If we can break it…

CHRONICLES

village_of_the_damned

A still from Village of the Damned

This time of this year is now the first of what I’m sure will be an annual three-day period of reflection. Today is the limbo day. Yesterday, David Bowie was born and tomorrow, the Starman died. His life was art, and even his death was a performance.

Bowie’s music was autobiographical, just like my stories. The easiest way to record my life is as a series of fictional works, just as Bowie did with his music. There is a part of me or my experience in every story I write, and one of my planned books is a fictionalisation of my autobiography. I went to quite some lengths to have stories to tell, and stories only happen to those who are able to tell them.

Those who think and write are the ones who are more likely to be remembered, not necessarily immediately following their departure but many years after they died, they might be discovered. Right now, those people can start to change things. The problem we have, is that people don’t listen, or don’t have the patience. So us thinkers and writers need to be interesting, to counter the typical response to anything educated: “Boring!” (For another commentator’s opinion on this phenomenon, see this article by David Hopkins: How a TV Sitcom Triggered the Downfall of Western Civilization).

Social media shares some blame for this dumbing down, especially Facebook. I sometimes tire of a newsfeed populated by “X will get pregnant in 2017” and other such completely unscientific bullshit. What is wrong with these people? They are at best naïve. These people may not work, but do they not have anything more to do in their lives? Like learn? I only use Facebook to keep in touch with friends and sometimes see something interesting posted by one of the more educated ones. Generally, I prefer Twitter.

But then, the power of humanity sometimes gives me reason to be grateful:

Not long ago, there was a very unpleasant trend on Facebook, where people were posting pictures of individuals whose physical appearance didn’t fit some sort of “ideal” and who were in many ways different. So those people were ridiculed and exploited by a disgusting “Tag a friend” craze.

I’m a bit of an activist sometimes and this phenomenon really repulsed me. So I joined groups, lobbied and generally spoke out in defence of the innocent victims of this practice in various fora. A combined effort appears to have worked. Facebook haven’t banned the practice because it doesn’t infringe their editorial guidelines, which are basically free speech governed by algorithms (For the official human rights definition of free speech and my own editorial guidelines, see the Amnesty link on this blog).

It just goes to show that if you believe strongly about something and if you join forces with others, you can make a change.

As I said in my most recent story, Cardboard Sky, we are at a stage in our evolution where we can either guarantee our future as a race, or become history. There needs to be a change of global rhetoric and a focus on a new agenda. It’s a new world order which could be 200-250 years away but if there is to be a future, we need to start the conversation now.

There’s another world, another possibility and it’s within our reach: As more and more white collar jobs are automated to computers and AI, just as blue collar jobs were to machines and robots, there will come a point where paying benefits claimants JSA is a pointless exercise because they will be looking for jobs which don’t exist any more. As such, that part of the benefits system becomes a waste of money and resources. The computerisation and replacement of jobs with AI will impact jobs up to a certain level and even those in relatively well-paid “middle class” jobs, such as some lawyers, may find themselves made redundant by machines. This is where the idea of a Universal Income comes in: A sum of money paid to everyone, so that they can live a sustainable (if not luxurious) life. This then frees them to re-train for the remaining professions, or to develop themselves into something: Perhaps a writer. There will be more minds available which are free to think and then the conversation continues. Canada, Finland and the Netherlands are at various stages of discussions on a universal, or basic, income for all.

The two biggest political stories last year were Brexit and Trump’s presidential election victory. Both were the results of a disillusioned electorate, frustrated by what they knew but not knowing what they wanted. The far right used this unease to gain traction and the left were found wanting. It was a perfect storm. Both campaigns were based on lies but false journalism and people not checking facts were equally to blame. I have lost count of the times I’ve seen a friend post something on Facebook, only to have to tell them it’s not true. A recent example was this one:

(Questionable, unverified claim begins).

PIN NUMBER REVERSAL

If you should ever be forced by a robber to withdraw money from an ATM machine, you can notify the police by entering your PIN # in reverse.

