A sea of humanity with just one message

A sea of humanity with just one message

Interesting times, interesting times.

Some time ago a guy called Nassim Nicholas Taleb wrote about what he called black swan events.  Putting it into my own language, it’s about an event that appears to come out of nowhere and bites you on the arse.  Okay, okay, he didn’t put it quite like that, he was far more elegant, but you get the picture.  Post event, those impacted by the black swan rationalise why it was bound to happen and invariably say  ‘we should have seen that coming.’  Black swans invariably lead to tipping points when things take a completely different direction to what existed before.

I’ve used the ‘black swan’ term myself in the past when working with those involved in an offshore incident. In the main, folk sensed something wasn’t quite right but due to operational imperatives, lack of time or resources didn’t do anything about it and carried on.  Then the black swan swooped down and landed, (apparently out of nowhere), and all hell was let loose – and their arse was bitten.  A tipping point was created.

Here are some figures for you: in the UK young black men are nine times more likely to be jailed than young white men;  three times more likely to be tasered;  six to nine times more likely to be stopped and searched by police.  Oh, and whilst black people account for just three percent of the UK population, they make up 12% of the prison population. 

In the US, African Americans have it even worse, the most recent killing being a case in point – George Floyd, killed on 25 May by Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin.  That the current occupant of the White House has added fuel to the fire is no surprise.  This is the man described by former Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow on BBC Any Questions recently, as ‘The most rancid, racist and repellant occupant of the White House in my lifetime.’  Couldn’t have put it better myself.

As for police killing black men in the US. Just put that into a web search, the numbers may not surprise you.

Now, Floyd’s killing by Chauvin was videoed. It went viral. The oxygen thief in the WH must have thought it would soon blow over.  Many others in his circle would have felt the same.  And this is where the black swan element comes in – it didn’t blow over.  The black swan landed.  A tipping point.  In landing, the black swan uncorked a rage, a fury that was intense in its feeling of justice denied. 

I’m reminded of a quote from former slave Frederik Douglass, (1817 – 1895): ‘Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organised conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.

The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass’ published in 1845 is well worth reading.  It still resonates as do many of his quotes. Look up, ‘What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July?’  The rest of the quote is searing, to put it mildly. And justified. And relevant – to those disenfranchised by society due to the colour of their skin; their belief system; sexual orientation; race; poverty; education, and so on and so on…

This particular black swan has been circling for decades.  There have been times when it appears to have landed due to the killing of a black man by the police, but it merely continued to circle.  So when Officer Chauvin killed George Floyd, perhaps those who are equally rancid, racist and repellant thought nothing would come of it.  How wrong they were.  It landed.  One can only hope that a tipping point has been created that will unleash the change that is so necessary.

The heading of this blog says it all, there is a sea of humanity with just one message – enough now, enough now. For those who believe this will blow over, I will merely quote a verse of Maya Angelou’s ’Still I rise’.

You may shoot me with your words,

You may cut me with your eyes,

You may kill me with your hatefulness,

But still, like air,

I’ll rise.’

J J Mitchell
No one left behind

Isn’t nuance an interesting word?

Isn’t nuance an interesting word?

The dictionary definition is:  characterised by subtle shades of meaning or expression.  

Using a thesaurus, one comes up with :  fine distinction, subtle, shade, shading, gradation, variation, modulation, degree; subtlety, nicety, refinement, overtone. 

Okay, that works for me.  As an inkster who writes fantasy, I need to use language that, while still making a point, has shades to it so that it becomes believable.  To go extreme will merely turn the reader off and make the writer appear ridiculous.  

That’s what I was going to blog about.  

Then the attack in Christchurch, New Zealand happened.  

At the time of writing, fifty are known to have been murdered.  An almost equal number are in hospital, many of whom are suffering life changing injuries.  Let’s not mention those who love them and are equally traumatised.  Let’s not mention that this happened whilst the murdered and wounded were at prayer in their mosque.  Let’s not mention the hate speech that Twitter and Facebook enable.  Let’s not mention the legitimacy felt by members of the extreme right to feel it is ‘righteous’ to kill others due to the language of hate and division espoused by the populist leaders of this world whom they follow.  Let’s not mention the current occupant in the White House;  Steve Bannon;  Viktor Orbán in Hungary; Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil;  Italy’s far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, (‘the only extremism that deserves attention is Islamic’).  Let’s not mention that, eh?  

Well, dear reader, fuck that.  (Yes, I am angry.)  Let us mention it.  

Let us mention that their utterances have made opponents into enemies, (you kill your enemies).  Let us mention that their utterances have delegitimised civilised debate and called it weakness.  Let us mention that their ill-defined populist utterances have stoked fear where there should be trust.  

These ‘leaders’, (I use the term so very, very loosely), must be held to account.  There must be no nuance in placing the responsibility at their feet, their mouths and their sorry excuse for a brain.  

No nuance here.  They are responsible.  Hold them and those of their ilk responsible for creating the environment where this can happen.  Let us watch them try to scramble away from having any responsibility for what has been done in their name, their beliefs, their utterances.  (It’s already happening.)  

