The Lotto Players

opera

‘Lotto’ is a Registered Trade Mark (an RTM).  This means that the word ‘Lotto’ is protected in UK law as being a ‘Badge of Origin’ and as a ’Sign’ which is capable of ‘Graphically Representing’ ‘distinctively’ and ‘without confusion in the mind of the average consumer’ the goods or services for use with which it is registered. This registration allows under penalty of law, protection to the RTM holders from unauthorised copying of the word for the same or similar uses, and/or against any harm economically such copying might do towards the persons holding the RTM rights in this word ‘Lotto’.

‘Lotto’ is the Badge of Origin of The UK National Lottery; and as Badge of Origin it guarantees to a buyer of a ticket, which ticket allows a buyer a chance to win millions of £; it guarantees a buyer of that ticket which bears the word ‘Lotto’, that his/her ticket originated from the business which runs The UK National Lottery.

As a ‘Sign’ the word ‘Lotto’ distinguishes that ticket bought by a buyer to be a genuine bona fide UK National Lottery ticket. The ‘Sign’ ‘Lotto’ is used by the owners of its RTM rights in the marketing, advertising and sales of tickets. Where that ‘Sign’ is seen by a person, say, outside a newsagent’s or a grocer’s shop, that person can trust that genuine tickets can be bought there.

RTMs, as ‘Badges of Origin’, and ‘Signs’ of this sort, are some of the most valued possessions of Commercial Enterprises:  people like you and I know them better as Brands. These Brand names are worth £ billions as intangible assets of their owners (who are known as ‘holders’).

‘Lotto’ is a word which in a distant time but within living memory still, in the UK was associated with the game known better today as ‘Bingo’. The game has other names, such as ‘Tombola’, or ‘Housey-housey’; most of which names have gone along with ‘Lotto’ as a signifier for ‘Bingo’ into the ‘deep backward and abysm of time’.

And so ‘Lotto’ as a signifier of a game like The UK National Lottery, was at the time of its adoption and Registration as an RTM by its holders, relatively free from association with the game of ‘Bingo’ and so available to be picked up and newly associated with a National Lottery enterprise.

Let’s take a look at the word ‘Lotto’, and see what might have been the appeal of such a word to this enterprise that it should choose ‘Lotto’ to be its ‘Badge of Origin’ and ‘distinctive’ ‘Sign’.

A word here first on those persons and companies who are employed by such enterprises; to provide for them what are esteemed good and effectual Badges of Origin’ and ‘Signs’ to be aimed at their consumers: the thinkers-up of Brand-names.

Such thinkers-up are themselves highly-esteemed within the circles in which they move; and are consulted at huge fees to their clients so as to come up for them with that just-right ‘Badge of origin’ or ‘Sign’ which, as Leonard Cohen has it is ‘the card that is so high and wild you’ll never need another’.

 So we should look then at what resides inherently in the word ‘Lotto’ which encourages its RTM rights holders to believe it to be such a ‘card’.

‘Lotto’ then has a distant history of gambling behind it as its provenance as a word in the English language. I mentioned ‘Lotto’ used to be a name for ‘Bingo’.  Older players of The National Lottery would remember this to have been the case; or at least would be bearing a ‘residual memory’ of the word having been once connected with recreational laying out upon risk.  This section of the population then, who wishes to play on a small stakes, high prize, little chance, gamble would be well on the way to being hooked and in the net by the sight or sound of the word ‘Lotto’.

Now in South Wales where I live there is at least a regional tendency for language to be used by ordinary people loosely and colloquially.   Here in South Wales there is an added complication with the residual effects of a once widely-spoken Welsh language being still in play socially.  Welsh has not been spoken hereabouts as a commonplace language for perhaps a hundred years or more; the encroachments of coal mining and iron smelting and of The Industrial Revolution generally in the nineteenth century largely has caused this demise of Welsh being spoken in South-east Wales.  The same factors effectively destroyed the natural beauty of the landscapes and the pasture to boot.

But elsewhere in Wales the Welsh language still goes on quite strongly; in North Wales and in Mid-West Wales there are large, perhaps majorities of inhabitants who use the language in their day to day lives.  These places remain largely rural and agricultural areas, untouched relatively by the steel mills and pitheads.

(Today those mines are closed and the steel industry is almost entirely moved on; but the scars upon the landscape and upon the descendants of the peoples who worked them largely remain.  I am adding all this seemingly-diverting material because indeed it does bear on my main arguments.)

Residual Welsh language then. The people roundabouts me have a habit, and it might be nationwide across the UK that this habit occurs, I do not know for sure; but here in South Wales ordinary folk will add to a word of one syllable which is in common usage, a word say like  ‘drink’; an ‘o’ to make it colloquially ‘drinko’. Longer words, particularly people’s names and shop-names like say, ‘The Corporation’ public house will be called ‘The Corpa’, or a shop called ‘Wilkinson’s’ will become ‘Wilko’s’.

In the Welsh language a number of commonplace nouns end in the suffix ‘io’ – just as the English word ‘radio’ does. Many words naturalised from English into Welsh adopt this ‘io’ ending in their Welsh manifestations; so that ‘phone’ becomes ‘phonio’ and so on.  This can still be the case across Wales where Welsh is spoken today.

So that, even though the trend might be UK-wide, in my area I believe there is a stronger impetus coming from a residual use of Welsh in South East Wales, which I believe tends towards curtailing to one syllable and then to suffixing many English words with these ‘io’ ‘a’ and ‘o’ endings.

‘Lotto’ is a gift to the ordinary people around about who are the generators of this linguistic trend of curtailing syllables and adding a suffix. ‘Lotto’ after all is phonetically the word ‘lot’ with an ‘o’ added to it.  In the minds of people then ‘Lotto’ might easily be associated with the construction ‘a lot’.

A ‘lot’ besides being ‘a huge amount’ is also in other incarnations ‘a stake in a draw’ or ‘a person’s burden or fate’ or else even a person’s ‘chance elected task’ as in ‘we drew lots for it and the lot fell to me.’

‘Lot’ is a word reeking in so many of its senses with the ideas of fate, chance, choice, luck, fortune, so that the word ‘Lotto’ is able to exploit all this odour of opportunity nestling within chance.

(‘Lotto’ as a name of course has a semblance of a sort to the business it represents; that business being a ‘Lottery’)

So the word ‘Lotto’ is a good choice of Brand name for the UK National Lottery then?  The bosses who run the Company behind it thought so; and probably paid a few £ millions to the Consultancy which came up with that name.  But what does the fact signify that the Lottery Company chose that name ‘Lotto’ out of probably a few dozen options laid on the table before them by their Consultants?  It probably signifies a great deal of things.

It’s what I call, in perhaps a rather jaundiced manner, The LCD factor at work. The name ‘Lotto’ chosen for the National Lottery is aimed at and crafted so as to aim at the Lowest Common Denominators amongst the lottery-ticket buyers. It is a downwards-appealing name and as such is a considered and deliberate attempt to draw in the people from the lower social classes within society.  For the lure and the bait to be able to do this it thought that it has to be as basic and uncomplicated, obvious, direct; so plain and dull; painfully unsophisticated.

The UK National Lottery has been called openly by its detractors ‘a voluntary tax on the poor’. Voluntary because the poor people elect to buy its tickets; many of them religiously weekly; and having superstitious sets of numbers and certain shop outlets and particular times of day and lucky birthdays etc by which to try to scry the runes and awaken Fortuna to their orisons.

I have written elsewhere about what it is like to be poor; about how the phrase ‘grinding poverty’ is just so apt.  Being poor is a disqualification; especially in a highly developed industrial society wherein one needs money to breathe the air and to think thoughts even.  Being poor is called penury; and it is penury because the disqualifications of being poor in their effects imprison a person; make a person greatly unfree; and a person feels that unfreedom as a great and weary burden upon every moment in their lives.  When you are unable to have the extra slice of bread you fancy; when you are constrained to not spend that coin but save it for the gas meter to cook a meal later; when the tinkle of a few coins in your pocket when you dress mornings is a music of relief to your ears; then you know you are enchained and enslaved by our system of exchange and political science.

I see almost daily young mothers with two or maybe more young children; one in a pushchair and say two more with a hand each on the rails of that pushchair; and she will spend several £s on Lotto lottery tickets; which money she cannot afford and would be better spending the money on a box of chocolates or a cup of tea and a sandwich. The young mother is aged before her time and not well-dressed nor kept; she is in a frazzle keeping her children at peace; she is not aware of others around her; she is placing all her life’s hope – for this week at least – on this (reckless and fruitless) gamble so as to be able to go home and on Saturday night sit on her sofa and enjoy a few minutes urging the TV presenter to draw out her numbers.

This is a tax on the poor; this desperate need of people to have a tiny and remote ‘blowhole’ with which to feel some little freedom for a few minutes dreaming one might be free of all this ‘grind’ and say instead in the Caribbean, or at Stringfellows enjoying life in spades.

Even the dreams of such people are earthbound; and for the most part being able to enjoy the lifestyle of the people whose large earnings come from the likes of them, the ticket-buyers; is their best shot at imagining happiness for themselves.

Now I am going to write a little about how The National Lottery is marketed and advertised.

Before I do I want to say that The National Lottery is being used as the ‘target’ of this article not because it alone in my own view is pernicious, but because it is also a clear and magnificently potent and open example of the effectual causes of the conditions and lifestyles we live in; of us being Capitalist victims of Capital. The National Lottery writes large so many dead-ends and empty promises for our lives as we live nowadays; that it is my best weapon of choice which I am able to find at the moment.

The National Lottery has an image design which accompanies its Trade Mark. This image is of a pen-drawn smiley face in mid-blue ink on a white background; and the face doubles in a certain view of it as a thumbs-up sign of pleased approval. This image appears on nearly all marketing materials for The Lottery.  Billboards and stand outside shops; hoardings carry it; TV ads show it, and so on; with accompanying slogans; one that springs to mind being ‘Play Here Now!’ and another ‘Play a little – live a Lotto!’

The directness and lack of sophistication of this advertising and marketing is like a brick wall hitting your face; it is likewise LCD.  The ‘Play Here Now!’ item has overtones of the US military with its call to attention ‘Now Hear This!’  Of course the advertising is always upbeat; and it is always trite, trivial and inconsequential, light and feelgood.  Brash rows of lights flash and primary colours abound on the TV ads. Humour and quips are their currency also.

The advertisers either really know their stuff or else have a dreadfully low opinion of the people who feed their money-making machine.

Since Lotto arrived on the scene a great array and variety of related ‘tickets’ have been introduced so as to ‘diversify’ the brand and the customer base; so as to hook in more people to be rinsed.  There are ‘instant win’ tickets which very rarely win instantly. There are fruit machine tickets and there are numbers based tickets and on and on.

Generally speaking in Britain today a person is able to place a wager on almost any public event taking place here or abroad.  Soccer matches are used by Bookmakers.

