EDITOR’S LETTER So, we have all heard by now all sorts of stuff about Generation Y, the Millennials, Echo boomers, our generation, us. Discussions all around the world, made possible by any means of communication ever imagined, revolve around the difficulties and challenges that we as a generation face, due basically to precisely those “means of communication”. Growing up along with the information age, given opportunities, higher expectations, Recession coincides with our entering the workplace and the list goes on…I mean, it’s getting kind of old. Yet, as tedious as this list may be, it sadly does not happen to be false. And among the thousands of facts and figures that appear on it, one stands out as the most worrying: Apathy. We do not have a voice. We all spend so much time talking in our heads while typing at our screens, that we forget what it feels like to speak. You know, it’s…a ticklish feeling in your throat that which once satisfied, it produces sounds that read like a, e, o. Yes, the situation is unfair. Yes, we imagined traveling and occupying our time with things we enjoy, and now bad credit-crunch hit us and we have to work with basic or no pay. Boohoo. I am going to Tweet about it! History has never failed to repeat itself and every period has its problems and its revolutions, its challenges and achievements; we are looking at a lot of problems and challenges. But so did the hippies, the yippies, even the yuppies. Where is our revolution? Where are our achievements? If nothing seems worth bothering for anymore, it is not the fault of previous generations that let us down or of the media and their false projections on us. It is our fault for being too lazy to care. Nothing happens by accident, so nothing will magically happen to solve all life’s problems while we are watching yet another episode of Friends or stalking people on Facebook. Do not get me wrong it is my favorite pastime but we could all sacrifice one episode a day, just to look at our world and really think about it. Because it is our world now, our responsibility. We do not need to have the answers. Caring alone can go a long way. The moment we open our critical eye is the moment we start looking for our truth. And that is what we tried to do with YBOTHER: to collect a number of views, visual or in writing, on contemporary subjects, from people our age and from as diverse backgrounds as possible, hoping to effect a brainstorming session, on what the fuck we are supposed to do. Why and how, we should BOTHER. We also talked to a number of cool people, involved with activism, in a range of its forms. We hope you like it and make use of it, by presenting us with your contributions for the next issue.
YBOTHER is hoping to create a platform for the introduction and discussion of new as well as existing, ideas in an attempt to find answers but in no way provide them. We believe that diversity is key to any constructive conversation and for that reason YBOTHER does not follow any political lines, advocates freedom of speech and engages with a range of subjects that is not always in tune with the views of the Editorial Team.
The Empty We Is there any room for identity in the modern era? Is there any room for collectivity in the modern era?
Capitalism for a New Millenium Predatory Capitalism and the quest for an alternative.
Financial System: A Failure or a New Hope? The example of Nobel Peace Prize winner, Mr Mohammed Yunus.
The Adbuster Interview with founder of Adbusters Media Foundation, Kalle Lasn.
Yes, We Can! Brand Obama meets his brand new Nobel.
The Youtuber Interview with one half of Everything is Ok Youtube duo, Charlie Veitch.
All Eyes On Me CCTV and the increasingly expanding police state as a mirror of popular culture.
TheVenus Project A quick look at Jacque Fresco’s Utopia.
The Pirate Interview with Philip Hunt, Press Officer of the Pirate Party UK.
Generation Lost or Generation Spoilt? The puzzle of too much choice.
The Long Hard Road to the Bottom When hanging on to an unpaid internship seems like the only chance at a career... someday. Maybe.
The Idler Interview with editor of The Idler, Tom Hodgkinson.
The Bohemian Interview with manager of the UK Canabis Internet Activists website, Derek Williams.
I just wanted to Dance Ben Cummins, initiator of mobile clubbing and founder of South London art collective Utrophia, talks to Niamh.
24 Hours around the 4th Plinth Antony Gormley’s One&Other project and the experience of spending 24 hours around it.
What’s Wrong, What’s New The Digital Age and its effects on nightclubbing.
This issueâ€™s Editorial Team
Editor: Elektra Kotsoni | email@example.com Art Director: Odysseas Mourtzouchos | firstname.lastname@example.org Contributors: > Kaj Alftan > Niamh Brennan-Bernatt
> Becky McKay > James Mitchell
> Alex Celler
> Mariana Pateraki > Holly Luleillai Parkhouse > Marianna Skylakaki > Konstantinos Zervos
> Filip Tanay > Petros Iliadis
Many Thanks to: > Matt Legend Gemmell
> Clayton Perryman (www.claytonperryman.net)
versity days was close or equal to zero.
No statistic can fully portray and convey the distinct feeling of being part of a certain time, being a member of a particular generation. It can provide perspective with facts, and its figures may depict well the changes in quantities and percentages. However, it is not the statistics that have influenced the lives of the Y Generation. Average growth of per capita GDP, the number of goods the average teenager owns today as opposed to previous generations, the number of hours spent watching TV are all examples of informative facts that have little or no influence on the choices and actions of members of the Y Generation on a day-to-day basis. It is with these assumptions in mind that I attempt to find what makes our generation “tick”, what makes us ‘us’, as opposed to previous generations (‘them’). “I wish I was a punk-rocker with flowers in my hair, in ’77 and ’69 revolution was in the air, I was born too late, into a world that does not care…” The lyrics of Sandi Thom’s (one and only) hit sum up very well a feeling that I think distinctively belongs to the Y Generation. Interestingly, from 2005, when I first heard it, to this day I have felt this to be the case. No doubt, the fact that the song was number one in itself bears testimony to its lyrics having some resonance with an audience wider than myself. Indeed it has always seemed to me and those around me that every revolution has already taken place, that all the movements have moved and that the ‘cool’ generations have been, gone, gotten jobs and boxed their t-shirts away in the attic. It is not that there was no cool within the Y Generation, but more that it was an adoption of the old movements and trends.
At the identity crossroads of their teenage beginnings in the late 1990s and early millennium, people chose between being old-school (rockers, punks, hippies), old old-school (Elvis, Beatles, classical) or new oldschool (techno squirrels and drum’n’bass fanatics). While this map is not exhaustive of the choices available at the time, it nevertheless represents the major pathways that were followed. It highlights well one of the major problems about the Y Generation. Despite there being so many innovations that were new to our time, such as mobile phones and the mass popularization of the use of the Internet, which made it easier than ever to socialize, there were no major new movements or identities available for teenagers to subscribe to. Everyone was something, but together we were nothing. Akin to a song made out of numerous clips of popular defining songs of their time, our tune was nostalgic of everything and hence sounded confused and disjointed, like a headless chicken spoilt for choice. The classroom at certain points looked like an MTV Benetton advertisement giving tribute to all of the defining youth cultures. Whatever the reason for this lack of a joint identity, I believe it had interesting repercussions for the political impact of our generation. The absence of an overarching idea greater than oneself to partake in resulted in the youth feeling quite alone and disillusioned. Where is our revolution? What are we supposed to rebel against? How are we supposed to dress to not be mainstream and what is the mainstream, anyway? Being unable to find an answer to any of these questions, our political and cultural impact and contribution until our uni-
This, however, is not to say that there was widespread apathy. Far from it, I would say people were looking for trouble, for some wrong to right. (Maybe we were too sensible for our own good?) Defeatism and lack of a joint identity or comradeship would capture it better. Going on the protests advocating fairer trade rules, acknowledgment of and policies to tackle climate change, free higher education, etc., onlookers and acquaintances alike frequently asked me whether I was aware that this protest will not change anything regarding the issue about which we were concerned. This was also one of the common answers given to me when I asked people on the university campus what issues they were passionate about and why they were not participating in demonstrations or actions on these issues. Others seemed to hold that things were ‘good enough’ and to cause a stir over the details such as poverty, equality of opportunity, the environment, and similar matters would be ungrateful and pretentious. The root of this defeatism in our generation I believe is twofold. Firstly, numerous events have eroded our generation’s faith in being able to make a difference. After all, did all those hippies not get jobs in the end and have wars not continued to be waged even by the West? Both presidents who chose to invade Iraq using lies and without UN backing were re-elected into power shortly after and have not been punished in any real way. In fact, one of them may even become president of the EU. The democratic system thus appeared to be unaccountable, lacking legitimacy and the electorate seemed too stupid to care or listen. Other events such as the introduction of higher education top-up fees, the approval of the multi-billionpound Trident nuclear project, and the go-ahead of the third
Heathrow runway despite ecological concerns and residents’ protests brought that feeling even more home. Thus, the question was, ‘Why bother when it will change nothing and others seem unwilling to do anything anyway?’ Ironically, the times have never been better for making the world a better place. Modern living has made organizing mass expressions of opinion and influencing both the government and electorate, be it through blogging, websites, international journalism or physical participation/action easier than it has ever been. Yet activism and active citizenship (if one can draw a distinction between the two) still appear to remain hobbies of the few. The second contributor to our sense of defeatism is the liberal capitalist political economy within which we find ourselves today. The individualistic and materialistic nature of the system organizes people in a way that makes issues of a non-monetary and impersonal character far less attractive, important and, hence, much more difficult to make a stand on as a group. The liberal doctrine that has become our norm sees the individual as the main unit of analysis. Despite its many strengths in maximizing individual liberty, by doing so, it promotes a sense of identity that is based primarily on the personal level and (consequently) a diminishment of a communitarian feeling of shared responsibility for the character and consequences of the circumstances and mechanism within which we live. Following Marx’s observations regarding capitalism’s propensity to commodify everything it is possible to go one step further and observe that a system of rewards focusing purely on the material is likely to give primacy a utility-oriented outlook. This in turn would have somewhat nega-
tive consequences for group actions and societal values as individualism together with capitalism is likely to make rational actors within society of the opinion that what does not concern them directly (materially) is not worth their while. The end result may thus portray people as particles within a system, unaware of their interrelation and interdependence, existing primarily alone within their own individual micro-worlds, unable to affect the circumstances in which they
find themselves. Perhaps it is this very system of rewards that has led to the defeatist attitude, fragmentation and incoherence of purpose and message of the Y Generation? The Y Generation’s political track record is not necessarily so grim. During our existence gay rights have become solidified, the environment has finally become part of the mainstream political agenda, fairer interna-
tional trade rules have come into existence, international development aid commitments have been made in the West and the entire world has agreed to eradicate poverty and improve the standard of living for all human beings by drafting and signing up to the Millennium Development Goals. While the list goes on it is important to consider also whether this is really in any way our doing. Have we as a generation brought any of these about? Or should we thank the hippies, punks, rockers who grew older and continued their fight in other ways? In the end I cannot help but wonder what will become of the Y Generation and what it will be remembered as. Will we be the disjointed non-generation? What answers will we provide to social historians? Will we be the generation that finally takes into account the fact that even though the average wealth is several times what it was for our great-grandparents we still are none the happier and wiser? Will we find an alternative system of rewards to the material one in place? Will we be proof of Adam Smith’s belief that above the basic material needs people seek social status and not wealth? Or will we merely demonstrate which values, if any, we are not willing to sacrifice in the name of economic growth, profit and material goods? Perhaps the Y Generation will demonstrate whether there is a need or room for identity in the modern era. On the other hand, if some kind of a generational identity develops, then it will be interesting to see what it will be based on, given the mobile, flexible and multicultural character of tomorrow’s society. Whatever the choices turn out to be, I hope that WE make them, aware of the fact that individualism cannot ever erase societal responsibility. - by Filip Tanay
If further evidence were needed that capitalism is incapable of taking society forward, the last ten years have provided it. Not only the ongoing nightmare of the occupation of Iraq, Afghanistan and soon India and Pakistan – which has led to the death of many tens of thousands and over 5,000 ‘coalition’ soldiers – and the unfair bombing of Korea, Vietnam and Serbia but also the inability of capitalism to take any effective action towards climate change, social discriminations and inequality. In some ways, the most graphic illustration of capitalism’s crisis is not the so-called credit crunch or the inability to cope with natural disasters such as the tsunami at the end of 2004, the South Asian earthquake or Hurricane Katrina, nor the countless thousands who died unnecessarily, and those still homeless (including in the US, the richest nation on the planet) but the actual theory hiding behind contemporary capitalism. We are told that because we are greedy, self-interested animals, an economic system must reward greedy, self-interested behaviour if we are to thrive economically. Are we greedy and self-interested? Of course. At least, I am, sometimes. But we also just as obviously are capable of compassion and selflessness. We certainly can act competitively and aggressively, but we also have the capacity for solidarity and cooperation. In short, human nature is wide-ranging. Our actions might be rooted in our nature, but all we really know about that nature is that it is widely variable. In situations where compassion and solidarity are the norm, we tend to act that way. In situations where competitiveness and aggression are rewarded, most people tend toward such behavior. Why is it that we must choose an economic system that undermines the most decent aspects of our nature and strengthens the most inhuman? Because, we’re told, that’s just the way people are. What evidence is there of that? Look around, we’re told, at how people behave. Everywhere we look, we see greed and the pursuit of self-inter-
est. So, the proof that these greedy, self-interested aspects of our nature are dominant is that, when forced into a system that rewards greed and self-interested behavior, people often act that way. Doesn’t that seem just a bit circular? A bit American. Despite all the euphoria of 1990, when communism fell and capitalism was anointed the winner of the cold war, a hard look at the economic and social condition of the world today reveals that capitalism has failed to provide the people of this planet with a good life. Of the world’s six billion people, half of them live on two dollars a day or less. While people die from diseases related to overeating in the so-called developed countries, children die of malnutrition elsewhere. In the First World, most of us eat regularly. But let us not focus only on the conditions we face within a predatory corporate capitalist system, living in the most affluent country in the history of the world, but also put this in a global context. Half the world’s population lives on less than $2 a day. That’s more than 3 billion people. Just over half of the population of Africa lives on less than $1 a day. That’s more than 300 million people. How about one more statistic: about 500 children in Africa die from poverty-related diseases, and the majority of those deaths could be averted with simple medicines or insecticide-treated nets.That’s 500 children -- not every year, or every month or every week. That’s not 500 children every day. Poverty-related diseases claim the lives of 500 children an hour in Africa. Apologists for capitalism have always said that it was just a question of the developing countries acquiring democracy, freemarket economic systems, and some good elbow grease and they too would enjoy the “good life” like the citizens of Europe and North America. But the long awaited “take-off” for the economies of the poor-
est countries seems nowhere in sight. In these countries capitalism is a clear failure. But what about in the “developed” world, surely capitalism is successful there? A few years ago one could indeed have argued that capitalism has succeeded in the industrialized countries of the Northern Hemisphere. But even in the countries with high per capita income there were and still are tremendous disparities. Under capitalism, wealth is not evenly distributed and even in the USA, 25% of the people live below the poverty line. Can we really
say that we have an ideal or even a well-working economic system when millions of people are struggling just to survive? The current global financial crisis underscores the inequality, fragility and unpredictable future of the capitalist economic system. While the US government gets ready to bail out banks and financial institutions that have failed due to their reckless greed, no one is there to save the thousands of ordinary people who are about to lose their homes and life savings. It’s time to take a stark look at capitalism and shout down the
politicians who continue to shamelessly chant that “the fundamentals of the economy are sound”. The fundamental premise of the current economic system, that the unlimited accumulation of wealth by a few individuals will result in the good of everybody, is a clear lie and the sooner we face up to this, the better off we will be. When we try to hold onto our humanity, statistics like that can make us crazy. But don’t get any crazy ideas about changing this system. Remember: There is no alternative to predatory corporate capitalism.
