Game of Thrones

I want to get the clichés out the way first. Yes, it’s hard to compare a book to the TV show or film. Yes, any adaptation of an original work must of course by its very nature be adapted. Yes, there are compromises, creative and commercial, to be made when taking any rich literary work, especially one as realised and meticulously fleshed out as A Song of Ice and Fire, and converting it to the screen.

Yes, I know. I’m fed up of having to preface any discussion or review of this nature with a disclaimer like the above. But everyone does, because you can be sure that if you don’t say it, the very first thing you’ll hear in reply when you point out where the TV show or film isn’t that great, is that you shouldn’t compare it to the book(s). I want to acknowledge that objection from the start. Yes I know books and films of the same story will be different (thank you for that insight), and whilst one should never criticise works simply for deviating from source, it seems unobjectionable to me that they can be compared as one would any two artistic creations; judged by what they are, and what they could be.

As a child I read Lord of the Rings and loved it. Reading and writing has always been in me, from as early as I can remember, but so infectious is Tolkien’s prose and parlance I found it impossible not to emulate his style, tropes and even plotlines in my early fictional writing (something that even certain adult established writers do…) The very fact that so many, young and old, still love and enjoy Tolkien seems to dispel the idea that one grows out of the Father of Modern Fantasy — but I would suggest that Tolkien is loved most by those of a certain mind-set or those with particularly naïve politics who hold quixotic simplistic utopian worldviews. To put it another way: Tolkien might have made it all possible, and set the standard for which epic fantasy could and should reach, and written really good stories — but others have overtaken him. George RR Martin is one such person.

What makes A Song of Ice and Fire such an addictive, fascinating and enjoyable read is not the goal of this article, and indeed would require far more words than I’ve written here. What can I say that hasn’t already been said many times by those more qualified than me? ASOIAF, as us Westerosians say, is a story that grabs you, sucks you in, and makes you really feel part of an exciting, dirty, dangerous, terrifying and sexual world. We are right there, alongside our characters – the evil ones and the less evil ones – as they play their part, play with others, or simply try to survive. I’m not convinced that “life-affirming” is the intended psycho-emotional response to Martin’s story-telling, as such there are no real heroes in the true sense – just people who, for the most part – love or hate them – are doing either what they think is right, or what is necessary, for themselves, their family or their cause. What it is, in any event, is very human. Oftentimes we see the very worst of humanity, but we shouldn’t kid ourselves that the very worst characters of Westeros or Essos (for me, Gregor Clegane is the worst) are just caricatures of bad guys, the sort that we wouldn’t really find in the real world. Oh, we do. They have existed, they do exist, and they will exist.

Religion and sex are also perennial and important aspects of humanity. I would insist that one is profoundly more essential and natural than the other, and one has historically waged war on the other throughout the ages – but I digress. Martin himself has noted how these two features of life which frequently feature in his work, are notoriously absent from Tolkien’s. This isn’t to imply that Martin’s work is better than Tolkien’s for this reason, but I think it does make it more adult. If not more realistic (its characters certainly are) then at least more relatable. Much more so is Lord of the Rings a book for teenagers – not because of the lack of sexuality, but because of its overly simplistic politics, lack of intrigue, two-dimensional characters, unsophisticated prose (at times), and perfunctory supplications made to the reader’s attention and concentration. At the risk of sounding magniloquent, LOTR is easy reading and ASOIAF is not. That is certainly not a criticism of easy reading. The point is that there are many story-telling styles and what makes ASOIAF such a success is its many rich and complicated stories and how they are told.

ASOIAF is often praised for its “adult” nature – which many seem to think is a euphemism for body parts on display. But as I said above, what I think makes it “adult” is everything else. Perhaps this is why the sexual content of ASOIAF and HBO’s Game of Thrones is, if not the first thing mentioned by one viewer introducing a newcomer to it, probably in the top three things to talk about. Sex happens in ASOIAF because human beings have sex: sex with members of the opposite sex, or the same sex, with older partners or underage ones. Rape occurs and is frequently threatened or boasted about, but rape has been a shameful feature of human conflict throughout the ages – and not at all solely in ancient times. Allied soldiers pillaged cities and raped the defenceless women and girls of fallen German cities after the Second World War. We can agree that WW2 was just and necessary and we were the good guys, but perhaps Lena Headley’s Cersei puts it best: “when a man’s blood is up, anything with tits looks good.”

The foul and unflattering manner of death is also a constant feature of ASOIAF. War, whatever the motivation or necessity, exacts an atrocious price in human suffering and misery. I don’t need to enumerate the abominations which people have inflicted on others. One cursory inspection of, to name just one example, the experiments which Nazi “scientists” performed on prisoners of war is enough to guarantee insomnia for many nights. Martin’s great novels are not cynical or anti-human – but they are good stories, and appreciable parts of the story consist of war and violence. Whilst the human form can be beautiful – in the shape of a striking underage girl, it can be grotesque – such as the crushing of a skull or a lance through the back of the throat. The story is not allegorical and certainly not didactic. In this sense, and I am by no means appealing to moral relativism, it’s not whether these things are good or bad, but rather that they simply happen. Martin has no choice but to tell us the story as it unfolds, (he’s said it has taken on a life of its own): we are reading a history of the world told through the eyes of its contemporaries. For me it is as though Martin were saying: ‘I didn’t want to put child murder, rape, incest, violence, torture, betrayal, heartbreak and pain in my story – but I had to! I’m just telling you what happened!’

Child sexuality is not exactly inconspicuous either. It is not present to furnish the plot with shock-factor, or superfluous intrigue, but because modern attitudes to this sensitive matter are after all modern – and sexuality (especially of the female kind) was historically not treated with respect or deference until some agreed-upon age of consent was reached (and in some parts of the world today, especially religiose ones, there is nothing resembling respect for women). I paraphrase Martin: ‘once a girl menstruates, she’s a woman.’ The number of consecutive years elapsed since her birth is irrelevant. At least, that’s how pre-modern cultures viewed the matter. Again, Martin is telling a story set in a certain time. The contentious and controversial feature of underage sex (consensual and otherwise) is necessary and natural for the setting.