One is able to place bet on a draw of which team plays which team in certain tournaments; on the half-time score; on the number of goals in the match; on the minute a goal is scored; on the name of the scorer of a first goal; on the number of goals a player will score; on the number of fouls or the number of corner kicks; on and on and on………..

The money laid out in such bets accrues to the Bookmakers. The National Lottery Lotto game however is a Registered Charity here in the UK!  Many stately homes and works of art and public buildings and so on owe their continued presence in the UK in good state of repair to the millions of lower class folks who weekly spend more than they can afford to spend on Lottery and associated draw tickets.  Thus in many instances we see the poor subsidising the better off.  Even The Royal Opera House at Covent Garden, London has received charitable monies from The National Lottery Fund; grants to help fund opera productions or to refurbish the interior.

Now I find this especially riling and pernicious. Watching opera live is the sport of only the most privileged in Britain; of professional people and people of education and means. The opera houses inevitably never make ends meet and are necessarily state subsidised; as items of national prestige and as artistic endeavours.  An opera production can cost tens of millions of £ to stage for a few weeks only.

The set of persons whose habit is to attend and enjoy these productions are well able to pay more towards financing their pleasures in this regard.  I would say with some confidence that most people in the UK who are not professional persons or who have no independent wealth and means; which is I would say well beyond 80% of the population, have never, and will never in their lives, set foot in an opera house to watch a live opera. Just as in the same way it is said that Winston Churchill never stepped on a bus in his entire 80 years lifetime.

It is affront enough to ordinary folk that a form of high entertainment afforded to and affordable by only a very few, a narrow sector of the population, is effectually verboten for most others; and yet many of these very verboten persons are very materially contributory toward the upkeep of that exclusive affair.

In this way the lower orders are kept within the lower orders and are allowed to maintain some slim but palpable hope and expectation of advancement.  The appeal is to the LCD and the appeal to the LCD works; because it has the effect of legitimising the enterprise in the eyes of Lotto ticket buyers, and the whole sordid soaking of the poor it entails. The RTM ‘Lotto’ and its surrounding marketing and advertising say to the poor: it is OK, it is good for you to have a flutter, no harm in it, and you never know ‘It could be you!’ Go on – have a go.

As for the LCD factor; this is the order of the day for us all here presently. Today it was announced that in Trafalgar Square, London, the fourth plinth in the square was unveiled with a new statue on it; a 7 metre tall giant thumb giving passers-by a British ‘thumbs-up’ gesture. The artist (?) who made it said: he wanted something upbeat and universal which would cheer everyone up who saw it.

These ideas which he expressed about why a large thumbs-up beg many, many questions.

But I want to close by saying only that a large, thumbs-up emblem of this kind, is an insult to the people of the UK.  The level of pitch at which such a statue is targeted is derisory, and trite and trivial and worst of all, it encourages the entertainment of carefully contrived mediocrity and plain blandness as being able to fulfil the aspirations and functions of high art, and as I wrote recently concerning that great Victorian sage, Matthew Arnold, of being able to represent ‘the best that has been thought and said in the world.’

 

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The Psychology of Music 4

Do you ever get that sheer buzz when a musical performer is so good, so proficient on her/his instrument that s/he just blows you away?  I find myself when it happens laughing in sheer delight; even on my own listening to a record or CD. Short limited laughter; but involuntary; like a sudden mental release

Like Shelley’s Spirit of Delight it cometh rarely; and few performers are they to whom I am able to respond in such a way.  I am an admirer of David Mellor and his taste and choice in music.  Weekly, on a Sunday evening on Radio Station Classic FM David Mellor presents his show.  He was a UK politician some years ago and held high Ministerial Office, he is a ‘widely-read’ connoisseur of music; and he is far more able than am I to sift out by sheer ear alone what is astonishing in musical performance (recorded).

Yet he has a very good ‘bedside manner’ and is not overbearing or shoving-down-the-throat with his superior listening and selection-power.  He really does give an impression to his listeners, and I have no reason but to believe it a genuine one, that he is so emotionally committed to music as a serious pursuit that his aim is almost a mission to ‘spread the word’ and make converts. Converts not to Mellor-ism but to good musical habits; his own love for music and for good musicians overcomes any self-assertion he might possess otherwise as an individual.

And of course, this is how it ought to be; for any person enthralled by and in lifelong pursuit of the glories of various kinds which life is able to offer as objects of studies or pastimes.  Mathew Arnold, that great Victorian; a man dogged by his loss of Christian belief ever after his early lapse from it; was of a like mind about how a person ought to pursue his/her interests in life.

Arnold came up with a phrase which I have found useful and sufficient ever since as a precise summing-up, an indicator of this selfless state into which true passion for anything outside oneself evokes. He called it; a person having a ‘disinterested interest’ in his/her pursuits.

‘Disinterested’ is a word not in use these days; unless when it is used mistakenly to mean ‘uninterested’.  Arnold remained a deeply ethical and I would say a profoundly Christian man all his life; even though he consciously eschewed Christianity as a viable position intellectually.

There were in his times special historical reasons for this desperate pain he endured as a Christian thinker bearing a non-Christian despair.  There was, one should keep in mind, in his days and during his formative years, an introduction into England from Germany of  the New Biblical Criticism which took the Scriptures to pieces and examined them in ways never before attempted because never before possible.

The European Enlightenment had give theologians the tools to dissect Scripture minutely; and the methodologies to pursue such an activity; and with this destabilising trend for Christian believers appeared around the same time the philosophies of Utilitarianism and Scientific Empiricism; so that the things attached to the earth became predominant in the intellectual milieu of that age and the things of the Spirit became obscured for a time.

Darwin added another hammer blow to the intellectual standing of Christianity, and Matthew Arnold became overwhelmed by this deluge of what seemed to many at the time to be incontrovertible evidence against Scripture and its burden.  Arnold however stuck with his quest to teach persons to aim for objectivity in their judgements; and in his book of social criticism called ‘Culture and Anarchy’ he insisted that in our judgements of affairs and ideas and systems that we ought to try to ‘see the object whole and as it really is’.

His other gift of phrase to the English language is ‘Sweetness and Light’; by which he meant to teach an appreciation in men and women of what he termed ‘the best that has been thought and said in the world’.

These few phrases which I have cited as being the crucial values of Matthew Arnold tend to sum up his character as a person of integrity and culture and sensitivity.

These phrases also are alive and valid for us today; more so even perhaps than in Arnold’s day, since the loss of the word ‘disinterested’ from our current vocabulary is not an isolated accident of no significance; it is a symptom and a casualty of our present loss of grasp of objectivity, of our acknowledging there being such a thing, and of our loss of a sense that it is good to live for the sake of something other than ourselves; and the loss of the resultant ‘Sweetness and Light’ which such pursuit shines into lives; when we admit of and admire ‘the best that has been thought and said in the world’.

Music comes into this category of ‘Sweetness and Light’ as one of its most illustrious prizes.  David Mellor knows this; and David Mellor has helped me to know it better than I had done.

This Sunday he was introducing violinists to his audience. Among them was a little known French woman who died an early death in the years after the Second World War – and she was something else.  I heard her play the first movement of Sibelius’ Violin Concerto, a piece which when done well is riveting; but so often the balance between orchestra and soloist, and often too the ‘blancmange’ approach to its continuity of line, either alone or together mess the rendition of it almost to unlistenable.

This French young woman Ginette Neveu played at once like a possessed harpy but yet with a control and a passionate giving of herself which was allowed to happen by her supporting orchestra; and which was able to show to a person a Sibelius in a way I myself had not before seen. The performer was in this case able to bring to the music a living presence as if she had seen so much further into the written score and into other renditions than one (I) had thought possible. Her gift was to add, so as to, as it were, complete the music. And so give it that spirit which seemed buried within the page by Sibelius during his act of composition.

David Mellor also brought to light a Russian violinist; a contemporary of David Oistrakh; and a violinist who had been overshadowed by David Oistrakh in the visible world, but who had nonetheless carried on and led a life of concert–making, much of it within the then Soviet Union.  His name was (I think I remember) Leonid Kogan, and he was playing the last two movements of Brahms’ Violin Concerto, which is not a favourite with me.

Yet I listened and I was left wondering how he was able to bring into view such ‘wonderful things’ from areas of the music which I had always allowed to pass over me like a hardly-noticeable breeze.  The fact was that he had, for me at least, discovered music in those very places I had up to now considered ‘connecting pieces’ going from one attractive part to another.

It is more than sheer virtuosity I am meaning; it goes beyond technique and interpretation and into areas of the performers’ souls which are ‘taken over’ and ‘possessed’ by the music; and so they present a something which is there for the moment, like a wraith-light or a déjà vu, and then gone leaving behind what might be termed ‘an experience’ for a listener.

These two violinists then had given themselves over, not just for the moment, but their lives in toto, to their passion and to their daemon; had opted for a life of ‘disinterested interest’ in their pursuits; so as to delve into and mine out that ‘sweetness and light’ they saw in the potential of their music, so as to present to their audiences and to the world ‘the best that has been thought and said in the world’ of music.

A coda. The drama of Christopher Marlowe’s ‘The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus’ is said by critics to be a Christian tragedy; which epithet is an oxymoron and almost a contradiction.  Christianity itself has been charged with causing an obliteration of the possibility of tragedy; since the Gospels are Good News’ ‘of peace and goodwill to all men’.

In the 1950s I believe a critic named George Steiner wrote a book influential at the time and it was called ‘The Death of Tragedy’. Steiner argued in it that the case of persons of high and noble standing falling from grace in a way which appears cumulative, unstoppable, and inevitable; such cases were in the modern democratic demagogic age no longer achievable in art. They were no longer achievable as art because they were no longer present in life as current situations. Thus tragedy could no longer be written because our modern life had levelled mankind off so thoroughly that no highly placed noble souls were available to dramatise.

Matthew Arnold was perhaps one of the first casualties of this state of affairs; a man who suffered greatly and who has passed down to history as a man of pathos rather than of a tragic cast. Arnold himself was aware of this situation of his standing. In his later editions of his poetry he deliberately excluded from these collections a poem of his titled ‘Empedocles on Etna’; a poem which narrates the tale of the ancient philosopher Empedocles in a fulfilment a life of despair casting himself into the cone of the volcano Etna.

Arnold justified this omission of his poem by saying that Empedocles’ situation was one ‘in which everything was to be endured and nothing to be done’. Thus Empedocles can be seen as reflecting pretty nearly Mathew Arnold’s own situation in life.

In addition a tragic hero may be foredoomed and may be inevitably crushed by circumstance; but he or she has to be able to deny that fate in spirit and so resist that inevitability with say violent and or haughty action and thus die noble if yet defeated.  Modern life, Steiner argued removed such options for a would-be tragic action in the drama; removed a possibility for high and noble defiance in action. Steiner was writing at a time when dramas like ‘Waiting for Godot’ and ‘The Caretaker’ were being feted on the European stages; dramas which almost celebrate this dead-end lassitude which modern life engenders.

My own contribution to this debate on tragedy and its possibility for our times is this; and it connects I hope to what I have been trying to say about Mathew Arnold and about great musicians.