For example if your pin number is 1234 then you would put in 4321.

The ATM recognizes that your pin number is backwards from the ATM card you placed in the machine

The machine will still give you the money you requested, but unknown to the robber, the police will be immediately dispatched to help you.

This information was recently broadcast on CTV and it states that it is seldom used because people don’t know it exists.

I checked with my Bank of Nova Scotia to see if this was correct and staff said yes this information is correct.

Please pass this along to everyone possible.

(Questionable, unverified claim ends).

Really? Great if it’s true but improbable. As I’m not so gullible as the person who’d posted, I checked the facts; I did some research (It’s false, as confirmed by Snopes). The original poster hadn’t, and what that meant was quite simply, a lie was spread. Nothing major in this instance but this is partly how Brexit and Trump happened, because the uneducated allowed it. It just goes to show how important it is to research and verify facts before publishing something in a public forum.

In one respect, the bottom line to all of this is that if people in general just fucking thought a bit more, the world wouldn’t be in such a mess. I lost some friends in the run-up to the UK referendum vote, simply because I could no longer tolerate their ignorant and closed minds. A typical comment would be, “My granddad fought in the war.” Yes, against exactly the kind of fascism you now spread. But as soon as I started to explain this in a more diplomatic way, I was branded “boring!”

“I always had a repulsive need to be something more than human.” David Bowie.

He was my hero, my influence and my guardian angel. He was the one who told me it was okay to be expressive, even if others might not approve. He taught me that it’s okay to be myself. Everyone mourns their idols but Bowie was more than that, for me and millions of others: He was a way of life. “At the centre of it all.” At the centre of many lives and mine. Blackstar: A black hole.

It’s not beyond the realms of possibility, future science and contemporary fiction that I could resurrect my mentor. I have a signed copy of his Diamond Dogs album. There will be microscopic fragments of his DNA behind the glass of the frame.

It’s okay to be expressive, for expression is freedom, the very ethos of this blog. Just check the facts. Question, read, learn, and write. We can all be writers and make a difference but we have to ensure that what we add to the conversation is valuable.

It will be a long conversation, which future generations will need to continue. But if we don’t keep talking and educating ourselves and others, there will be no future generations.

And finally, “We did something extraordinary. Someone called it a revolution…Musicians from all over the world came together…With passion, dedication and fucking hard work, we can transform our lives. So stick together. No more conflicts. And play rock and roll.”

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Face to face with the man who…

THE WRITER’S LIFE

Bowie heels

Gender bending icons who looked killer in heels: Dazed

Oh no, not me; I never lost control: The man who sold the world; And I looked around and the monster was me; Rebel, rebel… I have lived my life with the words of David Bowie. Ever since he taught me – aged 14 – that it was okay to have a crush on your best friend at an all-boys’ grammar school, the Star man has been there. After almost six months in my studio, the person inside me is finally coming out. It’s a relief from a burden I didn’t even know was there. Time takes a cigarette.

“Here I stand, foot in hand, talking to my wall. I’m not quite right at all, am I?” If this is madness, then please don’t set me free.

Here I sit, on the leather sofa in my small cube of a flat, with the typewriter conveying what’s going on inside while Bowie plays on the hi-fi. It’s a lovely place in space and time right now and one which took a long time to find.

I’m sitting in faux judgement of those who still judge me, for drinking and for the company I choose to keep. I will not deny my company to those who seek it. The only problem with some of those friends being teenagers is those who judge. I can deny those people any further existence in my life. To those who continue to judge and make assumptions: I died the last time you saw me drunk. Move on, like I am. Get a life, like I have.

I have battled for three years and those who know me now, know me now. I continue to suffer every day, dealing with the guilt. I’ve written extensively about the struggle which me and others endure. I won the battle with alcohol but the war is one which will be life-long. I’m clean now: no parasites.

Maybe it’s a mid-life crisis; perhaps it’s to make up for other inadequacies: Others will make their minds up and I won’t give a shit. I’m from London and you can’t take that out of the boy.