Each turn in the story is a seamless corollary of what came before. Seamless, and by that I mean natural, but not necessary. You never feel that anything in ASOIAF is necessary, in that the characters, so simultaneously powerful and impotent, try to make the right choices, or make bad choices, or make no choices. But one thing that these stories do not feel is this: contrived.

Now, bearing in mind everything I have said above (surely no didactic segue is required), I turn to HBO’s TV adaption of the Martin masterpiece: Game of Thrones. A show that has made fantasy “cool” and brought the genre to such heights of fame and notoriety that it’s no exaggeration to suggest it might have changed television forever. Will we see a whole slew of low or high-fantasy epics brought to the screen? Has GoT paved the way? Has HBO shown that, given the budget, there is a huge audience for television drama that has dragons instead of doctors, knights instead of lawyers, decapitations and exploding skulls instead of court-room set pieces and crime scene investigations? Did anything Jack Bauer go through match Ned Stark on the steps of Bailor’s Sept? When was the last time anything on screen evoked the sense of betrayal, loss, despair and jaw-dropping silence which the Red Wedding did?

The modern TV audience are drama junkies. If that sounds pejorative, I’m ok with it. But if you want drama, drama, drama, you’ll find an endless supply in A Song of Ice and Fire — and it’s why, when Game of Thrones sticks to its source material, it almost always succeeds. One, because it’s hard to go wrong when the material is that good, and two, because the show is so well acted, well directly, well scored and well shot. Technically, the show is almost flawless. Aesthetically, the show is beautiful. But dramatically, the show is oddballish, bordering on bipolar.

Game of Thrones is quite literally two shows in one. There is the mature, adult drama which takes its witches, wizards, dragons, monsters and knights seriously. A show that has an actual story to tell and means to progress that story logically and sensibly through use of character development and exciting action. In other words: the story to be found in the books themselves. The second Game of Thrones, almost invisible in season one but obtruding more and more as the seasons progress, is the show we see now. This show is the one which appeals to what I imagine television executives think is their primary demographic: flesh-craving licentious drama addicts, easily titillated by penile or vaginal endeavours, shocked by guts and gore like a caveman seeing fire for the first time, and one too stupid to keep track of more than five characters or plotlines at a time.

Which isn’t to say that it’s easy to keep track of so many story arcs and people (try reading the books!), but that brings me to another point: if so much time wasn’t spent on gratuitous and egregious insertions of patronising audience titillation, I suspect there would be more than enough to show the numerous plotlines and characters memorably – no, unforgettably! I’m not surprised so many people who watch the show can’t remember who’s who and who is doing what. Why? Because most of the time they aren’t doing anything! We can afford ten minutes here and there to witness so much gay sex (because sexual egalitarianism keeps the rowdy feminists quiet) or embarrassing attempts to justify full frontal nudity, but Daenerys’s prophetic dreams in the House of the Undying? Noooo. Why drop hints or foreshadow the truth of Jon Snow’s parentage when we can have Petyr Baelish expound his inner motivations and ambitions over lesbian soft-core porn? Who is the Knight of the Laughing Tree? What about the kind of man Rhaegar Targaryen really was? What did Ned promise Lyanna before she died? Who killed Pate? Who is the third head of the dragon? What are the as-yet unrealised betrayals Daenerys will experience? What of Quaithe’s other thrilling prophecies? Who is the Prince that was promised? Who is Azor Ahai? The glass candles are burning – don’t tell me we don’t have time for any of this when so much precious time is wasted by lewd bilge.

And the sex misses the point anyway. To take one example: in one of Catelyn’s earliest chapters, we join the story as she and Ned have finished love-making. In Cat’s head we hear her describe how her loins ache, sorely but sweetly, from Ned’s eager and rapid thrusts into her. She can feel his seed still present and hopes it will give them another baby, before they both get too old. We discover that, although their marriage wasn’t born of love, they did fall in love. This is what a love scene should be about!; an intimate look into the private lives of our characters. We learn something about them, and if we can experience their sexuality vicariously as audience members, so much the better. This is the sort of love scene that could be shown respectfully and erotically on screen, that would appeal to an understanding and adult audience, but come from the story, advance the story, enliven the characters.

But no, we are obviously too dumb to appreciate the emotional nuances of consensual caring copulation, and besides, how would we know the characters actually had sex unless we all-but-saw the act of penetration itself?

The only exception to this I can think of is Robb’s love scene with a forbidden young girl, through which he violates a marriage oath and causes his own downfall. This scene was handled well, precisely because it encapsulated the passion of two young frustrated lovers. I daresay we did feel something for these two characters as a result. (Ironically, this love story was substantially different from the books.)

And that’s just on the matter on how condescending and intellectually insulting the show’s use of pornography is. That aside, the complete abandonment of crucial and exciting stories and character developments is completely baffling. Even when you know what’s coming, Game of Thrones can deliver emotion and impact when it tries. But even more flabbergasting is waiting for a momentous and shocking reveal, and it not coming because entire plot-points have apparently been removed. I won’t spoil anything by elucidating this point, but one might suggest only a heart of stone is required to neglect certain rather pivotal story elements.