There is a huge irony happening in our times concerning modern life and tragedy and the loss of Christian belief in many parts of Europe today.  There is tragedy, and it is happening all around and in ‘real life’.  The tragedy is to be seen in the loss of awareness of a possibility for tragedy in our lives.

Just as the word ‘disinterested’ has been diverted as a misnomer into the word ‘uninterested’ so too the word ‘tragedy’ is misplaced by us and is being used by us in regard to road traffic fatalities and with regard to untoward and unfortunate disasters. Every journalist and newsreader seems to use the word several times each week these days.

Ours is a generic and endemic tragedy; and we are all the victims of it.  The Lord Jesus tells us who are happy to believe in worldly power and in paper and other worldly wealth; which are but shadows and dreams able to work us by strings; and yet we are unwilling and unable to consider or to entertain The Lord’s message any longer; a message in fact of more substance, bearing more evidence, and still more presence in our lives than either worldly riches or worldly power have; Jesus said to his people who were just like us:

To what, then, can I compare the men of this generation? What are they like? They are like children sittinginthe marketplace and calingout to one another: ‘ We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not weep’. 

There is no way visible to us that offers escape for us from the fly-bottle; and out of the mousetrap; because we by our captivity to a lack of vision see ourselves cornered-in from one way and cornered-in from the other way; yet there is before us and in sight all the while The Way forward.  As the Lord Jesus calls to us in the marketplace:

 ‘He who has ears to hear; let him hear!’

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What Words Say (3)

‘Common’ – from the Latin root meaning ‘together with’ and ‘binding by obligation’: see:  An Etymological Dictionary of the English Language by Walter W. Skeat

One working person says to another working person ‘huh, she’s common’. How is it that this word ’common’ is used in this instance as a term of disparagement? And why is this so when its root meaning is rested in ‘togetherness’ and in ‘binding obligation’.  The term ‘common’ to many, possibly most, people’s ears means something pretty low down the pecking order of value. How might this relegation into low value and this ‘coming together’ – ‘binding by obligation’ reconcile one to the other? How did such a diversion of the word ‘common’ into such channels of other meaning happen?

The answer, like the answer to the queries I made about the words ‘rule’ and ‘office’, refers back to questions of authority and command, as well as to queries about social class and the dominion of one set of persons over another.

Britain, particularly England, is riddled with social class distinctions and their resultant exclusions and inclusions into and out of ‘society’ or ‘the club’, or ‘the restaurant’ or the ‘art form’ or the ‘recreational activity’ or the ‘way on does one’s gambling’ and so on.

This class system is a legacy, but not a leftover, since it is very much alive and busy sorting us here into ‘formulated phrases’ and ‘fixing us on that pin’ to which we are thought to and accustomed to being thought to belong.  But how is ‘common’ bound up with all this?

Well, even today, in more polite villages and their folk who live in them the word ‘common’ is alive in an otherwise defunct general meaning for the English language.  The ‘common’ is the venue at which local cricket matches are played; the place where picnics are eaten and children’s playgrounds are found. This is because the ‘common’ is the title of a piece of ground, normally grass lawn, possibly with a few trees and bushes at its outer boundaries, on which the people of the village enjoy leisure and recreational activities.  The name is held in aspic in certain London and other place names: ‘Clapham Common’ ‘Wimbledon Common’ and such.

Common’ in this usage of the word as meaning a piece of ground was in the times of Old England that piece of ground, in the days of Lords and Serfs and of Feudal ties between servant Serfs and Ruling Masters, their Lords, on which low caste working villagers we able lawfully to graze their few animals and maybe raise a crop. The ‘common’ as a piece of ground was accessible to all these low caste villagers; and it was a concession of the law held in place by custom and tradition, and with its origins deep in the early days of England first coming together as an integrated and discrete nation.

So today we might explain this usage of the word ‘common’ by saying to our children that; ‘The common people were allowed to make use of the common ground.’  And this is how commoners, or ‘common’ people, low status people, got that appellation ‘common’ in the first place; they were commoners allowed to use a piece of land denominated ‘the common’.

Interestingly enough most commons, pieces of land, have disappeared from the face of Britain. Since the first stirrings of The Industrial Revolution erupting out of the massively increased opportunities for commerce and wealth creation which the ‘discovery’ of the ‘New World’ brought about (another interesting set of terms with ‘connotations to explore) in Europe; Britain became first off from the gate in providing a spate of very useful inventions, mechanical and administrative, which helped immensely to ‘fire-up’ the locomotives and the manufacturing factories, those ‘dark Satanic mills’ which were soon to devour the British landscape and the low caste working ‘commoners’ who dwelt therein.

Land at that time came more and more to be at a premium – for agriculture; because in order for a securely based Industrial Revolution to occur it looks historically-speaking like an Agrarian Revolution had to occur first. The way forward in this Agrarian Revolution at the time seemed to show itself in the shape of items like Jethro Tull’s inventions of The Horse Hoe and of his ‘Seed Drill’, along with many other technological inventions made by many other contributions.

These inventions stimulated an idea for what was called ‘enclosure’. Indeed there was a series of ‘Enclosure Acts’ (see Inclosure Act 1773) passed in the British parliament in the eighteenth century (in the main) and this series of  acts made it lawful for the Landlords and Landowners, those guys who were mostly the descendants of the Feudal Lords who were the controllers of their Serfs; lawful for them to close down common lands and to expel the ‘commoners’ and to land grab and thus overthrow settled longstanding rights in law and tradition and custom in the name of big bucks.

‘Enclosure’ was designed to make arable and pasture fields much bigger and under a single crop or purpose, and Masters. ‘Commoners’ lost their grazing rights, their rights to congregate together on their ‘commons’ and so on – and all at the whim of a government comprised of the same guys who most benefitted from the fruits of enclosure. The upper crust

The new agrarian inventions and methods asked for large and homogenous farming in large land areas – so these land areas were grabbed by the wealthy and influential who were seeking to be more wealthy and more influential. Thus the ‘commoners’ were dispossessed of their heritage – at a stroke – and by those appointed to be their governors and protectors.  This was how these low caste agriculturally-based workers became in truth even more so ‘commoners’ – the shiftless, landless, uprooted, and cast off the land.

In the course of the next 50 or 80 years these ‘lost sheep, all gone astray’ ended up in the burgeoning towns and cities of Britain where a great vacuum requiring factory labourers was irresistibly drawing them in to work there. They had no other place to go to. They became the Lumpenproletariat of Marx, the peoples of The City of Dreadful Night.  These were the ‘common’ people, the Serfs, the items who were reckoned as ‘hands’ and ‘bodies’ by their employers and by their masters.

And that, in somewhat crude but essentially accurate form, is why working persons are called disparagingly ‘common’.

And what has this all to do with ‘Awakening The Christian Inside’?  Well, the story, which is utterly the truth and not much biased as a history of what happened, points up several items to bear in mind, and which should help you see that you must not be fooled into thinking; ‘This is the 21st century and we are all much more civilised now. Things like this can no longer happen.’ Error. Major, major error.

What can safely be drawn out of this history is that:

  1. ‘Common’ in its origins had no stigma of detraction about its meaning
  2. ‘Common’ as in ‘in-common’ is written into the King James Authorised version of the Bible as being the mode of life opted for by Jesus Christ’s first disciples. The Book of The Acts of the Apostles tells us: And all that believed were together, and had all things common’. Acts 2.44.
  3. The governors of all ages will act so as to prefer themselves over their social ‘inferiors’ whom they govern. It is happening to you today, believe it.
  4. That such acts before God as the ‘enclosure’ of common lands are in his eyes abominable. The perpetrators of these acts nonetheless happily, greedily, used the power of national statute law so as to forward their self-interests and so they enclosed the commons
  5. Ordinary people are ever to be dispossessed and made without livelihood in the name of ‘progress’ or of ‘gain’; but this will be said by the governors to be an ‘unavoidable’ thing – like ‘An act of God’ (irony)
  6. ‘Common’ in its older sense was a noble concept of kindness and consideration for others; of keeping one’s word, and in the course of history it has been trampled by the governors of the ordinary person.
  7. ‘Common’ nowadays is a put-down when it is used of a person. One should remember always its first and purer use and derivation.

Finally, God’s Gospel, or Good News, again and again is emphasised in the New Testament throughout to be Good News especially to the poor, the dispossessed, the hungry, the lost, the suffering, the low and the weak. Jesus Christ himself speak to us saying: ‘It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven’

Jesus Christ himself tells us the story of Dives and Lazarus, who are the rich man and the poor man.  Most importantly, he tells us that as ‘no respecters of persons’ (see no.8 in this series) we ought to act in charity unconditionally so that we are able to read with gratitude but not with any gloating:

‘I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

 

 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

 

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What Words Say (2)

In the first part of this mini-series within the bigger Awakening The Christian Inside series and concerning words we use every day and which we don’t think too much about, we looked at the word ‘rule’.

Another word, the word ‘office’, is now the next item up for looking at. In the etymological dictionary the word ‘office ‘ is said to derive from Latin, two words in Latin – the first meaning ‘wealth’ and the second ‘power to act’. Now, to me, that is a revelation indeed; and I can hardly go further than to say that this derivation contains in it the kernel of all which I want to say to you about the word ‘office’ and its brothers and sisters (words like ‘official’ and ‘officer’ and ‘officious’).

Everyone knows, even the child who badgers you for a couple of cents or pesos to buy a sweet candy, knows that money enables; and very shrewd children learn early that money in quantity enables almost everything for the possessor of its wealth. Thus, as we say in Britain ‘Possession is nine-tenths of the law’.

(We mean by this that ownership of goods money and capital in general is protected by law so solidly and fiercely in nations with economies of our kind, which are based on the idea and sanctity of private property; that in this nation to own something is to presume to have and to actually have the law on your side – most of the time.)

So in our nations here money enables at law also. In the USA the guy O J Simpson – many believe firmly that he literally got away with murder. In Britain the girl Rebekah Brooks – many believe she got away scot free from serious detention penalties. Both these alleged escapees from justice it is considered by many had in common that a) they had enough capital backing to hire the best lawyers; and b) that this their money was what brought them off to walk free from serious criminal charges against them.

And indeed, what does ‘official’ a derivative word from the word ‘office’ actually mean?

There are some words in English which just don’t pin down. ‘Official’ is one of them. Others are ‘public domain’ and ‘published’ and ‘reasonable’. The old adage ‘one man’s meat is another man’s poison’ applies. Few out of any group of ten British persons would agree on what they consider to be ‘reasonable’ behaviour, or ‘reasonable’ prices. Copyright holders argue to great expense about whether or not an article has been ‘published’ or not. And just think about it for a minute: How might one decide whether an item is in the public domain or not? Tricky.