Capitalism is admittedly an incredibly productive system that has created a flood of goods unlike anything the world has ever seen. It also is a system that is fundamentally inhuman, antidemocratic, and unsustainable. Capitalism has given those of us in the First World lots of marginal or questionable values in exchange for our souls, our hope for progressive politics, and the possibility of a decent future for children. In short, either we change or we die – spiritually, politically, literally. - by Petros Iliadis
Image: Clayton Perryman | www.claytonperryman.net
Nobel Prize Winner (2006)
During the past two years, the banking and financial sector have experienced rough conditions and have met grim opposition due to their practices. The reason the urban centers have vocalized their frustration (during early 2009 more than 11 G25 capitals saw protestors marching against the large financial corporations) is that greed and profits, rather than growth and sustainable development, have been at the heart of the market. Why did the markets suffer so much, where did it all go wrong and how can the situation be remedied, are the issues most often addressed in publications. This article is about something else: it is about reflecting on a situation which has brought economies to their knees due to the faults of many. For those of you who have not been following the news and have been living inside a blissful bubble – in which case I suggest you remain loyal to that “paradise” – I will give the general consensus as to how we arrived at this crisis. Between 2002 and early 2007 the markets enjoyed large profits and people seemed to think that the growth of the stock market was due to the sun being shiny and the goodwill of lenders offering money to people who needed it. The engineering of loans to people who could not support the interest payments was carefully laid out by institutions so that if a small proportion of debtors defaulted, the larger proportion of people paying back their debt would make up for the losses incurred. This concept of microfinance has been widely used and “reinvented” into creating bonds, which promised the cash flows of these loan payments. In essence, lenders gave out loans to people who could not afford them, pooled them into a marketable contract which was guaranteed by an insurer and sold it to investors in order to release liquidity and sign more loans to NINJA (No Income No Job or Assets). Whether the fault lies with the people who signed up for loans, the financial engineers who exploited the regulations, or the insurers or investors who bought the contracts is irrelevant; the fact is that most of the people involved
in the process should have made informed decisions rather than expecting money to flow forever. When in the summer of 2007 it became apparent that these contracts would default due to the failure to meet obligations, bank creditors (who happily earned high interest on their deposits) sought to retrieve their money and disassociate themselves from the evil, greedy corporate machines known as banks. For this reason, and since the financial system employs more than half the population of London, New York, Dubai and Hong Kong, the government set out with a plan to save the corporations from default by offering interest-free loans financed by tax payers. In contrast to the Western application of microfinance and the problems which we still experience, a bright example from India jumps out to give us hope. In 1976, Mr. Muhammad Yunus of Grameen Bank, during his visits to poorer areas of India, identified the disproportionate effect a small loan could have on small entrepreneurs and households, which did not qualify for bank loans. While traditional banks were not interested in making tiny loans at reasonable interest rates to the poor due to high repayment risks (not unlike the NINJA),Yunus believed that, given the chance, the poor would repay the borrowed money, thus making a reasonable profit and promoting the prosperity of the people. The first loan he made out of his own pocket was of 27 USD, given to 42 women in the area of Jobra who were crafting furniture out of bamboo; all his initial investment was repaid at a 0.02 USD profit per loan. By 1982, the bank had 28,000 members. On 1 October 1983 the bold project that began as an economic experiment was renamed the Grameen Bank (Village Bank) to make loans to poor Bangladeshis. By 2007, Grameen Bank has issued 6.38 USD billion to 7.4 million borrowers. To ensure repayment, the bank uses a system of “solidarity groups”. These small, informal groups apply together for loans and its members act as co-guarantors of repayment, and support
one another’s efforts at economic self-advancement. More than 94% of Grameen loans have gone to women, who suffer disproportionately from poverty. For his work with the Grameen Bank, Muhammad Yunus received the Nobel Peace Prize of 2006. In essence, the two approaches are very much the same, with different applications. Contractual pooling of loans against the “solidarity groups” is the basis of the comparison and reflects the difference of thought processes between traditional western finance and inspirational society based financing. It is obvious that large corporations must not be allowed to operate in the way they did in the past, or we will quickly find ourselves in a dire spot. Should we dissolve the large multinational corporations as part of a radical movement? Should we absolve ourselves of our faults in the creation of this crisis? To me, these questions are inadequate and irrelevant if we seek to improve the state of our society. Every individual has the chance to make a difference, towards a better world, in whatever position he maintains. It would be a mistake to condemn the people and the corporations who brought us to the brink of the collapse of the stasis/equilibrium in which we live. We must channel our creativity towards improving the way we think and the goals we set out to meet, not destroy what we have struggled to create. In our modern society there is no chance of change if we decide to walk alone. The word ‘we’ should replace ‘I’, and mistakes made by others are ours to fix, just as our mistakes will be for everyone to fix. Mr.Yunus should inspire us to follow what Winston Churchill once said: “In every difficulty let us see an opportunity”. If we strive to better our establishments, if we work together to invest in human capital, if we seek to maximize not our short-term profits but our long-term happiness, we will have learned from our mistakes. The choice is ours and not theirs; a failed system or a New Hope is for the reader to decide. - by Konstantinos Zervos
25|10|09 Speakersâ€™ Corner, Hyde Park, London Photography: Mariana Pateraki
25|10|09 Speakersâ€™ Corner, Hyde Park, London Photography: Mariana Pateraki
Corporate America Flag
According to their website, Adbusters Media Foundation is a global network of artists, activists, writers, pranksters, students, educators and entrepreneurs who want to advance the new social activist movement of the information age. According to many, it is a leading culture-jamming enterprise. According to us, Adbusters is the coolest thing since Cuttlericks, Babymop and Butterstick. Kalle Lasn, co-founder and editor-in-chief of Adbusters magazine talks to YBOTHER. YBOTHER: So, Kalle, what’s your take on the recent European Elections? The turnout, especially amongst younger voters, was very bad… KALLE LASN: Yes! And still they voted rightwing… I think younger people are very cynical, they don’t think they can change anything because there is so much going on. People use too much of everything and they do not want to think about it. But you have to lose your cynicism, you have to get angry and try to change the system from within. YBOTHER: How did you come
up with the idea for Adbusters? KALLE LASN: In 1989, Forest companies in British Columbia or Washington or the Pacific Northwest as you call it now, started doing some really dirty things with our forests, sending logs to China and Japan and it was all for the money. That started to change the ecology of those places, and some environmentalists like me – we started to get really worried about that. So, when they realized, they started a multimillion-dollar campaign that was everywhere: on buses, the radio,
on TV. “Forests Forever” was their slogan and it would be everywhere! And we got angry, because we could see they were lying to our face and so we decided to come up with our own campaign, telling our side of the story and we went to the TV channels and asked to buy our own 30 seconds of air time and were refused. That is when my anger was built and I lost my cynicism. YBOTHER: I believe you won an appeal in April 2009 in your case against the CBC and Global Television Network. Why do you think you won it
now after almost 20 years? Is there any connection between winning the appeal and the Recession? Do people see it differently now? Have they started to question the system more?
also one of the root causes of terrorism. If everyone stopped buying, it would hurt the economy but only in the short term. We have to understand that we are living off the backs of future generations.
KALLE LASN: Of course, it was a different in 1989. People did not worry too much about the media and advertising, or the environment. And the world, financially, was also in fantastic shape. But now the zeitgeist has changed; people now definitely understand that they need the right to learn and impart and create information. Especially the part where they impart information. In our case, some judges finally understood that it was one of our fundamental rights to impart information, as stated in Article 19 of the Human Rights Declaration.
YBOTHER: My friend works at an investment bank. She hates her job but the salary is very good and she is also very good at her job. It makes sense to tell creative people that they can change the world through their art and writings but what about those who, let’s say, are good with numbers. How do you make them part of the change?
YBOTHER: What about environmentalism? Is it more than just a trend? KALLE LASN: It was a trend 20 years ago when I started being an environmentalist. There were fired-up young people! All of a sudden, everyone was an environmentalist. But I have seen the evolution of environmentalism and I think that young people, even younger than you, are the true environmentalists because they really don’t want to live in a hellhole. YBOTHER: And what about corporations being eco-friendly for profit? KALLE LASN: Any move in the right direction is better than nothing. YBOTHER: Can you talk to me about Buy Nothing Day? If I am not mistaken, it started in 1992 and you now have around 65 participating countries all over the world. KALLE LASN: Over-consumption is the mother of all our environmental problems. It has ecological, psychological, and political consequences. In the rich countries of the world, it is
KALLE LASN: That is the number one question. Most of the world is like that: like your friend, they go to their jobs, have their wedding rings, go shopping every Saturday and watch a lot of TV at the weekends. The best way is that you make a magazine that will attract the people’s attention and make them think and then they will start changing businesses from within, then we can all start changing the corporations from within. The best time to get people is when they are young, when they are at university, and their personalities are forming and they try to understand, or think they already understand, the world. You have to catch them then, and show them how scary the world of the media is, you have to educate people, and then the next generation will start changing the system from within. YBOTHER: How do you feel about Facebook, Twitter and blogs? KALLE LASN: I have a radical idea about the Internet. Of course, I understand the good side of it and what it has to offer. I know Buy Nothing Day would never grow without the Internet, but I think there is a connection between the cynicism that young people have and the hours you spend on a flat screen. We are going through an epidemic of
bad mental health; you are a mentally unstable generation and researchers say it is because of the pressure of modern living, but it also has a connection to the Internet and the media. They keep telling you how to do things, what to buy, how to be. Older generations grew up in nature, swimming and living with the trees. It is this disassociation with nature, this shift from nature, that leads to bad mental health. YBOTHER: You know I sometimes feel like telling my parents that I want to live in a faraway place where I can be completely disconnected from consumerism and the information age, have a farm, read books, whatever! But I do not think they’d get it. KALLE LASN: I sense in your voice what your parents are probably sensing, I sense a touch of giving up. The secret is not to give up, not to escape. You have to get even angrier, and fight for what you think is right. Now that your body is strong and your mind is strong do the stuff you are really good with and never give up or your goose will be cooked and you will be living a dull life. YBOTHER: Thank you very much! KALLE LASN: Thank you. Adios!
“You are a
mentally unstable generation, maybe because of the pressure of modern living, but it also has a connection to the Internet and the media. They keep telling you how to do things, what to buy, how to be.” 21
In October 2009, the Norwegian Nobel committee decided to award the most coveted recognition of efforts to create a peaceful, more just, society, to Barack Obama, the fresh US president. Coming only nine months after his inspirational and unprecedented presidential campaign, the choice of laureate surprised the world. Thorbjoern Jagland, the chair of the committee, hailed Obama for creating a new climate in world politics, restoring multilateral diplomacy and for his efforts to strengthen international cooperation and diplomacy. Fair enough, these have been areas neglected by the previous US administration, but what are the prize’s implications for the Obama presidency? Will it derail the agenda to which it is trying to give momentum? Most of all, it tells how effective as a branding machine the Obama-Biden 2008 campaign was, and reveals its troublesome legacy for the Obama-Biden administration. President Obama, speaking hours after receiving news of his selection, said he was humbled, stating that the Nobel Prize he had been given was a call to action. But the Nobel Peace Prize is not a battle cry, and was never intended as such. Alfred Nobel, a man who made his millions by producing explosives, intended the award to acknowledge the person or organization that had in the previous year contributed most to international peace. What Obama has achieved in the past twelve months can really be divided in two – the time before and the time after his inauguration. The ‘Hope’ of his campaign was pinned on people’s collars as well as in their vocabulary, and the
massive organization that grew out of a grass-roots movement became more and more sleek, and communicated that this was a man who would take the reins of the country and steer it towards peace, equality and a renewed version of the American dream. Abroad, he came to be seen as a multilateralist and someone who would listen
to the world instead of dictating to it, someone who would tackle the issues of the poor and voiceless of the world. The world overwhelmingly preferred him to the dubious McCain-Palin double act. After the inauguration, there were still people in the crowd holding their ‘Hope’ signs high, as the first black American president was sworn into Photography:
office. Up until this point, Obama was a tabula rasa, a blank canvas on which people had projected their hopes. The frenzy created by the Obama marketing machine overcame pragmatic evaluation of how impossible it would be to please everyone, once he was installed in office. After inauguration, Obama did not change the direction of the country at once. In retrospect, it seems naïve to think he could have – the American system of governance, with its numerous checks and balances, is designed to be slow to turn. This feature, it could be argued, has ensured that America has always had a pluralist political debate and that it has not been highjacked. Obama portrayed himself as a messiah who would highjack the unjust system, turn it upside down and give back the power to “we, the people”. I believe this goes to show how a ruthlessly professional campaign was masked as a grass-roots movement, echoing American legends such as the Civil Rights Movement or the anti-Vietnam demonstrations of past decades. In a way, it could be seen now that the Obama campaign was a great marketing initiative, accompanying a brand-new product that was rolled out to the market from almost complete obscurity, like a miracle silver bullet or an exercise machine that would sort out all your excess blubber with only five minutes of working out per day. The sense of shared ownership of the Obama campaign, with its messages emphasizing that it belonged to its volunteers, was enough to boost the image of the political outsider, of a new force entering corrupt Washington. Although the candidate website invited people to write blogs, even critical of Obama’s policy, the dissemination of information was tightly controlled, and campaign officials have admitted that the stream of information was also tightly controlled and edited. Pledges to end the war in Iraq and revoking the ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ policy towards homosexuality in the US military were some of the vhote-winning promises that persuaded voters to back Obama.
