Cinematically Kubular

Ramblings about cinema and whatever else I'm thinking at the time!

Tag: politics

An American Idea

“Don’t ask what you can do for your country, ask what your country can do for you!” The slogan is printed on a banner based on the stars and stripes of the US flag, hung behind the reception desk. Reception is dark, a few small lights hilight the wood and gold decor. The lady behind the desk was young once, but now any spark of youthful energy that may have shone in her eyes has been replaced with an unmistakable weariness. She hands you the key to your room.

You take the key and turn towards the hallway. Opposite the weary receptionist, the desk and the patriotic banner stands a vintage style Coca-Cola machine. It serves bottles! You dig around in your pocket for change. After all, it’s vintage. It doesn’t take contactless.

With a coke in one hand and your bag and key in another you walk toward your room. Beneath each light is a picture. The first your eyes are drawn to is a photograph of Trump’s inauguration. Trump stands on a stage in the distance, you can just about make him out. Beside the photo is a golden plaque, it draws your attention to the size of the crowd, possibly the largest since records began. You pass various other photos; Melania, Ivanka, Jared. They all beam out at you, as if to welcome you to share in their success.

Finally, you’re in your room. For the most part the room is unremarkable. It seems comfortable enough. You’re pleased. You test the shower, it works. You turn the temperature up to high and test it. You can’t complain, the water’s not cold but it’s not hot either. At least you won’t be scalded, you​ muse.

It’s been a long day traveling and nothing is more appealing than sliding into a comfortable bed. You walk toward it and place your phone on the bedside table beside a portrait photo of Donald himself. His grin beams out at you. You reach to turn the photo away from the bed but can’t. It’s attached to the table as if a family member you keep close.

You finally slide into bed, beneath the golden covers you lay your head on a golden pillow and switch off the light. You try to sleep but realise something’s stopping you. It’s not the itching, though that’s not ideal either, you put it down to the fresh cotton. Then you realise what’s stopping you. It’s too bright in here!

You open your eyes and see it. There, on the bedside table, Trump’s grinning portrait glows. He beams out at you. His pinpoint little eyes, his winning grin is lit by the frame you can’t move. He stares at you and you understand. You understand he wants you to understand that at the end of it all he’ll be depositing your hard earned insomniac dollars into his personal, no doubt offshore bank account.

You close your eyes and try to drift off but all you can think of is him.

Donald Trump.

Making hotels great again.

 

This post was inspired by the below linked article.

Boing Boing – American Idea

Politics and RATM

It’s been ages since I logged into this! I knew it had been a while but I was shocked when I saw my last post was as long ago as 2013. Just goes to show how time flies really. I’m convinced the years are getting shorter.

Oh, well.

I guess in some ways this has ended up representing a bit of a diary for me. I made an attempt at getting into writing on paper (probably the reason I haven’t posted in so long) but there’s a lack of immediacy, though I’m not sure that’s the right word. I think it’s probably fairer to say I’m better and more natural with a keyboard than I am a pen. Though there are definitely some benefits to pen and paper! Firstly, there’s a lovely tactile quality but mainly it’s that you can’t delete and reword. Writing with a pen is constantly pushing you on, making you make the most of what you have. Yes, you can cross out and rewrite but you can’t amend. It’s good if you just want to write and see what comes out.

Anyway, I’m going off track.

So, I’ve always been into Rage Against the Machine. They’re a great band and they made some really great albums. I mean, yes, they’re heavy metal and there’s a genuine sense of rage and agression  to their music but it’s just that – music. I can’t call every album, or even artist musical the way I would Rage. It’s genuinely groovy and, as insinuated, expressive. They’re probably the two most important things to any music, at least for me. Does the music work in it’s own right? Does it carry you? And does the music, regardless of vocals, express something emotional?

I’ve felt the need to play their eponymous album a few times over the last couple of weeks. Playing RATM isn’t that unusual for me to be fair. But usually I’ll gravitate toward their last album – Renegades. Renegades is an album focused much more on the music and the grooves, the anger’s still there but it boils away underneath. It’s a cover album but they’re their covers, it’s their voice.