As for ‘official’ one hears of ‘Taylor Swift: The Official Lowdown’; and conversely these days one hears also of ‘Taylor Swift: The Unofficial Lowdown’; in glossy magazines for men and for women, and each is lure to a different attitude in us. The ‘Official’ Lowdown is going to have some evidential and authoritative credence for us, because the word ’official’ bestows this sense of veracity upon it and upon our understandings about the content. The ‘Unofficial’ Lowdown is more juicy, more likely to be salacious and seamy, the bits that the subjects want to hide from the public about their personal lives, and so on. And perversely there are those of us who take the ‘unofficial’ version to be more truthful, the actual truth; over and above the ‘official’ version; the flip side of the subject’s life in the raw.

‘Official’ then here is for devotees and old fashioned honest (naïve?) people. ‘Unofficial’ here is for the rebels, the ones who don’t take things at face value, the ones who always consider there’s a cover-up or a whitewash or a gloss over actually what happens.

Sceptics or cynics, gossips or nosey-parkers are on the one hand; on the other are straight-laced simple straightforward what-you-see-is-what-you-get people. Each group divided up in the main by the words ‘official’ and ‘unofficial’.

It’s the appeal to authority, just as with the words ‘rule’ and ‘ruler’ in the previous article, which enforces the power in the word ‘official’. In France and many European nations ‘officials’ as being people representative of authority vested in them are renowned and notorious as being, what we in the UK term ‘little-Hitlers’. The term is self-explanatory. Generally it is the case that one allows a person seeking its opportunity an inch of power vested in him/her as an ‘official;’ and no matter where you are in the world that person will take as much of the whole nine yards of that power as s/he can obtain and use.

‘Official’ then rubber stamps, endorses, with authority. To go back to our etymology for a moment ‘wealth’ connects with ‘power to act’ as being ‘official’. What might this mean? The petty official who makes life so difficult for so many whom they come into contact with; these serve their masters and mistresses religiously and devotedly; not so much out of loyalty, although loyalty might come into it; but rather out of the joy in the sway and exercise of power – of being able to push people around. And that’s it. Give a lumberjack an axe and he will cut down trees.

The loyalty, if any, to the sources of their power; be this the government or a local branch of a corporation, commonly is not much more than them knowing which side their bread is buttered on; or at best; gratitude to the sources of power for the investment of some of this power in themselves.

‘Official’ then lifts a thing, a person, a status, a service, a place, anything; into a different realm of being; as the thing which carries weight, ability to act (adversely against one) and so is a force to be reckoned with.

For many, many years in Britain ‘office’ workers, white-collar workers, were treated as, recognised in general as, and felt themselves to be, superior to manual workers, blue-collar workers. Employers treated them better. Better pay and conditions holiday entitlements and work environments. They were due more respect; were indeed respectable. They could obtain credit more easily were thought more reliable and honest, and a lower risk. Conversely blue-collar workers were considered less dependable, less credit worthy, more dubious people altogether. ‘Office’ worker was an appellation being a passport to privilege.

Government is always ‘official’. Government labels itself official as a hazard warning not to mess with it. The whole weight of the law and tradition and the constitution and the brute force of police and armed services are behind it when it warns you off public disturbance. Government has been defined by reputable sociology scholars as being ‘the sole place of legitimate force against a state’s citizens’.

‘Official’ to the experienced person then is a hazard warning; a caution that up ahead one has to go very carefully and steadily. This is just like the corporations’ ‘personnel departments’, now known dreadfully by the title ‘human resources’ which the naïve school leaver thought would help her to settle into her new job and assist her; but she discovered very soon that they weren’t angels but agents for the ‘official’ enemy and were not on her side at all. This is ‘official’.

How might all this relate to and inform ‘Awakening the Christian Inside’? Our Lord (my Lord, and he is yours too whether or not you want him or care for him) was said in several places in the Gospels to be ‘no respecter of persons’. This phrase is strange to our ears. It means roughly paraphrased that Jesus never took heed of ‘officialdoms’ of any kind. He was after seeking out the man and the woman in themselves; that item of humanity, in humanity, of whom Shylock says: ‘If you cut me; do I not bleed?’ That person within all of us; that which we call in our beds at night before we sleep: me.

The poet Robert Burns addresses also men and women without ‘respect to their persons’ without considering them as their Lordships or their Madames or their Your Worships or Your Dameships; nor as that beggar or those riffraff; but as human ‘poor forked animals’. Here is Robert Burns at his best:

‘Is there for honest poverty
That hangs his head and all that?
The coward slave, we pass him by,
We dare be poor for all that!
For all that and all that.
Our toils obscure and all that.
The rank is but the guinea’s stamp.
The Man’s the gold for all that.

What though on homely fare we dine,
Wear hoddin grey, and all that.
Give fools their silks and knaves their wine,
A Man’s a Man for all that,
For all that and all that.
Their tinsel show and all that.
The honest man, though e’er so poor,
Is king of men for all that.

You see yon birkie, called a lord,
who struts, and stares and all that.
Though hundreds worship at his word,
He’s but a cuif for all that.
For all that and all that,
His riband, star, and all that.
The man of independent mind
He looks and laughs at all that.

A prince can make a belted knight,
A marquis, duke, and all that,
But an honest man’s above his might.
Good faith, he mustn’t fault that!
For all that and all that,
Their dignities and all that.
The pith of sense and pride of worth
Are higher rank than all that.

Then let us pray that, come it may,
(As come it will for all that)
That Sense and Worth o’er all the earth
Shall bear the gree and all that.
For all that and all that,
It’s coming yet for all that,
That Man to Man the world o’er
Shall brothers be for all that.’

Jesus was the forerunner who cut through directly to the person beyond the title, the uniform, the regalia, the office. And indeed this is where we are to be found, if we are to say we are truly anywhere.

Until, as people and as a people, we are capable of seeing persons regardless of their trappings, their pretensions, their airs, their positions, their titles, their appurtenances and regalia, their vestments, and investments; until we are capable of judging ourselves by whom we really are; and against that Person Whom we all are to be measured next to, and never to be able to measure up to; until we see ourselves as responsible for every tittle and jot of our behaviours, and as required to abide the call to love and care-for, as being prime, primal and primary; and, pace Monty Python, as The Meaning of Life, we shall be embedded in entrapped by and incarcerated as unhappy lost beings whom ‘all like sheep have gone astray’. We shall have lost our gratis chance of happiness, and of course the Way to the Kingdom of Heaven.

God, and His manifestation in His Son, Jesus, might be looked upon as being ‘some infinitely gentle, infinitely suffering thing’; a Presence waiting behind a door on which we are invited to, urged to, offered to, knock.

‘The blind men

Make the rules

For the wise men

And the fools

It’s alright ma,

It’s life and life only’

Deadlines and Blind Dates

I was talking to a friend today about how untidy life is; about how its untidiness is at once the delight of life and its bane also; that so many things do not go according to plan; are unexpected; are unpredictable; and are – when one tries to make sense of them – to our limited apprehensions – a complete chaos.

The example I gave my friend was a bit extreme; but it does illustrate the point very well. Were you or I to die suddenly, unexpectedly, all our affairs would be ‘up in the air’ and our lives would have been an absurd catalogue of disconnected and senseless acts thoughts and feelings.  This would be the case when looked at from a solely temporal and sublunary point of view.

As a Christian I trust that God is less of a mess than am I; that his care and understanding is greater than mine and that since he is capable of raising the dead to life he is also capable of having made sense of my life.

But, as Macbeth says ‘ in this world we still have judgement here’; and our lives, our economic, social, political activities are all carried on in a continued and continuous attempt to make sense of things as we go; to create some small order out of all the chaos as we go along with in the course of our lives.

Fiction is of interest here. Stories and tales are liked by we humans usually because they ‘round-off’ a series of events; they have a ‘form and a structure’ which life seems so lacking in sometimes.  When as story does not have these tidy features most of us feel cheated and unsatisfied; and most of us project into our real lives this desire for nice and neat sewings-up of events which fiction provides. We will sometimes match-make a girl friend with a man friend; in a hope for a happy ending. We sometimes say we wish for this or that to happen; or else we imagine happiness when the fact is there is no happiness in our situation. Our ‘happy place’

Humans are storytellers and humans tell stories to themselves; sometime we are aware we are telling a story to ourselves; other times we do it unawares and it makes us feel a bit better.

The Bible has some words to say on this.  ‘The race is not to the swift – but time and chance happeneth to all’

‘I will catch them in the imaginations of their hearts’

And Jesus himself says quite candidly: ‘Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way?  I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.  Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem?  I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish 

Jesus knows we like to deceive ourselves; to make up stories which fit our wishes and our hopes.

So when even the Saviour of mankind points up the fact that life is not all tied up in bows with ribbon; that it is a messy and untidy affair; surely in our day to day lives we should give consideration to the importance or otherwise of such things as deadlines and blind dates.

Deadlines in fact in the sense I am meaning them are just this: ‘blind dates’; they are projections; and not just on durational estimates, but projections of the mind; and as such they partake of that thing which Sigmund Freud pointed up as a great motivating force in people: ‘wish fulfilment’.

When we give another person a deadline by which, say, to complete a piece of work for you; accordingly as you are passionate, or led by your desires, or as you are impetuous or impulsive; you will add-into the deadline you make that wishful content in your mind which is telling you ‘I want it now!’ or ‘I must get it before Christmas’; or ‘before him down the road gets his’; or ‘I can’t wait any longer!’; and so on.

In so far as deadlines are an expression of desire or impulse they are ‘blind dates’ and are generallly ‘plucked out of the air’ like primroses from a wild lane.  Many times when a deadline is given to another it is a deadline having no substance, no natural authority, and no reason behind it why it ought to be adhered to.  It is just another event happening in a messy and chaotic world; and event which is ostensibly framed to impose a semblance of order on a project or a scheme, or a business venture; but which in fact is just another tributary running into the great flood of mayhem going on around us.

The band Chicago (known originally as Chicago Transit Authority) cut a song in the late 60s early 70s and it was titled: ‘Does anybody really know what time it is?’ A philosophical conundrum.  Yet the Bible says to us: ‘It is later than you think’.

I don’t want to destabilise your perceptions by giving you these existential instabilities to ponder; but I do want to perhaps go with Gandalf when he says to Frodo; ‘A wizard is never late. A wizard always arrives at just the right time he needs to arrive.’

Laying down deadlines is able to concentrate the mind of the person (wonderfully) whom it is imposed upon; as Dr Johnson said of the condemned prisoner in a death cell.  And then again there are concentrated mind and constrained mind; there are also non-concentrated mind and a lackadaisical attitude.  But the pressures of living; of having to make a living and of having to get work and of having to maintain oneself in business and do all this by obtaining new clients by way of recommendations from older clients; all this points – like The Arrow of Time – just one way only.  The pressure is ever on the company, the proprietor, the business, to do well, to do quickly, and to provide completely.

Only very occasionally, when a company is too big for it to be adequately administered; or else when there is a government bureaucracy with jobs for life employees; then a stick is perhaps needed to beat the completion of a piece of work out of a workforce?

Natural causes, man having to live outside of Eden by the sweat of his brow; and so to face the uncertainties of a Fallen world, all contribute to and provide for a natural deadline always in force upon by far the most of us anywhere, and in any nation, who are earning our bread by salary or from job to job. This natural deadline is generally formulated as being – as soon as is reasonably practicable.

