Palace Intrigue: Where Have You Gone?

If the super-rich are supposedly the royalty of today, whatever has happened to the drama? Where is the selfishness and pride? Where the jealousy and rivalry? Where, if I may be so blunt, is the treachery and murder? If they have to rule us, let’s at least have some palace intrigue!

Don’t tell me today’s half-brothers and stepmothers and third cousins twice removed have outgrown the base–I mean, basic–no, I mean, base–human drives of ambition and greed! Don’t tell me the children of the super-rich today are more loyal and content than their blah-blah-divine-right frères! Maybe they think they’re guaranteed their slice of the pie one day, they only need to bide their time, but if there’s one thing your parents taught you, and it’s likely the only thing, it’s that, one, it must be the whole pie, and, two, the pie has to be had now!

And besides, irrespective of the promised life expectancy in your generation, you know–you know–your parents are going to outlive you anyway, and even if they don’t, they’re still going to give more to your snivelling, butt-kissing little brother and your oh-so-innocent-let-me-sit-on-your-lap daddy’s-little-princess sister. They’ve ignored you your whole life, parcelling out affection like dog treats. ARE YOU A DOG? Remember the cards you made that they never opened, the cake untouched on the restaurant table? They didn’t even show for the state finals, your big day, just made certain that your dad’s lawyer was umpiring and double-faulted Johnny Goodspeed thus crowning you champion. Ahhh, who else in your life–your life of strength and power and perfect control!–can make champion sound so much like loser?

So where was he? Yeah, you know exactly where he was. Blowing your rightful inheritance on the Côte d’Azur, that’s where, with his hands, leg and feet model of a third wife. It’s not okay. All of it is just not okay. Something must be done. And it’s so easy, it doesn’t even have to be a thing. He’s old and on too many pills for this heart and liver, and you can certainly make sure that she won’t get a cent. Your brother races powerboats which is the most dangerous sport in the world, and of course you’d still look after your sister, as long as she does what she’s told.

Why not, right? Why not?



More Notes on America from James Baldwin

Let me present, further to my Notes on America from James Baldwin’s Nobody Knows My Name: More Notes of a Native Son, More Notes on America from James Baldwin’s Notes of a Native Son:

In the Preface to the 1984 Edition, Baldwin writes:

“It is not pleasant to be forced to recognize, more than thirty years later, that neither this dynamic [of race relations] nor this necessity [to find one’s place in it] have changed. There have been superficial changes, with results at best ambiguous and, at worst, disastrous. Morally, there has been no change at all and a moral change is the only real one. … The only real change vividly discernible in this present, unspeakably dangerous chaos is a panic-stricken apprehension on the part of those who have maligned and subjugated others for so long that the tables have been turned.”

If that was unpleasant to write in 1984, how much more unpleasant is it that today, another thirty plus years later, it is still the case that “North Americans appear to believe these legends [of white supremacy], which they have created and which absolutely nothing in reality corroborates, until today. And when these legends are attacked, as is happening now — all over a globe which has never been and never will be White — my countrymen become childishly vindictive and unutterably dangerous”?

Baldwin’s declaration that “[t]he people who think of themselves as White have the choice of becoming human or irrelevant” is no less poignant today than it was at the time of writing, and though we are yet to see the sentiment reach its ultimate expression, matters do seem to be coming to a head, judging by how “childishly vindictive and unutterably dangerous” capital-W White people are becoming.

One wonders if things have improved since Baldwin wrote that he “can conceive of no Negro native to this country who has not, by the age of puberty, been irreparably scarred by the conditions of his life. All over Harlem, Negro boys and girls are growing into stunted maturity, trying desperately to find a place to stand; and the wonder is not that so many are ruined but that so many survive.”

Certainly, it is still the case that “Americans, unhappily, have the most remarkable ability to alchemize all bitter truths into an innocuous but piquant confection and to transform their moral contradictions … into a proud decoration, such as are given for heroism on the battle field.”

