WORM WOOD

Svetlana Alexievich – Chernobyl Prayer

I remember when the news broke some days after the event. It was April 1986 and my secretary having watched it on  TV that morning, told me the story.  It was an explosion at a nuclear power plant somewhere in Russia. At that time the USSR to us was Russia. It was only later we understood it was in Ukraine at Chernobyl by the town of Pripyat near the Belarusian border. It seemed a horrific event and a horrible disaster but like so many things that happen in far away places it was another seven-day wonder and ever so quickly slipped from the public consciousness. We heard, of course about the Chernobyl children and the cancer deaths and we knew that lamb on Scottish hills was not fit for eating. But that was it, the news moved on to other things.

Some years later at a wedding breakfast in Zilina north west Slovakia I met a couple who were both nuclear scientist at an atomic plant near Nitra. We had a fascinating conversation over the banquet table. Having gained a level of trust I felt bold enough to posit that Nuclear power, despite all its advantages was just too dangerous, to risky to keep using in our world. “Look at what happened at Chernobyl” I said. Their response surprised me. “Oh they were idiots, They were crazy. It was the type of reactor no sane person or government would ever use. With the right safety measures our systems are perfectly safe”. Their assessment was borne out by Vasily Borisovich Nesterenko a director of Institute of Atomic Energy in Belarus, as he describes the situation:  “We are still a Stalinist country…Stalin’s kind of person is still alive.  I remember, in Kiev, at the railway station. Trains one after the other, taking away thousands of frightened children. Men and women crying. For the first time I thought, ‘Who needs this kind of physics, this kind of science, at such a high price?’ Now it’s all out in the open. They’ve written about the amazing shock-working tempos at which the Chernobyl nuclear power plant was built. It was built the soviet way. The Japanese take twelve years to develop a facility like that, but we did it in just two or three. The quality and reliability of that highly complex facility was what you would expect in an animal breeding complex, a chicken farm! If there was a shortage of something, they just ignored the plans and substituted whatever was to hand at the time. Thus the roof of the turbine hall was covered with bitumen. That’s what the firemen extinguished. And who was in charge of this atomic power station? There wasn’t a single nuclear physicist in the management team. They had power engineers, turbine specialists, political workers but not a single expert. Not a single physicist. Man has invented a technology for which he is not ready. He is not up to it. Can you put a pistol in the hands of a  child. We are reckless children.”

More recently an Estonian friend encouraged me to watch Craig Mazon’ mini tv series “Chernobyl”. She had a special interest. When she was a young girl, her father got the call late one night in 1986 to get ready to be picked up at 6 in the morning. He had no idea where he was being taken, but he knew it was serious. Three months later, when he returned, she excitedly ran out to meet him only to be met by his stern voice telling her to stay away. She was only allowed to embrace him after he had stripped, burned all his clothes and showered and scrubbed and showered. He had been at the site as a driver and was able to say that, with the exception of some minor inaccuracies and some liberties taken for dramatic purposes, which the writer freely admits, the video represented an accurate and realistic account of the events both in their detail and atmosphere.

I found “Chernobyl”  deeply moving to watch and it is strange how disasters and tragedies fascinate us. It is not simply a morbid fascination it is much more than that. There is something about this, possibly the biggest technological disaster in history, that draws us in to consider deep questions of life and death, of who we are, how we live and have our being in this world. What is science, what is real and what is sham. What is love? What is life and what on earth can we do about this genie which we have let out of the bottle.

One of the most revealing and poignant accounts of the disaster is Svetlana Alexievich’s “Chernobyl Prayer” translated by Anna Gunin and Arch Tait. The horror and the tragedy of this terrible event is somehow shot through with astonishing insights. In some places it reads like the wisdom of Ecclesiastes. Apart from some historical background and a section where the author interviews herself, the book is a collection of monologues by the people who were there, who were involved in the clean up and whose lives have been changed for ever by it. They are conservationists, inspectors, chemical engineers, residents, firemen, historians, army recruits, doctors of agriculture, parliamentarians, medical assistants, teachers, hunters, lecturers, villagers, mothers. You see the stubbornness, the defiance and the core of humanity brought to the very edge.

The monologues which begin and end the collection are the most powerful and telling. The first, Lyudmila Ignatenko, the wife of a fireman on whom one the of the characters in the mini-series is based, tells her harrowing story. Newly married, pregnant and in desperately in love, she is torn apart by her desire to be close to her husband, as his body slowly disintegrates and dissolves behind the plastic screens, while knowing that that the radiation will almost certainly kill the child she is carrying, which it does.

