Tuesday, March 28, 2006

what a long strange trip it's been!

I need to learn much more about blogging. in the last two or three years it has exploded on the scene as the first serious threat to the mainstream media since (unless you count the pirate radio stations of the sixties and seventies , which never really did anything but play pop music) the British underground press of late sixties, ‘OZ’, ‘Gandalf’s Garden’, ‘Frendz’ and ‘IT’ were on the street when I was 13-14 and I used to sell copies of ‘The International Times’ (when it had a ‘broadsheet’ format) around the more hip parts of Carlisle. (Does anyone remember the ‘Cellar' café near Tullie house; circa 1968?) In those days we never thought that the underground press (or for that matter the ‘underground’ movement) as we liked to call it would ever die, It was not until recently rereading Richard Neville’s ‘Playpower’ recently that I remembered that overpowering sense of optimism and confidence that we all had then, that feeling of “we just can’t lose” I’d completely forgotten all about that feeling which was so prevalent then. Suddenly we find ourselves with the ability to broadcast our thoughts opinions and much more, for anyone in the world who cares to listen, never before has the world population had such an opportunity to meet each other communicate and discuss whatever’s on their minds, and sort their problems by talking! “Sooner jaw jaw than war war” as Winston Churchill famously said, the more we know about each other, the more we understand each other, and the more we talk to each other; then surely the less chance there is of us resorting to violence against each other. I’ve always thought of spying as a particularly noble and worthwhile profession, if each and every country had such an efficient spying network that no others could plot or plan any kind of attack or offensive without everyone else discovering it immediately, then no country could plot against another, conflict would be futile, and other ways to solve disagreements would have to be found! I think what I’m trying to say here is that communication, knowledge and understanding are the key.

Monday, March 27, 2006

The tragedy of the cockle pickers

I live in Barrow-in-Furness, it’s a pretty sleepy northern English town and we don’t normally have much in the way of interface with slavery (or at least we thought we didn’t!) the tragedy of the 23 Chinese cockle pickers drowned out in the bay (Morecambe) served as a wake up call to all of us.

Or at least it should have done! But it didn’t!

We like to think ourselves as quite civilized up here, we don’t go in for the hysterics of southerners, or the radicalism of those further north, we like to think we are gentle caring folk who look after our neighbors, the way northern folk famously do (and southerners infamously don’t) and yet right in the middle of our democratic and so caring community; people were being enslaved and forced to into fatally dangerous slave labor! And we all knew it was happening!!

And we all did nothing!!!

It was quite common knowledge among the people of the area that the cockle pickers out in the bay were here as illegal immigrants, and that they had little choice but to work there, and that they were paid a pittance.

But we chose to turn a blind eye, many of us (misguidedly) perhaps not wanting to get people who we already felt were getting a raw deal; into further trouble.

In the seemingly few opportunities that the locals of the area had to talk to the Chinese, they came over as friendly outgoing and generous, and all of them hated having to pick cockles, they were frightened of the bay with its tides and gullies, they knew their bosses didn’t care about their wellbeing, and they feared for their lives when picking cockles having had close shaves before, the thing that struck you was how young they were, teenagers, (kids!) traveling round the world and having to do any work offered; for any money; with no choice in the matter!

And now? There is still as much lethally dangerous cockle harvesting going on out in the bay as there ever was, according to the local fishermen/people who know the bay and it’s tides and dangerous ways (It drowned my only son in 2003) it’s only a matter of time before there’s another tragedy.

It’s a sad reflection on us as a society and community that this can have happened right under our noses without us realizing what was going on; and doing something about it, doing the right thing isn’t abut waiting for government legislation to put things right, it’s about seeing what’s wrong and saying/doing something.

Do you think if they were English/Caucasians there would have been more done about it?

Mobile phones, ID Cards through the back door?


I used to be a keen mobile phone user and carried one for 2 or 3 years ending up with one which I thought I liked (internet access etc) until the day came when I managed to lose it in a boozer one night.

Once the initial annoyance had worn off, I found that I was suddenly free from the (previously unrealized) stress of being permanently accessible and ‘on call’ as it were; ‘24/7’ to anyone who wanted to call and had my number.

I hadn’t realized just how intrusive and annoying I had found this until I was ‘Off the radar’ and inaccessible, I now revel in my newfound anonymity and freedom, I know it’s a nuisance not being able to phone whenever and whoever you want to but I’ve got a landline and answering machine so I won’t miss anything really important.

I suppose it’s pretty antisocial; but I value my space, I live alone (out of choice I like to think) and I love to have visitors, but I need to spend at least some part of everyday on my own.

Realizing that the phone can also act as a rather efficient tracking device; pinpointing my position at anytime, was also another reason for being happier without it.

And then learning about this made me start thinking seriously about the potential of mobile devices; and all the things that they could be capable of doing, which we wouldn’t necessarily know about!

with the computing power of these handheld devices increasing all the time, it means that they could easily be capable of storing all kinds of information about us (information that is easily gleaned now that “Convergence” means that we surf the web, access our banks and do all our e-mail and phone business with them) ‘Google’s battle with the US government over information gathered from customers searches online demonstrates clearly that they are thinking this way. Also don’t forget the story which ‘Microsoft’ furiously denies, that the British government are asking Microsoft to install a backdoor into their new ‘Vista’ operating system, to enable them to access encrypted data etc.

Why would the government need to issue us all with the unpopular ID cards, when we could all be easily identified and tracked by the ‘Spy in our pockets’?

of course when you link this to the literarly thousands of CCTV's watching our every move