I’ve changed and I continue to metamorphose into someone different. It was in me all along but it was stifled. It’s only now I have the freedom that I’m able to truly express myself. No boss to answer to; Just me.

I’m metro, retro, ska punk, atheist, anarchist, feminist, pacifist: a bit of a mixture. I’ve found life and it’s unlikely I’ll ever share it with anyone: I’m too complicated. I work in the gig economy, so I’m skint. Like everyone and everything else, I am made from the big bang and I will continue to exist forever. These are things I’ve learned in life. Life was stifling me, through jobs, marriage and having to be “normal”.

I’m a human; I’m an Earthling; I’m a space invader. But only for now.

So what if I’ve got a load of metal in my face? One of my piercings is a safety pin through my ear: The symbol of protection. So what if wear a headband sometimes? Sometimes I’ll wear a bandanna: So fucking what?

Look me in the eyes and I will stare right back at you, reflecting the void behind your visual cortex. If you judge me, you will see nothing but contempt.

When I wear skinny-fit black jeans with 2″ pixie heels, a loose-hanging shirt with a waistcoat, and perhaps a cravat or a loose scarf around my neck, all topped off sometimes with a trilby, so what? So what, so what, you boring little cunt (The Anti-Nowhere League).

I feel comfortable. I feel confident. I feel expressive. I feel flamboyant and eccentric. I feel a little provocative. I feel like myself. I used to be the kind of person who would frown at anything out of the ordinary, make assumptions and judge. Now that I’m on the other side, I want to provoke those who might judge.

I’m very lucky to have a good friend as a next door neighbour: a 63-year-old, ex-con; Very metrosexual and comfortable in his sometimes eccentric outfits. He’ll go out in our little village, dressed in a three piece suit, with a pocket watch in his waistcoat and a hanky in his breast pocket. So what? He looks good. Frankly, he’s not the kind of person people are likely to question and neither am I.

People will always point and look, making assumptions. Now it’s different: Am I gay? Am I a transvestite? Actually, neither. So what if I was? So in fact, I don’t give a toss about the false assumptions: An existential end to the judgement.

Like another personal hero – Eddie Izzard – I’m just someone who’s comfortable being themselves. Sometimes I’ll express it. Talk to me and you might find me quite engaging. It was through talking to others that I broadened my horizons and now I’m free.

“Are you going to a fancy dress party?” / “What have you come as?”

“Myself.”

And when I feel like myself, it comes across in my writing, like the whimsical tales I sometimes write and which readers tell me they enjoy more than the dark stuff. It’s why Cyrus Song (the next novel) is going so well.

Of course, writing is a form of self-expression and other people enjoy my stories. But I don’t want to have to explain myself to everyone: no-one should have to. I’m inclusive and I respect people for who they are; more so if they’re a little eccentric and flamboyant. It might explain why I have so many gay friends. It’s also why so many of my friends are young: I hope they don’t have their individuality beaten out of them like I did.

“You’ve torn your dress. Your face is a mess. How could they know? Hot tramp: I love you so.”

The Studio has made me what I am and helped me to find myself within it.

I didn’t turn out gay but I don’t shy away from that side of my sexuality. It’s not a shell, a veneer or a disguise; It’s what was always shielded by holding down a job, being married with a family and running a business. “Life” took the life out of me. I had a lot of money then and now I have next to none, but I’ve found the life within me and I’m beginning to enjoy living it. Without excusing it, the drinking was a shield too. Having lost everything and with no means of expression, I got drunk. I’d have done better to join a drama group perhaps, but I eventually found writing.

I’m changing. I have been for a couple of years now but it’s only in the last six months that I’ve really had my own place, where I can work things out. Despite me being a bit introvert, there was someone struggling to get out; to express themselves. Always a closet flamboyant and eccentric, now I’m able to experiment.

This is me: The man who looked in the mirror and realised that the monster was me.

I’m a gender bender and I’m fucking proud.

The man who sold the world: I’m glad I did.