“Four hours later they told me my little girl had died. And for a second time, they wouldn’t let me have her! What do you mean, you won’t give me her! It’s me who won’t give her to you! You want to take her for science, but I loathe your science! Loath it! First your science took him (her husband) away from me, now its back for more”

Svetlana describes how she felt an urge to look behind the facts to delve into the meaning of what was happening. The truth is that facts alone were not enough. She wanted to hear from shocked people. This is what the collection is about.

“The churches filled up again with people – with believers and former atheists. They were searching for answers that could not be found in physics or mathematics. The three-dimensional world came apart and I have not since met anyone brave enough to swear again on the bible of materialism. We were dazzled by infinity.”

“More than once – and this is something to think about- I have heard people say that the behaviour of the firemen extinguishing the fire at the power station on the first night, and the behaviour of the clean-up workers later, resembled suicide. Collective suicide. The clean up workers often did the job without protective clothing, unquestioningly heading into places where even the robots were malfunctioning. The truth about the high doses they were receiving was concealed from them, yet they were compliant, and later even delighted with the government certficates and medals awarded to them just before they died. Many did not survive that long….For some reason, as the years go by, it is being forgotten that saved their country. They saved Europe. Just imagine for a moment the scene if the other three reactors exploded…”

“They were heroes. Heroes of the new history. Sometimes compared to heroes at the battle of Stalingrad or Waterloo, but they were saving something greater than their homeland. They were saving life itself. Life’s continuity. With Chernobly, man imperilled everything, the whole divine creation where thousands of other creatures animals and plants live alongside man.”

Alexander Revalsky, a historian:

We were brought up in a particular kind of Soviet paganism. Man was almighty, the crown of creation. He had the right to do whatever he pleased with the world – ‘we cannot wait for the favours of nature; our mission is to take them from her’.. There’s that renown Bolshevik slogan: ‘With an iron fist we shall herd the human race into happiness’ The psychology of a rapist. The materialism of a caveman, Defying history defying nature. And it’s still going on.”

A father on justice:

The only righteous thing on the face of the earth is death. No one has ever bribed their way out of that. The earth takes us all: the good, the evil and the sinners. And that’s all the justice you’ll find in this world”

A returnee on forgiveness:

Dying might not be difficult but it is scary. There is no church and the priest doesn’t come to these parts. There is nowhere to take my sins”

Katya  on the sin of loving:

“I pray for love. But I am afraid of it, afraid of loving. I have a fiancé, we’ve handed in our forms at the registry office. Ever heard anything about the Hiroshima Hibushka? The people who survived Hiroshima? They can only count on marrying each other. It doesn’t get written or discussed here, but we exist. The Chernobyl Hibushka. He took me home, introduced me to his mother. She is a good mum. She works at a factory as a financial manager. A community activist. Goes on all the anti-communist demos, reads Solzhenitsyn. And this good mother, when she found out I was from a Chernobyl family, one of the evacuees, she asked in surprise ‘But surely you can’t have children, my dear’  The words rang in my ears ‘My dear, for some people procreation would be a sin’. The sin of loving.”  

Gennady Grushevoy chairman of the Chernobyl children foundation on the dilemma:

For us, everything revolves around feeling. That is what gives us our grandness, elevates our lives, and is, at the same time, so disastrous. The rational choice for us is never enough…The moment  you walk into someone’s yard in the village, you are their guest. I went in and sat at the table, ate radioactive sandwiches because that was what they were all eating. I downed a drink with them and it gave me a sense of pride to know I had it in me. I told myself ‘Okay, so maybe I can’t change a thing in this man’s life, but what I can do is eat a radio active sandwich alongside him, so I won’t be ashamed. Share his fate.’ That is the attitude we take to our lives. And yet I have a wife and two children. I was responsible for them. I had a dosimeter in my pocket… I realise now this is just our world its who we are. Ten years ago, I felt proud of being the way I was, while today I’m ashamed of it. All the same. I would still sit with him and eat that wretched sandwich again. I’ve thought about it, thought about what kind of people we are. I couldn’t get that damned sandwich out of my mind. You had to eat it as an act of the heart, not of the mind.

Slava Konstantinova agriculturalist on fear:

Our Russian people have always lived in fear of war and revolution. That blood drenched vampire, that Devil incarnate Joseph Stalin …and now its Chernobyl. And we wonder why people here are the way they are. Why aren’t they free? Why are they so afraid of freedom? It is just that they are more used to living under a tsar: a father of his people. It makes not the least difference whether he is called the ‘general secretary or the president”

If you lose faith in reason, all sorts of fears take it’s place, like the mind of a savage, it produces monsters”

Sergey Vasilevich Sobolev  on the museum of Chernobyl

“This morning , before I had time to take my coat off, the door opened and a woman was there, sobbing. Well not so much sobbing as yelling: Take his medal and all his certificates of merit! Take all his benefits – just give me back my husband! She carried on shouting for ages, then left me his medal and certificates. So now they will be displayed in a case in the museum. People will look at them… but no one but me heard what she shouted. Only I, when I’m arranging these exhibits, will remember.”