Woody, from Toy Story, is being refurbished by a wizened old craftsman; and Al wants to desperately ship Woody to Japan for Big Bucks  NOW, NOW, NOW; and the wizened guy rebuffs Al’s threats with menaces with a calm adage: ‘You can’t rush art.’

Just so deadlines can be delays; I have known persons so eager to please and so constrained by the unnecessary pressures of a deadline come from an overeager client and loaded upon him; that he has botched the work in hand and taken the job months overdue to boot; simply because his concentration, far from becoming focussed, has become completely shot with anxiety.

Some guys are lazy and need a prod; but lazy guys don’t do well and don’t get returning customers or recommendations; possibly they drift from occupation to occupation or from town to town once their initial benefit-of-doubt goodwill from their client base has been extinguished by them.  People who are serious about their work can do without deadlines. Only fears working within clients promote their continued usage for the most part.

Fear that one is being ‘milked’ or that one is not showing oneself dynamic or dominant enough; or that one is going to fail in business if it doesn’t arrive by x date; and so on.  I refer often to George Orwell’s essay ‘Shooting an Elephant’; an essay which typifies the empirical and absolute necessity for the powerful to have to use that power which has been imposed on them – so as not to look weak, or else so as to keep up due respect; or simply so as to show that power as power in action – just like justice needs to be seen to be done for it to be effective.

This of course is the dilemma of the client who imposes deadlines – if he does not he feels he is not showing adequately who it is who calling the shots in this particular deal.  We are thus again forced into things by our images of ourselves; by those spectres which haunt us telling us whom we ought to be rather than whom we actually are.

Jesus of course cuts through all this fiction and illusion. He was ‘no respecter of persons’ which in modern English means he did not stand on a person’s office or rank or title; but saw all persons and treated them all as simple men and women alike equal before God and holding no privileges not allowed to any other person.  That is an important part of the reason why and how Jesus makes sense of all this mad and chaotic and unpredictable world; he strips bare the pretensions and the self–images of delusion we carry with us as our comfort blankets; he sees us as we really are and so thus sees what we really need – the one thing needful – his saving Grace.

As for the messiness and incomprehensibility of ordinary profane and secular life, Jesus says – and I believe him – ‘Things that are impossible for man are possible with God’ and again ‘All things are possible with God’.  I hope you too have been, or will become, and soon; ‘raised from the dead by his powerful arm’

 

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What are the best ways to secure intellectual property against loss or compromise? PART ONE:

PART ONE:

  1. Using the Registration Procedure

In the UK and in the USA and in most other countries, there are robust Intellectual Property Registration Offices, Laws and Systems; which ought to be the first port of call for anyone who holds what they hope or suspect might be a money-spinning piece of abstract property.

But first we need to know what such an abstract piece of property looks like, which is able to be translated into a registered and legal property right backed by the full force of law in the jurisdiction of its Registration or recognition.

In the main four chief Intellectual Property Rights (IP Rights) exist; although there are some others which ought to be considered in certain instances of trading.

These four main items are:

  1. Patent – which is awarded as a Grant
  2. Trademark – which is awarded as a Registration
  3. Design – which also is a Registration
  4. Copyright, which is registrable in the USA but which is automatically created as an Intellectual Property Right upon an eligible work’s creation in the UK

But not everything a person is able to think up, or invent qualifies as a right which is registrable, recognisable, or grantable.  Particularly regarding Copyright, the IP Right for copyright is not in the uniqueness or the value of ideas embodied in say a piece of writing; the IP Right is embodied in the words use to express those ideas and thoughts.  Thus a person without any legal prohibition is able to ‘steal’ another’s ideas from a piece of writing; provided that the expression of those ideas is altered into words which are considerably different to their original prose expression.

(For higher level students and academic tutors there are special terms in place regarding copyright and the protection the law gives to copyright. These special terms will be looked at in a later article)

Copyright is able to protect artworks, pictorial and musical; recordings of performances like theatre or concerts; movies; statues, architecture, drawings, computer programs, software, and more or less anything which is a recordable medium allowing a distinctively singular expression of any sets of ideas or perceptions.

If you are in the United States and you think you are holding something you think might be registrable under copyright law there; you should enquire at the US Copyright Office; which office is able to advise you on whether what you are holding is registrable as a copyrighted item.  Remember, it is very hard to overturn a registration of a copyright once it has been allowed.  It will probably mean a court case and attorney’s fees and a collecting of and a marshalling of evidences; the whole nine yards of it.  So if the right is rightfully yours, and it is copyright registrable; and it might be of business value; register it, before someone else goes before you.

Do not disclose the item to others; not without first having registered it – or else you have had the person to whom it is being disclosed to sign to a Non-Disclosure Agreement, which is a document effectually able to help greatly to prevent further disclosure than to the signee, when such a document is worded properly and comprehensively.

Disclosure of any item which constitutes an as yet unregistered IP Right is not good business sense; not even to your nearest and dearest; you are putting temptation in the way of the persons to whom you disclose it; temptation to steal it from you. The more an item is worth potentially in money terms; the greater the temptation you are putting before your friends and colleagues.

Like Pandora’s Box; once the item of value is out the hat; it is not able to be put back into the hat; just like the invention of Nuclear Weapons.

Copyright arises automatically in the UK upon the creation of a work which qualifies to be copyrighted. No registration is required or available at the date I am writing this.  So, in order to be able to have evidence of certain copyrighted works of yours, that they are yours and that you made them at such and such a date; what people do is to seal securely and very well indeed, an envelope with the manuscript or the software coding or whatever inside it, and post it to themselves.

The postal service franks the envelope and this dates the contents objectively and independently and in the course of events. You must never open the packet you sent to yourself – not until you need –say for a court case – to establish and verify with some force that you actually did make the items at the date of the items enclosed in the envelope.

Some items which are copyrightable are not able to fit in an envelope of course; and other means of objectively establishing evidence of ownership or authorship or both will be required.

Now ownership of a copyright is a very different thing from having been the creator of it. Like all marketable Intellectual Property a copyright is a saleable asset in one’s business or one’s bottom drawer.  The saleable value of an item like this is of course dependent on the money value and potential of the item itself.  But only the owner of the copyright is able to realise by sale of the right to another, any money from an absolute transfer of the property right to another.

There are of course licenses which a copyright owner is able to grant to users of his copyrighted item; and these will be dealt with separately elsewhere also. Just to say for now that the owner retains ownership of his copyright when he has licensed out use of it to others. Others have use of it on lease as it were for a set period normally; after which their license to use that item expires. During this period under license to a person, this person aims to make money by the commercial use of the copyright they have lease of for a time.

The owner of a copyright in the normal way is the creator of it; at least the initial owner of it is the creator. But not always. In the USA and in the UK, and in many other nations and jurisdictions there are laws which say that when an item of Intellectual Property (of almost any kind) is made by an employee during that employee’s working hours in his company, the IP right for that work belongs to the employer.

There is more to this aspect of law than merely this provision that the employer owns the rights in what is created during that time an employee gives to the employer; but you might look up these additional details on the web if you feel you need to know about them?

In the US this kind of provision labels works created in employers’ time under the title of ‘works for hire’. (But don’t think that you can get around this by working at home in your own time and inventing or creating something which will be yours and not your employer’s.  Employers have successfully gained ownerships of rights in such works based on evidence they have presented that the content of these works originated substantially with data owned or explored by their company in the course of their business.)

Copyright then is not always straightforward.  There are other perils arising from things like shared ownerships of IP rights, say in business partnerships which are being dissolved – especially when there is bad blood between partners. Or else, there are perils to assessing what amounts to unlawful use of another’s copyright; say for instance, because what you think you have created was maybe a vestigial memory of something you had met with sometime beforehand

George Harrison was sued successfully by The Chiffons; and that girl group’s representatives and backers. Harrison’s ‘My Sweet Lord’ had a melody which was found in law to be too similar to The Chiffons’ ‘He’s so Fine’ a song released a good ten years before ‘My Sweet Lord.’  George paid a phenomenal sum to settle the case.  Even the best of us can mess up.

But the key to unlawful usage is the word ‘commercial’.  The usage objected to by a owner of a copyright has to be commercial usage and usage intended to make monetary gain from it by the copier.  Some jurisdictions add that reparations from the copier are due also when commercial harm has been done to the copyright owner.  These two things then: gains to the copier and harm to the copyright owner – or the ‘holder’ –as the owner is generally called in Europe – have to be established by hard evidence presented to a court before the court will find in favour of the holder.

Copying for non-commercial purposes; where no gain is made nor intended – and where no harm to the holder can be established – generally this is not usually an offence in law.

Also in general Copyright does ‘run out’ – expires. This is called the ‘term’ of a copyright. Terms are different for different kinds of items which are copyrightable. For instance, I believe a song in the UK presently has a term of 90 years after its first publication; but that is a copyright in the song (I believe) as an abstract entity.  Thus when a singer gets permission (under license) to sing another person’s song, this other person being also its copyright holder, and this new version by this singer is recorded; then the recording of that song is a separate item to the song in the abstract; and as such is separately copyrightable as performance of the song. Other items under copyright, like say performances and say artworks carry different term periods

So the owner of the rights in a song-in-abstract is able to make money from his ownership of his copyright by him licensing permission to other singers as a right to record it.  And the singer, or his associates, to whom the song is licensed to be performed and recorded; obtains a separate copyright in any recorded performance made of the song by that singer.  It can get pretty complex.

Live events like concerts sports games and theatre cannot be copyrighted unless as recordings. Think about it. Can one hold a monopoly on a certain moment in time which has now gone by? Like the air and space, historical time is owned by everyone and no-one simultaneously.

Recently in the past ten years a large streaming service of live sports matches attempted to obtain copyright to the materials it was streaming live by way of what they probably thought at the time was a great wheeze. The streaming service claimed that because there was a four or five second delay between what happened on the stage or on the field of play and when the remote viewers of the streaming saw that same action onscreen; that this four or five seconds delay constituted a recording of those events. Thus they were copyrightable.

The streaming service’s digital streaming box in fact held for four or five seconds an ‘echo’ or a ‘ghost’ of the live actions going on in real time elsewhere; and this ‘ghost’ or ‘echo’ was the basis for the legal bid for copyright rights.

I believe the streaming service failed to convince the law courts and judges.

But it was deeply considered by them nonetheless. They have to abide by what the acts of law say and not by what they want to be the case.  Yet it was an enormous presumption and audacity in the streaming company. It was after all bidding to obtain in law exclusive rights to stream live events. What they wanted was not  just a right via signing with the persons who put on the matches and shows an exclusive license under civil law to stream them. The streaming company wanted in criminal law to possess an exclusive hold and so an unassailable benefit to it; on streaming its live events.  In this way they hoped to blow away the competition – by claiming ownership on real time!!!

