Pondering our destiny…

Pondering our destiny…

It’s a quiet day here in Edinburgh, blue sky with some beautiful cirrus meandering its way across the sky presaging a change in the weather in the next twenty four hours.  A bit cooler too.  Seems as though winter is starting to wake up and beckon the next stage of the year as our planet continues its journey around our sun, (one of many, remember, well, billions actually.)

So why the heading for this post? Simple really, it all started with a picture of the earth taken from the moon – yes, that famous one (Earthrise,  photographed by William Anders during the 1968 Apollo 8 mission.)  I was also reminded of our mortality by the news that a very good friend of mine is battling a life-threatening illness.  A decent, caring human being who makes a difference to all those who know him. He’s a former US Marine and brings that ‘can do’ attitude towards fighting this ‘irritation’ as he calls it. He’s blessed with support around him. He has friends who care deeply about him and a family that is as ‘awkward’ as he is regarding any form of illness.  He also has a dreadful sense of humour, (I’m smiling as I write that part.)  His sense of the ridiculous lightens some of those dark moments he has sometimes he tells me.

It’s only when you see pictures like the earth from the moon, (how small we are);  hear of close friends fighting an insidious ‘irritation’, (brings home your own mortality), that one can gain a kind of perspective.  You then think about some of those whose egos and monomania drive them to seek positions of power, be it economic or political.  The blowhards; the liars; the dysfunctional on so many levels; people in positions of authority and power, (not always the same thing), and you think, ‘Why are  you behaving like this?’  ‘Why are you promoting hate in the way that you are?’  ‘Why are you denying our common humanity?’  It’s done for power?  Really?  To repeat myself, really?

In centuries to come people looking back at these dysfunctional individuals might ponder  ‘What on earth were people thinking then?  Why did they fall into the trap of believing all the hate and vitriol that these people spewed into the body politic?’  

There again, if we don’t take control of our own destiny and see such people for who they are, then the next picture of the earth from the moon might well show a wasteland.  

 

J J Mitchell

‘Never leave anyone behind…’

There are times when a picture does say it all…

There are times when a picture does say it all…

Y’know, as a writer I look around me at the worlds of business, politics and finance and think, ‘I couldn’t make this up.’  

This was reinforced for me when the love of my life and I were at the Edinburgh Book Festival recently and saw James Oswald and Gunnar Staalesen.  These are two authors who seriously know their stuff.  Not only are they incredibly successful, (multiple books published, films, TV, and in one case, a statue in the town in which the main character lives), but they are also delightful, funny and insightful human beings.  In sum, and to put it mildly, they do good stuff.  Obviously I am not envious, (he lied.)  

Anyway, to continue, one thing that particularly struck me was the answer to the question of where did they get their ideas from.  The reply was that it was less of a problem of not knowing what to write, but more what not to write about. 

‘There’s so much around you, all you have to do is look.’  

I understand and agree with this wholeheartedly.  

The reason for this train of thought is a recent picture I came across.  It’s by Norman Rockwell and called ‘The Golden Rule’.  The picture appeared on the cover of the The Saturday Evening Post, 1 April, 1961, and can be seen, along with the article, here:  http://bit.ly/18KaXyg 

I think that what attracted me to the picture is its simple belief, powerfully depicted, in our common humanity. The common humanity he identifies so well remains, although you’d maybe think otherwise if you were fed only on a diet of Fox News, an oxymoron if ever I saw one, or believe the ranting of the blowhards within the political and financial elites.  I look around and see how so many with a vested interest in the status quo try to prevent change. I see hatred being stirred up for political reasons, setting our humanity against each other for the benefit of those creating this dissonance, this wasteful emotion.  I see many decent people being exhorted, goaded, to turn against each other.  They do this not realising the ‘nudge’ they’re being given by the media, the moguls that control it, and the vested interests that support and thus gain by it.  It takes a simple picture, printed over 55 years ago to remind us that our humanity is a constant.  

We forget that at our peril. 

Have a look at the picture, it really does say it all…  

J J Mitchell

‘Never leave anyone behind…’

The most dangerous creation of any society is the man who has nothing to lose

The most dangerous creation of any society is the man who has nothing to lose

So here we are, the first week of the Olympics. It’s an interesting experience this, seeing carriers of the Olympic torch surrounded by people holding guns so that the torch bearer can’t be attacked.  Not seen that before. Oh, yes, apart from when China held the Olympics. They had special security people preventing others from even coming near. Looked quite fit. And trained. And dangerous. And willing to use violence. Similar to Brazil actually.  