Nadezhda Petrovna Vygovskaya on eternal life:

I sing in a church choir. I read the gospel. I go to church, because it is the only place you hear talk of eternal life. That comforts people. Nowhere else will you hear words like these, and so I want to. When we were being evacuated, if we came to a church, everybody entered. It was almost impossible to get in. Atheist and communists, they all went.

COMETH THE HOUR COMETH THE MAN

The longing for a hero is unsatiable and deep rooted in the human heart and it is so easy to be seduced by the story tellers when they present us with one.  The way the media make heroes out of people who have done pretty much nothing is contemptable, especially when they are dropped just as quickly as they are raised.  I guess, a few weeks ago, few people knew, or would have known anything at all about our new “hero”, now addressing the packed houses of commons, with MP’s, kitted out in their Sunday best, neat suits and suspicious looking yellow and blue school ties, packed on the benches, on the steps and in the aisles. It was one of these pictures that seemed to be saying something momentous, but I wasn’t quite sure what it might be. There he was in the grandeur, the golden kitsch of the presidential palace, with all the power and trappings of his embattled state, but declaring in his green tee-shirt that he was really just one of the people. For once English was not the lingua franca of the world and the members had to press their headphone close to the ears to hear the faltering translation. The quotes from Hamlet and Churchill seemed obtuse at first but the message was clear. “We are not going anywhere, we are not backing down. If you want a fight, bring it on”  and with it a plea to our friends, to the west, to Boris, “stand with us in our time of need.”

Now I know it is far more complicated than that. International relations and disputes are never simple. There are no good guys and bad guys. There may be wars that are just, but they end up in unredeemable horrors. Such is the human condition. In many ways it is easier, for us, to sit on the poles of the argument. It is easy to be a straight down the line hard-nosed, no-nonsense hawk or a pure and whiter than white dove, but in the middle is the reality and that is where we live. It was what I really appreciated about Christopher Hitchins, having just read his memoirs “Hitch-22”. I would disagree with him on just about everything, especially his dogged and foolish dismissal of all that belonged to God, of eternal life and the spiritual realm. In his story he doesn’t waste any opportunity to take a side swipe at anything that suggests there is more than this life. But he made a genuine effort to grapple with the issues of war and peace of appeasement and intervention and when it may be morally right to use power, even military power, for good. I don’t think he really resolved the conundrum. “’A map of the world that did not show Utopia’ said Oscar Wilde ‘would not be worth consulting. I used to adore that phrase, but now reflect more upon the shipwrecks and prison islands to which the quest has led.”

So once again the UK and the west are faced with that dilemma to intervene or not and is this the time? Zelensky seemed to be saying “this is the time” not just for us but for you too, for, behind the call to stand with us, was the latent message that the game is up. The values that you once held dear and your ancestors fought and die for are about to be lost.  If you cherish, if you value anything that is good, if you benefit from and enjoy freedom and democracy and wealth and high levels of health and prosperity and education and civility, consideration, honesty and integrity there will come a time when you will have to fight for it. Despite how it might look, after years of peace, it is not a given.

Zelensky may only be a paper hero, manufactured by the media and he may disappear from view just as quickly as he came onto it, but this might be the hour and he might just be the man.

Resolutions, the last word

When the new year of 2021 dawned I made a resolution and foolishly recorded it publicly. That’s a bad move. It’s inevitable that you will face the embarrassment of failing to keep it. And that’s what I did. Mine was simply to say no more about the whole nasty Covid business. Now, I didn’t mean the reality of the vicious virus, whether natural or mad made and the devastation it has caused across the world. Nor did I mean the disease and the suffering and death that has followed and those who have to endure its long-term chronic debilities. No, I mean the insane irrational hysteria, which has dominated as well as crippled society, the skewed obsession with the single narrative and the sinister intent of those who made and continue to make a killing out of it all. That business.

At the beginning of 2021 it seemed a reasonable aspiration that this would soon be all behind us. Perhaps not talking about it might make it go away. There was a feeling that we had come to the end of this aberration and sanity would somehow return. How wrong I was. A year later there it is, still in full swing and no sign that it will ever end. True the words change and opinions too, people shift their ground, backs are covered and inconvenient facts buried.  But the fatal error and the gross abuse of power is overlooked in the frenzy over wine and cakes.  But I am going to try and make one last attempt to close the chapter and halt my musings on this sorry tale.