As I alluded to earlier, prophecy and portents are a huge aspect of the written story. I know it is much harder to get away with the sort of foreshadowing on TV (for example, for the Red Wedding) as was done in the books – but the psychological and dramatic reaction of seeing the eventuality of so many clues pay off, is a priceless joy. It is one of the great pleasures in ASOIAF. It is rewarding and stupefying, and leaves you kicking yourself, when you finally realise that you should have realised it all along! Such is the art of great plot twists – of great pay-offs to long running arcs; it was obvious all along, in hindsight. Not only that, the anticipation of unresolved mysteries and prophecies leads to so much fan speculation which in itself is an inestimable component of the fun. Most of this is absent from HBO’s Game of Thrones. Don’t kid yourself that so much time has been spent with so many characters, they are doing their best to get through such a colossal adaptation. That notion would have more substance if it weren’t for the omission of so much good, the inclusion of so much padding, and (in my opinion) so much unnecessary deviation from source. For just one example, I have to ask why the incredibly minor characters of Grey Worm and Missendei are shoe-horned into a boring and distracting side-plot? Don’t the writers have enough material to be getting on with, without making up plotlines of their own which cannot be anything other than irrelevancies in the grand scheme of things? Why should we care about this? Instead of confecting a flimsy pretext to see Missendei naked (which I am by no means opposed to under the right circumstances), might there not be other things that time could be better spent on? Say, for example, the other fifty characters and their stories?!

I find myself in the odd situation of seeing a show that is simultaneously dragging out affected scenes and inconsequential characters, yet rushing through the source material and skipping the sight-seeing. I’ve no doubt the destination of the ASOIAF saga will be stupendous, but the journey must be every bit enjoyable and jaw-dropping. The creators of GoT have all the time in the world – why don’t they use it?

I’m not saying that Game of Thrones must stick religiously to its source material. As someone who considers Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings not only great adaptations, film masterpieces, and significant improvements on the books, I know that changing key story elements is not only necessary, but actually desirable for the transition from script to screen. What I cannot understand is how a story as complex, clever, interwoven, interrelated, intricate and delicate as A Song of Ice and Fire can possibly be improved by the removal of so much of what made the books great. I simply cannot see how mammoth changes to certain characters’ deaths and destinations, which must necessitate the most unlikeliest contrivance of story-telling or their complete abandonment, make the story better, or at the very least, something remarkable and different. And I think that is what makes me so angry and disappointed with Game of Thrones: the fact that I do have expectations of it — I wanted to see this wonderful and exciting story on screen. But after a magnificent first few seasons, that doesn’t look like it’s what I’m going to get. It would have been better to have read the books or watched the show, but not both. If it seems that one has failed the other, I know which one I’d point the finger at.

For all that I can pretend I’m watching a stand-alone TV show, I can try to see Game of Thrones as exciting, dramatic and addictive. Yes, we want to tune in every week to see what happens next, but when the shock and awe die down, what will we really be left with? Is this a show that people will re-watch time and again? I’m nowhere near as sure of that as I was after its first season. I thought Game of Thrones would change the television landscape, not just because of the story content, but in its approach and style. It has changed television. It has so much of the world talking. It could be the most famous TV show in the world right now — it’s almost certainly the most expensive. But what price has it paid for such roaring success? How much has it abandoned its understated, clever, and often patience-testing literary sires, in exchange for appealing to the masses? In decades to come, A Song of Ice and Fire will still be read and loved by millions – and perhaps it will have had as big an impact of written high fantasy as Tolkien did so many years ago. What will Game of Thrones’s cultural impact be after so many years? What will its legacy be? A ground-breaking drama renowned for its acting, storytelling, emotional realism and capturing the hearts and minds of a generation? Or that show that was like Spartacus, only with dragons? When I first saw Game of Thrones I felt sure I knew what type of show it would be. Now, I just don’t know.

It’s not even that Game of Thrones is bad. It’s not bad. It’s good. It’s very good. But I don’t think it’s special. And it could have been. It should have been.

And the saddest irony, or perhaps l have too much faith in my fellow primates, is that I don’t think the mainstream TV audience is as titillated with tits, awed by asses, bloodthirsty or cynical as studio executives think they are. Maybe TV consumers can appreciate good stories, and can understand political intrigue, prophecies and portent, character struggle, internal conflicts and huge armies of supernatural power – without having them wrapped in the obligatory sexposition scene every episode? Seven hells – maybe a show with dragons can be taken seriously for its own sake?


Why I Will Vote UKIP

I believe in immigration and gay marriage and I’m voting UKIP. I believe in national sovereignty and individual responsibility and I’m voting UKIP. I care about the economy, the rich, the poor and the helpless, and I’m voting UKIP.

But when some people ask me why, there is no little surprise in their tone. Personally I’m astonished by their astonishment. How can anyone who’s experienced such a soulless sea of liars, hypocrites, cravens, traitors, and ultimately useless leaders we seem to have had forever, not find this small dedicated party that genuinely believes in something and doesn’t attempt to shy away from its beliefs, the most refreshing event in politics for a generation? Well, given the quite despicable and shamelessly biased coverage UKIP has received by the mainstream establishment media I guess quite a few people are less than enamoured by the only libertarian and truly conservative party we’ve seen in decades. I wouldn’t wish the mistruths and misinformation, ignorance and ignominy, disregard and disrespect that UKIP has had to endure these past few years on anyone, even my political enemies. So much for the British predilection to route for the underdog.

Even if you don’t agree with UKIP’s policies and ideology, you are compelled to concede that they are about more than playing the vote-grabbing game, and to call them simply populist is languorous and callow. It is undeniable that they have forced extremely relevant and important matters into everyday political discussions. Who was talking about radical Islam, immigration, foreign aid, taxation, the NHS and political correctness ten years ago? No one! Topics, for those too pusillanimous to raise or confront, which do concern the people of Britain are now being talked about by our leaders because UKIP forced the issue. For the second consecutive election and only the third since 1929, we will have a hung parliament next week. Can anyone claim this has nothing to do with UKIP? Clearly they are doing something right, and that is: raising salient and sensitive topics, trying to represent the people of Britain and act in the best national self-interest of our country. In other words, fulfilling their obligations as prospective politicians qua politician. Say what you will about UKIP, and many people have said many things many of which are nonsense, but in my opinion I see the only practical, common sense, real world manifesto out there.

