“There’s something quite transcendental about making love with a dolphin”

Just because it’s the end of the world doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of stuff to laugh at. This, from the Mirror, had me in tears.

Man had sex with a dolphin called Dolly for a year – and claimed she seduced him

Almost every paragraph has a killer line, such as:

“At first I discouraged her, I wasn’t interested. After some time I thought ‘if this was a woman would I come up with these rationalisations and excuses’?”

A bag for life

This is my bag. There are many like it, but this one is mine.

My bag is an Animal, canvas and khaki. It was a present from my daughter nearly three years ago, a happy gift during a sad time.

Since then my bag and I have been inseparable. It has felt my nervous hands shake in doctor’s waiting rooms and seen me bounce around stages and dance floors. It has transported red wine into dry venues, sweets into cinemas and home comforts into hospital wards.

My bag has carried birthday presents and bottles of pills, iPads and injections, capos and co-codamol, hairbrushes and hand sanitisers, wine and wigs. It’s been to museums and to meetings, to parks and parties, to solicitors and salons. The badges it has worn so brightly, the rainbows and unicorns and statements and slogans, have brought me many Subway smiles, knowing nods and sour stares.

Like me, my bag has seen better days. Its back is threadbare from years against my hip, its khaki green dyed blue from a parade of new blue jeans. Its straps are worn and twisted, the little love hearts that hide underneath the fabric faded by friction. And like me, it has started to take shapes its creator surely never imagined.

I have another bag ready, another Animal. It’s like my bag, but it isn’t my bag. Not yet. But I know that it’ll soon be time for me and this bag, my bag, to say goodbye.

If my bag could talk, if it asked me, “was I a good bag?”, how would I answer?

I’d answer:

Yes, you were a good bag.

You were my bag.

So long, and thanks for all the fish

(Update: the dolphin photos were fake news: the images are from Sardinia where our marine mammal pals are regularly spotted. But the sentiment still stands)

I’ve given up trying to predict the things that make me cry these days. The latest ones were images from Italy showing the now-clear water teeming with fish and even dolphins.

The water has cleared up because there aren’t so many humans zooming around and churning up sediment, but the photos also reminded me of the satellite images of Coronavirus-hit towns and districts across the world: where previously they sat under a permanent cloud of man-made pollution, the pollution is gone.

It sometimes feels as if Covid-19 is Mother Nature giving us the mother of all hints: if this is how you’re going to behave, I’m better off without you. Coronavirus isn’t the end of the world; it’s a teaser trailer for the bigger, more frightening versions that are coming if we continue to pursue a model of economic growth no matter what the consequences.

The dolphins also reminded me of this, by the late, great Douglas Adams.

Curiously enough, the dolphins had long known of the impending demolition of Earth and had made many attempts to alert mankind to the danger. But most of their communications were misinterpreted as amusing attempts to punch footballs, or whistle for titbits, so they eventually gave up and left the Earth by their own means – shortly before the Vogons arrived. The last ever dolphin message was misinterpreted as a surprisingly sophisticated attempt to do a double backwards somersault through a hoop, whilst whistling the ‘Star-Spangled Banner’. But, in fact, the message was this “So long and thanks for all the fish”.

Ice Ice Baby

There are lots of good causes hoping for your attention and your cash right now, and I’d like to mention one that’s close to my heart: The Ice Box arts and music centre in Glasgow. It’s struggling and without financial help it may not be able to re-open its doors.

They’re raising money here.

The Ice Box is special for all kinds of reasons. It’s not just a venue, although it’s a good one. It’s a non-profit that gets books and toys to kids who need them, runs special events on themes such as men’s mental health and women’s rights, helps local homeless people and provides an accessible, affordable and safe space for local artists. And it’s particularly special to me because it’s where I walked on stage as me for the very first time.

IWD2020

International Women’s Day is a great opportunity to thank the truly incredible women and non-binary people I’m so lucky to know and without whom I’m nothing: writers and rappers, podcasters and promoters, activists and artists, booksellers and bassists, crafters and comedians, singers and scientists… my family and my found family.

Love and power to you all x

Another powerful and desperately sad book

I’ve just finished One Of Us by Åsne Seierstad. It’s very similar to Dave Cullen’s Columbine in that it’s an incredibly powerful piece of non-fiction about a massacre largely inspired by white supremacist rhetoric. In this case, the massacre is the 2011 bombing and subsequent gun massacre by Anders Brevik, who slaughtered 77 people.

It’s an extraordinary, shocking and upsetting book that tells the stories of the victims as well as the story of the massacre and the utter incompetence that enabled Breivik to kill so many people; as a piece of journalism it’s an incredible work.

It’s also deeply chilling. Breivik is seen as a hero in some right-wing circles and has been the inspiration for subsequent shootings, and the beliefs that radicalised him are commonplace in our mainstream and social media today.