To be honest I am tired. The whole thing has become so unbearably wearisome. There is nothing much more to say and I am beginning to repeat myself. Languishing in ten days house arrest following a positive Lateral flow test from a close contact, it all seems pretty pointless anyway. The system can’t be bucked against, that’s for sure and we are in this for the long haul. In Scotland the government are in the process of taking more power to allow them to shut down society whenever it seems right to them to do so and we just have to get used to that. Like long term prisoners we need to learn to settle down and get on with our life sentence. We need to stop fixating on the dream of an early release.  It is hope deferred that is the real killer and wasting energy on any more outrages is a futile banging a head against a wall. And it’s too late, anyway. The inmates are already running the asylum.

The big question is how you retain your sanity in a world that has gone mad? I am beginning to think that Foucault had a point. Maybe it’s the internees who are the sane ones?  Under this enforced isolation I have had a chance to think and learn again from those who have gone before and have faced the real trials not phoney ones. People like Bonhoeffer, Jägerstätter, Havel, Solzhenitsyn and others. So I will try and follow their example:

To live not by lies: ”The simplest and most accessible key to our self-neglected liberation is this: personal non-participation in lies. Though lies may conceal everything, though lies may control everything, we should be obstinate about this one small point: let them be in control but without any help from any of us.” 1

To not allow the names, they give you, intimate: “The term dissident (which to the soviets in Havel’s day meant a renegade) frequently implies a special profession, as if, along with the more normal vocations, there was another special one – grumbling about the state of things. In fact, a dissident is simply a physicist, a sociologist, a worker, a poet, individuals who are merely doing what they must and, consequently, who find themselves in open conflict with the regime. This conflict has not come about through any conscious intention on their part, but simply through the inner logic of their thinking, behaviour or work, often confronted with external circumstances more or less beyond their control.” 2

To trust to common sense, that special gift from God.

To not comply with what we know is foolishness. 

To think about “Whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” 3

————————————————————————————————————————–

  1. Alexander Solzhenitsyn “Live not by lies” 1974
  2. Václav Havel “The Power of the Powerless” 1998
  3. Philippians 4:8-9 English Standard version

Nocebo is the way to go

I would like to pretend that I have known the word for years but, the truth is, it was new to me. Nocebo, I mean. It was a report I read last week detailing some research carried out in an American university that showed that the majority of people who receive a covid-19 vaccine will have phantom side effects. That is, a general anxiety over possible side effects will result in the patient believing they are actually experiencing them. It’s called the “Nocebo effect”. You can see where the idea comes from. It is the mirror image of the placebo effect where people take the pill believing it to be the drug that will help them and, while it is just sugar, it works because they think it will. With nocebo they can be hyper-alert to how they are feeling and imagine all sort of horrible things are happening to their bodies. This is important, because if people experience a side effect, it may simply be put down to anxiety triggered by reading scare stories on the internet. You know the sort of thing: stories of blood disorders, deep vein thrombosis, acute cardiac issues, infections, herpes, immune system disorders, blindness, eye disorders, deafness, spontaneous abortions, skin disorders, psychiatric disorders, migraines and headaches, central nervous system disorders, Guillain-Barre syndrome, facial paralysis, vertigo, tinnitus, respiratory disorders, seizures, paralysis, tremors, reproductive disorders and other mild and rare side effects, as well as death. That sort of thing. Professor Ted Kapchuk who is behind the study thinks it’s a mistake to hide or downplay the reported side effects he wants people to be told more information not less. “Honesty” he says, “is the way to go”. Well, it’s encouraging, of course, when a professor tells us that it’s good to be truthful.

I wish the BBC and all the usual suspects would heed that too. Last night on their late evening news programme they had a report from Covid wards with Clive Myrie walking around talking to patients and staff. It began with the consultant following the camera around a ward pointing to patients “unvaccinated, unvaccinated, unvaccinated, unvaccinated, unvaccinated….”  It was pretty gross, but the message was clear.  Our Covid wards are full of the unvaccinated and this places the NHS under considerable stress.  But is not the truth. It is simply not true. We know that from the government’s own reports.  In each of the four nations, the majority of patients in Covid wards are actually vaccinated and those who do not have a vaccination are in the minority.  In some cases, the ratio is almost five to one. So why would a journalist produce something so misleading and so seriously mis-representive of the actual facts? Is it just laziness and sloppy reporting? Or has someone been lent on to tell a particular story with the aim of encouraging the hesitant “to do the right thing”?  An alternative, but truthful report, showing that vaccination could mean you are more likely to end up in hospital, wouldn’t quite be the thing. It would raise the difficult question – why are more vaccinated patients ending up in hospital than unvaccinated? But ignoring the facts is always a bad idea. A very bad idea.