Neither of these promises has been fulfilled by the Obama administration, but they were promises that the consumer believed when choosing ‘Brand Obama’ at their polling station. The problem with the Nobel Peace Prize being awarded at this early stage of the Obama presidency is that it highlights the shortcomings of the brief period that has passed since inauguration, and sheds light on the dissonance between the promises of the brand, and the actual product. It would be unfair to say that Obama has turned out to be a disappointment; a more just depiction would be to turn the spotlight towards the voting masses, whose demands were not realistic, albeit built up by massive marketing machinery. In elections, candidates promise everything to everyone in their political base, but what was unique about this campaign was the conscious effort to broaden the base to cover all strata of American society. This would inevitably lead to compromise and prioritizing tasks and promises when sleeves would be rolled up and the work would commence. He is not Superman, what were people thinking? Take what you hear and read with a pinch of salt, I say. But, being a fresh President and a fresh Nobel laureate pose two additional threats that, frankly, Obama would be better off without – one being the international expectations he cannot fail to meet, the second being the domestic backlash he needs to control. Inevitably, the international scene will scrutinize his credentials and efforts in peace building and disarmament with harder criteria than before, and he now has to fulfill this arduous task or become a bedfellow of such Nobel disappointments as Yasser Arafat and Shimon Peres who turned out later on to be, perhaps, not the most peace-loving laureates. A failure would, unjustifiably, vilify the man faced with a task not just to overhaul his domestic problems, but who is also assumed to be able to solve most global issues. Nevertheless, I do relish the fact that there is now an obligation for Obama to meet his promises and to be responsible for the
new world order he so graciously painted as a candidate – the legacy of his campaign is something from which he cannot hide. I would also say that it was highly unfair to give this prize to Barack Obama – not merely because there were surely candidates that had already accomplished much more than he did, but because the prize gives his domestic opponents something to discredit him with. Rising eyebrows turn easily into outright ridicule – does not this show how vacuous and persuasive he is at the same time? Wooing over the most coveted prize in international politics? True, it does reveal the cult-like nature of the Obama movement, but it should not discredit the ambitious agenda that he has, giving him more than enough to do for the next four years. Sadly, it might derail the domestic agenda in two ways – by forcing too much effort to be put on international issues too early on, and by creating a feeling in the American public and lawmakers that the President’s goal is to score brownie points abroad, hence causing suspicion and a reluctance to back his proposals. Health-care reform and other drastic overhauls might be even harder to push through in a divided and partisan Senate that feels suspicious about the American-ness of the President. Waking up that morning in October, hearing that he had been awarded the Peace Prize, Barack Obama must have felt insignificant in the company that he was admitted into. Maybe he felt like a naughty school child caught bluffing his way through undone homework. Perhaps he felt a poke in his back to get on with whatever task was at hand and felt he needed to reprioritize his pledges to the international community. The ghost of the man who tried to absolve himself of the damage done by his dynamite by promoting world peace descended on an uncomfortable man – who now has to turn his words into actions to avoid feeling as guilty as an old man himself. - by Kaj Alftan
Charlie Veitch, “films things. They go on YouTube. People see them”. YBOTHER: Tell me a little about yourself. CHARLIE VEITCH: My name is Charlie Torres Veitch, I am 29 years old, I am half-Brazilian half-Scottish. I am very lucky to have lived all over the world because my parents worked in oil; I have lived in Brazil, the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the Caribbean, Panama and have I said Scotland? And London, obviously, I live here now…else about me? I graduated from Edinburgh University in 2002, I did a General Arts Degree, Masters, but my major was Philosophy for four years. So, since I was 15 or 16 I have been writing poetry and thinking about why everything is the way it is, so I’ve always been a bit more…thoughtful I guess than some people…not that I’m right, not that I have the answers! But I’m looking for answers… So, after university I did what everyone else does, I thought: Oh! Shit! I need a job now! So I got a job in a bank and I earned money, got a bonus…you know you get…you think it’s real… YBOTHER: Why a bank? CHARLIE VEITCH: I think cause I was young, stupid and ignorant and I wanted money. My choices were: I was either going to be a philosophy teacher, lecturer or do something else and I chose something else…and so I worked for seven years in sales…didn’t really like it but, you know, I was successful
enough. And then about three years ago, I started waking up even more about what’s important in life, realizing things for myself, rather than the programming we are all given. I lost my job in May to the economic recession, I was made redundant and that was the catalyst; that was when all the sparks exploded and I started really wanting to spread the message of peace to people. Almost by chance I met Danny, the very next day after I bought my video camera, he was holding this sign that says “Everything is OK” and we just went from there. That’s when it all got started, and the rest is history… YBOTHER: Weren’t you in the army? CHARLIE VEITCH: Yeah, I was in the Territorial Army for a year. In Britain there is a regular army and a territorial army. The Territorial Army means you do it for I think 16 hours a month? Or something like that…so, luckily I saw sense and didn’t go through Iraq but I used to believe the stuff about terrorists, about Muslims, about September the 11th, I used to read the newspapers and believe them. I used to think; “Oh! These people hate our freedom!” But then I was introduced to some alternative ways of looking at things… YBOTHER: Doesn’t activism need a good promotional campaign to back it up?
CHARLIE VEITCH: You definitely need to raise funding, it is absolutely essential. Certain things in life; you need to have money to get them…it’s a tough one. It’s really a complicated thing because the system is the way it is, and I feel embarrassed asking for funding you know, it is a tough one for me but we need it. YBOTHER: Can you tell me a bit more about how you set it up? CHARLIE VEITCH: I met Danny on the day…it was actually a
“..when you are
scared, you are very easy to control. When you’ re scared of swine flu, when you’ re scared of terrorism, when you’ re scared of not having a job, you will do as you’ re told and you’ re a good slave.”
protest against the killing of a protester at the G20 riots. Ian Tomlinson was his name. I was next to him when he died, I was a chief witness to the IPCC when they killed him, so I had to deal with the police, detectives, the IPCC, give a statement…and I was horrified! So, Danny and I met at the Protest Against Police Brutality and that’s on YouTube; the very first day we met… I have never done video editing before, I’ve never done any documentary making, I’ve never done anything, but I think maybe there’s a higher power, a higher strength that made them popular straight away. Because when you see the footage; they’re shaky, the sound’s bad, but there’s something…and I guess maybe that’s the charm of it…it’s really amateur. There’s no production value, which I hope to change, I want to make it a bit more coherent but it might lose its charm, it might not…but I quite like it. YBOTHER: So how does it work? Do you schedule your activities or do you just sit around in your living room and go, like: “Oh! It’s a nice day, lets go out and do some videos”? CHARLIE VEITCH: Yeah, like that; we just hang out and then if it’s a nice day or if Danny wakes up, I phone him up and go, like: “Danny, let’s do something” and we don’t plan it, ever. Because turn up, walk around, London is so interesting. Within 5 minutes there’s always something to film, there’s always something happening, there’s always some problem, some altercation that you can start filming… We never plan it, but that has to change. We need a bit of planning now, but then again, this might be the other charm; this might be how it works. YBOTHER: Does activism have a place in today’s society? CHARLIE VEITCH: Traditional protesting, where you get a group of people with placards and they start shouting: “Troops
out! Troops out!” I don’t think it works. The government and the powers that be, big businesses, don’t listen to people when they protest like that. We need to try and be smarter about it, be cleverer, we need to try and snake our way in. What Danny and I try and do is instead of preaching to people, instead of chanting: “This is bad!”, we try to be very sarcastic about it, very ironic and that makes people think. As Oscar Wilde said, if you’re going to tell people the truth, you have to make them laugh or they’ll kill you. But traditional protesting…We had 20 million people around the world – you know, in Athens, in Rome, everywhere – about the war in Iraq in 2003. Two million in Britain and the Government basically said a big Fuck You! to the people. So, we need to think. The government is not on the side of the people, they don’t listen to protests. What we need to work towards now is to bring about a peaceful revolution, without any guns, without any fighting, just through being clever and inspiring as many people in this country as possible, to just say No. To stop going to McDonald’s, to stop watching TV, to stop buying shit they don’t need. That’s how we can get the government and the big companies. To stop giving them taxes and money cause that’s what they want: money, power and control. You stop giving them that, they disappear and they can go to hell. YBOTHER: What about the recession? Did it not affect governments? CHARLIE VEITCH: Bill Clinton once said: ‘Nothing in politics happens by accident.’ And he’s right; everything is planned. The economic recession was planned; You can find people speaking before the recession – and they had insider knowledge from the Bilderberg group – saying: ‘They’re going to lower the stock market, they’re going to bring all sorts of economic worries.” So, to me the economic
collapse was very similar to the World Trade Centre collapse: it was a planned demolition. To terrify people, to control people. They could have kept the economy going as much as possible, because money is fake. The money is not backed by gold, it is not backed by silver…they just print money, so it’s all fake, investments are fake. They could have kept the economy going as much as possible but now, for their plans, it’s so much more useful to them to get everyone poor, terrified, to stop travelling, and really worried, and that’s what they feed on: Fear. Because when you’re scared, you are very easy to control. When you’re scared of swine flu, when you’re scared of terrorism, when you’re scared of not having a job, you will do as you’re told and you’re a good slave. YBOTHER: So, money equals slavery? CHARLIE VEITCH: No, money does not equal slavery. Money, if done properly, is purely an exchange of energy. Money is not evil. But what people do with their greed, that’s what some people may call evil. But money is just a tool of exchange. If we used chocolate chip cookies to exchange it wouldn’t be evil, it would just be the way we exchange. YBOTHER: How would you advise people working in the system, hating their jobs, but it being the only thing they know how to do well? CHARLIE VEITCH: I think they should quit today. They should take their computer, throw it out the window and just take their suits off and leave. As Tyler Durden said in the film Fight Club: ‘The things we own, end up owning us.’ There’s a reason why the companies pay good salaries and why people are very unhappy. They probably take all of their time. They work for, like, 12 hours a day. And that’s a fake corporate slave existence. There’s not enough money you can give to someone,
to take away the fact that they’re stuck in an office looking at a screen, like a battery chicken in a cage, all day. What’s the point? We don’t know what happens after we die. I’ve got an idea, something wonderfully spiritual happens, but what if this is the one chance we get to be human beings? What if we go into another existence after death? What if we don’t stay on planet earth? You need to enjoy it. You need to connect with people and love and spread your emotions, but sitting in an office all day… I’ve done it. It’s not rewarding. YBOTHER: What about your problems with the police? CHARLIE VEITCH: I’ve been arrested four times, I’ve always been released without charge, they never convict us. Sometimes they panic and arrest us, sometimes they arrest us peacefully without handcuffs, other times with handcuffs. It’s always interesting being arrested, it’s an interesting experience, it’s not very pleasant. YBOTHER: What happens when you reach the police station? CHARLIE VEITCH: (Laughs) They put you in a cell. Because we’re quite well known now, Danny and I, a lot of police say: “Oh! You’re Charlie and Danny!” and they shake our hand and say “I love your videos”… there’s a lot of very good people working in the police force and they need to be the ones to start making a change. The police represent the government’s ‘on the streets’ face. They are the armed force of the government. We can’t go speak to Gordon Brovwn, we can’t go speak to the Parliament, but what we can do is speak to the police and hopefully they’ll speak to their superior, and they to their superior. Because if you have a million people speaking to the police, showing their emotions, then it will start to have an effect…maybe. MAYBE. And also, you should hug the police because they are the biggest victims of all. To be made
to walk around the streets with handcuffs and a machine gun, it’s not very good for your soul. And I think that girls should give the policemen a big kiss on the cheek and that will help them out. YBOTHER: How do you feel about Obama winning the Nobel Prize? CHARLIE VEITCH: Hahahaha… We live in an illusion. The whole Barack Obama winning the Nobel Prize…some people say that the Nobel Institute in Norway gave him the prize to say: ‘Hey! We’ve given you the peace prize. Stop being an asshole, stop killing people, you have to be peaceful now.’ But to me, it goes against everything that a peace prize should stand for. People who dedicate their lives to love, to helping children with AIDS or stopping vulnerable children being raped, these are people who deserve a Peace Prize. Not a rich man, who got funded 500 million dollars by Wall Street, who’s intensified the bombing of Afghanistan, who’s about to invade Iraq…it’s ridiculous he got the Peace Prize. They put a black face on the New World Order, so we are all meant to go: “Oh, it’s OK. They’re not racist anymore.” He may have good intentions but you shall know a person by their actions not by their words. We also need to remember that Barack Obama is the commander-in-chief of the most powerful military force in the world. If he wanted to make a change, he’s in charge. But because he’s a puppet of the Kissinger-led Council of Foreign Relations, it’s ridiculous to think that he’s being held back by the people…He’s the fucking president! But what I hope in my heart is that Obama will wake up one day and say “Fuck you” to all these rich bankers and surround himself by powerful bodyguards and throw all those people in jail. Throw George Bush in jail, throw Dick Cheney in jail, Rockefeller in jail, where these people deserve to be. We can only hope, but let’s not live in hope for now. Let’s make our own change,
because Barack Obama’s actions have not been very Nobel Peace Prize winning. YBOTHER: Why Bother? CHARLIE VEITCH: The main reason to bother is that it feels so good, it’s fun. Nothing feels better than standing up for weak people or spreading what I consider to be the truth. George Orwell said: ‘In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act’. And, it feels so good. Also, if we don’t speak out for weak people, when somebody attacks us, who’s gonna speak out for us? I believe we can have a perfect, beautiful world, I believe we can, if people in power had good intentions. And maybe this is the big challenge. Maybe the reason behind our world’s problems, is that we have to work towards fixing them. YBOTHER: Don’t Bother with? CHARLIE VEITCH: Don’t Bother with McDonald’s. Also, when you see people who are hurting and are very angry, don’t bother with being aggressive back towards them cause you’re just going to add to the monster. Interview: Elektra Kotsoni