It’s the cause of these experiences that I find interesting.  With China it was their reputation on human rights that appeared to be the main driver.  In Brazil, it is something else. When you have such inequality – political and economic – as they do; when you feel even your basic needs are being ignored by the powers that be; when you are frustrated at money being spent on something that is ephemeral and provides you with no benefit; when you are frustrated that you and your kind, the needy, the impoverished, the disadvantaged, are ignored because your ‘betters’ feel it is, ahem, better, to spend money on something that makes your ‘betters’ look good to others of their kind, then you react in any way you can. Which is why we’re seeing what we’re seeing.  

I’ve been to Brazil a few times. I love their open heartedness and generosity to others, the wicked sense of humour, and boy, do they know how to party. I like that in a people, in a culture. I also found Brazil fascinating in another sense – innate sensuality side by side with a very Roman Catholic belief system. Curious and contradictory.  

We need to keep in mind, if you ignore the people long enough; if you don’t give them the opportunity they see being offered to others; if your political system is such that only others of the elite can ‘play’; if people continually feel disenfranchised, alienated, then there will be consequences.

Closer to home, in the UK we saw that alienation in the Brexit vote. In the USA we’re seeing anger at the status quo, and Wall Street. We will have to wait until November to see if the disenfranchised vote in enough numbers to make President someone who, to put it mildly, appears to have a personality disorder. If he is successful then the world of ruling elites will only have themselves to blame.  

As the American Essayist, Playwright and Novelist, James Arthur Baldwin said, ‘The most dangerous creation of any society is the man who has nothing to lose.’ 

If that doesn’t convince you, think on the Italian saying, ‘Beware the person with nothing to lose.

They’re worth keeping in mind…

 

J J Mitchell

‘Never leave anyone behind…’

It’s a bit of a wobbly and shouty world at the moment

It’s a bit of a wobbly and shouty world at the moment

Like most writers I’m continually looking around me to see what’s happening in the world and wondering what elements might be used in the work I am currently writing.   I think that at the moment this world of ours is somewhat ‘wobbly’, (a robust technical term for which I give no apology.)  We have wobbles, (that term again), in a host of geographical areas; the UK (political), the US (political / guns / racism), Europe (political / terrorism / asymmetric warfare), as well as the Far East (political power plays – China flexing its muscles and causing concern to their neighbours), the Middle East, (too much, too complex for this blog.)  Interestingly, a common driver for much of the rage felt in the above is inequality in all its various forms…

Everywhere just seems angry and ‘shouty’.  Not a good feeling for many.  Not a good feeling at all.  I think, sometimes, that if I used some of what’s happening, my readers would consider it beyond fanciful.  Isn’t it unfortunate that it is not?  So, what can we do?  For a start, we can try to stop buying into the use of threats and force.  They invariably have a cost and, again invariably, they have a tendency to fail in both the medium and long term.  

Catastrophically.  

We also need to reclaim our humanity, our common humanity, from those who gain financially and politically from creating a world where we ignore it.

Unfortunately, that’s where we have another problem.  Our 24 hour media and those who control it, the politicians who are subject to their influence, social media, all impact on our perceptions.  The world is going to hell in a hand basket we are told.  Actually it’s not.  It’s going to hell in a hand basket because of the (put your own racial, religious, gender, political stereotype in here).  Again, actually it’s not.  There are too many stories of people’s bravery and compassion for this to be allowed to remain the dominant image of our world.  I’ve written before about the humanity that I see around me / us and which is ignored.  Keep in mind, bad news sells.  

So, to my fellow human beings, we need to remain optimistic and not allow others to take away our belief in the decency and compassion of others  A tad difficult since, at the moment, the wobbly and shouty bit of our world is rather loud.  We need to do what we can to un-wobble and mute them by not allowing their inchoate and self interested view of our world to become ours.  

 

J J Mitchell

‘Never leave anyone behind…’

On the ‘glory’ of War

On the ‘glory’ of War

A short post this.

Today is the centenary of the first day of the Battle of the Somme. There are so many more qualified, more knowledgeable writers on this subject than me so I’ll keep it short.  This isn’t going to be a rant about the evils of war, or what those who subscribe to the term, ‘the glory of war’, it’s about remembering those who perished and those who were damaged (physically, mentally).