Which brings me back to Professor Ted Kapchuk and his study. Maybe it is the “Nocebo effect” on a world-wide scale. We watched scary videos on the internet of people dropping in the street gasping for breath, of piles of coffins stacked high and massive graves being dug, we heard the doom-laden prophecies and our collective anxiety made us hyper-alert and believe that we were actually experiencing a pandemic.  Maybe some of the time we were simply fulfilling our own prophecies. The governments and media controlling the narrative certainly did their level best to make sure that this was so and only told one side of the story. Any suggestion that things might not be a bad as portrayed was treated with scorn and ridicule. There was hardly any good news (the reported benefits of the vaccine rollout being the exception). Goodness me, the relentless nightly ritual of covid statistics detailing the cases, the hospitalisation, the ICU figures and the deaths while failing to mention the statistics on those who had actually recovered, was scare-mongering on an industrial scale. The facts are that UK 150 thousand have died with Covid in the UK, while 12million have recovered. (in the world it is 5.6 million against 283 million). Why were we not told these figures? Surely being honest and open and telling us all the facts, would have been a welcome boost to morale? For some strange reason in the fake war against the virus raising morale was never part of the plan. That might have stiffened our resolve, given us a reason to pull and stand together. Instead, we were encouraged to hide and to run so we hid and we ran.

Maybe someone should carry out a study to examine this Nocebo effect.  But don’t hold your breath, that study is not likely to be carried out anytime soon.

THE TURNING OF THE YEAR

As the days and hours slip away from another year, another significant milestone, there is just a hint, the merest of hints, that it is not just the year that is turning but attitudes too.  The seemingly impenetrable edifice constructed, no doubt in great care, over the past two years, shows signs of crumbling. Cracks are appearing and there is a growing sense that those who championed the worldwide Covid narrative, who confidently rode the wave over governments, media and people’s lives might find themselves on the wrong side of history. The very place they had consigned their adversaries.  Inevitably, a house built on falsehood and half-truths will fall.

The signs can be seen in the media where journalist who have taken the king’s shilling, sense the reckoning is coming and are creeping out from under the woodwork to find a safe place on the right side. We now know the story and maybe it’s time, as some have suggested, to start clapping for the conspiracy theorists. Turns out they were right all along and we were wrong. If it looks like a conspiracy and smells like a conspiracy, it probably is a conspiracy and all of that will spill in time, when and if one honest journalist can ferret it out.

The main players the global predators will already be looking for a safe sanctuary somewhere, leaving all the middle people and useful idiots to face the anger of the mob. For anger there certainly will be, once those who have paid the price of the folly realise how they have been deceived. Those who feel that their trust has been betrayed. The people who have suffered, who lost relatives without the comfort of saying goodbye those whose children lost a year of learning and socialising, those who lost their jobs, businesses and livelihoods without compensation, those who have missed out on critical treatment, who died for lack of early interventions, those whose lives were unnecessarily mucked about having to follow idiotic instructions which made no sense and those whose delicate mental health was callously ignored… and for what? …for what? The anger is building; it may morph into rage. The threatening tones can already be heard and this is what worries me.

I fear that many will be looking for blood. When a government, a system has been overthrown it most often becomes ugly and bloody. The Ceaușescus’ Ghaddafi’s, and Saddam’s’ demise was not pretty. These examples are pretty extreme, of course, nevertheless the possibility of a terrible backlash is very real and it would be wise to do what we can to ameliorate it and avoid the situation descending into chaos   It will need something more than just another lengthy and expensive public enquiry. A Truth and Justice Commission might be more the kind of thing, where the people involved can feel free to tell the whole truth without fear of prosecution.

People need to know. They need to know: why their relatives were sent to care homes to die, why isolating the population in lock-down restrictions was the only intervention considered, why previous plans for a pandemic were abandoned, why the advice of so many scientists and public health experts for focused protection and natural immunity were ignored, why the politicians and those making the rules didn’t themselves believe there was any danger, why fear was weaponised, why drug companies were given immunity from prosecution, as well as what actually was going on in Wuhan. People do need to know and there can never be any resolution until they do.

My hope and my prayer for 2022 is that this can be done peacefully, honestly and transparently and that people of character and integrity can rise to the occasion, step into the breach and show the way, out of, what could otherwise be, a great and historic tragedy.  

GET BACK

When ever I hear “She loves you” it gives me goose pimples, lifts the wee hairs in the back of my neck and I am right back there: walking up the corridor from the Gym hall after lunch break in the Island school of my teens, taking in the sharp breeze blowing up from the loch and the tang of malt and peat from the distillery, down at the pier with the boys trying to sink a bottle with stones, the sloping football pitch, the bus journeys home and the girls, especially the girls.  It was the birth of Beatlemania, but being one of the perverse sort, I decided to actively dislike them and even wrote and presented a piece of prose for the English class dismissing their music as childish and shallow. The sporting teacher offered me an armed escort when I left.