Finally, I’ll end with mention of an article by Frans de Waal, a Dutch primatologist and ethnologist.  In other words, he studies animal behaviour and is pretty good at it.  Makes for interesting reading.  

In his article, ‘What animals can teach us about politics’, (herehe wrote about the link between our biology and culture, ‘no humans ever existed without biology, nor any without culture.’  

He also made numerous points about leadership, bullying and using fear as a coercive leadership tool.  Leaders that use the latter tend to reign for short periods of time.  Those using more enabling approaches tend to last longer.  It is within us all to wish for peace, to be able to get on with our lives without causing harm to others.  However, when people feel disenfranchised, powerless, they tend to respond to those who promise to deal with the society that caused that disengagement.  

Civilisation is not some outside force: it is us.  Social life is very much part of our primate background, as are cooperation, bonding and empathy. This is because group living is our main survival strategy.  

Primates are made to be social, made to care about one another and made to get along, and the same applies to us. Civilisation does all sorts of great things for us, but does so by co-opting natural abilities. It works with what we have to offer, including an age-old capacity for peaceful coexistence.

Peaceful coexistence.  Lovely phrase that.   

Couldn’t be clearer.  No nuance there.  

J J Mitchell

‘Never leave anyone behind’ 

Let’s give it up for the person in the street…

Let’s give it up for the person in the street…

If I came from another planet and looked at all that was happening in the world today I’d be thinking ‘what insanity.’  There is this third rock from the sun which has stunning beaches, mountains, forests and seas.  We have cities of which we can be proud and others, well, not.  And, for the moment, we have a beautiful world that we need to protect and nurture.  

There are so many decent and kind people in this world of ours.  In fact, they’re the majority.  I have seen pure love in the smile a mother gives her child.  I have seen the bravery of an individual standing up for what they believe, even if they are in the minority.  I have seen compassion shown by one to another.  But do we hear about this?  Do we read about this? You know the answer as well as I, we do not.  We are fed stories of hate – hate of colour, belief system, sexual orientation, whatever, by those who ‘profit’ from this.  With the media, it’s all about ‘click bait’; it’s about subscribers; it’s about advertisers; and ultimately, it’s about the money that can be put into the coffers of those that are already rich and politically influential. With so many politicians, it’s about power and gaining office.  Currently some are using negative stereotypes in their attempt to gain that power.

So, before we think this world is going to hell in a hand cart, let’s give it up to those, the majority, who care about others; who put the interests of others before themselves; whose value systems prevent them from taking advantage of those less strong; to those who protect the weak; and those who dislike cruelty to human kind and non human kind. In other words, to the great majority of people who live on this bustling, argumentative, frustrating, loving, caring, and fabulous world that we call our own.

To the others, the greedy, the avaricious, the power hungry, the hate mongers, keep in mind that in those last thirty seconds of life that you know you have left to you, you will be naked to the reality of your life and the destruction you wove.  For me the saying, ‘there are no pockets in a shroud’, resonates.  The quality of the life you have lived can be seen by the regret of your passing; by the hole left in the lives of others; of the smiling, and sometimes laughter that follows when someone talks about you.  These, as I have said before, are the reactions of the majority to the majority.  And so it should be.   

So, again, let’s give it up for the person in the street – for that is us.  

JJ Mitchell

‘Never leave anyone behind…’

Enter ‘The Schlachten’…

Enter ‘The Schlachten’…

An interesting start to 2016.  To Anaheim and the Craft and Hobbies Association Mega Show with the love of my life; visiting Disneyland – surreal and not in a good way; Knott’s Berry Farm – fascinating insight to the history of the West, not many visitors;  Universal Studios – stunning, great fun and well managed; visiting friends of many years – a delight;  San Francisco – interesting and divided society symptomatic of much that exists in America.   

As an independent writer, I’m continually trying to see, not just look, (and there is a difference), at the world(s) in which I find myself.  As a I try to see what is about me I find that thoughts go through my mind such as, ‘Why are there so many homeless people here?’  ‘How do they survive?’  ‘Where do they go at night?’  ‘Are they a ‘tribe’ or is it everyone for themselves?’  Ultimately, ‘I wonder if I can use that alienation from society and its political and economic values and their experience of poverty in ‘Kold Kronicles Book 2: Defiance’?’  

Actually I can.

In the second book of ‘The Kold Kronicles’, I have developed a group called ‘The Schlachten’.  The word derives from the German and means, ‘to slaughter, to butcher, to kill.’  Seems about right with what I have in mind for them.  As to how they’re created, that’s where alienation, atomisation and anger at society comes in.  Who are the ‘invisibles’ who won’t be missed if they disappear?  Answer:  the poor.  Plus, poverty exists throughout the world, sometimes more extreme in some countries than others.  Therefore, members of The Schlachten can be from any race or creed.  The poor remain invisible to the majority of society, and that can only be useful when a writer is looking for a group to change into killing automatons.  After all, what have they got to lose?  

JJ Mitchell

‘Never leave anyone behind…’