“I am photographed; I photograph; therefore I am,” to paraphrase Rene Descartes. We are among the most photographed people in the democratic world. The violent explosion of photographic imagery has changed the consciousness of our existence in many ways. We have become almost like circus performers, constantly conscious of and performing in front of the camera. The masses appear to have developed an insatiable desire to look at photographs of celebrities. And the average Londoner is photographed around 300 times a day. Yet we further obsess about our identity by photographing ourselves, almost endlessly, in informal, casual situations usually focusing on sexual or pseudo-celebrity poses; seduced by the narcissistic, vacuous and egotistical theatrical stage that MySpace, Facebook and the illiterate Twitter sites facilitate. Voyeurism in popular culture has become such an obsessive and addictive pastime, as we adhere to the perception that there is self-expression in projecting intimate experiences to millions of strangers on YouTube, etc. Is this what it is to be free? I wonder. Our part of the world is often called the ‘free world’ Does freedom include the constant unpermitted surveillance and photographing of individuals as they go about their daily business? I am never asked whether I want to be photographed by CCTV cameras, but is my passivity a collusion of some sort? This institutionalised culture of surveillance is a form of mass spying which challenges our assumptions of freedom and privacy. The seductive power of photography and film, alongside our desire to be photographed as an indication of our individuality; has allowed us to be dangerously complacent to powerful state authorities and private companies filming us without our permission. This compulsive obsession with being watched and watching others has increased dramatical-
ly in recent times, as shown by the increase in reality television programmes, such as Big Brother. We are being constantly surveilled but, despite being concerned about our civil liberties, we collude with this invasion of individual freedom and privacy by allowing surveillance culture to become almost naturalised as a form of technology-based reality. And as we watch others as a form of entertainment and to pass the time – in the privacy of our own homes, on televisions, computers and mobile phones – we are becoming desensitised to the presence of this ‘alien’ intrusion. This constant monitoring and watching has almost become the norm. But it is highly questionable as to whether it is desirable or progressive. The evidence as to whether CCTV has improved society or made it safer is highly contentious. In George Orwell’s novel 1984, the device of constantly being filmed by the state is used to illustrate the powerlessness of the individual, as well as the potential for abuse of power when the state has unconditional control over individuals without their knowledge or consent. In this context it was seen as a highly undesirable tool of authority, which expressed suspicion and mistrust of people and lack of faith in their ability to be trustworthy and honest through freedom of choice. George Orwell was a socialist, who criticised supposedly communist societies for being in his view totalitarian and oppressive. It would be interesting if we were able to consult ‘Comrade George’, as it seems as if we have submissively and compliantly allowed the rise of omnipresent state voyeurs who control and monitor our behaviour. Can liberte, egalite, fraternite exist in a world of almost constant CCTV surveillance? Does it act as a deterrent against crime? Or does it encourage it? A healthy community should function on the basis of trust and selfdiscipline, as well as an awareness of and agreement with any laws and policing. When
we create a society dependant upon CCTV surveillance, the community’s sense of order is disempowered and the camera’s status is elevated beyond human authority. This disempowerment of the police force, has resulted in a lack of direct human interaction and has de-personalised surveillance policing. As we can see with the highly contentious and probably illegal targeting, surveillance and ‘criminalising’ of various groups engaged in peaceful protest and dissent (usually against highly powerful state and business interests) this policy dis-empowers law-abiding citizens, catches few serious serial criminals and allows and promotes an almost completely unaccountable and, ironically ‘invisible’ policing culture. This de-personalisation and lack of interaction between police and civilians avoids human interaction and direct accountability, and creates the potential for anti-social behaviour. This could be a reason why certain groups, in Western societies, can develop a suspicion and lack of respect towards authority, the law and the police. Our liberties are constantly being challenged in this unequal society. Privacy and anonymity are slowly vanishing, as we passively submit to the unrelenting rise of these oppressive technology-based forms of control. In this unequal capitalist regime we make a ‘deal with the devil’ where we accept our subordinated positions and oppressive surveillance in return for relative material and social safety and security. In this way the masses continue to be blindly oppressed and controlled, under threat by the very thing that is supposed to provide them with security, reassurance and safety. For example, paedophiles use this technology to abuse children on a massive scale, but are rarely themselves caught on camera. In reality it is a myth that CCTV reduces or prevents serious crime. It appears to capture graffiti artists, fly-tippers, robbers, drug dealers and prostitutes, yet fails almost completely
in catching serious criminals such as those who engage in tax and banking fraud, rape, murder, paedophilia, and war crimes. These are crimes that have an enormous destructive effect on individuals, the community and society. CCTV’s failure to have any impact on the capture and prosecution of these types of criminals is startling. The United Kingdom has more than 20 per cent of the world’s CCTV. It seeks to act as a deterrent by observing and controlling the masses and less powerful, by an elite, dangerously unaccountable executive. Our supposed democratic society internalises different forms of social control, monitoring society, and maintaining social order and discipline. Michael Foucault’s essay ‘Discipline and Punish’ illustrates the way “Power is exercised rather than possessed”, demonstrated through a panopticon structure. He illustrates how power is “automatise[d] and disindividualis[ed]”. The panopticon structure is similar to the CCTV system in that it allows the anonymous and temporary nature of the observer to create a greater “anxious awareness of being observed”. Although in this country we have an estimated five million CCTV cameras; that’s one for every 12 citizens. CCTV has not decreased the amount of crime. Introduced in 2003, “smart” software, “Intelligence Pedestrian Surveillance”, uses cameras that have the power to recognise “behavioural oddities”, alongside facial and number plate recognition. These extreme measures exercise control over an individual by labelling, segregating, subjugating and categorising ‘abnormal’ from ‘normal’ behaviour. But in my view this creates a negative social construct, which institutionalises a distorted definition that imposes a false sense of identity.
In turn CCTV has mirrored the traditional, ‘all seeing’ and oppressive systems of the Church, invading, feudal and imperial forces, which constantly sought to control by observing, judging, condemning and punishing. Rather than celebrating and validating human existence, CCTV, like a God-like voyeur, allknowing, all-powerful and all the more unhelpful in human tragedy, creates an internal sense of paranoia and shame. By being continually observed we develop a subconscious mistrust of our own human nature. In turn you become subordinated and controlled by the system. The discomforting nature of an unknown presence watching you creates victims and perpetrators of crime, but ultimately fails to protect us from others. While providing a false hope of justice and a doubtful sense of security it promotes
the idea that ‘if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to worry about’. This seems to have become a government catchphrase that seeks to legitimise the excessive levels of identity control and surveillance that have been developed. CCTV cameras and the viewers behind the screen stalk us everyday, eroding not only our sense of privacy and freedom, but also our civil rights. I am not saying that there are no positive aspects to the explosive rise in technology. But the vital point is that with every development that has an enormous potential for good, there is an equally enormous potential for abuse. Where there is social inequality it always follows that those in power and with influence use developments like CCTV systems to undemocratically control the masses while they themselves avoid surveillance and accountability. There’s the rub, as Shakespeare (one of the most remarkable observers of human nature) might have said. - by Holly Luleillai Parkhouse
“Become a realist – seek the impossible”, words deriving from the French Revolution.When one talks of change one must be an idealist. Try to daydream with me while I lay out a beautiful idea, and then throw it away, keeping the line of reasoning that makes sense to you. Man becomes the architect of his own demise: creating pollution, deforestation, erosion and extinction while excessively exploiting the world’s resources. But Earth is the most self-corrective system we know: it can heal itself.What about the people? We permit our untouchables to live in poverty and unemployment and to die from starvation and disease. The challenge of our generation is to resolve our crisis on a global scale, to promote liberty and urge people to prosper and evolve, rather than restricting them to just being able to cope and barely survive. It needs Courage and Reason, Passion and the blind Will to change, to make better, and to Trust in Human Solidarity. Within this organic thought process the Venus Project arises, introducing a world designed to lift all people to their highest potential. Jacque Fresco, the 93-year-old futurist, designer and founder of the Venus Project has done a total redesign of a new culture that solves the above problems. Nature, technology and human beings will coexist in a powerful equilibrium.The aim is to create a peaceful and sustainable global society where all the earth’s resources are the common heritage of all the world’s people. This will happen by the transition of our current monetary-based society to a resource-based global economy.“We need to take a quantum leap in both thought and action,” says Peter Joseph, creator of the Zeitgeist movies, where the Venus Project is exposed and explained. Most of the ideal manifestations of a better world, throughout history, did not allow for changes in either technology or human values, tending to arrest or cover up innovative radical statements.What appeared to be lacking in most of the concepts presented by such people, people with a vision, had been an overall plan, a methodology for implementation of a transitional system to enable the idea to become an act. This generation lacks competent political figures or national leaders to bring about such a transition and the cause of inaction is due to the cumbersome political system itself.“The Venus Project does not advocate dissolving the existing free-enterprise system.We believe it will eventually evolve towards a resource-based society of common heritage in due course. All that The Venus Project offers is an alternative approach for your consideration”. The basic aims and objectives of the project focus on conserving and restoring the world’s natural resources, unifying all nations by transcending artificial boundaries, redesigning in a global scale our cities, transportation systems, and agricultural and industrial plants. As social management is concerned, evolve towards a cybernetic society that can outgrow the need for all political, national, and supra-national governments. Create a civilization encouraging creativity, individuality and incentive toward constructive endeavor. Promote the free flow of information and enhancing education eliminating any type of elitism, nationalism or prejudice and finally prepare people in an intellectual and emotional sense for the awareness of future changes seeking new alternatives with a relative orientation for improved social arrangements. “Establishing the parameters of this new civilization will require transcending many of the traditions, values, and methods of the past. The future will evolve its own new paradigms, appropriate to each successive phase of human and technological development”. One cannot argue that tradition is the most enticing way for cultures to carry on its history throughout its generations; however it is absurd to my mind in the 21st century, with the current situation, to cut down trees as a Christmas decoration in our houses. I strongly believe this generation must transform and revolutionize its way of thinking to assimilate to the changing times. Through the reform of our way of thinking and the intelligent application of science and technology the nations of the world would be able to manage the earth’s resources in a way to shape the future for the preservation of humankind and the environment making the Venus project become a physical reality. As research indicates, it is less costly to build a new city than to upgrade already existing ones. Our source energy can derive from tidal, wave, solar, air, wind and geothermal power. By emphasizing the education of the people, citizens will be more aware, more apt to be reoriented while simultaneously changing their environment.We must see that true problems are technical, not political. Any human system is one of error, yet it is time to be an Optimist, a Futurist, a Visionary and a Rationalist. “When the people lead, the leaders will follow.” Most would disregard this idea as utopian, naïve, communist or simply impossible. In retrospect, we must have in mind human nature itself, the urge that human beings have to control one another which breeds an entire system of control. However, the objective should be to create conscious citizens within the political system, as first intended by democracy: to fulfill one’s duties, to claim one’s rights and to remain vigilant and proactive against those who claim more for themselves at the expense of others. Action must not be reaction but creation: creation of new solutions rather than new laws.We need immediate non-violent action to bring forth the change we owe to our children, to ourselves, to all humanity. Protesting with electric voices and flowers in our hair will not bring about the change intended, and maybe the Venus Project is not yet a realizable idea. But we need solutions, collective actions.We should be not breaking the law but bringing forth our rights, not protesting from our comfortable couches but out in the streets of our homeland.We should be informing and educating the youth about these matters rather than promoting indifference and passiveness and, finally, we should do what this article intends to do: grasp Jacque Fresco’s vision within your own reality. -by Mariana Pateraki
-by Elektra Kotsoni
Apparently, the word ‘piracy’ initially referred to the unauthorized copying of printed/written works, centuries before ‘copyright’ was invented. Goodbye to erroneous and cliched wordplays relating to sailboats, rum and West Country accents from yours truly, then. All I am left to work with is the equally predictable: “Piracy. It’s a crime. We all download movies and stuff on the Internet. Hence, we are all criminals!” (…sigh) Jesus Christ Superstar, I might as well let Philip Hunt, Press Officer of the Pirate Party UK, fill you in on why the war on anti-piracy laws is a cause worth bothering for. I met Captain Hunt (did not manage to fight the urge there, did we?) on a cold Saturday afternoon in typical 21st-century, and accidentally suitable to the occasion, fashion (that is, through Skype) and we had a little chat about the views, values and goals of the Pirate Party UK. Philip Hunt is also a computer programmer whose ship is anchored in Edinburgh (…terrible, I know).
