nigel Farage, the Daily Mail, right-wing peddlers of hate of all European nations – thousands of people, with their own individuality and dreams of a better life, are now dead by your hands. How do you plead?

JECC – Nerja, Spain – 22/04/2015


Why a typewriter?

Typewriter, check Smokes, check Sound of the waves, check

Typewriter, check
Smokes, check
Sound of the waves, check

Well then, here we are – 1980. Sid Vicious has been dead for a year, Iran is held by a new regime, and perhaps most pertinently to me at this very moment, Olivetti released the Lettera 40, which I’m typing on right now. The decision to try writing on a typewriter has been incubating in my mind for a while now, and I finally took the plunge. Let me try to explain why I’ve gone back to the technology of the last century.

Well, firstly, there’s something immensely satisfying about the physical feedback you get from typing on this thing. Seeing the heavy metal typeset fly up, and seeing your words recreated on the paper in front of you gives you a real physical connection to your craft. As Hemingway once said, when you write, you bleed, and that’s never more apparent than when you’re using a typewriter. You feel the words flow from you like some bodily humour. You feel more like a true writer than you ever do on something as soulless as a computer.

Second, and probably most importantly to me, is a lack of distractions. There’s no web browsers, no games, no gifs, and no videos. All you have is the page and your mind, your soul. It may seem strange, but the main effect of this isn’t you speeding up, it’s you slowing down. You stop and think more, keenly aware that everything you type is being committed to physical record. You want to make every passage the very best you can, since going back and correcting anything is a right pain in the ass. You end up trying your hardest at every moment.

The third factor is the hardest to define. There’s a sense of connection with history. I’m experiencing the same feelings, physical and otherwise, as most of my favourite authors did throughout their careers. Their understanding of the essence of typing is something I can feel and understand now. It’s a kind of spiritual experience, a little bit of a reverie.

I doubt that I’ll be using this machine for work – the turnaround time of most freelance writing these days makes typing something up on here and then transferring it to a computer impractical. For blogging or writing fiction though? This little machine is perfect. I get to sit out on my terrace, with a drink and a smoke, listening to the roar of the waves and just create. There’s not much more I could ask for. Whenever I feel the need to escape from the constant barrage of information that is modern life, I get to come out here, type on this little machine that once belonged to a Spanish teacher, and just be at one with myself and my work.

I’m not suggesting that this would work for everyone, but if you feel the need to just work, create, free-form, without distraction? I’d definitely recommend it. It sure does work for me.

JECC – Nerja, Spain – 20/04/2015

The Need for a Counterculture

Yesterday, I was lucky enough to find an actual reasoned discussion in the comments on Youtube. I was looking at the clip of the High Water Mark speech from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, since it’s what got me into this mixed-up business in the first place. Someone was making the argument that we should make this decade our 1960s, a shout against the world. In response, someone else was arguing that the energy that fueled the 60s can never come around again, that cultures are so diverse that one single counterculture can never exist.

I couldn’t help but wonder, just where would we be if we held this negative idea as a species? Adopting such a massive negative as your thought will only bring about negative results. The counterculture of the 60s wasn’t just some being that sprang fully formed from the primordial swamp of our minds. The counterculture came from the beat generation, a full decade earlier, and grew and grew. We can make it, or at least something very similar, happen again, if we wanted to. The internet and the modern world are not something that builds barriers, but breaks them down, unifies people from around the world, like nothing else has before. There still is a worldwide feeling of rebellion against the old order, cast your minds back just three years, to the peak of the Occupy movement. There we saw people uniting, from across the spectrum of humanity, all united in wanting change, all using the internet to become stronger.

The need for such a reaction is stronger now than ever before, and grows stronger every day. Every day we see the rise of bigoted politicians around us, the militarization of police, the rich laughing as the poor try and survive. The need to shock, and expand the minds of all straight ‘law-abiding’ people has almost never been stronger. We need to shock our opponents, give our love freely, and not be afraid to express ourselves fully, never gagging our essential natures like the world wants us to. Being a defeatist, and saying that it can never happen, only gives our enemies the strongest weapon they could hope for – apathy.

Take Allen Ginsberg. Here’s a man, a gay Jewish man, who society could scarcely have looked down upon more. He responded to this subjugation by writing his own works, expressing his desires and thoughts completely. He helped create the hippie movement of the 60s. If he’d been apathetic and refused to express his own thoughts, a whole generation might have been deprived that same hope. We need more people like him right now, not people who wonder ‘what’s the point?’

The 60s were a once-in-a-lifetime moment, but the key is in that phrase. Once-in-a-lifetime is not the same as ‘once in history’. The world can have its counterculture again, we can make our voices heard again. The high water mark is not something that stands for eternity, never to be equaled. Its something that is our peak so far, but we can do better. We must.