It didn’t take long, however, before that changed. There was “All my loving” with its brisk chug-a-chug guitar coming in on the minor and the simplicity and freshness of the whole thing. And then there was “ I feel fine” with the deliberate feedback from John’s Rickenbaker. I knew then that this was something special it was no flash in the pan. The other Mersey beaters came and went but the Beatles moved onward and forward changed and surprised yet still kept that wonderful tightness that all bands aspire to.  There was “Help” “Yesterday” and “We can work it out” in 1965 with its driving tempo and the change to the waltz at the end of  the middle eight. A year later it was “Paper back writer” with the exciting harmonies and the Long section on a single chord before finding release on the sub dominant.  Then there was “Eleanor Rigby” of course, “For no-one”  “Here there and everywhere” and all the way to Sergeant Pepper and “A Day in a Life” with that crazy climactic ending. It could only be downhill from there. Nothing could eclipse that moment. True there were some good songs that followed, and the bands performance on the roof, but it was clear the show was over.

Peter Jackson’s documentary “Get Back” tells the story of their demise and takes the mountain of recordings from the original sessions at Twickenham, Apple studios and the Savile Road roof concert to make a film which is just about as long as the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  I imagine it would bore the pants off all except the most passionate of fans, as there seems hours and hours of irrelevant chat and mucking about where nothing actually happens. It could be watching paint dry. For me, however, having played in bands and worked with musicians and spent hours in recording studios, it was fascinating to see how they worked.  What was very revealing was how ordinary and unexceptional they seemed. The musicianship, the melodies, the harmonies and the lyrics of themselves seem very mundane. When I think of the skill of some of the guys, I have had the privilege of working with, who were willing to play my material and all with busy day time jobs, John, Paul, George and Ringo seemed quite unremarkable in comparison.

Something happened of course when they finally got going. They were so much greater than the sum of their parts.  There was the acid and alkali reaction, the cheery melody and the biting sarcasm between McCartney and Lennon, the underlaying and decoration by Harrison and, what I hadn’t realised before, the pivotal role that Starr had on the sound. Starr was left-handed and had to learn on a right-hand drum kit. This meant that he had to stretch awkwardly arm over arm to hit the Tom-Toms and the result was a fraction late in the beat. This meant the others were a fraction ahead which gave the whole its distinctive tension. And when you create tension in the listener’s ear you have them in the palm of your hand. Beatlemania was all about that.

Looking back, it seemed that they lit up and super charged the grey decades of the sixties, with excitement and colour and life to reach tremendous heights of ingenuity and creativity and then, as quickly, dim and fade. In some ways they speak of the tragic transitory nature of life. “A day in a life” for me, their finest achievement, epitomises that with the final chord saying “That’s all folks”. Out of the bag there was no way to get back to where they once belonged.

CROSSING THE RIVER

I had the second but not the third. I drew a line. It has to be drawn somewhere. Where you draw yours is up to you but I had to make up my own mind. When the idea that an unprecedented measure is held out to you as being temporary for a specific purpose in an unparalleled emergency, but it slyly slips into something that looks permanent, you have to decide how much you will take, for who knows where it will end?

Austria and now Germany, with the EU to follow, gives us a clue. You wonder if they teach 20c history in schools anymore or is it simply collective amnesia? Diversity and inclusion will now have to be redefined.  The unvaxed are the great unclean, who must be shunned and separated from the rest and those who refuse will face the full force of the law, be fined for each passing month until they are ruined. This is no conspiracy theory. This is what the leaders of these nations are actually saying – “vaccinated, recovered or dead”.

But up here, we are not like them. We have our own bungling clownish ways of doing things: arguing about parties, who can kiss who, checking that our granny has certification before including her in the invite, ordering every visitor to our home to take a test beforehand, testing and testing before we go anywhere and all the usual idiocies of terrifying our children with masks and fear of strangers. Its beyond embarrassing, but it is also evil (and I have chosen that word carefully). It is the slimiest stasi-like trick in the book. Get the people to enforce your will. Get them to call out and shame the dissidents. Frame the narrative in black and white terms: good and bad, caring and selfish, compassionate and venal and you have enrolled half or more of the population who can work across communities and families to coerce and enforce it. There is no need to appeal to fact or reason, logic has gone AWOL. There is no need to argue about whether the vaccines can stop the spread. There isn’t one. We know they don’t.

“It’s your civic duty” they will say, but it’s not mine. I can take the names. Stick and stones will break my bones and words can hurt but I don’t need to let them.  They have crossed the river and launched a civil war. You would think they knew what they were doing but, I guess, if you have forgotten what happened 80+ years back you are unlikely to remember 49BC.

THE REAL CAUSE FOR CONCERN

There was something about the announcement this week that was depressing as it was predictable and I struggle to make up my mind if the actors are simply evil demagogues impelled by dark forces or just bit players and useful idiots in a treacherous game over which they have no control.