Finally, Baldwin takes his readers right to the very heart of the issue when he writes: “I imagine that one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once the hate is gone, that they will be forced to deal with pain.” Neither is he himself free of this burden, though he offers up some hope:

“Hatred, which could destroy so much, never failed to destroy the man who hated and this was an immutable law.
“It began to seem that one would have to hold in the mind forever two ideas which seemed to be in opposition. This first idea was acceptance, the acceptance, totally without rancor, of life as it is, and men as they are: in the light of this idea, it goes without saying that injustice is a commonplace. But this did not mean that one could be complacent, for the second idea was of equal power: that one must never, on one’s own live, accept these injustices as commonplace but must fight them with all one’s strength. The fight begins, however, in the heart and it now had been laid to my charge to keep my own heart free of hatred and despair.”


Guardian: ‘Nations don’t always learn from history’

So sad to see countries–and peoples–take the wrong turn, pull the rug from under their own feet, tear themselves apart. Author Elif Shafak reflects on the path Turkey is taking.

Guardian: Racism in the Bedroom

“… But then sex and relationships are one of the last remaining bastions of unreconstructed racial prejudice.”

Guardian: “Fat Cat Thursday”


“Bosses of top British companies will have made more money by lunchtime on Thursday than the average UK worker will earn in the entire year… The chief executives of FTSE 100 companies are paid a median average of £3.45m a year, which works out at 120 times the £28,758 collected by full-time UK workers on average… The title for the highest paid listed company boss this year is almost certain to be Jeff Fairburn, the chief executive of housebuilder Persimmon, who is on track to collect a £110m bonus.”

Guardian: What should equality really look like?

The political right have so successfully sold their system of “equality of opportunity”, of “meritocracy” and “social mobility” to the masses that not only do we not realise that this neoliberal dream obfuscates the truth of increasing inequality, even more effectively, we don’t want to realise this, because then we would be without the reality and the hope, however illusory.

To bring change, we have to want change.

“A more equal society would mean everyone has shelter, healthcare, education, food and time to rest and play as well as work. It would mean not discriminating on grounds of identity, sex or skin colour. It would mean a system of “public luxury and private sufficiency”: of facilities such as libraries and galleries and parks which could be participated in by everyone. It would involve foregrounding egalitarian goals and dramatically curbing corporate power and high pay. It would mean heeding the call for universal public services. It would mean prioritising climate change as an issue that affects everyone.”

New Years Despair

The week around New Years is one of the saddest times of the year for me in Berlin, not because yet another year is ending, thinking of all the projects I didn’t finish, or the friends I haven’t kept in touch with as well as I would have liked. Not because of the pressure to really make something of it, meet up with people, celebrate, the stress of getting the right friends together at the right parties. No, it’s none of that.

What makes me so sad at this time of year is being again surrounded by the stupidity of humanity, seeing how far we haven’t come, our primitive selves, our smallness of mind. And the trigger for this: DIY fireworks. Shop fronts filled with firecrackers, banners unfurled over sidewalks. Otherwise sensible people reduced to troglodytes. Less sensible people, so much the worse: Adults and children firing rockets at each other and strangers. Firecrackers tossed into traffic. Everywhere rubbish and cardboard burning in the street. The irresponsibility, if not outright harassment. As a friend of mine said, It’s not New Years, it’s war. Yes, war without the killing and dying, but war nonetheless. I ask myself, Is there any hope for a humanity that, when there is peace, plays at war?

Think of the waste. Think of the rubbish. Think of the pollution. Every year Germans spend over 130 million euros on fireworks over just 4 days. Think of all the good that can be done with that money. Think of all the people we can help. But, hey, who’s thinking?

Loud noise. Bright light. They look forward to this every year. This makes them feel alive, makes their lives interesting, makes them happy. It really makes me despair that this is what humanity wants, this is all humanity needs. No deeper truths, no higher goal. Just  loud noise, bright light.



Marcela’s Retort

If anyone calls me a wild beast and a basilisk, let him shun me as a mischievous and evil thing; if he calls me ungrateful, let him serve me no more; if he calls me strange, know me no more; if cruel, follow me no more; for this wild beast, this basilisk, this ungrateful, strange, and cruel creature will in no way seek, serve, know, or follow him.

-Miguel de Cervantes, The Adventures of Don Quixote

BBC Future: How Western civilisation could collapse

If we make rational choices to reduce factors such as inequality, explosive population growth, the rate at which we deplete natural resources and the rate of pollution – all perfectly doable things – then we can avoid collapse and stabilise onto a sustainable trajectory …

Unfortunately, some experts believe such tough decisions exceed our political and psychological capabilities.