What’s suprised me though is the way RATM has suddenly started to feel more relevant to me politically. I’ve always felt slightly distanced from the politics in their music – mostly because it focuses on their own politics, the politics of the US. I’ve still taken something from it, it’s made me aware of people such as the Zapatistas, who I may not have even known if had it not been for People of the Sun.

Mostly though it’s songs like Killing in the Name, mostly known for it’s heavy use of prafanity, and Wake Up that are calling out to me now. I can’t help but hear parallels in the references to fascism in those songs and our current political climate. We seem to repeatedly expect people to apologise and take the blame for actions out of their own control. Not because they knew anything of those actions or were ever in a position to stop them but because they share a race or religion with the people who are really to blame.

A family member told me of someone they met shortly after the attack in Manchester. A young man had been beaten for no other reason than that he shared his race with the attacker. Yet, we don’t talk about that. Our own PM’s reaction is to use rhetoric that I can’t help but feel encourages, though not directly, the appropriation of blame to a general group or subculture of people. This is the same PM that refused to protect in any meaningful way our own Supreme Court when it was attacked as undemocratic by national papers. Democracies fail when the people in them fail to stand up to protect them.

Some may read this and laugh. After all, we’re not Nazi Germany, etc. My fear is not one grounded in specifics and my argument as it’s written here doesn’t even quote or reference any political speeches or publications. Instead, it makes generalisations and talks about albums released 20 years ago.

My fear is grounded in tone. The tone of the political climate and not the statements but the language I read or hear repeatedly reinforces it. Though, I did read the idea of interring people in camps based on their religion was raised on Fox News today.

The more we allow the rhetoric of our time to be fueled by fear, anger and allow the balanced discussion of facts to be substituted with sweeping generalisations the more we make ourselves vulnerable to fascism. The more we alienate and divide the people of our nation into races, religions or simply ‘us’ and ‘them’, the more we encourage the left behind to seek a place to belong with those we seek to protect ourselves from.

Strength lies in unity. We have to stay strong to protect our freedoms, not just from those that would seek to take them with violence but from those in power that would seek to take them with pen and paper.

Project Management (and why Privatisation of Public Services is Appealing)

I want to begin by saying that I have always been a firm believer in a a core set of public services. I believe transport, communication, health and energy should all be managed and owned by the state. By this I do not mean that they should be free – I mean that we should all pay for them communally through appropriate tax channels. These are all services that are necessary to each and every one of us. Even those of us that don’t travel require others to be able to – even if it’s simply to bring us company or supplies. We all need to communicate, and we all like to have a doctor or hospital we can use when we’re ill. Wether it be gas or electrical power, energy drives all of these services.

As a teenager I found it disappointing that the bulk of all these services were more or less privatised. Energy is, transport is, telecommunications is.. and yes, aspects of the NHS have been for a long time. It seems that the most important services we have were the first to be sold off by the state. People complain that the younger generation is ‘politically illiterate’ or disinterested in politics. Is it such a surprise when the services that most matter are run by private companies? What can your MP really achieve for you when your primary concern is paying your gas and water bills?

Yet, even with all this privatisation – our government is still falling short of cash to fund the remainder of the public sector. One of the key services that the government still runs is Housing. I know this because I’m resident in a council block. And before anyone tries to correct me – no it’s not run by the city council directly, it’s run by a not for profit organisation that just happens to be a subsidiary of (can you guess who?) the city council.

Those readers who spend their time in the UK may be aware of the current ‘cutbacks’ and language used to describe state benefits – what is being referred to as the ‘welfare’ bill. And yet we constantly reminded about figures that illustrate just how small a part of state expenditure this ‘welfare’ actually is. If I remember correctly (and honestly, I don’t feel this will be read by enough people to warrant me looking it up) the figure is around (or less than) 7%. of the total budget. Quite frankly, that’s miniscule. Especially when you consider that this pays rent, council tax and JSA for people. Where does the other 93% go?

After all, telecoms, energy, transport and police services are all (or significant proportions of them are) privatised. Now, there will be readers here who will no doubt be shouting (perhaps mentally) “well, THAT’S where all the money goes!” But is it? Is it really?