Breivik was particularly enamoured of the UK writer Melanie Phillips, who he quoted multiple times in his poisonous manifesto. Phillips is famous for writing guff like this:

The traditional family […] has been relentlessly attacked by an alliance of feminists, gay rights activists, divorce lawyers and cultural Marxists who grasped that this was the surest way to destroy Western society.

Cultural marxism is an anti-semitic term based on an anti-semitic conspiracy theory dating back to the 1920s. Breivik used it over 600 times in his manifesto. It appears with similar frequency in the Daily Mail.

The Guardian:

The theory of cultural Marxism is also blatantly antisemitic, drawing on the idea of Jews as a fifth column bringing down western civilisation from within, a racist trope that has a longer history than Marxism. Like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the theory was fabricated to order, for a special purpose: the institution and perpetuation of culture war.

…It allows those smarting from a loss of privilege to be offered the shroud of victimhood, by pointing to a shadowy, omnipresent, quasi-foreign elite who are attempting to destroy all that is good in the world. It offers an explanation for the decline of families, small towns, patriarchal authority, and unchallenged white power: a vast, century-long left wing conspiracy.

Breivik was an islamophobe, but his targets were not Muslims: they were left-wing kids he believed were “cultural Marxists”.

As Dr Arun Kundani wrote about Breivik’s manifesto in 2012:

The bulk of the document constitutes a compilation of texts mainly copied from US far-Right websites… These writers are paranoid conspiracy theorists who claim Islam is a totalitarian political ideology that aims at infiltrating national institutions in order to enact sharia law. Like Breivik, they blame Western elites for pandering to multiculturalism and enabling “Islamic colonisation of Europe” through “demographic warfare”.

…It would be easy to dismiss Breivik’s beliefs as the ramblings of a man gone insane. But that would be to ignore the danger they represent. His case demonstrates that the new “anti-Islamist” far-Right is as compatible with terrorist violence as older forms of neo-Nazism. And, whereas neo-Nazism is a fringe phenomenon, anti-Islamism attracts wide support, including among mainstream politicians, newspaper columnists and well-funded think-tanks.

As Ian Buruma wrote in his review of One Of Us:

…what about the ideas that inspired Breivik? To be sure, the likes of Spencer, Wilders or Bawer do not preach violent revolution. They never told anyone to kill a Muslim, let alone a “cultural Marxist”. But their talk of war, of a Muslim threat to our civilisation, “Eurabia” and of the complicity of cultural elites in our imminent downfall, does create a toxic climate in which fantasists such as Breivik can find a justification for their horrible deeds.

Breivik may or may not be a madman. The court psychiatrists in Oslo differed on this. In the end it was decided that he was not. But that ideas have consequences cannot be denied. This book throws a great deal of light on the life and times of a miserable killer. That he had a sick imagination is clear. More is to be said about the ideas that fed it.

Ideas that have continued to inspire murderer after murderer after murderer.

David Neiwert, writing in The Daily Kos:

The pattern is becoming frighteningly familiar: A white man, radicalized online at alt-right media websites and through social media into hateful white nationalist beliefs built around the anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about “cultural Marxism,” walks into a mass gathering of his selected targets (which can be any of the perceived participants in the conspiracy, including liberals, Jews, Muslims, Latinos, any nonwhite person, LGBTQ folk, even moviegoers) and opens fire.

Neiwert describes what he calls “chain terrorism”, where murderers such as Breivik and the people who inspired them go on to inspire the next generation of mass murderers.

Brian Levin of the Center for the Study of Extremism and Hate at California State University, San Bernadino, says the newer dynamic replicates the old content, but everything happens with much greater speed. “In pre-Internet days, the violent extremist act itself of neo-Nazis and white supremacists was considered messaging and labeled ‘propaganda of the deed,’” he told Daily Kos. “Today, sociopaths, particularly ideological ones, are seeing social media not just as a radicalizing and messaging tool, but also as an archive of a folkloric warrior narrative,” he continued. “Once they too act out, they have a link to notorious killers of the past, where their new manifestos are inscribed in a continuing perverse online subculture of scripted violence.”

Paul Rosenberg in Salon:

As Neiwert writes, a specific anti-Semitic narrative about “cultural Marxism” — meaning “Marxism translated from economic into cultural terms” by a cabal of Jewish intellectual émigrés from Nazi Germany known as the Frankfurt School — is motivating these massacres, whose victims have included Muslims in New Zealand as well as Jews in America.

This is a narrative Donald Trump has long echoed, especially with his attacks on “political correctness.” For potential terrorists, it’s also embedded in a very specific, dynamically evolving matrix of right-wing political activity and institutions that marks out a wide range of other targets for retribution, up to and including mass murder.

Anyone who’s traditionally of lower status — women, minorities, non-Christians, immigrants, LGBTQ individuals, etc. — is a potential target.