The appearance of Omicron, an anagram of “moronic”, having jumped Nu and Xi, so as not to cause offence to our oriental friends, came at just the right time.  There was the possibility that people were beginning to believe the storm had passed, the nightmare was over and we could begin to rebuild the house and repair the roof. There was the ever-present danger that citizens might see the complete disconnect from what they were hearing and what they were seeing and begin to ask questions. The time would come soon enough when the people’s enquiry into what had happened would expose the fraudulence of the official narrative and someone would be in dock in the Hague. Some boy would eventually cry out that the emperor had no clothes.  So, it was vital that something new had to be found to divert attention from what was really happening. To cover over what may have been behind the introduction of this plague. And, sure enough, it was found. This time in beautiful Botswana.

The trouble is, evil always overplays its hand. The cunning plans eventually unravel and there is no place to hide. It has always been that way.  The video clip I have in my mind is Ceausescu’s wooden speech from the balcony of the Central Committee building in Piata Revolutie, Bucharest where he misreads the crowd, who seem, at first, to be chanting and cheering but it soon becomes booing and jeering with cries for his downfall which was enacted a few days later.

The banal “cause for concern” chant repeated by so many betrays a staggering out-of-touchness with reality, the real world and the real concerns of real people. The “Concern” over a new strain with barely a dozen reported cases in the UK, where there is no evidence that it could in the future cause fatalities, or lead to serious illness or hospitalisation or maybe just a runny nose, when this is the cause for concern, where is the concern for the real distresses that face real people every day?  for cancer, for heart disease, for type2 diabetes, for mental health, for dementia, for the adverse effects of the vaccine: (Blood disorders, pulmonary Embolism and deep vein thrombosis, anaphylaxis, acute cardiac issues, Infections, Herpes, Immune system disorders, blindness, eye disorders, deafness, spontaneous abortions, skin disorders, psychiatric disorders, migraines and headaches, central nervous system disorders, Guillain-Barre syndrome, facial paralysis vertigo tinnitus, respiratory disorders, seizures, paralysis, tremors, reproductive disorders and almost 1,800 deaths in the UK) the destruction of economies, for the jobless, for dept, for child abuse for drug deaths and drug lives, for migrants, for violence, crime, for poverty, for….?

Sooner or later the skin on the bubble will be stretched so thin that the whole thing will burst. Illusions are illusions but reality is reality and eventually all the shams and charades, the deceit and maleficence will be exposed.

But maybe I am totally wrong about all of that. Maybe it is me who is out of touch. Maybe us plain folks don’t know all the story. Maybe we have misjudged and attributed false motives to those who have been responsible. Maybe we have allowed a level of scepticism and cynicism to creep into our thinking and see corruption in every level of government, in the World Health Organisation, in Fauci and Bill Gates, in Moderna and Pfizer and Astra Zeneca, in Davos, Klaus Schwab, and the great reset, in the Chinese Communist Party, the Guardian, the Independent, CNN and the BBC.  Maybe we should trust in the noble altruistic selfless character of human nature and acknowledge that all of these players are acting out of truly unselfish motives and only with our best interests at heart. Maybe.

We need to talk about lock-down

Why? It never occurred to me that we would. To talk about it, I mean. We have already talked about it enough and wasted millions of words and thousands of hours on debates. We have squandered valuable resources on mountains of articles and papers in the past year and half and, needless to say, I have added my bit to the pile too. It is time to lay this ghastly episode to rest in history and concentrate our minds on better things. The idea that any government within a liberal democracy anywhere in the world would ever countenance again imprisoning its own people or rerun an experiment with no evidence that it made any difference, is simply not credible. It’s just not going to happen.

Trouble is, things that we thought were not going to happen often tend to happen. Things that were inconceivable turn out to have been conceived in the darkness when we were not paying attention and birthed when we were looking the other way. If anything this past while has taught us, is that the things we thought unimaginable have an uncanny way of being imagined. We used to make pythonesque jokes about the silliness of bureaucracy and government overreach into the intimacies of life, but they are no jokes anymore. This time it’s real. 

Despite constant assurances to the contrary in words like “we have no plans to …”, another lock-down is certainly planned and it could be brought in very soon. Already the media is priming us for it. The news outlets which used to tell us what had happened, now tell us what is going to happen and they seem to know. Already we hear doom laded stories about the winter and the prospect that flu will be the enemy this time round. The same measure, they say, that worked for Covid could just as sensibly be used for flu. I listened to an interview with a public health expert the other day on the BBC, where the interviewer was doing precisely that. She was repeatedly trying to get the expert to say that in the face of a major flu outbreak this winter, lock-down and similar measures would be an appropriate response.