But there we go – just one of the conundrums raised in law by the new digital age; an attempt at exploiting the law which tries unhappily to encompass it.  Such a bid to own live time is perhaps akin to asking whether virtual reality is in fact wholly virtual; or whether a black hole singularity is actually occupying zero space and so has zero extension?

Virtual reality has to have at least a few electrons and particles/waves flying here and there so that it works; and these particles/waves are the basis of all the material things which we contrapose as being ‘physical’ as against ‘virtual’.

A black hole singularity likewise is described as an ultra-dense mass of materials which has by gravitational forces collapsed in on itself so far as to occupy zero extension.  This description is beyond our imaginations to grasp. Something about it sounds impossible. Just like virtual reality sounds in absolute terms unfathomable.

This is how far physics and technology have come – and so have gone into realms which the law and jurisdictions are unable to cope with; because the laws of physics have seemed to have superseded the bounds of common reason, and of elementary logic.

This perplexity is the case also with IP law in some respects too. Thus law is not purely a ‘dinosaur legislature’ hopelessly behind the times; but just as much if not more it is presented with a ‘quantum conundrum’ of how to handle the new scientific worlds and their fringes whereupon our IT and latest gadgetry subsist.

Once again, all is not what it seems; once again, we are at the mercy of forces beyond our management; once again, we are taught humility and due respect for a creation and a universe which refuses to be held by

The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase’

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King Lear, Dr Johnson, and Bob Dylan

Dr Johnson was a British man of letters, a writer of an important Dictionary of the English Language; an accomplished poet and critic; and a biographer of the Lives of the English Poets. He is perhaps most famous as the subject of James Boswell’s ‘The Life of Samuel Johnson’.

He was a mixture of a man. Brusque and sharp-witted in conversation; his opinions were quite fixed and in some ways limited; but he was also a very sensitive person; surprisingly so; who had a negro manservant to whom he left on his death enough money for his manservant to live independently; who married a woman 20 years his senior, and showed her large devotion; and upon her death was terribly grief-stricken. He was a depressive; and he called himself ‘indolent’; yet he stood by his friends, even in their misfortunes; and he was charitable and kind to strangers whom he met who were in need.

Two stories stand out for me especially about his character; from among hundreds of gems that Boswell records in his biography.

Johnson was a theatre-goer and would go ‘behind the scenes’ before and after performances (he had in his youth walked to London with David Garrick from Lichfield in the British Midlands – Garrick was destined to become a famous and accomplished actor).  Johnson went behind the scenes to talk with Garrick in the dressing rooms, which were shared by all of a show’s cast, men and women alike, and there Johnson was in the midst groups of women in the course of changing their clothes and so on.

Johnson is said to have said to Garrick that he would not come behind the scenes any more because the sights of the women changing distracted him and so much perturbed his thoughts.  And Johnson kept his word; he could be that iron-willed with himself.

The second story is that Johnson, who could be a heavy sort of chap, was such a dominant personality that he would ‘hold court’ in the London Coffee Houses; just as his namesake and brother poet Ben had done before him at the Mermaid Tavern a century and a half before (‘The Tribe of Ben’ this group was known as).

But this same man who was bluff and bold and sometimes violent when angered, was unable to read the final scenes of Shakespeare’s King Lear because their sadness cut to his core so deeply.  These scenes were just too painful for him.

There are plenty of reasons for this pain chewing him up. King Lear is a drama set before the time of Christ; and the only references to gods and religions in the play are to Classical gods; of whom Shakespeare wrote famously in the play:

‘Men are to gods like flies to wanton boys; they use them for their sport’

And this line of verse expounds pretty well the whole tenor of the drama of King Lear.  It is an Elizabethan ‘Waiting for Godot’; except without the dramatis personae’s expectations of anyone turning up.  The drama of King Lear sets out a nihilistic vision of the world. It is thus a tragedy which provides for an audience no recourse to a final resolution of its emotions; and without any expected purging of feelings through pity and terror, as Aristotle observed tragedy offering us.

Its ending is a disaster and without amelioration or consolation. A depressive like Dr Johnson would be likely to find its ending unendurable – and he did.  Johnson was a religious man; one who despite his depressive lethargies willed himself to observe the due observances of Christian life.  I have no doubt his faith was genuine and deep; and I would also say that he would have agreed that at times arose moods for him in which ‘the spirit was willing but the flesh was weak’.  But as with backstage, he had the willpower of a giant among men and he drove through what he considered his duty notwithstanding whatever was pressing him away from doing so.

The ending of Shakespeare’s drama King Lear then for Johnson I suppose was something which acted upon him to sap this iron will of his; especially during his depressive periods; so that like his solution to the women changing in front of him; he just closed the door of his mind to it; and would not read it anymore. ‘Get thee behind me Satan!’ might be a good rallying call for Johnson in this regard?

Well, I am now going to write a little about my experiences lately which have struck chords in me with Johnson’s.  (It was Johnson who replied belligerently to a man who had rebuked him rhetorically with; ‘But surely a cat can criticise a king?’ and he had retorted; ‘A fly can irritate a horse; but a fly is still a fly and a horse is still a horse!’)

And so it is similar perhaps with my modest experiences, when they are set beside those of so generous and so large a character as Johnson?

I am an oldie. I am – as Luke describes Zachariah and Elisabeth, John the Baptist’s parents’ – ‘well-stricken in years’; old enough to have been at The Isle of Wight in 1968 when Bob Dylan played at the festival; and old enough to have powerful Cold War memories of Barry McGuire’s sung protest lyric ‘Eve of Destruction’; old enough to remember the day Kennedy was shot and the tremor of terror that went through the world on that fatal day in Dallas.

Only months previously had been The Bay of Pigs affair at which I remember ordinary people within my ken and hearing were making their goodbyes to one another – and even the poorest and least aware of us in Britain were conscious of the gravity of what seemed about to happen, and to be inevitable.

The times were volatile, fragile, and truly several times we were ‘on the cusp’ peering over the abyss and counting down to oblivion. It was very frightening and very real. It stays with me.

This volatility was reflected in the social turmoils of the times; the unrest of foreign wars and carpet bombing, Agent Orange and purple hearts. Our new colour television bloomed nightly with a whole nine hundred yards of plumes of fire like gas balloons rising as fast as speeded motion flowers opening on camera.  The attrition of the newsreels was incessant and nightly. Like a dysfunctional Fantasia movie.

Young people felt great anger about a seeming-unimaginative rigidity in an older generation of adults in-charge who were leading us into what we feared were like end-times. Songs like The Kinks’ ‘Well-Respected Man About Town’ and Manfred Mann’s ‘Semi-detached Suburban Mr Jones’ and a little later even The Beatles’ ‘She’s Leaving Home’; all portrayed the governing generation of managers, politicians, officers, teachers, parents and such, as a staid bland bloc of stiffs and lacking utterly in vision for life.

This is how young persons when I was young saw society and the people who ran that society.  I know and remember a deep dread I had of ending up at forty years old in such a pit of drear despond as my elders seem to be in.  It smacked to me to be a sort of ‘living death’.

There is truth in the fact that as young persons living at the dawn of consumerist plenty we were not quite so wholly absorbed into the socio-economic milieu as young people are today.  This may have been through no virtue of ours; and simply an accident of history; but it did allow us a view and a window on the world and also the temerity and idealism to be disturbed and so to object to that view we were being offered.

However that may be; and whether or not there were more young persons outside the fold of conformity then than now; and whether or not young people then were working upon and within the socio-economic milieu as a radical force for renewal; whereas radical forces these days of any kind appear to me to be being ostracised deliberately and labelled a noxious threat outside the ambit of orthodox consciousness; whatever might be the case, it is the case that in those days a  living and identifiable self-contained radical culture for young persons had arisen and it was being driven to some extent by the members of that culture.

Long ago I worked for some weeks teaching in a Secondary school in a poor part of London. I misguidedly had brought in for the children some music tracks to use as history and sociology materials.  The response was a deafening raspberry.  My attempt to bring to life in those kid’s imaginations what it had been like to be part of a culture which had had its sparse moral victories and some few good outcomes – failed altogether.  A weariness of cynicism laced with a lack of understanding of the issues at stake in even the most facile sense was very evident.  My music was not au fait, and without credibility.  The age I was referring back to was gone and out of fashion, time out of mind.

So this has been some of my history. Earlier this week I loaded on my PC two songs from that history of mine to hear what they meant to me now.  The songs were: ‘The Times they are A’ changing’ and ‘Mr Tambourine Man’. One of these songs is used these days on British TV to advertise soapflakes or something pretty naff; and this fact pains me and tries to turn my life into travesty.

The song ‘The Times they are A’ changing’ is famous to film buffs for the stunning power it lends to those powerful-in-themselves newsreels laced with fiction which serve as an overture to ‘Watchmen’.  There today, if anywhere, is captured in that space of five or ten minutes a snapshot of an era; the flavour of the oceans; the light of the furthest stars.  ‘Watchmen’ is a remarkable movie, made more remarkable for the raw edge of actuality its makers bring alive onscreen in that initial ten minutes when the frames begin to roll.

I hooked up Dylan on my PC; singing I think at Newport or Greenwich or something Folk Festival. It was 1964.  The video was black and white; very low key, open air and a modest crowd of enthusiasts.  I guess it came close to breaking my heart.  As I said to a friend of mine; ‘Like a lost Eden’.  Not quite the final scenes of ‘King Lear’ – and further; I have not quite got to grips as to why I was so strongly affected by the song and the video.

Then I put on ‘Mr Tambourine Man’.  The cynicism and pessimism of its lyric struck me deeply – and the wishful desire Dylan expresses as the essence of his song to flee and to fly away into a world of make-believe.  It’s a beautiful song.  Lyrical and very sensitive; meditative and heart-achingly expressive of his pain at the world

Nowadays Dylan is releasing cover-versions from The Great American Songbook, standards like those Sinatra and Nat King Cole sang before The Flood.  This is another source of acute pain for me. As the cartoon has it in the satirical magazine my wife takes: ‘Even the dogs have gone to the dogs’.

In the course of my life, and for myself, things have only got better.   In the wider world, as Yeats the Irish poet said:

‘Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold’

I sense a great gulf between the world as it is going on right now and my personal views on what I have come to believe life is about; and on why life is given; and on what imperatively we are demanded to make of it; of ourselves. Yeats again:

                        ‘And I will make my soul’

 I read the following passage today; and I leave it here for you to consider:

 Lear:  O, ho! are you there with me? No eyes in your head, nor no money in your purse? Your eyes are in a heavy case, your purse in a light: yet you see how this world goes.      

 Gloucester:  I see it feelingly.

Lear:  What! art mad? A man may see how this world goes with no eyes. Look with thine ears: see how yond justice rails upon yon simple thief. Hark, in thine ear: change places; and, handy-dandy, which is the justice, which is the thief? Thou hast seen a farmer’s dog bark at a beggar?                                                                                             

Gloucester:  Ay, sir.                                                                               

 Lear: And the creature run from the cur? There thou mightst behold the great image of authority; a dog’s obey’d in office.