If you want open door immigration, to give more power to the EU, more “progressive” taxation, multiculturalism, political correctness and misanthropic futile “green” politics, they aren’t for you. They will never be for you. They won’t change this fact to get votes. But I suspect that more and more people have become as sick to death of these insipid trite and regurgitated bromides as I have. Guess what? I’m proud to be British, proud of freedom, proud of capitalism, proud of individual responsibility. I do believe the undeniable and painfully obvious fact that some cultures are better than others. I believe that religion is dangerous. I believe that radical Islam is one of the greatest threats to our planet today. I believe that whilst an elite cadre of politically motivated scientists and “celebrities” cry wolf over climate change, that Iran, North Korean, and ISIS are the real enemies at the gate. And because of this climate of fear over what we say and do nowadays, I have to follow such a statement with ‘and I’m not a racist, and I care about the environment, and the poor’, in case anyone thinks I’m a neo-Nazi because I don’t buy the Guardian and I don’t watch the BBC, and I don’t think the NHS is Great Britain’s cultural apex.

Here, I limited myself to a triumvirate of topics with which I hope to best espouse UKIP. One disclaimer: I represent no one but myself. I am not an apologist for anyone. This is my opinion, and whilst I know I appear recalcitrant when I say I genuinely don’t care if you agree with me or not, the truth is I hope this does strike a chord with the honest undecided.

I am pro-gay-marriage

I believe that the State should recognise the lawful union of two human beings regardless of gender. I believe this because the State has no right to oppose those private choices of citizens which do not impinge on the freedom of others. Note: I am not saying that getting married is itself a fundamental Right. Rather, the State has no power to deny marriage to gay people because in a free society everyone is equal in the eyes of the law. Private citizens may choose to associate or not associate with other private citizens, but the government has no such freedom: it must be fair and impartial to all citizens with respect to the law. The government cannot choose to NOT associate with its citizens.

However, because I won’t claim a contradiction, I can’t force private citizens to enter into discussion, negotiation, business or contractual arrangement with other citizens against their will. The government must treat every citizen equally, because whilst all things not explicitly granted to the government are denied, all things not explicitly denied to citizens vis-à-vis criminal actions, are necessary legal.

UKIP’s stance on gay marriage is important because Nigel Farage explained in his own words his objections to it, namely his fear that private organisations would be forced to marry gay people if they didn’t want to. I am certainly not a religious person, but the church (any church) is a voluntary private organisation of free people and who they choose to deal with, or not, is their choice. It doesn’t matter if you agree with them or not. The same goes for cake makers who refuse to create wedding cakes for gay couples. To those who disagree: it’s their life and their property, and you’re a fascist.

In my opinion, forcing private citizens to act against their will, under penalty of fines or prison (!) in order to satisfy the “rights” of other citizens (even for a noble cause) is a gross and evil contradiction. This issue is more important than gay marriage. Why? Because the very principle of recognising gay marriage depends on seeing all people as politically equal. That principle must apply to all private citizens, even the ones we don’t agree with, or it means nothing!

In other words, if you feel you won something by the legalisation of gay marriage, but didn’t understand the price we paid for it — violating the rights of innocent citizens (who may or may not be bigoted religious zealots), I really pity you. I almost hope you choke on the irony, and I say this as someone who wanted gay marriage as much as you did.

I believe UKIP would fully support gay marriage but would not force any organisations (such as churches) to perform a marriage against their will. That is why I would choose them.

I am pro-immigration

I believe that the area of land on this small planet upon which we happen to start our lives is irrelevant to our fundamental nature as human beings. Not only is that the single greatest argument against racism, but it also means a truly free society does not restrict innocent citizens within its borders from living wherever they want. I believe where an individual chooses to live is not something the government, any government, should regulate.

I do find it humorously ironic, therefore, that those most supportive of immigration – those who have no problem with potentially anyone coming to Britain and having indirect access to the accumulated wealth of others, either through the NHS, housing or unemployment benefits – are the ones most vociferously opposed to their fellow citizens accumulating their own wealth. In other words, these people are quite happy to give me their money if I’m an immigrant, but spit blood at the suggestion of me keeping more of my own.

But I digress.

Immigration has been a matter of personal conflict because my belief in real freedom precludes me denying anyone the right to travel and live wherever they will – as if I, or we, have the right to draw a line beyond our own property and say “we, who call ourselves British, collectively agree that this area which none of us individually own is somehow ours to give or to take”. British people do not own the British land. “We” can decide only what to do with the land we actually own, and mind our own business about the rest. The only thing the British government should do is protect those who live on that land.

However, our law and our culture and our way of life is something that all members of this society should care about. And to claim that these things are not affected by, for example, barbaric uneducated unemployed superstitious religious fundamentalists, who mutilate the genitals of women, who see women and gays as second-class citizens, who despise the values of freedom and individualism, who want to see religious law as the law of the land, who believe in “honour” killings, who groom underage girls for prostitution and rape them (as a politically correct Council and police force turn a blind eye), who take what a relatively free society has to offer with one hand and plot its destruction with another… to claim that these things are a result of paranoia or racism and that they are not real terrifying problems that have happened and are happening in Britain – is an act of intellectual and moral cowardice. Anyone who denies the reality of this situation and the real threat it poses is an ethically bankrupt craven or an embarrassingly naïve ignoramus.

If we could adequately police our towns and cities (which we can’t, because no party other than UKIP believes in strengthening the police or army), and if our local councils were not crippled by political correctness and a terror of being perceived as discriminatory (which they are, but which UKIP would not be), and if the UK government could kick out these vermin from our nation (which it can’t under EU law but which UKIP would) and if we could stop such inhuman parasites coming into the country (which we can’t under EU law but which UKIP would), we could solve this social problem in one clean swoop.