In their thousands.

On all sides…

And those who ‘survived’.

In their thousands.

On all sides…

The Battle of the Somme was the beginning of the world seeing war on an industrial scale. Killing on an industrial scale. Horrific wounds on an industrial scale. Those who ‘survived’ wore the scars for the rest of their lives.  Some literally.  Some figuratively.  They, along with the dead on all sides, must never be forgotten.  Their heroism must never be forgotten. The horror of war must never be forgotten.

And it should never be repeated…  

Yes, defend ourselves.  Yes, protect our own. But don’t make it appear to be ‘la gloire’.  It isn’t. It’s dirty. It’s frightening.  It’s messy, both politically and physically. Ultimately, it rarely changes things for long. The peace of 1918 and the spirit for revenge, (in many ways understandable), helped create the political environment for the next World War. 

So, to those who talk about ‘taking on the…’ (put your own favourite term here), remember there is a cost. It’s not only financial, it’s not only physical, it’s not only psychological. War is much more than that.

Most of all, remember the cost invariably lasts for decades. 

Peace out.

JJ Mitchell

‘Never leave anyone behind…’

The people have spoken – the bastards

The people have spoken – the bastards

This blog is being written on the Monday after the seismic events of the UK vote to leave the EU.  Cameron has resigned and the Conservative Party, (formal title the Conservative and Unionist Party – somewhat ironic), is now in the throes of a leadership election.  At the same time, Her Majesty’s Most Loyal Opposition, The Parliamentary Labour Party, has decided, whilst their opponents are leaderless and rudderless and at their weakest, to mount a coup against a leader they see as ineffective.  Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain – we can only imagine where that might take us.  I know it’s more complex than this, but I’m keeping it relatively simple for the benefit of brevity.

The dust still remains to settle on the decision of those in England and Wales to leave the EU.  However, it is becoming clear that many in the North of England and some in Wales voted to leave as a protest against what they saw as an unfeeling political and financial elite living in London and within the ‘Westminster Bubble’.  They felt ignored.  They’re right, they have been.  That is until those concerned need the people’s vote and do and say anything to gain it  For example, ‘The NHS will be better off by £350m a week...’ Interestingly, it was only after the vote we were told that such a statement was, ‘an intention, not a promise…‘  or, a good one this, ‘a mistake.’  Really?  Here’s another, ‘We’ll address immigration…‘  Post vote, ‘it may take time to fully address...’   Those who obfuscated or told downright lies, in many cases both, are now being held to account to deliver on what they promised.  

Fernand Braudel once wrote that ‘history can be divided into three movements: what moves rapidly, what moves slowly and what appears not to move at all.’  At the moment, it appears that we are experiencing the first.  There has been a societal seismic shift and that expectations have been raised is without doubt.  I am also confident they will not be met.  The result will be increased cynicism and the view that politicians are ‘only in it for themselves.’  Many are not, are totally committed to the community they represent and try to engage in the politics of the possible.  These politicians must have looked on aghast as they saw what was happening.  Like many of us, they must now be deafened by the sound of screeching brakes as the promises made during the campaign are being ‘moderated’.  However, the leaders of both campaigns need to be held to account.  Somehow I don’t think it will happen.  

I have written on this sense of alienation and frustration in a number of other blogs.  I have also written about the use of language that generates hatred and distrust of others.  When will those in power realise that there is always a cost to what they say?  When will those in power learn that people will sometimes vote in a way that shows their contempt and dislike for the body politic?  Especially when they feel powerless.  

The comment, “The people have spoken…the bastards,” is said to have been uttered by California State Senate Candidate Dick Tuck, who lost an election to Richard Nixon in 1966.  I would agree, they have.  Currently, the people ‘speak’ by voting.  We need to ensure the people are provided with a voting system that allows them to be heard more effectively. Currently this does not exist.  In the UK, The First Past The Post, FPTP, is a broken and discredited system.  In the US, you have a process that requires candidates to have deep pockets.  If they don’t they invariably become beholden to some whose views of democracy might be questionable.  If not addressed, then the people will ‘speak’.  They will ‘speak’ by electing those who espouse a world view that reflects their own anger and sense of frustration.  Thus come demagogues… 

Then the people will not have just spoken, they will have roared.  And if they do, it won’t be pretty.