Thou rascal beadle, hold thy bloody hand!                                         
Why dost thou lash that whore? Strip thine own back;                      
Thou hotly lust’st to use her in that kind                                                       
For which thou whipp’st her. The usurer hangs the cozener.           
Through tatter’d clothes small vices do appear;                                
Robes and furr’d gowns hide all. Plate sin with gold,                        
And the strong lance of justice hurtless breaks;                                 
Arm it in rags, a pigmy’s straw doth pierce it.                                              
None does offend, none, I say none; I’ll able ’em:                             
Take that of me, my friend, who have the power                                
To seal the accuser’s lips. Get thee glass eyes;                                
And, like a scurvy politician, seem                                                       
To see the things thou dost not

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The Police, The Law, and Private Enterprise

I wrote a few days ago about The Service Economy and described it as The Disservice Economy, because it allows so many opportunities to smartarse service providers to ‘skim-off’ superfluous fees from its clients for provision to them of services which are utterly redundant.

An example among many I offered is the online mediating agency which stands between say on the one hand an official regulator who charges for its services to the public, and on the other those who are unlucky enough not to find the regulator’s site itself, but instead the mediator’s site, in their browser’s top search results.

I also wrote about how so many industries have in recent years placed hurdles in the shape of such things as certificates of competence in basic training etc (e.g. Health and Safety, Building Site Safety, Criminal Background Checks etc) which the job applicant has to have training in, and/or to obtain; but always to pay for, before he is able to apply with any hope of success for a job within these industries.

This practice is now very widespread across employers in Britain.

Thus it is that an onus has shifted over the past 20 or 30 years.  Before this present time employers were almost unanimous in providing this kind of induction training and vetting of their personnel, as part of a general introduction of new employees into their organisations.  There were, I believe, tax breaks for employers who gave such training and help to incoming and developing staff.  Many, and all decent employers, took advantage of these incentives and trained up their own people.

Nowadays, of course, the trend is shifting, has shifted considerably; so that, in particular, young persons looking for work are saddled with overheads even before they are eligible to apply for work and to earn income to sustain such overheads.  They have little money and yet are called upon, constrained even, to do this course, and run that check, before they are able to go out and seek work in the sector of industry they choose.

The largest elephant in the room in this respect is of course the political wheeze of providing undergraduate student loans by government, which loans act to saddle new graduates with debts of £1000’s for them to pay off, normally at a time in their lives when they are seeking to marry, to buy a house and to start a family. No blue sky thinking by any means; but a nice ‘get out of jail free’ card for government accountability to its citizens.

Now this shift of onus; away from government, in the way of curtailing help with money for tertiary education students, and away from employers, in the way of them no longer paying for basic training and checks; passing much of all this cost onto the individuals seeking these education and employment; this shift represents a simple, obvious, and somewhat mean and low way of the employers and government seeking to save on expenditure, and for them to do so by them  passing the expense for these services onto individuals within joe public. I contend that in the same way our British Police Service is also facilitating, de facto if not de jure, the way for private and usually service industries to spring up and to charge for services once provided by The UK Police Service in its day to day routine duties.

There is at least an (ideological) argument for shifting fees for qualifications for jobs onto the seekers of jobs (although the way this is being done now affects untowardly and particularly hardly the young seeking to begin in life; and this is onerous and unjustifiable).  But this shift of duties from the public sector Police Service to private sector companies I will argue here has caused considerable dereliction of due conscience, and our government itself has been wrong and stupid to have started and to have continued to date in these trends.  And again I say, it is done to save on public costs, and to ‘reduce the size of the public sector’ (this being an ideological catch phrase; but yet a substitute for speaking plainly; which would be to say ‘reducing public services’).

A result, this shift from The Police to private companies of certain public services has meant for the ordinary British citizen, a maze of new prohibitions and curtailments on his/her behaviour, all of which (when often met with mistakenly or unawares) cost a person very dear when s/he falls foul of one.

Recently I wrote to our local Police Commissioner, asking him to consider bringing back certain police duties which have in the past decade ‘fallen by the wayside’; and in a hope that certain proper procedures and laws which are going unenforced, will no longer continue being passed over by our Police.  (I have not received any substantive reply to date).

And this evolution towards a dereliction in ceratin duties of the police is the way in which a signal sent is out to private companies; that, for instance, here is a niche sprung up which a new service industry is able to slot into. In this way private companies are able to charge to supply these needs, which previously were provided for by our police gratis and as part of their duties.

Of course some derelictions which have crept into the police service and enforcing the law are never taken up by the private sector in this way.  Smoking cannabis and not using vehicle indicator signals are two activities one meets daily, hourly, here, and which irritate me a lot. But the items ‘become ‘available’ which are able to be translated fairly readily into ready-cash are hoovered up quickly by the smartarse niche servicer provider guys.

Local shops for instance were once visited by their local policemen quite regularly and as a courtesy call the policemen would ask for any news of developments or problems which fell within their remit. Such visits had more than mere cosmetic value. They gave assurance and a sense of there being a resource available to go to for shopkeepers, when troubles arose.  Shops these days are far less frequently visited by policemen, certainly not regularly, perhaps only when information is needed by them about a local misdemeanour; or when the shop itself has reported a crime. The community links and the subsequent resultant sympathies are lost; gone. Shops express a feeling of being left to fend for themselves security-wise; and are having to fend-off on their own shoplifters and nuisance-callers. Some shops among them, who are a little larger, employ a person to be a ‘store detective’; or at least they add more security (alarms, locks, grilles, etc).

As a result of this situation having arisen; and this is within my own experience, shopkeepers have complained that their premises have been broken into; when their premises are within sight of, 50 yards from, a Police Station.  Such effrontery in intruders is a signal indicator of a parlous state of affairs.

Shops then are being put to additional expense because they feel compelled to add a level of security which once they felt had been provided by the public service.

The lone policeman patrolling ‘a beat’ is a thing long gone. One sees them in pairs patrolling occasionally; or else one policeman with a Community Officer, or else two Community Officers.   For the most part the ‘adrenalin rides’ are their most frequent public displays of an enforcing presence.  I mean by this that police presences are visible only in their vehicles by far and away most of the time. Mostly it’s sirens and speed.

This is commonplace and ancient criticism I am using here concerning ‘adrenaline’.  There’s an urban folk joke about ‘rushing home for his dinner’ satirising police (over)use of their sirens.

I knew a constable who aimed always to shift his shifts to a night or evening or afternoon shift. No morning shifts because ‘the criminals were not up yet’ and so this meant that constables who did morning shifts were commonly buried in paperwork from the havoc of the evening and night before.  This is a true anecdote.

Private security firms have burgeoned in the UK since some forty years back; at which time they were a rarity; and the police served most needs served today by those – usually ex-forces – guards who now find employment in private security.  The pay of a common or garden security guard is pretty basic. Many receive a forces pension to help bear the penury; others just accept that jobs are hard to find when they are thrown on Civvy Street after years in the forces.  But police wages for many affluent years had been rising as more and more resources and money were being pumped into the service in the 90s and noughties. Lately the service has been in throes of anguish about the end of this flood tide of finance. A new entrant constable nonetheless gets a fair whack set against the private guard’s take-home.

There are presently private security arrangements in very many places and business areas; and as a result the police have been able to step back from occupying certain space they once occupied in recent history.

There are parking attendants where once the police took care of parking misdemeanours.  There are shopping mall guards. There are the big store floorwalker store detectives. There are public community officers who are a kind of second rate constable with limited powers and authority.  There are money transfer security guards; at banks and at finance houses.  There is never ever seen nowadays any traffic control done by a policemen or by a special community officer. This used to be very frequent.

The set-up these days of traffic junctions controlled by lights are now fully computerised and automated; but of course when a traffic anomaly occurs which disturbs the regular rhythms of traffic; then these ‘smart’ lights will seek to adjust themselves accordingly; and inevitably make a hash and large tailbacks of queues of traffic. The understanding that Artificial Intelligence has not yet acceded to a level of insight and sagacity as a seasoned personal traffic controller has not been accepted by our City Council.  I suspect that the police no longer hold a remit to step in and control traffic routinely as they used to do in cases of large build-ups of queues.

These are all petty instances; and one might look at any one of them in isolation and justly think; well: so what; little problem.  But the Scots have a proverb: ‘Many a mickle makes a muckle’ which translates as ‘Many a small thing makes a large thing’; and this is my case here in this discursive complaint I am writing.

The question to be asked is: has the loss of these many mickle services from police hands been adequately provided for in compensating take-ups of slack by private companies etc?  Well, you answer that one.

I will make but a single yet crucial distinction between private enterprise doing things and public services doing the same things. In the case of the police there is no potential limitation on the levels or the standards or the timeliness or the appropriateness or the speed or the extent to which they are remitted to go to when doing their jobs to enforce the law and to protect the citizen.  This is very much not the case with private endeavours of a comparable ilk.

Because there are few policemen, or even community officers, seen present at street level walking and just being around; the police have by this move away, given up and consequently have lost their standing as reliable friends and seekers after the solicitude of the ordinary man and woman. The police still have some respect from their publics, in those places where they always were held in respect.  Only this respect has been tempered quite considerably by the simple fact of for the most part no police presences where once they could be depended upon; except in emergencies.

One exception to this are  the traffic police; who lay on spot checks on vehicles and do speed checks and such; which is all very well, and it brings in income in fines etc; but otherwise than this  it seems the humdrum parts of what used to be the policeman’s job on the streets, which were in fact once the very heart and soul of British policing; are now perhaps not quite ‘adrenaline’ enough?  (Maybe this comment is ‘below the belt’?)

Our Police here pass by so many openly acted misdemeanours and this has allowed these misdemeanours to have become commonplace and unexceptional; they are too small and now too prevalent to keep tabs on. The claim is often from the service is that they are undermanned and strapped for resources and for cash. Yet I myself see almost nightly sometimes police in a helicopter above my house circling the sky and checking out my city from the air.  The cost of that helicopter, of its personnel and of keeping it in service in the air etc, would I believe go a good way to solving cash problems for policing were it spent elsewhere in the service.

The counterclaim here is for retaining a helicopter on a basis of need.  Yet whereabouts is there supplied that need which many citizens carry with them to feel more safe at a crossing when walking across a road; or for a shop to have the reassurance and regularity of a courtesy visit once or twice a week by a local policeman whom they are able to call a friend as well?

Our police have been of good service to me and to my family several times in the 25 years since I have lived here. Their bearing and manner has been good and assuring.  They did their jobs to the letter; and in a good degree to the spirit also.

The problems I have raised are not so much with the police per se nor with the police only; the police like us all are responding to a general trend; perhaps not by policy but certainly by sympathies, and so are handling their policing a good deal by handling only crises; and by ‘firefighting’ these, but sadly they seem to have allowed so much that was good and which people appreciated to be let go off.

The monetisable bits of these lost parts have fallen into private hands; whereas the civic and social-fabric bits, those items which were good ingredients in the makings of community and of general senses of well-being; these being of no use to private hands have diminished and so have declined.