YBOTHER: Could you tell me a bit about how the PPUK was founded? How did you all come together in the first place? Captain Hunt: Well, I will go back a bit…The Swedish Party was founded in 2006. Then, there was a discussion on a bulletin board about founding a UK party right about 2007-2008. Many people were talking about it but it didn’t really go anywhere. And then somebody set up a website with forums and they also set up a Facebook group around 2007. I originally found out about it through the Facebook group. So, there were some forums and people were again talking about setting it up, and then we got a lot of inputters in June because of the results of the European election when the Swedish Pirates won a seat. YBOTHER: I believe that was the first and a big success for the Pirate Party internationally... Captain Hunt: It was, yes, because it actually gave a push to many people. I guess before that people were holding back. I guess they were thinking: “Oh, it would be nice if something like that existed but it will never get off the ground because there are not enough people to support it”. But we now know that 7.1 percent of the Swedes will vote for something like this. And if they can do it in Sweden they can do it in Britain too, because you know, people use the Internet in Britain. The same issues apply in Britain as they do in Sweden. So, I think that the Pirate Party is going to be big throughout Europe and throughout the world. There are parties being set up all over the world at the moment. The Pirate Party International website already counts 35 countries. The government in Australia messes with the Internet quite a lot so the Australian party should be quite successful. However, what I think is going to happen is that we are going to get big in Europe before we are
big outside Europe but I think than in ten years time if everything goes right for us and we don’t mess things up, we’ll be a major political movement worldwide. YBOTHER: Let’s talk about Pirate Party UK. How do you feel about the next elections? Captain Hunt: The general election will be held probably in May or June next year. Probably in May, to coincide with the local elections. Because of the electoral system, the first-pastthe-post system, we are probably not going to get any MPs. Of course it would be nice if we did but I don’t think that’s a big problem for us. We are down to a fairly small number of constituencies; I think we are running at around 10 constituencies across the country. And we’re basically going to treat it as a learning experience, to learn how to work with elections, what works and what doesn’t, and how to organize things. We don’t expect to win anywhere; we don’t see that as a problem. YBOTHER: Still, I read somewhere that the PPUK is now the largest party on Facebook, even bigger than the Labour Party. That must mean something... Captain Hunt: Yes, that is right, the Labour Party have got something like 5,000 people on Facebook and we have…it must be around 8,000 these days actually… I’ve had loads of people saying to me: Finally, this is a party that I can join in and put my heart into. The Internet is a very big part of everyone’s life; trying to censor the Internet is like trying to cut someone’s tongue off. Thus trying to stop the people from using the Internet is almost as bad as that. And I think a lot of politicians, they really don’t get it because they don’t use the Internet on a regular basis – they might get a flunky to send an email on their behalf or whatever. I think particularly with young people who are just starting to
vote in elections, a lot of these people see the existing parties as not being relevant to their lives and that’s where the pirate party is getting very strong results indeed. There was a poll for the Swedish Pirates at the time as the European election and the results said that of all male voters under 25, the majority voted Pirate Party. YBOTHER: So, what exactly is it that you’re going for? Captain Hunt: Basically, in regard to copyright, we want copyright law changed so that if someone makes a copy of something on a non-commercial basis then that should be legal. What this means in practice is that if someone downloads a file from a file-sharing service, then that should be perfectly legal as long as they are not doing it for money. And that should also mean that, for example, if I’ve got a CD and I want to put it on my iPod then it would be legal for me to do that because format shifting would be legal. It is illegal in Britain at the moment, it is one of these stupid laws that no one obeys because everyone thinks that this is bloody stupid… (laughs) . I mean again this is the problem that we are up against. YBOTHER: What about the people in the film and music industry? Are you proposing any ways to protect them? Captain Hunt: This is an interesting question and I’ll tell you why. When records were originally invented and started becoming popular, somewhere around the 1920’s, people would say, “Oh, no! This will be the end of music because no one will go to see live music anymore! They’ll just play records instead and this will kill music!” And now we’re talking about it in the same way, the same music industry is saying “This will kill music because no one will buy records anymore”. Basically, musicians already make more money from live music. The total revenue from
live music is greater than the revenue from recorded music. Also, another revenue stream for musicians already exists in things like radio stations: They just get paid whenever their music’s played on the radio. And we don’t want to change that because it obviously has a commercial use. But I think one possibility that needs to be seriously looked into is some sort of broadband tax, where everyone who has broadband pays a certain amount of money, let’s say 5 quid a week, and that goes to compensate musicians and other parts of content that people are downloading, like films, TV programmes, computer software, games, etc. YBOTHER: Are you only about the Internet? Are, there any other causes separate from those of the party that the PPUK supports? Captain Hunt: One criticism that people have of the Pirate Party is that some people say; “Oh, well, you only care about the Internet but there are other more important issues.” Well, there was an opinion poll done recently, and the most important issue in British politics at the moment, according to this opinion poll, is the state of the economy. OK, that’s fair enough, I agree with that but I think that the stuff that the Pirate Party is talking about is very important to the economy, because these days the Internet is a very big factor in the economy. Today, all businesses, unless they are very small businesses, are Internet businesses. They use the Internet to sell things, to buy things, to talk to customers, to talk to potential customers, to deal with information in the general sense. YBOTHER: You are familiar with the description of the PPUK as an ‘apolitical party’… Captain Hunt: I am not overkeen on that term. As a party, we don’t have a position on several political issues, we don’t place ourselves anywhere on the left
wing/right wing continuum and what we said is that if we get people elected then we will co-operate with all the parties if they’ll co-operate with us on our issues. But I wouldn’t call us apolitical – we are very serious about reform in these areas. YBOTHER: It seems that you are relying a lot on young voters. Have you laid out any plans for education? Captain Hunt: We don’t have any policies to do with education at the moment. But I can tell you what sort of things we will probably be going into, once we do have policies to do with education. We need to understand that the Internet is an intrinsic part not just of the economy but of people’s lives, so everyone needs, as a basic part of their education, to understand how the Internet works, what it does and how it does it. And, if you look at a lot of political proposals, a lot of them are unworkable because the people who have made them do not understand how the Internet works, and so they propose stupid things. We need to have the whole population of the country educated to understand the Internet properly. For example, if people are being taught how to use word processing in schools they should use open source software to do that because otherwise… Say, they used Microsoft Word at schools. That was basically the government giving money to Microsoft. Kids should be able to download certain programmes for free, under an open source license, at home, without having any restrictions placed on them. Because we want to educate people to be free, not educate them to wear handcuffs. YBOTHER: What about yourself? Were you always interested/involved in politics? How did you get involved with the Pirate Party? Captain Hunt: I work as a com-
puter programmer and I have been interested in these issues for about ten years. It’s been about ten years that the music and the motion picture industry have been pressing through laws that have been harming people that use computers by trying to take away their freedom. I have known about these issues for some time, I’ve been active in other campaigning organizations, for example there’s one in Britain called The Open Rights Group-they’ve been around for three years or so…and before that there was the Campaign for Digital Rights which was a fairly short-lived group, and stood up for the same things that The Open Rights Group does now. There is also the Foundation for Free Information Infrastructure, which I have also been involved with, as are some of the other founders of the Pirate Party in Sweden. Christian Engstrom, who’s the party’s MEP, was one of the people involved with FFII. A lot of us, people who have got years of experience of these matters, we are fighting these battles. YBOTHER: So, why bother? Captain Hunt: I’ll tell you why you should bother; If you are a person living in the 21st century, you probably spend some of your time using computers, and you probably spend some of your time using other electronic devices, for example a mobile phone, an iPod or mp3 player, etc.…So, the average person is spending several hours per day using those things. And the basic question is: When you are using a computer or any electronic device do you want YOU to control what you can do, or do you want the government to control what you can do, or do you want big businesses to control what you can do? If you want the businesses to control what you can do: vote Conservative. If you want the government to control what you can do, vote Labour. If you want you to control what you can do, vote for the Pirate Party.
Matt Legend Gemmell
22|10|09 Anti-Fasism Protest BBC Television Centre, London Photography: Elektra Kotsoni
- by Marianna Skylakaki
I was born on the 20th of November 1987. I am part of the ‘new generation’ or the ‘lost generation’ or whatever you may choose to call it. Growing up, I was promised many things. Some of them I got, some of them I didn’t. One of the things I was promised was a world of endless possibility. I remember thinking that I couldn’t really decide what it was I wanted to do. I wanted to be an architect – I wanted to be able to create things, tangible things, use space, use anything really, just as long as I got to see the result – just as long I got to see what had been an abstract picture in my head before. I wanted to be a politician – I wanted to do things, things no one else had achieved and see their effect out there, have people know that it was I who had made these things happen. I wanted to be an actress, a singer – touch people by the mere power of my presence, transport them to places they longed to go, wake up sentiments they didn’t even know they were capable of. At some point I even wanted to be a CIA agent – be able to do all these hardball things we saw on TV. No one would expect it but there I’d be, saving the day with my endless savvy, quick wit and kick-ass moves. I’m sure you won’t be surprised if I tell you I haven’t become any of these things.Yet. It may really be too early to call off the bets at this point – I am sure anyone would tell you that at 22 I have my whole life ahead of me. I can do anything I want. The possibilities are endless – the sky is the limit. Or is it? We have been told, time and time again, and by the most inspirational of people, that we can in fact do what we want to do. That we can go anywhere, do anything.
That no goal is too high, no dream is too far away – all you need to do is believe it, all you need to do is try.Yet in the face of all this I feel like I’m drifting away. I feel that this endless supply of possibilities, this endless supply of options keeps wearing me out. Still, it most certainly is too soon to be feeling tired, too soon to be feeling disoriented or even lost. Not at the age of 22. Or is it? It is not that at this stage I’ve lost the ability to identify things I want – I haven’t. I still dream, I still get excited. I still love parts of what I do everyday – I still savor my successes, I still cry when I lose, I still shout when I feel like I’m being cheated. But I’m stuck. I find myself constantly bedazzled by possibilities, constantly paralyzed by choice. It was easy when I was in school, simple rules, simple prizes, simple successes, a simple road to follow – few crossroads. It was still relatively easy at college – I didn’t have time to think, I just jumped onboard. Onboard anything really. But what now? ‘Reach for the highest of your potential.’ ‘Don’t be scared.’ ‘Just do it.’ Empty slogans? False advice? Or is it? I scold cliches – that is why I generally tend to avoid complaining about life – there shouldn’t be much to complain about really. But I find myself writing an article about our generation, my generation and I keep falling back on the old cliche. Little girl, growing up, spoiled rotten. Spoilt by choice? Spoilt by choices? Who knows? We are constantly hammered with cautionary tales of what we don’t want to become. Cautionary tales: people who just didn’t make it. Or, more accurately, people who didn’t ‘reach for the sky’, people who were ‘too scared’, people who ‘just didn’t do it’. Is that right?
‘I’m the hero of the story/don’t need to be saved’. Or do I? Come on! Is choice that bad? Are options such a terrible thing? No. Hell, no. But they sure set the bar high.You chose this – you are smart, you’re capable! If you can’t do it, who can? If you can’t excel, who can? And that’s where it all starts going terribly wrong. Selfdoubt. That’s what creeps in and that’s that. But if self-doubt is the malady of this generation and endless choice its root cause then what am I supposed to do? What are we supposed to do? Wake up. We are spoilt. I am spoilt. And you know what? It is not the fault of our parents that we have too much. It’s not the fault of society that we don’t have to fight tangible wars on numerous frontiers. But it will be our fault if we don’t make the most of it. It will be our fault if we end up being forty and frustrated. We can complain all we want – I can complain all I want – but where is that going to lead? We are numb but we are still young. We have time – time to get our motto straight. None of this broad ‘reach for the sky’ bullshit, thanks very much. Try a new theme. Make the most of it – whatever ‘it’ is. Make the most of now, wherever you are ‘now’. Push your own limits and when you are feeling too worn out, when you are feeling too tired, even when you are feeling completely paralyzed, try harder. Individual shock therapy – that is what we need. Shock yourselves – push yourselves. Why? Because we are spoilt – because we have the choice. Because we are the generation that has run out of excuses. That’s why. Just a thought.