JJ Mitchell

‘Never leave anyone behind…’

Letting go of the tiger’s tail…

Letting go of the tiger’s tail…

My last blog was about how easy it is to create hate.  I still feel the same.  In fact, looking at the media in the intervening period we are now seeing a ratcheting up of emotions in the political arena.  In the US there have been fist fights, fortunately nothing more than that at the moment, (one can only hope this remains the case), but the anger and hatred between people is being increased. Being played upon.  Being used.  In sum, the body politic is becoming venomous.  Unhealthily so. 

Then let’s add the media to the mix. When one has a media that cites ‘in the public interest’ and lambasts those who cannot protect themselves, (the poor and the powerless), and then hides the misdeeds of those with power;  when one has a media that relies on advertising revenue to make money for the oligarchs that own them;  when one has an elite and a political process that only allow those with money, (or the ability to obtain it with promises of future benefit), to aim for power, then you have a powder keg in the making.  And it’s becoming dangerously hot.  

As an observer of human behaviour I have noted this simmering resentment for the last eight years or so.  It became a tad more obvious when the fiscal meltdown occurred in 2008.  It was exacerbated further when those whose greed and irresponsible behaviour caused the crash were able to escape any penalty.  Interestingly, now I’m hearing that we might be on the verge of another fiscal earthquake.  And those who initiated this before?  Well, they’re the ones who remain in power, have retained their uber rich benefits, and the media machine continues to pump out, ‘in the public interest’.  Really?  What interest do / should we have in the ‘meedja’ wannabes whose outrageous behaviour makes them click-bait.  Ah, the marketing arm that’s involved in maximising revenue.  

So, the reason for this blog.  Currently we have a world where those trying to escape being killed are vilified; those whose race, creed or colour differ from the blowhards spouting their hatred are termed an ‘enemy’ and, slowly but surely, one can see that the tiger is beginning to stride towards the centre of our world. 

Finally, when these blowhards achieve power, what are they going to do then?  Will they change their tone?  Will they be able to? Or will they see the tiger padding towards them? 

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…’

The Kold Kronicles – its genesis

The Kold Kronicles – its genesis

It’s interesting reading why some authors write what they do or even why they feel the need to write.  Some have something to say; others want to make a difference; and quite a few mention that the book demanded to be written.  Invariably, it’s a mix.  

I have to admit that the main reason for writing The Kold Kronicles was that Alegria, the main character, demanded to be ‘heard’.  As the book evolved, other characters, Nux, Bracken and so on, also began to develop a strong voice demanding that I also write about them.  So I did.  

My second reason for writing The Kold Kronicles is that I had something to say.  I wanted to take away the ‘glamour’ that can sometimes be associated with violence.  You’ll have seen the kind of thing I’m talking about. The main character, male or female, takes on seven or eight armed killers and within forty seconds has despatched all of them.  Usually quite graphically.  The sound of broken bones is heard and much gore is seen. The victor looks at all the vanquished bodies, usually corpses, shrugs and makes a pun / joke and walks out, unharmed, unbruised, and breathing quite normally.  There’s no smell of bodily fluids or matter, no screaming of the wounded, no bruised knuckles on the victor, nothing.  It’s clinical, it’s video gaming.  What I find disturbing is that many who see this kind of ‘entertainment’, (and I have no issues with it, it’s just not my preferred choice,) confuse it with the reality of fighting.  They think that if they become involved in something similar they’ll be able to do the same.  Unfortunately, reality kicks in, sometimes literally, and they end up in pain, in hospital and, sometimes, in prison.  

The Kold Kronicles can be quite violent and I have deliberately made it so.  I have also made clear the cost of any combat in which our protagonists are involved.  It’s the reason why the Sylvern have Healers and Talkers available immediately a War Band returns from any operation where combat is experienced.  

To repeat, any form of violence, be it verbal or physical, has a cost on all involved.  We only have to look at the recent events in Paris to see this is so.  Survivors will need time to recover not only physically, but also emotionally and mentally.  Those close to them require, and deserve, the same level of support and understanding.  

So, I wrote The Kold Kronicles because the characters ‘shouted’ at me to write about them.  It’s an adventure story, it’s about love, there’s meant to be some humour and it’s also a tad violent.  However, we forget the implications of violence at our peril.  That’s also what I wanted to write about.  Both were the genesis of The Kold Kronicles.  

JJ Mitchell

‘Never leave anyone behind…’