I’m going to take a small detour here and mention that I’m registered at a private dental clinic. This costs me more in terms of the fee I pay for a checkup or an appointment with the hygienist but I get a much better service from it. I get more regular checkups – something that, until a few years ago, was standard under the NHS. This means that problems with my teeth can be spotted and corrected much earlier and avoid much more complicated (and to be honest, expensive) remedial work later on.

Those of us that are old enough to have watched (even repeats) of the BBC’s Yes, Minister, will no doubt have noticed how our government still seems to live up the jokes. You’ll have also no doubt heard many derisory comments about the civil service from your peers or the older generation. Perhaps the phrase “gifted amateur” in particular. Incase you haven’t, this refers to the fact that people in the civil service are continually moved around from one job to another – particularly decision makers and particularly when they’re competent at their role. This is also true of councillors – a friend of mine (who takes his position very seriously) is continually moved about from one places to another, meaning many of the changes he tries to make for his area never really get through or are ‘reassessed’ by whoever replaces him.

Four paragraphs ago I mentioned that I reside in a block managed by a public sector company. And it bears all the clichéd hallmarks of one – nonsensical bureaucracy and ‘red tape’. Serious, the forms I have to fill in! The vague (and rather last minute) communications when they charge you a vast sum to be rendered within 14 days. Also the strikes. But there’s one key attribute or theme that seems to permeate all stories about public sector organisations – Bad Project Management and ‘decision’ making.

The management company that manages my block is currently running a pilot in the southern end of the city in preparation for an ‘upgrade’ to the concierge service they provide. Just for emphasis I’ll repeat three words: “pilot”, “currently” and “running”. It’s important these words are emphasised, oh hell, I’ll add two more “recently” and “started” because the concierge upgrades have already been set underway at least 2 years ago. Several of my services (such as the intercom) have already been replaced. The camera systems are already being replaced. The concierge team themselves have already been put at risk of redundancy. Also, I’ve also been given notice that my concierge charge is going to increase.

The intercom upgrades that were performed (supposedly in preparation for the new concierge service) have already been made redundant and rendered incompatible with the new service. It’s also worth noting that I will be paying (approximately) £14 extra per month for the new service. On top of the ~£800pa charge I already pay. That’s nearly £200 extra per year. And the new service won’t actually be as good. My block currently has a concierge 24/7, they provide a ‘good neighbour’ role, which includes accepting parcels for residents, keeping a spare door key for residents, checking on flats when people are away and supporting residents with odd jobs that they aren’t able to do themselves (with prior organisation). The new service looks to be 9-5 and primarily run from a call centre (hence why the intercoms are now incompatible). They’ll have to be contacted by phone.

It’s also worth mentioned the most important (but often overlooked) function of the 24/7 concierge service – security. The whole point of having a concierge around is so that, hopefully, he doesn’t have to do anything. He can sit quietly and just be there. Especially during the dark, inner city nights. That’s not saying the concierge service is perfect, but at least people feel safer.

Now, bearing in mind that I’ll have a concierge service for less than half the time I currently do – and potentially on less days of the week, why is it my fees are going up? Because of constant changes to the project. This is a management company that opened a call centre just to have to lay off all it’s staff because it implemented an alternative service which made them redundant by the time it was opened. Constantly changing the goals and implementation of a project (once it’s already started) is extremely expensive, not only because you have to pay the cost of making the changes you started but you’re also lumbered with the cost of having to change/replace them.

This is not unusual in stories about the civil service/public sector. Only last week was a comment made on Question Time regarding labour’s management of the DWP. The constant need for retraining and new systems to handle changes to benefits and taxation and so on – systems that couldn’t work together so would have to replaced… and replaced… This is not just a labour problem, it’s a public sector problem.

It’s for these reasons ministers end up looking to the private sector for management of our services. Because a private sector company has to manage it’s projects well, otherwise it goes bankrupt. Good management is necessary in the private sector, as opposed to the necessity for continual reinvention and upgrading of services just to prove one’s usefulness – or rather, to make sure there are jobs for the boys.

I’d still much rather my services were state run – but I want those services to be run well and unfortunately, these two things seem to be mutually exclusive.