When hanging on to an unpaid internship seems like the only chance at a career...someday. Maybe. It’s hard to tell whether, due to the recession, the career path I’m on is abnormally arduous, or whether it is always this hard. Most of the payroll folk you meet at fashion magazines have done their fair share of interning, and protocol has it that if a position opens up, you (the hardworking intern that everyone knows and loves) are a shoe-in for the post. But as yet I have not heard of this happening to even one of the intern friends I’ve made along the way, let alone to myself. But myths like this are born from some element of truth, are they not? And surely the fashion world wouldn’t be so rife with eager, wage-less interns if there were not the proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Would it? The first fashion intern I met had been doing so, without a wage (naturally), for 18 months. At the two-year mark she got her first paid position: another internship with a contract of just 6 months. And envious as I am of her receiving a salary of any sort, this is not quite the dream career I would have envisaged at the end of the hardest-working rainbow around. Before I recount a brief and pretty dour chronicle of my interning experience thus far, I
must acknowledge the resounding fact (of which I often have to remind myself) that I am one of the lucky ones. I live in London; I’m staying in my mum’s flat in town for minimal rent; and, for the time being at least, I am, thanks to my mothers’ kindness, able to work for free. Up until 11 months ago I was under the distinct impression that apathy was a definitive part of my nature. I essentially slept through my A-levels and,†much as I enjoyed university, I got my first-class degree through a sheer talent for condensing the entire hard graft necessary into the smallest amount of time possible. Next, my plan was to save some money in a thrilling†office management job, whilst waiting for career inspiration to strike. When ye old recession meant that the simple task of getting an administrative office job was pretty difficult, I had a good long think about what career I wanted to pursue and decided on fashion journalism, for which interning was the discernible path. I got my first internship placement at the Daily Telegraph fashion pages by writing a letter. A good, old-fashioned, typed-up,
printed-out, folded-and-stuffedin-an-envelope letter. No nepotism. No e-mailing. Just a letter. And if any advice is here to be given it is that, unless nepotism is involved, e-mailing in the world of aspiring interns DOES NOT WORK! At the Daily Telegraph I got the fashion 101 that initiates any aspiring fashion worker bee into the world to which they will most definitely become accustomed. Namely: Returns... Callins... PRs. PRs are an interesting one actually, people who want to work in fashion magazines tend to be dead set against the idea of ever working in fashion PR (that most of them end up there is a reflection of how hard it is to break into the magazine world). But when you’re balancing on the lowest rung of the fashion job ladder, the over friendly voices at the end of the phone and the couple of kisses at the end of an e-mail (which would in any other profession be deemed wildly unprofessional) really make all the difference. This is likely to be all the human friendliness you experience in the daily grind. Depressingly, like the relationship one has with a playground bully, the more aloof and shorttempered your fashion team are to you the more you tend to grap-
ple for their approval and when you get it, it tastes that much sweeter.† After the Daily Telegraph I worked at Red magazine for the features team, helping out in the fashion cupboard whenever things got a bit crazy. Red was fine, but I was starting to hate short-term placements. This is really the low of the low: you are part of a smoothly scheduled turnover of interns who work under the 6-month interns. Basically your level of responsibility is limited to the kinds of jobs you really can’t get wrong and you tend to be referred to as the ‘work experience girl’. But you can’t blame them, can you? If I were working in an office that saw a monthly turnover of different faces, basic politeness would also be all I could manage. The main frustration is that there is really no way to prove yourself, your ability or your worth in a month of menial office tasks. Feeling trapped in a cycle of uncreative tasks when surrounded by creativity is pretty damning, especially when you know that what you have to offer is pretty valuable.† Having said that, my first longterm internship was not quite the step-up the ladder I had envisioned. I got my placement at fashion, art and architecture quarterly, Wound magazine. I have never had a more bizarre office experience. First it was absolutely tiny, with a maximum of 7 people in at a time, and they just didn’t speak! It wasn’t as if they were all chatting to each other and ignoring us lowly interns. They literally didn’t speak, not to each other, not to us. And secondly, I swear in the whole time I was there the only items of clothing I saw were on other people’s backs (and my own of course). This was no fashion internship, this was a circulation internship, where I spent my days either going slowly crosseyed creating super-exciting contacts databases or traipsing across London distributing magazines... By foot. Wow. Well, that internship ended splendidly
when I was verbally abused by the publisher/editor-in-chief, an experience familiar to most people who worked under him but nonetheless pretty horrific to encounter first hand.†
getting a paid position (NOT in PR), apply for it, and only leave if you get it. You also, for obvious reasons, want to get great references/contacts from wherever you intern.
Wound was also my first experience of working at an independent publication, hence the lack of budget for couriers. Currently interning at another independent fash mag, it can be quite different from working for a conglomerate like Conde Nast or NatMag. These differences have their ups and downs: my first day at my current placement was spent walking the streets of London in the pouring rain returning clothes to PR agencies... by foot (yes, again). Worst first day ever, I mean I was water dripping off the end of my nose, feet swimming in my shoes, wetter-thanshower wet. And not even getting travel expenses. Definitely a low! But since then I have: assisted on shoots, styled a fashion show at London Fashion Week, and been given large responsibility of organising shoots for our online publication. The biggest high, though, is the recognition. Being appreciated as more than someone to change the bins (another low), and given the responsibility to prove it, makes all the difference in my attitude to the company I’m interning for and how long I’d like to stay with them.
The difficulty for me is that, unlike most on the long hard trek down intern alley, I am not setting out to be a stylist. I am interested in it, but what I want to do is to write, and getting the opportunity to do that when you work 6/7 day weeks (I work parttime at a restaurant to afford to eat) is nigh on impossible. There is no doubt that a lack of confidence is part of what is holding me back from writing all the time and sending work off, but I am also held back by the sheer lethargy induced when all your energy is focused elsewhere.
Making the decision to stay or go is one of the most difficult an intern faces. Obviously if you are with a corporate mag you have less of a part in the decisionmaking process as you tend to be taken on for a set period of time. But in independents the decision tends to be in your hands, unless you prove yourself a little bit useless. Leaving Wound so suddenly and under miserable circumstances left me high and dry in terms of prospects. It turns out that no matter how shitty the position you have, not having anything in the future to cling onto is worse, and for the most part that’s what keeps you in place. You stay and all the while you explore your options, see if maybe there’s a chance in hell of
Needless to say, it is difficult not to feel ever-so-slightly downhearted when mass media opinion does not shy from prophesying the misplacement of my generation of fruitless worker bees. We are lost apparently, not just because of the jobs we have missed out on at present, but because by the time jobs start coming around again it will be the brand-new, fresh-faced graduates who will be snapping them up. But I’m taking a stand. I’m resisting the overwhelming urge to turn to a life of hopeless alcoholism and jobseeker’s allowance in the (perhaps vain) belief that in the creative industries at least, an abundance of experience is never a bad thing. No matter how young and sprightly these encroaching graduates may be, I have to have faith that a wealth of unpaid experience gives me, and my fraternity of interns, the edge. If I don’t hold on to this belief I won’t go to work tomorrow, after a night-time restaurant shift, and slave away for at least nine hours, without even my travel expenses covered. But then I have to remind myself, I am one of the lucky ones... - by Niamh Brennan-Bernatt
Tom Hogkinson is the editor of bi-monthly magazine The Idler. The Idler’s intention as its title denotes is “to return dignity to the art of loafing”. Internship craze aside, we could all learn a thing or two on the importance of being idle. - by Elektra Kotsoni
YBOTHER: You have managed to develop an idea/ philosophy to a business that does not only sell magazines and books but also t-shirts and stationery. Does a business like approach defeat the purpose of activism, in the sense that we are basically trying to get people to follow a way of thinking and living, alternative to what capitalism has taught us we ought to be doing. Tom Hodgkinson: Firstly, I would point out that there is a difference between capitalism and trade. Capitalism is a way of doing business that relies on heavy borrowing, competition, and price-cutting (usually quality cutting as well), and is all about increasing the share price as fast as possible. But it is possible to trade on cooperative principles. The Cooperative Movement founded in Rochdale in 1844 attempted precisely this and it is still going strong. Secondly, if you want to escape from wage slavery, then you have to become a freelance business person, and that means doing accounts, books, and hoping to make a profit each year. There is absolutely no contradiction between idling and autonomy in business affairs. In fact many entrepreneurs are idlers: they could not stand to work for someone else. The medieval craftspeople made things and sold them, and still today many subsistence farmers also make
crafts that are sold in the marketplace, and this is not capitalism. And more specifically, The Idler never developed into a business - it always was a business and I have been making and selling things like T-shirts right from day one. The first thing I did when I had the idea was to go on one of those enterprise training courses for dolies. This showed you how to set up a small business. When we had printed the first issue, I went around on my bike selling them to shops and I did the same with T-shirts. Despite these efforts, I am sorry to report that The Idler merely breaks even and has never actually made any money. The T-shirts and so on are a way of raising extra funds so we can afford to produce the magazine. So I think idlers need to be very sensible about money matters, but that we should also investigate ways of doing business, which are fair. We should understand money because when we do not, it is then we are taken advantage of. Being against exploitation and profiteering is not the same as being against all forms of trade. Trade is actually a wonderful thing: going to the market and buying beautiful things and excellent food. Think of the example of William Morris, a great radical who also ran a successful business selling wallpapers and so on.
We spend about half a day a week on the business side of things and I enjoy it. And if something strange happened and The Idler started making huge profits then I hope, I would use the money in a creative and useful fashion. I’ve actually nothing against people making money in principle - John Lennon, J.K Rowling, Philip Pullman - no one would begrudge them for their fortunes because they were honestly made. YBOTHER: Research on Generation Y and especially on its relation to the workplace has showed that this is a generation that needs to feel good about where they work and would easily leave a job if unhappy. It actually seems to be a generation of wannabe idlers. Yet, the credit crunch coincided with this generation’s coming of age and entering the workplace, leaving people feeling more and more oppressed and questioning the system that our parent’s generations have built. Do you think that with today’s standards it is possible to make a change? Tom Hodgkinson: I think the change is inevitable and that we all need to recognize that there is fantastic life out there beyond the confines of the current system. We just need to go out there and grab it. The credit
crunch should surely wake us all up to the failings of the system, a system which really only serves the CEOs, the MPs and the state bureaucrats. We need to create our own systems and ignore their crumbling ones. I have to say as well that when I meet Generation Y, they all seem to be very switched on: they are into music, festivals, self-sufficiency, climate camps, etc. I think this will be a good generation: the baby boomers have proved themselves to be just as violent, bureaucratic and greedy as previous generations. So today’s young people need to reject the state and the corporation and create their own paths through life. YBOTHER: Continuing with Generation Y, one of its main problems is that due to our being over-exposed to all kinds of information we have grown apathetic when it comes to politics. How would you, as a person who has developed his own ideology, go about finding a more universal cause? Tom Hodgkinson: Firstly, can I just point out that what I talk about is not an ideology, as it seems to me that it is ideologies themselves rather than what they actually say that cause the problems. An ideology which is put into practice – i.e., imposed on people whether they like it or not – is simply a social experiment which sounds good when you discuss it in the pub but which can have disastrous results, in fact which always has disastrous results: witness the obvious examples of fascism and communism. In a slightly less openly brutal fashion, Thatcherism and New Labour were the manifestation of an ideology which is often called neo-liberalism. So you really do have a group of people in a room who make a plan and then carry it out. Naomi Klein’s book The Shock Doctrine is excellent on this. Another example might be education: successive governments all have different ideologies around education.
They then try out those ideologies and the poor teachers are reduced to the bureaucratic implementers of a set of everchanging principles. So what I am saying is: abandon ideology. As Raoul Vaneigem says, all ideologies are totalitarian (they are also uniform). What is needed is a radically decentralized system so diversity can flourish: what is right for Brighton may not be right for Newcastle. My approach is more a philosophy than an ideology, philosophy meaning that you are seeking wisdom, not that you have found it. So I want to encourage dialogue and debate, not to put up an alternative list of rules. I am starting a conversation, not providing a final solution. However, I get what you’re saying. I think, though, that there is a new ideology in the Green or environmental movement which is quite appealing to people. However, this will run into the same problems as any other authority-based system: even now we have Jonathan Porritt suggesting that families have only one child because small families have less of a carbon footprint, which is a plainly unethical idea. Actually I think ‘The Green Party’ also is a daft idea – an environmentally more conscious government would still be a government. The closest I have come to finding a set of ideas that work practically is Permaculture and anarchy, because with Permaculture you start reconnecting with the land. It’s also all about saving money. And anarchy is all about creating your own unique and satisfying life and behaving with compassion and generosity. Anarchy, unlike its public image, is a gentle and respectful philosophy. Doing less, of course, will help as well. YBOTHER: Even if flash mobs only happen for the shake of fun, do you think they might be saying something about today’s society? Tom Hodgkinson: They sound
like a fun idea and I think it should be the role of the artist to shake people up and look at things in a new light, to shatter complacency and disturb the rich and powerful. And clearly, things like flash mobs and situationist pranks can do this. The problem is that people do them and then go back to slaving in their corporate job and watching telly, in which case the pranks are no better than bread and circuses: a mere distraction from toiling for the machine. I think that the good fight goes on all the time every day, and just to go on a march and feel you’ve done your bit is lazy. And marches rarely work anyway: the Blair government still went on with its warmongering ways despite the millions of us who protested against the war. YBOTHER: During the course of the past couple of years the interest in saving the environment has grown more and more. Is that interest genuine or just a trend? Tom Hodgkinson: It is genuine interest, but it is also exploited by the capitalist overlords. Take Innocent smoothies or Dorset Cereals - companies that look eco-friendly but are in fact merely exploiting our environmental concerns to make big profits. Even Cheestrings now have packaging that makes them appear eco-friendly. So, the whole thing is ripe for profiteering. The other problem is along the lines of the one mentioned earlier: the priests of the environmental movement, the Monbiots of this world, wave their fingers at us like Methodist preachers, telling us that unless we mend our ways, then we shall be surely cast into the fiery pits of hell - now called global warming. Having said all that, I do think it’s sensible to cut down on oil use and plastic use, partly because the alternatives are cheaper, more fun and more creative. YBOTHER: What do you think of blogs? Is journalism, in the traditional sense, over if “John from Blackpool” has
an opinion on politics/art/ music/fashion that he thinks valid enough to post online for everyone to see? Tom Hodgkinson: I really hate blogs because I think they devalue the whole journalistic craft. When Joe Bloggs is prepared to spew out a load of ill-considered verbiage for free, then those of us who write for money find that their rates are being cut. The Daily Telegraph recently reduced freelance rates by 40%. So where you were paid £500 for an article, now you get £300. The Guardian asked me to write 500 words for £85, which is a ridiculously low rate for a journalist with 20 years’ experience. And I partly blame the bloggers. Dr Johnson said “No one but a blockhead ever wrote but for money,” and to me it seems that 99% of bloggers are indeed blockheads. However, I soften my anti-blogging approach slightly when I think of blogging as the modern equivalent of writing a diary, and what’s wrong with that? And if people enjoy blogging, then who am I to spoil their fun? It’s just that in the old days, you didn’t expect anyone to read your diary, and now everyone rates their success on how many people read their diary. Blogging could be best compared with barking in an empty room: making a loud noise to no apparent effect. YBOTHER: What is and what is not, worth bothering with? Tom Hodgkinson: Bother with anarchy and forget about capitalism, and on a more practical level, grow vegetables and boycott all supermarkets. YBOTHER: Thank you very much for your time. Tom Hodgkinson: My pleasure - good luck with it all. Courage!