You cannot have a generous welfare state and open immigration. You cannot have it both ways. You cannot tell the working people who prop up such inefficient and insolvent services that they must keep paying, keep sacrificing, keep “doing their part”, whilst the largest beneficiaries of such a system are those who have contributed the least, or nothing.

It seems to me that the NHS is here to stay. The welfare state is here to stay. If you care about these things, if you believe we in Britain must have these services then we must restrict who is able to take advantage of them. You cannot have it both ways. (A position that, as UKIP supporters and the polls show, finds agreement especially with ethnic minorities in British.)

I believe that the National Health Service should be a NATIONAL Health Service, not an International Health Service. It was created as a basic safety net for the very poor and helpless in society; a collective insurance policy that we all pay into. Certain party leaders can spout vacuous platitudes about helping people (whilst their own constituents struggle to pay bills), but that’s not the point. I will not even address the non-argument of enforced charity here except to say: if you think that people in this country, who are already playing the role of Atlas for this bloated and wasteful system, should have their money given away to non-contributors (or worse, corrupt foreign governments), at a time when old people who’ve paid into it all their lives are burning books to keep warm and dying in fuel poverty – yours is a position of self-hatred, altruism, insecurity, and misanthropy. Please go ease your fragile little conscience somewhere else, preferably with your own money. You don’t care about people, you hate wealth. You don’t want to save the world, you want to control it. You want an egalitarian utopia where everyone is equally poor.

What on earth is the problem with an Australian-style points system where, in order to live and work in this country, you have to have certain qualifications, not be a criminal (oh the humanity), and have your own health insurance for a brief initial period, after which you qualify for the full range of services the UK offers?

National sovereignty and the EU

Surely the most basic principle of evolved politics is that politicians are chosen in a free election by the citizens of a country, and the politicians represent and serve those people as best as possible. They then pursue the wishes and interests of their citizens and protect their value and freedoms. Did I miss anything?

Well that doesn’t happen anymore, if indeed it ever did. Being a politician today means using the power your people gave you, their money and their trust, like virtual resources in a computer game to trade with other politicians for favours and privileges. It means sacrificing and compromising on things that should never be sacrificed or compromised, to gain prestige, power, votes, or the goodwill and plaudits of others. Some might say that’s the whole point of politics. Well, forgive my innocence. I don’t think it should be that way.

National sovereignty isn’t about nationalism. It’s about the most important and sacred principle of free civilisation; something humanity spent thousands of years and millions of gallons of blood to fight for: that those who hold the most dangerous and corruptible of positions, our leaders, be these things to us: transparent, scrupulous, electable, impeachable, accountable, limited, delimited, and partisan.

A society where its leaders are not elected, cannot be unelected, cannot be vetoed, cannot be questioned by its people, can pass any law or statute without ratification or consensus, and are immune to referendum and resistance — is not free. It is feudalistic, elitist, oligarchic, and tyrannical. It will necessary descend, as all powerful and irremovable men of power have done, into totalitarianism.

If you hadn’t already guessed, I’m talking about the European Union – a lie that was sold to us as a mere trading partnership, but which is and always was intended to be, a supranational federal union. A utopia conceived by we-know-best elitist socialists even before the Second World War, the European federal government continues to accrue ever greater powers and authority to itself, with less and less autonomy residing in member states. Like all central planners, they refuse to let the facts of reality get in the way of “the dream”.

This isn’t the place for an exposé of the EU. You must do your own research and decide if those of us who dislike this insidious monstrosity are Europhobic “little Englanders” or not. What I must say is that there are those out there who love the EU. They are of a kind: they want globalisation, they care little about accountable government (because people allowed to choose might make the wrong choice), and they all say the same things and tow the party line on everything from climate change to Palestine to welfare to taxation to nationalisation to regulation to big government. They want this to happen. I have nothing to say to them and you should challenge everything they claim about Europe and Britain’s relationship with it (because most of it is lies). Don’t take my word for what I’m going to say. Please, research this yourself. When I say that the EU is run by fascist elitist undemocratic power-hungry megalomaniacs (many of whom are unabashed former communists and Marxists), obsessed with control over private life and property, who want to take away your precious right to elected representation, I am not revealing a conspiracy. This isn’t even a secret! This happens every day before our eyes, but most media sources don’t choose to report it. I wonder why. (That the EU gives ‘charitable donations’ to the BBC is surely a coincidence.)

If you care about personal freedom, accountable politicians, a say in what happens to you, your country and your government, you must oppose the EU.

I cannot emphasise this next point strongly enough, because it transcends the political spectrum (except for those on the far left and far right who only care about freedom of choice if they’re making the choices): it doesn’t matter if you’re left or right. It doesn’t matter if you’re pro-immigration or anti-immigration. It doesn’t matter if you’re a socialist or capitalist, pro-freedom or pro-statism. It genuinely does not matter whether we agree or not on anything. Why? Because if we, the British people, do not have control over the laws of our own land then nothing we say or do about politics matters. The EU can dictate to us if we should open our borders or close them. Today we are told to open them. Tomorrow we might be told to close them (yeah, right), and we’d have to comply. You might think terrorists should be allowed to live in this country. I think they should be deported. What does it matter? If the EU says they can stay, end of debate. They can give away our fishing waters, give away our borders, give away our money, ban our vacuum cleaners, have trackers installed in our cars and negotiate our trade deals. What does it matter what you think, what I think, what you think should be done, how much we argue, debate the matter, exchange opinions and maybe even agree – it does not matter – because we have no real power anyway. A bunch of bureaucrats in Brussels, people you’ve never heard of, who you didn’t elect, who you cannot remove from office, have control over the law of our land.