There is no compelling evidence that lock-downs actually worked in any way and, at the same time, it brought about nightmarish hardship, suffering and deaths. That doesn’t seem to register, however, when you are blinded by the dogma and you have drifted so far from reality you wouldn’t recognise it, even if it hit you between the ears.  So be in no doubt, while presently hidden from view the thing is slowly leaking out and it is more than likely that the government will once again turn to this vile procedure on the pretext of saving the NHS. As if, once western civilisation has finally collapsed in ruins and nothing is left but the shattered bombed out remains of a once great city, we can always say “but we did it to protect the NHS.”

Q How many lock-downs does it take to save the NHS?

A One more that we have had

So, if that’s it, what’s the point and the need to talk? There is very little we can say or do that is likely to have any influence on the power brokers or change the direction of the juggernaut. A letter to the Times won’t cut it this time round.  Reason and nuance have been blocked out. Behind the smiling face of officialdom no quarter is given. But the chosen trajectory will certainly lead to disaster. Silencing your opponents, feeding sweets to the sceptics, making alliances with the hesitant might work for a time but sooner or later the dam will burst and things could get ugly. The legacy of trust, that has been formed over centuries and on which much of our society exists, can be lost in a very short time. Our governments are playing with fire and another lock-down might just set it ablaze. That’s why we need to talk about it.

We need to talk about the vaccine

When the surgery called very early on in the affair to offer myself and my wife the Covid vaccine, I was knocked off my guard. I knew this was coming but had not expected it so soon. The receptionist was pleasant. She was not pushy and when I said I was really not sure, she accepted my reticence and suggested that, if I changed my mind, I should just call back for an appointment.  Being a weak individual and sensitive to emotional pressure I succumbed, but never with any sense of conviction and with piles of doubts.  I wasn’t proud and a little ashamed that I had not stood for my convictions and I was quite embarrassed, with friends of our own age who were trumpeting that they had the vaccine and it was like they had won the lottery. It was a weird situation. When I expressed my reticence, it was sometimes met with shock and unbelief and on at least one occasion with the “anti-vaxxer” retort.  I have learned that when people call you names, they have reached the point where they tire of reasoned debate and don’t want to engage anymore. This is a shame because the issue is deadly serious.

There are so many questions so much obfuscation and blatant attempts to sidestep any reasonable and legitimate inquiry.  This whittles away at confidence and sows the seeds of cynicism.  The gatekeepers actively discourage any valid questioning of the merits of a vaccine rollout. Just try and write to your elected representative in the parliaments in our land and if you get a reply it will simply restates the line without taking on your question. The language is often duplicitous.

Take as an example the concern that many people have that the vaccine might have a negative effect on fertility. It’s a perfectly valid concern not just for young people but of course for everyone. The official stated line which is reiterated at every turn, is that there is no evidence that the vaccine affects fertility. Now you don’t need to have a degree in philosophy to know that this a sleight of hand. The statement will be true but it is constructed in such a way as to lead you to believe that there is evidence that it doesn’t affect fertility. When you realise that, at this point in the vaccine’s history, there is no way of knowing whether the vaccine will affect fertility or not, it makes such a statement grossly misleading, if not deceitful. “We don’t know” would be a more accurate and respectful answer, but with this and so many other issues, the authorities show little respect for the intelligence of the population and you can only wonder at what other devious ploys they have up their sleeves.

Take the issue of what it actually is. It is not a vaccine in the traditional sense. It is not like any other vaccine and probably best described as a form of gene therapy. It is something that has never been tried before, only approved under a temporary authorisation and we have no idea what the long-term effects it will have on the population not least the young and those yet unborn.

And take what the main stream media feed us. I try to avoid watching news on TV especially the BBC but last night it was on and I watched.  I was staggered that they still went through the farcical ritual of numbers and graphs and cases, hospitalisations and deaths. (There were no deaths reported in Scotland.)  From a news angle, what exactly was the point of this charade?  Why were there no record of recoveries from the disease? (Which is close to 98%.) Why were there no graphs and records of cancer deaths of drug deaths of suicide or road deaths? Why were there no records of those who have died after taking the vaccine (which in the UK is in excess of 1,600) or the scale of the yellow card alerts? Why were they actively pushing for the vaccination of pregnant women on the same news programme, when there are so many serious questions and doubts about long term side effects? None of this makes any sense at all unless, of course, there is something else going on. I wonder what it might be?

Any sane person who had a reasonable grasp of the facts and a modest dose of common sense would have called a halt to the roll out long before now, but there is no sign that this is likely to happen and when it does, it will be too late.

I got my blue letter through today for the booster. This time I plan to hold my nerve and refuse, unless, that is, I get convincing answers to my questions.

Crawford Mackenzie