A couple of weeks ago, a couple of friends and I had a couple of beers and a couple of us, a couple of lines, before getting into a cab to meet another couple of friends at a techno party in Brixton. The taxi driver did not fail to notice the joint we were trying to finish off before entering the car, so upon departure he started talking to us about weed in Pakistan (his home country) and then went on to drugs in the UK and the types of people using his back seat, on an average Saturday night. Wait a minute: did I say types? My mistake: “ They drink too much, man, and they are all on coke! Especially the girls, man…and you can see it, it’s obvious cause they talk, talk, talk and talk and move a lot. You know what I mean?” I knew. We all knew. It is remarkable how much it snows in London nowadays. So much, you cannot see the slightest trace of grass. So, I started thinking: where I come from, the sun is mostly shining and people do enjoy the occasional doobie, whereas in gloomy London most people will go along the lines of: “Oh no! It makes me paranoid!” – when asked whether they make use of cannabis. At the same time, none I have met would hesitate a minute to make use of any other drug available to them, even if the origins and quality of the substance were questionable. Why is that? Trying to explain it merely in terms of climate seems naïve and somewhat irrelevant. Almost as irrelevant as generalizing entire nations by categorizing them according to the types of drugs their people use. The thing is, the never-ending endeavors of manifold groups all around the world to legalize cannabis are nothing new, and to many they are a cause originating from smoke-filled basements, dreadlocks, Bob Marley tunes and utterly distasteful sandals. It’s not hip, it’s not in sync with the fast times we live in and the beat we like to dance to. Yet, it’s also not as harmful to society as the whole anti-cannabis propaganda not only likes to highlight, but is in itself. The past five years, for the United Kingdom in particular, have brought the ‘evil weed’ back into the eye of the storm due to its constant reclassification as a Class B or C Drug. Leading primarily to organized crime controlling the herb and, secondly, to people turning to heavier and sometimes more dangerous drugs, which of course are even more illegal but do not star in as many TV ads. Fighting this dogmatic cant is the UK Cannabis Internet Activists website (UKCIA) which is dedicated to educating people properly about the true dangers and advantages of cannabis, the anti-cannabis campaigns and the drug’s legalization. Derek Williams, the manager of the UKCIA, talks to YBOTHER: To avoid any mix-ups, there are no “SMOKE WEED, IT’S GOOD” signs on the UKCIA website whatsoever…nor pictures of sandal-clad tree huggers.
YBOTHER: When was UKCIA created and why? Was there a specific incident in public life or your personal life that drove you to setting it up? Derek Williams: UKCIA was formed in 1995, but I wasn’t a part of it then. It grew out of the
remains of the original Legalize Cannabis Campaign of the 1970’s. Around 1992 I had met up with some people in Norwich where I live who had started a new campaign called CLCIA – Campaign to Legalize Cannabis International Association. The two effectively merged in 1998 when I took over
management of the site. Ownership of it passed to me only last year, 2008. YBOTHER: Are you only operating through the Internet? If so, why is that? Derek Williams: UKCIA was set
up as an Internet resource and that’s all it ever was. The idea is to make knowledge of cannabis available, free of government distortions. Because of prohibition, it is hard to find honest and factual information about cannabis; most is tainted by the need to support prohibition. YBOTHER: Have you ever been prosecuted for cannabis use yourself? Derek Williams: No. YBOTHER: Has the site ever had problems with the law? Can that actually happen? Derek Williams: No, there have never been legal problems. UKCIA doesn’t break the law, doesn’t encourage the use of cannabis and doesn’t encourage people to grow it. I personally don’t use any more either. I suppose someone could try to do it for something though. YBOTHER: Why should cannabis be legalized? Derek Williams: A short question, but a long answer. To be brief, cannabis is not a controlled drug because it’s illegal. There are no controls over who sells it, where from, no age limits for sales, no control of strength or purity. Profits often go to organized crime and the law treats those at greatest risk as the enemy. Very little is known about the trade or culture surrounding cannabis as prohibition makes any proper study impossible – you can’t sample the population or trade using statistically valid methods, because it’s illegal. There are many other reasons as well. YBOTHER: Could you lay down the problems and dangers of cannabis prohibition? Derek Williams: A massive multimillion-pound industry, employing millions of people, selling a mind-altering drug totally outside of any legal regulation or control is a recipe for trouble. Contaminated product of uncertain
strength and composition (THC/ CBD ratio) is sold, there is no way to know the dose. There is no restraint to the trade, no protection for vulnerable groups like children. Prohibition and a criminal record destroy lives.
experience as long as you don’t repeat it.
YBOTHER: Be that a generalization, it has been noted that people who come from the United Kingdom make considerably less use of cannabis than people from other European countries, especially those from the Mediterranean. They will make use of other drugs, especially cocaine. Can that be in any way attributed to climate differences or racial character?
Derek Williams: I think not these days. This is the age of mass media influence. UKCIA has the circulation online of a medium-sized newspaper, which beats handouts any day.
Derek Williams: It’s a matter of getting to know people. In recent years the scene has moved further underground for sure. Also, because of the sustained anti-cannabis campaign over recent years there has been a move to other drugs, including cocaine. YBOTHER: What is your attitude towards other drugs? Do you differentiate between “natural” and chemical drugs? Derek Williams: No, not really. The law has never prevented me trying anything I wanted, but I have never been into escapist drug use. I suppose I differentiate between types of drug use, rather than types of drug used. Recreational use is different to escapist “oblivion” use. I only ever used drugs for fun. YBOTHER: Has cannabis use really not affected your professional, family or social life in any way, ever? Derek Williams: It never did, no. YBOTHER: The amount of cannabis a person can handle or whether they can handle it at all, of course depends on the person. How can one know what one’s limits are? Derek Williams: By learning from experience. That’s how we learn everything in life. There’s nothing wrong with having a bad
YBOTHER: What about protests, public speeches and the handing out of flyers? Do they have any place in today’s society?
YBOTHER: Can you tell me a little about your campaigns and how you go about putting your voice out there? Derek Williams: It’s a website, that’s all it is. It’s there for others to use and many have done. YBOTHER: How important is good marketing/good design in communicating your messages? Derek Williams: Not at all really. A good Google ranking is what matters. YBOTHER: Research on Generation Y has showed that one of its main problems is that due to our being over-exposed to all kinds of information we have grown apathetic to matters of social responsibility. tDo you think that with today’s standards it is possible to make a change? How would you go about affecting that generation of 18-30 years? Derek Williams: Yes, it is possible and information is the key. That’s why I do UKCIA, to make information available to anyone who wants it. Old-school politics is dead, though, for sure. YBOTHER: Could you name one thing worth bothering for and one that is not? Derek Williams: Worth bothering for? The planet, but basically we’re on a rollercoaster to hell, so it’s probably pointless. Time will sort it all out. Not worth bothering with? Commercialized, sanitized politics.
Ben Cummins, initiator of mobile clubbing and founder of South London art collective Utrophia, talks to Niamh. Ben Cummins’s mum had an amazing birthday, swept away from a quiet celebratory drink with her nearest and dearest by no less than a full-on marching band charging through her living room. The band led the birthday girl and guests all the way to Utrophia’s most recent home at the Ice Cream Factory in Deptford, where all her friends and extended family were waiting to surprise her and party the night away... But I guess if your son was a man who’d co-founded South London art collective Utrophia, given birth to the concept of mobile clubbing, and orchestrated more marching band processions than is necessary (or expected), you’d be pretty unimpressed by a cake and a song. In the depths of South London, on a really very miserable afternoon, I met with Ben and had a tea and a chat in a train car impersonating a cafe (obviously). Fresh from bath-time with his son, Ben kindly delved into the finer points of Utrophia and the projects he himself has spearheaded. And one thing becomes apparent pretty much straight away: Ben is a doer. Since way back in 2002, when Utrophia graduated from a ‘crossdiscipline night’ at Time bar in Greenwich, to a fully fledged art collective settling into their first residence in Ben’s warehouse. Having a base gave Utrophia the flexibility to put on events in their own space as well as in many other locations around London. Never quite content with fencing themselves in, physically or metaphorically, Utrophia held their first annual CWM Festival in 2004, in the depths of Snowdonia, Wales. The fact that the festival even materialised is pretty impressive when you consider it was held in a valley cut off completely from electricity and with no mobile phone signal. A fact that I found ironic (you know, what with our technologically reliant age, etc.) but Ben seemed
to see more as a bit of pain (something about a mini-jack being forgotten back in civilisation and a digital projector not working...) but I prefer the irony argument and Ben did confirm that, despite situating themselves in a technological desert, the festival was all kinds of amazing. And it is this ability, to pull something together, to take something from beautiful conception to actual reality against all odds, that sets Ben (and Utrophia) apart from the rest of our apathetic lot. In fact it is this skill that has had him lecturing at Brighton University for the past eight years, specialising in alternative events and creative curation. Ben uses systems of content management to break down events organisation into a series of one task projects, which cannot move to the next stage without the previous task having been completed. His Brighton students have put this compartmentalised system into practise, with results he praises as being more successful even than events put on by Utrophia and himself. Ben’s passion for enabling the growth of grassroots events with really no budget is what has driven him to set up Seedsprout. Seedsprout is a fledgling organisation stuck in the funding application stage. With Seedsprout, Ben aims to apply the same methods developed throughout his years of lecturing and handson events planning, to help such events come to fruition. To Ben, Seedsprout is revolutionary because it can be the means to show people that their concepts can become a reality, and is that not what we need? Within the artistic realm, when creativity meets
the apathy shrouding our generation, exasperation and disappointment become inevitable, projects which show how simple it can be for an idea to become a successful reality are pretty important. Even the silliest, most innocent, event is symbolic of how simple it can be to mobilise people. Take, for example, flash mobbing, the seemingly random gathering of a group of people at a certain time and date to perform a specific task. Mobile clubbing is just such an event, born from the depths of Ben’s mind way back in September 2002, the idea that those signed up to the website receive notification of a time and place in which to gather and simultaneously dance to music played through their headphones. Like the best ideas this one went through a process of evolution; initially everyone would be listening (and dancing) to the same music but practicalities meant that it was just easier for everyone to be listening to their own music. This evolution of the idea became a much more poignant message for Ben in his constant fight against monoculture. Suddenly there is a shift in the experience and while listening and dancing to your own music, your brain plays a sneaky little trick on you that makes you determined that the person you’re looking at from across Liverpool Street Station, dancing with their eyes closed,
is dancing to the same tune, and on some new level you are connecting with a person that you do not know. On paper this is a simple and somewhat pointless idea. But, as much as Ben professes that he ‘just wants people to dance’, his meditations on public space and monoculture strongly suggest that his particular strand of performative art carries a more significant message. Ben has two bugbears. The first is monoculture, the second is the privatisation of public space. Ben hates monoculture. The physical nature of his art is designed to act as an affront against monoculture. Mobile clubbing is a fun thing to do, and a fun thing to watch (and is, incidentally, a bit of an advertising commodity), but it also stops people in their tracks.You’re either the person doing something unusual with your day, dancing about with your headphones in your ears, or you’re the commuter distracted, even for a second, from your mundane journey home. Ben’s students in Brighton came up with an event which involved simply walking slowly – really slowly, down a busy street. His piece ‘Carefull’ involves him walking down Oxford Street with a pint of water, full to the point that it is raised, with the aim of not spilling a single drop. As he says himself, some people will see this and think ‘Oh, how very Goldsmiths’, but his excitement comes from the exceptional nature of such a simple task. Again he professes to really like this piece because ‘it’s doing something that isn’t about anything’and again I reject his remark because he follows it by talking, with a contagious passion, about the idea of leaving an impression. Distinguishing yourself from the ‘unit flow’ (lingo he picked up from his flyering days), is a really significant thing to do in a culture where your impression can be lost to the masses. Likening it to the Japanese art of ‘stream tuning’ by placing rocks in specific places along a stream to dictate change in the flow of the water, he says ‘performances are a bit like that, when you do something
and you mark the spot even after you’ve been there’. However it is in public spaces that our impressions appear to be most soluble. Talking about public space with Mister Cummins inspires quite the unrepressed agitation on his part. We must reclaim our public space. It’s not until you think about it that you realise how little our public space – our streets, our parks, our squares – belongs to us. Not really. As Ben charmingly puts it, when we leave our homes we put on our ‘public hat’, and this inhibits our normal behaviour. Walking slowly on a busy street, sending a marching band down Deptford High Street, drawing a chalk outline of an unsuspecting person’s shadow on the street are all physical ways of reclaiming space that is ours but in which we are ruled by the protocol of the unit flow. Holding mobile clubbing events in train stations is a physical way of protesting against spaces which should be public being claimed as private. ‘You know that area under the arch in Canary Wharf as you come out of the underground?’ he asks me, ‘...that’s all private’ he exclaims, adding ‘they have security guards all over there,’ His point being that, if we don’t reclaim our public space it will literally be eaten up by privatisation. Despite all the political connotations that come with performing in public (or indeed private) spaces, Ben seems to recoil from the idea that anything he does is done with political motivation. But this is privatisation he’s talking about, so it’s unavoidable. He uses terms like rebellion and empire. He talks of the superficiality of mobile clubbing and then talks of how significant performance art is. He says Seedsprout feels revolutionary and you know he believes it. Despite all his
contradictions he knows that the art he orchestrates conveys political messages, whether his intentions are political or not. But this is a common theme with Ben, this self-contradiction; he seems to be constantly torn between his fundamentally political morals against privatisation and the monoculture nurtured by our environment and his artistic flair. Seedsprout is where he has reached his crossroads and chosen the path that actually steers away from the artistic and towards the revolutionary. Here he is attempting to build a business. This is not a piece of performance art, where its effect was diluted, in his eyes, when it became popular; with Seedsprout, its popularisation is something he strives for and welcomes and he is more than willing to let it grow. You can understand then, in his constant struggle with self-definition, that when I asked Ben what was worth bothering for, a sizeable pause followed. ‘People think they have to get jobs to earn money. That’s the aspiration and I’ve never had that. I think we should be try-