I find it so macabrely funny seeing the political parties falling over each other to bribe what they think is a credulous and capricious electorate with everything from: more of someone else’s money, NHS spending, less austerity (let’s pretend the debt doesn’t exist), increased foreign aid, stamp duty, devolvement, neo class warfare and envy, and (god forbid) more useless green taxes. They must think we’re all stupid. And does any of it matter in the long run anyway? When over half our laws are made in Brussels (a deliberately modest estimate at best), isn’t it pathetic to see these Party leaders squabbling over the fraction of power that the great EUSSR has deigned to let remain with us? (For now.)

This is why, in my opinion, the question of whether Britain remains in the EU is the single most important one to be answered in British politics today. It is why you have to vote UKIP if, regardless of whatever else you believe, you believe in this: that you’re voting for a British government.

Gravity – Review [film]


The only film I can claim to have seen four times in the cinema. Without a doubt, the greatest cinema experience of my life, restoring my faith in Hollywood and movies in general. A technical, directorial, cinematographic masterpiece, this is what 3D movies were made for. No, this is what movies were made for. It would be almost impossible to explain in a few paragraphs just how good this film is, and it probably is impossible to explain how I feel about it. But at least I can attempt the former. There is so much I could say but don’t want to give a running commentary, so I will try to limit myself to a few key points. Here goes:

The beauty of earth, the fragility of human life, the wonder of our technology, the determination of the human soul. Loneliness, emptiness, despair, depression, the incomprehensible vastness of the universe. Even the title of this film is a metaphor.

This is the first movie in over a decade I could allow myself to enjoy movie schmaltz and come away feeling uplifted. And the stunning score, which is just as much a part of the story as anything else, is undoubtedly a factor in this.

A friend of mine described his experience watching this as “spiritual”. Another had tears in his eyes at the end. I can completely relate to both those experiences. This is a completely immersive movie and if you are one of those people who allowed themselves to be immersed you won’t need me to explain this feeling.

Contrary to what some few have said, in my opinion the story of this film is not thin. The story is linear but it isn’t simple. So much of this story isn’t communicated by dialogue, but that’s the difference between a movie and a book; a lot of this story is told in true cinematic style: by the camera; how the shot is framed, the length of shot, the use of lighting and colour. And of course the unspoken or understated performances of the actors and actresses, the sound effects, the music, the objects in the foreground/background. I’m not talking about personal interpretation here, I’m talking about what you can experience with your senses.

We jump into another person’s life for 85 minutes (not real-time) and then jump out again. And there is so much that Cuarón wanted to say that to put it all together in such a short space of time, so well-paced, yet so enthralling and exciting and without smacking you over the head with it, is why the story is given the credit it is. Your brain is noticing all these things even if you aren’t consciously. It is why the rebirth in the airlock and the evolution on the shores of earth were on paper before the camera ever stated rolling. It’s why the story wasn’t even going to be set in space originally. It’s because Cuarón wanted to tell a particular story in a particular way, and the cinematic spectacle that it became was necessary to accomplish this. Everything visually and audibly stunning about Gravity serves the story, not the other way around.

My three favourite shots in this film could be said to encapsulate the story itself, or the three primary emotions I experienced, or maybe even three acts of this drama:

  1. The pan from Kowalski up to the earth in all its wondrous glory as we hear the first inklings of Ryan Stone’s theme. I remember seeing this for the first time in the cinema and being filled with awe at how huge the earth is, how beautiful it is, and just terrifying it would be to be an astronaut and actually see the earth above, or beneath you, with nothing but endless blackness all around. I can’t think of anything more simultaneously stunning and scary.
  2. External shot, slow pan from the Soyuz from the setting sun to the aurora borealis. Cold, lonely, silent, hopeless. Game over. There is no chance of rescue, no point in believing anymore. No point in going on.
  3. The Shenzou entering earth’s atmosphere as Tiangong’s debris burns up with it. Pure exhilaration. A firework display of colour and fire as our planet’s atmosphere, the thing which gives us life and shelters us from so many wild objects that fly through space, mercilessly incinerates everything – except one tiny thing: that small escape pod which humans, in their ingenuity, built to keep their kind alive. The solitary voice which has thus far sung Ryan Stone’s sad melody to us, now erupts in a full throng of human voices, as if from earth below, calling Ryan home. This isn’t fear anymore – this is sheer joy – this is laughing in the face of death, of adversity. This, along with the charge of the Rohirrim on the Pelannor fields, are my two favourite movie shots of all time.

So, what is this film about? Doing what each of us has to do every day of our lives: stand up on two feet in the full gravity of the only place in the totality of existence we are conditioned to survive, and keep going every day; live.

Gravity is, without doubt, the most beautiful film I have ever seen.

Final score for Gravity is: 10/10.

In Soviet Wales, Organ Donates You!

Last year, I was with friends in Wales, (Wrexham to be specific). On one afternoon we went shopping and they told me that I had to pay 5p for any bags I used. In other words: supermarkets, grocery stores, retail outlets – if you want to bag your goods there is a 5p mandatory fee for the bag. Why? Because the Welsh government passed a law forcing all retailers to impose a 5p fee on shopping bags. On principle, I refused to buy a bag in any store I went to. I even carried my goods the old fashioned way. Silly? Petty? No. Because this is the thinking behind the Welsh government in plain terms:

  1. People aren’t giving enough to charity, in our wise opinion.
  2. We want people to give more to charity, despite the fact they already have the free choice to do so and obviously are choosing not to.
  3. If we point a gun at private citizens who own retail shops, they will have to do whatever we tell them.
  4. Let’s do just that, and order them to surcharge their customers, other private citizens, into paying for carrier bags.
  5. Let’s then give that money to a charity/charities of our choosing.