One cannot just discard the parts of a maintenance job which don’t require urgent attention.  One does so and one finds more ‘firefighting’ arises to be done, simply because those non-urgent parts were in fact crucial parts of the service; parts which helped greatly to hold the thing together, and in the case of community, the parts which made individuals within it feel they were being considered and were a valued part of things.

These warmer feelings having waned considerably, as the supports which generated them also diminished, the scales have shifted now towards a commonplace taking of greater license in our general behaviours, towards a less generous and considerate society and people; whose conclusion has been that since no police presence is around,  in the ways it used to be, they feel they either need to be more circumspect and so less generous to strangers; or else they feel freer to become those threatening strangers; those whom others are now aware are at greater liberty to offend.

Of course the police are not responsible for all these downward trends in our society and its communities. They are just a part of the problem – just as all the rest of us are. The police chiefs and commissioners and policy makers across the public service are those able to make changes to how public bodies in general do their tasks and to how they follow their vocations.  One does not have to accept as inevitable that ‘this is the modern age and things are different now. That: ‘this is how it is.’  To say so is to say that change for the better is not possible – which is a calumny and a fallacious excuse for inaction.

As for the remiss alternative, of allowing things to go on as they are, I will only say that unlike the oceans, there is no ground, no eventual base, upon which disruption and decline is able to seat itself and so level out.

Wealth Trickling Down

Four political stories in the BBC news this evening here in UK. (1 Sept 2016)

  1. British manufacturing output figures last month grew at their highest rate for 25 years
  2. A government pledge to work towards a redistribution of wealth – by way of wealth trickling downwards in society
  3. The Prime Minister accusing Junior Doctors and The British Medical Association of ‘playing politics’ because they plan to withhold their labour in 5 day stoppages
  4. The new Prime Minister Theresa May and her Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt had a ‘heart-warming’ tete a tete whilst she was appointing her new ministers and so forming a government

Before I begin considering the import and importance of these four announcements and news stories; I feel I need to remind any readers I might have that these people now in power as the British Government are far and away for the most part the same set of people who told us here in Britain so much that was untrue; so much which was calculated to stir our nastiest prejudices; so much which was couched so as to sway us towards voting for a disastrous Brexit; all of which had so very little basis in fact, historically and demonstrably so.

Thus for me the old question turns up like a bad penny:

Would you buy a used car from these people? 

We say a leopard doesn’t change his spots; that old habits die hard; that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks; all our in-common traditional wisdom points me to the cautious and sceptical side of the street with these people.

Now I say clearly up front here that I do not believe the import of any of these four news items prima facie as they were served up to us by BBC news this evening.  I have little doubt that BBC news is pretty well daily, if not more frequently, ‘in league with’ the movers and shakers in government who star in these news stories. And I heavily suspect that as news items these four stories have been angled and fashioned by these parties, the BBC and the government Press Office, in cahoots so as to present listeners with messages carried in their undercurrents. These messages are those which the government wants us as citizen listeners to swallow like sprats are used to catch mackerel.

Now I that have stood up and signalled where I am coming from I suppose it’s only right that you should expect from me some of my reasoning for being so belligerent about these people and their ways of doing things. So here goes.

  1. The news presenter did point up that the idea of governing so as to allow wealth to be shared out by it trickling downwards from the better off was in no way a new idea. She left it there after offering a few examples of this policy being aired in recent years. Joseph Chamberlain; John Major; David Cameron; she pointed out had all purveyed versions of this policy. These examples were all Tory enthusiasts or in the case of Chamberlain a proto-Tory.

Strange as it may seem no leftwards-leaning politicians or Prime Ministers were hauled out to view as historically having been supporters of such a policy?

But let that go; but see, the obvious point was not made; because it is what tragedians call ‘the fatal flaw’ in the policy and the idea that wealth trickles downwards.  This obvious point was the question why – especially over a short recent period (1990 – 2016) – three times – the number of times Julius Caesar refused the Crown offered to him by the governors of Rome – an honourable man –  why was it necessary to reiterate the same policy thrice in a 25 year space; and iterated by three Tory Prime Ministers?

The obvious deductions to be made are that:

  • It had to be reiterated because the policy previously had not been enacted/or else was not working
  • It had to be reiterated because it is a vote catcher in ‘enemy territories’ where some lower income persons are swayed by it
  • It works as a cosmetic to show government in a humane light
  • It is trotted out occasionally knowing well it is mere window-dressing

2. The Prime Minister responded to the Junior Doctors’ calling several 5 day work stoppages in the autumn in protest at a deal being imposed upon them by government. The Prime Minister retorted that the Junior Doctors and the British Medical Association (who are supporting them) were ‘playing politics’ with ‘patients’ lives’. (Note the alliteration which for me denotes a crafting of words).

For the figurehead of government in the UK; the one on whom the remainder of government looks for leadership, to have publicly calumniated her own trade of politics in this way; or rather for her to have chosen a saying or idiom which like much in-common traditional wisdom carries within it considerable truth value, this represents a beautiful ‘own goal’ on her part.  For her advisors and her ‘punch-line’ writers to have passed such a howler successfully through the mill of political-correctness-scanning and public-impact-assessment is startling and perhaps revealing.

The news presenter then missed a trick – or did she – did it occur to her and yet it was not mentioned by her because it was a comment which would not have supported that side of the bread she butters?

3. Britain’s manufacturing output grew at its fastest (monthly?) rate for 25 years in the month of August – it seems. This is Brexit-slanted news if ever there was such a thing.  Of course the High Tory bandits who hijacked the UK political scene by way of the means of a Brexit referendum; and whose successful(?) strategy has in fact resulted in a coup d’état by them in Britain; these guys and gals in their Brexit campaigning had been hammering on about British manufacturing in the doldrums and how the EU was the villain of the piece. And lo, behold, the first month since Brexit and the manufacturing production level rate records are broken!

Can this be coincidence; that their prophetic souls were so prescient? And it is suddenly newsworthy to report this leap in manufacturing as a salutary item prominently in the new news media; whose new outlook on Britain tells us we have now become ‘unshackled’ from the long slow freight train that is Europe.?  The media indeed has duly ‘fallen into line’ behind the coup leaders who are now riding high and at the top of their bent. Like the Marxist term ‘lickspittles’ the media clamber to hype and to toady before the rising (risen) stars of the politics of the day and to provide them their bidding and more. The media even overstepping the mark of due deference, by them feeling it their role and duty to shepherd us all, the non-Oxbridge set, into all understanding regarding our new political colours and slants and priorities.

‘Now that lilacs are in bloom
She has a bowl of lilacs in her room’ 

And regarding manufacturing, I suspect that behind this statistic there is a good (or rather bad) amount of ‘manufacturing’ having gone on.

An amusing note: The news presenter began her announcement on Britain’s increased manufacturing by saying: ‘Britain’s manufacturers have been performing well……’ – yes, yes indeed; a performance, oh what a circus oh what a show. And like Ben Jonson’s Shakespeare, she perhaps spoke wiser than she knew.

 

4. This last item – although I did not deliberately leave it till last – is perhaps the most salacious. It is the metaphorical icing on the cake which proves – at least for me – my point that news (if that is what it is?) in Britain goes rather like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern go with Hamlet.

The story is that Hamlet in the play is outraged by the two courtiers Rosencrantz and Guildenstern who would use the pretext of their friendships with him to attempt hamstringing his planned revenge. They attempt this at the behest of and in the pay of Hamlet’s murderer Stepfather.

Hamlet asks these two courtiers, these would-be-friends of his, whether they are able to play a recorder, and so provide him with some light musical entertainment. They cannot. Hamlet persists asking them to play. They protest they cannot; do not know how. Hamlet then makes his point with justly famous words:

‘Why, look you now, how unworthy a thing you make of me! You would play upon me. You would seem to know my stops. You would pluck out the heart of my mystery. You would sound me from my lowest note to the top of my compass. And there is much music, excellent voice, in this little organ, yet cannot you make it speak? ‘Sblood, do you think I am easier to be played on than a pipe? Call me what instrument you will, though you can fret me, yet you cannot play upon me.’

Our media are the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in the plot of today’s politics and politicians

Back to the last news story. Jeremy Hunt was Health Secretary before the Brexit referendum result. His history dealing with the Junior Doctors’ dispute has been chequered and somewhat ‘gloves-off’.  His post-Brexit career as Health Secretary was (said to be) in the balance. Theresa May, the incoming post-Brexit Prime Minister when in process of forming a new government; was ladling the prizes for all who had buttered their toast aright.

Jeremy Hunt had been known (by whom it is not clear) for wearing as an emblem of his Office of State a National Health Service (NHS) lapel badge in his jacket; and (apparently) was never to be seen without it.  On the day he was called by Theresa May to her Downing Street headquarters to hear his post-Brexit political fate from her, (ominously, so the story goes, so as to add some pepper and salt to it) the ubiquitous NHS lapel badge was absent from his jacket as he strode down Downing Street into the PM’s offices.  Here we hold our breaths.

Half an hour later Jeremy emerges jubilant from Downing Street with the NHS lapel badge back in its place, and his job as Heath Secretary in good form and continuance

Well, isn’t that a human story? Isn’t it like something mummy reads to you before bed?  It sounds like what it is; and that is fiction.  Fiction, but this is not to say that it did not happen just this way – no doubt it did – but fiction in that its authenticity as a ‘feelgood’ story feels wholly bogus. We should ask ourselves before we accept its narrative in good faith, why was Jeremy Hunt carrying the NHS badge – presumably in a pocket – on his way to the Prime Minister – especially when the story has it that he expected imminently to be sacked from the post of Health Secretary?

We should ask ourselves in addition: does the political propaganda machine do anything as an impromptu and a natural event, that it is able otherwise to stage?

These are the people who hire hustlers and bandits to plan and manage their electoral campaigns for their party and its factions. They are the people whose bread and butter are to make the most of every half-chance to make political capital; and on the other hand to downgrade as much as possible those tricky announcements and events that come less welcome to the public ear.  There is no doubt in my mind that the story of Jeremy Hunt and the NHS lapel badge is a fabrication – orchestrated, certainly concocted, and tarted-up and fed to  BBC news as a deliberate subterfuge to be used to gain from the listening public some (affection?) sympathy for the government and for Jeremy Hunt.

So, we have unpackaged some of the baggage on each of these four politics stories in the news today. None of them are news. All of them are cheap steers aiming at herding a public into directions, views, outlooks, which the government wants them to hold to; and each of the four stories shows plainly that the abject BBC is happy to kowtow along, and provide mash and pease for their new masters

‘TRINCULO

A howling monster, a drunken monster   

CALIBAN

(sings)

No more dams I’ll make for fish,
Nor fetch in firing
At requiring,
Nor scrape trencher, nor wash dish.
‘Ban, ‘Ban, Ca-caliban
Has a new master. Get a new man.
Freedom, high-day, high-day, freedom, freedom, high-day, freedom!           

STEPHANO

O brave monster! Lead the way’

It’s not wealth trickling down.