ing to become a great empire of creativity. But that’s the sad thing, I think people have got the spirit of some kind of revolution in them but they haven’t got the motivation to know what it is that they want to do.’ And in this case I think Utrophia, but particularly Ben, is the exception to the rule. People who strive to mend the bridge between conception and realisation are going to be integral in shaping the future of our generation. -by Niamh Brennan-Bernatt
Legend has it that Marc Chagall used to place his paintings next to god- made objects such as trees and flowers in order to judge them rightly. If the two clashed, his was not art. Whether Antony Gormley’s unique conception of the One and Other project had anything to do with the above is doubtful, yet merits consideration. Inviting people from all over the United Kingdom to stand on the empty fourth plinth of London’s Trafalgar Square, each for one hour of the hundred days the project lasted, evokes elements of the Chagallian method in reverse. The god-made (man) compared to the manmade (architecture). At last, it seems as if we managed to reach the acme of our self-obsession. That is not to say I was unimpressed by Gormley’s idea. Being self-indulgent to the point of autism, I loved it. What better platform for human expression than a lonely eight-meter-tall plinth, waiting for something, or in this case someone, to adorn it with all their various attributes and antics. Twenty-four hundred live statues: some talking, some dancing, some raising awareness for a cause, many just chillin’… Ingenious. I wish I could have been a part of it. Regrettably, I always took pride in favoring the bystander’s sidewalk to the Plinther’s spotlight. So, motivated by a long-lost battle with situational insomnia and encouraged by Fran Lebowitz’s aphorism that “life is what happens when you can’t get to sleep”, I said to myself: “Hey, why don’t you try spending 24 hours around the plinth?” Oh, the joy! Armed with a backpack filled with my laptop, books, a notebook and three different pens (yes, I was naïve enough to think I would manage to get some work done whilst on the square), a couple of Red Bulls that only lasted an hour, and an audio recorder sold to me for a strange price by a strange man on Tottenham Court Road, I commenced. Upon arrival, at 23:47 on Tuesday 6th of October 2009, I encountered the first Plinther of the day, Anne Joukhada. Apparently Anne had just happened to walk by the plinth with her friends, when she was dared to go on it by Captain
John, aka Diana’s Superfan, or, in Anne’s words, “a friendly nut”. Anne spent most of her time on the plinth playing hangman with the small audience that soon dispersed and I spent it talking to Captain John, who informed me that when he dies, his portrait will be hung next to that of Princess Diana, inside the National Gallery. I could see it coming: my adventures around the plinth would have little to do with the people on it. I was not exactly wrong. To be honest, the next couple of hours passed by quite swiftly, due to the fact that the moment they got off the plinth I had to run after each Plinther and wait, in the rain, outside the mysterious van of the One&Other project, while One&Others ran mysterious tests on them, only to do a brief and monotonous interview on why they got on the plinth and how they felt in doing so. The moment I was done with one Plinther, another one got off. However, after spending a little while on the square, observing its life cycle, I understood that past and recent Plinthers, One&Others, drunks, the homeless, city workers and random passers-by had formed their own little microcosm, where everyone knew and hung out with each other. That is to say, it was not rare for a past Plinther to come to check out what was going on and talk to Stewart, the security guard, or to support his friend/ wife/kid who was also going on the plinth. For instance, that’s how I met Lady Godiva, the girl who spoke for naturism while naked on a rocking horse, on September 30 during the 5-6 am slot. Turns out One&Other was a truly fitting heading. Moreover, the moment I came to that realization, I myself was also instantly accepted as part of that miniature society. I had breakfast with Kieran Jones (6-7 am) and his friend Lewis while they talked to me about the Pixies concert they had been to the night before. One&Others offered me tea. The security people made sure to keep me company during the hard hours of midday, when sleep deprivation kicked in. Rose gave me beauty advise and Stewart let me stay in his car to keep warm,
sometime around my 22nd hour on the square. It was also around the same time that a cleaner kicked me out of the public toilets, believing I wanted to sleep there, so impairing the communal feeling previously endorsed on me by the square and its people. Ironically enough, that same communal feeling was also disturbed by one of the Activist Plinthers – those who went on the plinth to raise awareness of a cause. Kate Smurthwaite, stand-up comedian and political campaigner, had the original idea to impersonate Goretti Hogan from Alliance for Choice, to whom the slot had actually been allocated. Both women fight for the campaign for Northern Irish women to be given the right to choose on abortion. Hogan, however, lives in Ireland and it would have been too difficult and expensive for her to come to London. Thus, Smurthwaite, equipped with Goretti’s passport and a utility bill, managed to trick One&Others into allowing her on the plinth instead. In this way, Smurthwaite and Hogan not only drew a parallel to the situation women face in Northern Ireland – they have to travel elsewhere in order to have an abortion, costing them a considerable amount of time and money – they also pissed off the people of One&Other. Nonetheless, the idea and execution of it was spot on, with Smurthwaite riding a rocking horse as counterpart to the other equestrian monuments of Trafalgar Square, speaking about her cause, and even giving a live phone interview to BBC Radio 4 Ireland. This is one example anyone involved with political campaigning should aim to follow. In addition to the Abortion Act in Northern Ireland, my day around the plinth also saw the raising of other equally important issues, such as MS and Cancer Research. It also saw a Rubenesque middleaged woman going au naturel in the awful cold. Yet, truth be told, a picture counts for a thousand words, so I might as well stop now, and let you see for yourself. - by Elektra Kotsoni
How can I possibly discuss the clubbing scene without sounding negative? I am trying really hard to find a way to present the facts, the truth, what I think is happening in the scene without sounding grumpy. I will do my best, but please try to see the following with a positive attitude – that’s what I am trying to convey as well. :) -by Alex Celler Why are clubs hard to fill up? Why are record shops closing down? The fact that the scene is going through a major crisis in every possible way is more than obvious – from clubs being hard to fill up, to massive falls in record sales; from the atmosphere on dance floors being obviously weird, to strict regulations on closing times of clubs and a police presence everywhere. I can sense a “new era” slowly coming along. However, it’s not only the electronic music scene that suffers. Society in general “suffers” from various ongoing processes since we moved into the 21st century. And because our scene is part of that society, we suffer as well. First of all, the Internet. The Internet changed the way we behave as human beings. Back in 1998, going out on a Saturday night was essential; if you stayed in the only option was watching TV. Nowadays, you can stay in chatting in MSN or Skype; you can send emails, you can browse MySpace, Facebook,YouTube; you can watch movies and play games. It’s easy and it’s free, so there you go. Not only clubs will suffer but all outdoor entertainment places, bars, cinemas, restaurants, etc. During the 90s, there were literally thousands of places around the UK and the US where you could listen to house music every night. Now you have a few hundreds, if not fewer. Places like Ministry of Sound, The End and Fabric used to be open four nights a week; now they are struggling to fill up the place at the weekend. Not to mention the closing of Turnmills, The Cross, Canvas (ex-Bagley’s) and other clubs in the last couple of years. Furthermore, the Internet changed the way the music market behaves. People today download records illegally for free; sales have dropped dramatically in pop and commercial markets, not to mention our underground house/techno scene, which is based on vinyl. We all know how hard it is to get your music out on vinyl nowadays and how many record shops are suffering because sales are massively dropping. Still, regarding those two points, I think that what is really happening at the moment is a readjustment or redefinition of the world we live in. Life was so different 15 years ago. No mobile phones, no Internet, no i-gadgets – life was much simpler. And people need some time to readjust to the new values and methods of the life that arrived as a part of evolution. At the moment, people are still charmed by the Internet, in the same way they were charmed by television in the 1960s. Back then, they said TV would kill all the cinemas, but soon enough people got bored with it and started going out again. It’s the same story with the Internet.
Safety Issues Also, another very current issue is that of security and safety. This became a huge factor in the 2000s when terrorism became a trendy method for religious/political groups to get attention and achieve goals. So, in the name of safety, a whole new, tight security plan and a huge list of fresh regulations was drawn up. These have changed the atmosphere in the clubs. How can people relax and enjoy themselves when you have tough security checks and excruciating bag searches at the door? When aggressive bouncers are pushing you and being rude? You walk to the dance floor and you see cameras recording every single one of your movements, plus you see a “You are not allowed to” list.You are not allowed to smoke in here, you are not allowed to take photographs, you are not allowed to stand there, and you are not allowed to take your drink out. Give it a break, man!
‘Mobile Phone’ Atmosphere on the Dance Floor A third point, which is not very well explored, is that of “too much information”. In the world in which we live today, there is so much information around. We have literally everything we want in the palm of our hand: an Internet-connected supercool mobile phone with camera, video, email and another million applications. When you carry that with you, you impose in your head a mental state of awareness; you don’t let yourself go, you are connected with it. Now take that into a club, apply it to all the 1,500 people in there and you will get a crowd that is much more distracted, loose and inconsistent. Again, during the last decade, people would go to a club and let themselves go; they wouldn’t have any worries, they would only have fun and listen to the music. Nowadays, they will use their phone to take pictures and videos of the DJ , they will go out to talk, send messages, record the DJ set and many other things. This has a huge impact on the way the crowd behaves on the dance floor. In comparison to the last decade, this time it’s more difficult to play a deep set and take them into a trip throughout the night. It can be done, but only in the right crowd and the right club, as people are generally more distracted, they want more easyto-digest “in your face” sounds. That translates not only to the style of music you can play but also to the way you mix a record. It is hard to leave the same record playing for 8-9 minutes nowadays. Ten years ago, that was possible because people were more hypnotized and into the mood.
The New DJ: Hero or Zero? The second point is that of the economic crisis we have been going through since the early- to mid-2000s. People don’t have money to spend. So the first thing they will cut down is their entertainment. Food and petrol are getting stupidly expensive and the Recession has only begun. At the same time, this Recession has created an uneven gap in society: there is a large percentage of low-income people whereas highincome and middle-class people make up only a tiny fraction of our society.You can easily apply that to DJs. There is no more middle ground! The majority of DJs nowadays will either earn a small amount or loads of money. Only a very small percentage of people working in the Music Industryearn something in the middle.
21st-Century Generation Lastly, another very important point: people who were born before 1975 were lucky enough to experience the birth of a new style of music. Back then, it was called Acid House or Chicago House. It’s not often that a new music movement is created, so being there as a teenager or adult to experience such a thing is like being able to see a whole new world emerging. It’s magical, and you cannot recreate that in any way. It was new, it was different, and it took everyone by surprise. I can only imagine that the feeling of being there had to be something extraordinary which you can only evaluate now, by looking back. Imagine, back in 1988 people were listening to Phil Collins (no offence to him, just as an example) and four years later to the hardcore up-tempo beats of Prodigy! Now that’s some change! What I am trying to say is simple: That generation (late 80s-early 90s) grew up in something totally new and so did the middle 90’s generation. Because this style was absolutely new, and connected to some illegal substances which stormed the scene at the same period, it was embraced with utter passion and love by a huge number of young people. As we progressed into the late 90s and the 21st century, more and more young generations came into house music, but the number of people and the passion naturally declined as the genre grew older and older and electronic music was divided into many subcategories. Please note, I am not being negative and I am part of that 21st- century generation (I got into house music in 1998-1999). I have to say that clubbing today is very satisfying, you can listen to fantastic music in great clubs. But the more I speak to older people, and the more I see the scene as it is at the moment, the more I can tell what it was back then and what it is now. I am not going to say that it was “better” back then, because that is not fair and it’s not true. It was simply different. Music nowadays is also fantastic. But back then, it was fresh and new – that is probably the only element missing from nowadays clubbing. How do you put that back into the music scene today? Well, I’ll let you know as soon as I find out! Photography:
Y Generation. A label for specimens. Neither sinister nor romantic. Abstract yet minimal. Vaguely indifferent. A science fiction, Silicon Valley, street art kind of world filled with TV-addicts, caffeine dependant fashion victims with hypodermic injections of happiness deep in their arms. They write their names on pieces of paper and throw them out the window. They heard that Fame is passing through their town – fifteen minutes is never enough, though. Degradation of the media – celebrities and scandals on the front page. An age that wakes up every morning, places their gold tyrant on their left wrist and gives away their daily deposit of psychological disturbances in banks, on canvas, or in papers like this, because the poverty of language makes communication ever more complicated. Fortunately, the so-called artists puke their creation with no beautification – RAW the way it comes from inside them in order to hex that suffocating black mass that gives them life, makes them human. Our politicians are merely puppets in the hands of the older generations, repeating their words and mistakes. After fascism, communism, dictatorship, how can one still believe in politics? The new rebel is the Terrorist, the new Artist is vandalizing the walls of your house, McDonalds are going green and bronze cows parade in your city streets, while our children starve and die. Through the noise pollution of our concrete jungle, a beautiful black sheep emerges and walks proudly away from the crowd – escaping Global Cloning. Emerging from city streets, sewers, trees and skies to alter your perception, to open your beautiful eyes. With petition of justice under our feet, we break through your roof. We won’t let you numb yourself under your bed tonight. The challenge of our generation now arises: A generation of information, creation and experimentation able to bring change. Not by deconstruction: the Great Wall is already down. Not by recycling ideas – just glass, plastic and paper. Not by creating new laws but by creating new solutions. It is now that people must choose a different direction to enter this century before others decide for us. Why bother? Through exiting this egocentric society and leading through the suburbanization of the soul into a New World – not a delusional American dream – one is able to understand the Truth. Spiritual Revolution. - by Mariana Pateraki