Stop for a second and ask yourself what the reaction would be if a private corporation used its economic power and customer loyalty to increase its profits by simply raising prices on items that customers couldn’t do without? There would probably be uproar and boycotts and harsh language and another round of “blame all the greed and evils of the world on capitalism”. Actually, it might not get that far: the government might step in to stop one group of innocent private citizens from agreeing terms with other innocent private citizens because another group of citizens doesn’t like the idea. However, that same latter group of objectors is usually the sort which despises the very idea of a free enterprise gaining wealth through voluntary trade through value exchange, but has absolutely no problem with the State using its monopoly of physical force to dictate, at the point of a gun (because that is what physical force ultimately is), what two people may or may not trade and for how much, and whether your right as a human being to aid those in need, or not, is acceptable.

But it’s all for a good cause, isn’t it?

No. For years I have warned and written about fascism in our governments and how it will only keep increasing. I can use all the clichés I’d care: a slippery slope; the thin end of the wedge; the tip of the iceberg. The point is the same. When my friends told me that the law required a 5p compulsory charge on carrier bags, my first reaction was disbelief. ‘What a blatant and horrific abuse of political power!’ But, because it’s in the name of charity, the law was passed. (Of course, it wasn’t a law, it was a statute. A law in classic terms is one that protects the rights of human beings. Historically, no one is above the law, not even the Monarch or the government. Our governments get around this by issuing statutes, which are only valid because we don’t know any better to object. Of course, we are led a merry dance by a legal system, in league with lawyers, magistrates and the police, into thinking we have no lawful recourse. We do. It’s called the word ‘no’. But I digress…)

For one thing, charity at the point of a gun is not charity. If you want to give to charity, why do you need to be forced to pay for a carrier bag to do so? And even if you’re lazy and/or mindless enough to tolerate such decisions being taken off your fragile little mind, please don’t pretend to speak for the rest of us.

This is what happens when a government thinks it is on a holy crusade to make the world a better place. Why is this a bad thing? Because it comes down to how a government gets its own way, as opposed to the way the rest of us get what we want. It comes down the difference between economic power and political power. What is the difference between the two? What is the line? Where is the line? This is a question that is almost never asked in political debates, and never answered. Too many people have too much to gain by clouding the issue. The difference is this: physical force. As much as the Left would like you to believe differently, a vast corporation can only get to the top through exchanging values (it can get there through bribery and corruption, but only by the very system the Left wants). A corporation is only successful when it wins and retain customers. Customers are FREE to choose a corporation or its competitors. If they have no choice, then the corporation is the only one which can give them what they want. Without that corporation, they couldn’t have what they wanted anyway. This is economic power – the power to leverage based on the values you possess. Political power is exactly the opposite. Political power is this: do what I say, or I will hurt you. Or: do this and I will hurt you. No corporation is allowed this power, rightly so. Governments should have this power, otherwise they couldn’t function. But that is why this power should be used so sparingly and be strictly limited. The power of the government is: the right to point a gun at a person and force them to act (or not act), or punish them for acting (or not acting). This is why a government’s roles must be clearly defined. In other words, we the people invest our right to self-defence in the government and say: only you may use physical force, for everyone else it is banned. This, this and this, is where you should use it, and in no other circumstances.

It is the government’s sacred duty to protect our Rights. It is most certainly not the government’s job to decide whether or not we are giving enough to charity, and force us to charge other people on carrier bags!

If the government can use its power so flagrantly and arbitrarily, what else will it decide to do? What other moral crusades will it embark on?

When I heard about the 5p carrier bag levy, I said ‘it won’t stop there.’ And I was right…

…because now the Welsh government has decided that all its citizens are organ donors, unless they state otherwise. Let’s think about the implications of this for a moment: by simply living in Wales, this agency has assumed that it has the power to make claims over your body! The fact that you can opt out is irrelevant. The level of sheer arrogance and abuse of power to instantiate such a statue is mind-boggling. It is despicable and evil. By what possible power does such a government even base such a ruling on? How on earth does it get away with such a blatant violation of individual rights?

Let me say this again, because it’s being trotted out by those wishing to defend “paying back Caesar’s things to Caeser”: the fact that you can opt out is irrelevant! The very notion of “opting out” implies that if you don’t, you have consented to be an organ donor, which implies that the government’s claim over your organs is valid, which means that the government owns your organs…unless you explicitly claim them for yourself! I try to keep a modicum of decency on my blog, but, seriously, WHAT THE FUCK?!

What greater example could there be of a government claiming: ‘your life belongs to us’?

This is collectivism through and through. This is why a government that acts for “moral” reasons should never be trusted. This is why altruism and collectivism are two sides of the same coin. It is why collectivism always leads to Statism. It is why altruism is inconsistent with human well-being.

Almost all of us have come across the “classic moral dilemma” thought experiment at one point in our lives. The scenario usually involves a runaway train and people lying on the track, or a doctor who needs to save ten people at the cost of one organ donor. Even when confronted with the ten versus one “dilemma”, most people wouldn’t choose to kill the one innocent man to save ten (or even a hundred) because we recognise that regardless of the numbers involved, that one man’s life doesn’t belong to us. We also know, in our hearts, that the needs of the many do not outweigh the needs of the few. Or perhaps we’re more comfortable with the thought of a faceless government taking from a faceless man, something we wouldn’t be prepared to do ourselves if we had to look him in the eye and explain why.

But here, the Welsh government (perhaps drunk on the power of finally being able to rule its staggering population of 3 million (less than a major UK city)), has turned that thought experiment into reality. Oh dear, it seems they’ve actually taken it literally: what do you do when you aren’t getting enough organ donors? Claim ownership of all the people you are faithfully entrusted to protect, and their organs. It’s amazing what you can do with power, isn’t it?

Of course, this raises the question: why are organ donations so low? Well, I don’t claim to have all the answers to that, but it seems to me that organ donations historically rely on one key factor: someone has to die. (But hey, we might not have to even wait for that in the future.) Maybe organs are becoming harder to get because fewer people are dying? Which raises an even more interesting thought experiment: what if, due to medical advances (no, don’t laugh – even with the NHS, it could happen…), the quality of life greatly reduces the incidence of death, and life expectancy increases? What if, due to these factors, organ donations drop 90% over the next 50 years? My question to the Welsh government is: what then?

Of course, the obvious retort might be: “we’re not saying more people have to die, just that more people have to donate”, (although it seems somewhat hard to do one without the other…). So, maybe there are plenty of deaths (hoorah), but not enough people consenting to be organ donors? It almost makes you think there could be a perfectly valid moral reason that free individuals have chosen not to be cannibalised for their parts after death. Or, maybe many just never give it a second though. (I admit, I would happily be an organ donor but I haven’t given it that much thought. Is this laziness on my part? Maybe. Does this mean I’ve defaulted on my duties and now my body belongs to the State? Nope.) Perhaps raising public awareness and education is the way to go? Maybe people aren’t feeling particularly generous towards others (I can think of a few reasons why, in this day and age – what, when everyone seems to be lobbying the government to get something off you)?

Nah, much easier to do it by force. And the most damning part of this is that the statue passed by 43 votes to 8 with two abstentions. That’s 81% of the government which saw no problem in claiming property rights over the people it exists to protect.

This wicked and inhuman action by a tin-pot government sets a very dangerous precedent, just like the silly 5p carrier bag fee did.

And the saddest part is that the most outspoken critics of this action are religious leaders! Jesus Christ, what have we come to when the people who believe in invisible beings in the sky are the ones leading the charge for morality?! Oh but don’t worry, these are the nasty religious zealots the left-wing humanists are so eager to get rid of before they fill your kids’ heads with nonsense (in their Church of England or Catholic school, where they’d probably get a better education than your secular state school anyway).

The arguments in favour of the bill? “It will save lives”. The British Medical Association praised the bill, also praising how Wales was “leading” the UK on the ban on smoking in public places years ago. The only thing the Welsh Assembly is leading is the march towards statism (and given the competition that’s an impressive feat).

It will save lives.” When that is the strongest moral justification for the monstrous violation of an individual’s sovereign claim to his own life and property, things will only get worse. I was going to make a rather macabre list of all the people who could be sacrificed if the end goal was simply to save more lives, but I won’t. I’ll leave it to you to think through the implications of this line of reasoning.

This little fiasco is, for me, a perfect example of the socialist mindset in action: erode the notion of genuine acts of kindness and compassion between human beings by assuming that such actions are a duty, not a free gift. Therefore, undermine the only genuine basis for human compassion (free will) by making charity a penance to be exacted for the sin of not giving enough.

Remember this the next time someone tries to tell you you’re living in a democracy. Did you give the State the power to lay claim over your body? Probably not. Even if you did, does any government have the moral right to take such a power even if it were offered up? Even if it could, do you have the right to claim the body and organs of another, using the government as your proxy? Does anyone group, no matter how large, have such a right? Does the number of people who claim your body change the fact that it is yours, your property, and no one else’s? Does any group, gang, minister, assembly, or representative have the moral right to make such a claim?

Only if your life belongs to the State by default. Which means that, after thousands of years of recorded history, having resigned tribalism to primitive corners of the earth, after the feudalism and despotism of the Dark Ages, having survived the Pharaohs and the Emperors and the Lieges, having outgrown the Divine Right of Kings and slavery, having fought civil wars to establish constitutional republics, having written the Magna Carta and the Constitution of the United States, having fought at least one world war against fascism, after seeing “The People” of communism intentionally starve millions , and “The Father Land” of German slaughter millions in its quest for perfection, after bringing the Berlin wall down… in the year 2013, in Wales, if you do not explicitly declare your body to be your own property, the State needs must take it as it wills.

It’s said the Welsh Assembly is “leading the way”. The scary thing is, where there are leaders there are followers.

More deaths from NHS neglect and the quango that let it happen

James Delingpole has written a great (and highly sarcastic) piece about the latest NHS deaths-by-neglect, and the failure of the CQC quango to even notice. He says quite ludidly: ‘if the NHS is the envy of the world, the world must be bonkers’. Here is one article about the original story. In brief, the Care Quality Commission, yet another public entity created by New Labour many years ago at UK taxpayer’s expense, wasn’t all that interested in care and quality, not enough to prevent the deaths of a thousand patients through neglect (and subsequently lying about the number of inspections it actually carried out).

Now, it would be all too easy to point the finger (yet again) at this atrocious socialist monster and at how it’s failed. I’m not going to use the deaths of innocent people just to make a rather obvious political point. But I want to reiterate two things:

1. Would this have happened in a private healthcare institution, or to re-phrase: is the NHS actually needed for the vast majority of people? I firmly say: no. The fact that the State has prevented this vital market from being left to evolve and grow naturally to a lucrative, efficient and safe one (just like…you know, almost every market which is left free), means that healthcare costs constantly rise (the opposite of what tends to happen in free markets), service and quality declines (the opposite of what tends to happen in free markets), rationing occurs and service becomes scarce (the opposite of…you know). Private healthcare is NOT so expensive because it’s meant for the rich, it’s expensive precisely because the government has consistently backed this loser and kept all but the most bespoke and expensive competition down. This beast is simply not allowed to fail. Like a race horse with two broken legs, the NHS doesn’t need a bandage, it needs a bullet between the eyes.

To answer my own question: would people ever be neglected in a private hospital? Of course I can’t say no. But would private hospitals and overseeing bodies get away with such gross neglect of their customers for so long, and then have their leaders retire on lucrative pensions? Just now, the government is debating whether to introduce criminal penalties for “reckless” bankers. But reckless heads of quangos are allowed to retire peacefully and rich. Why are the public not stamping up and down and threatening to boycott (somehow) funding the NHS? (It’s not the same thing, but council tax would be a good place to start.) When you think of the ridiculous (or non-existent) things some idiots in this country riot about, just when there is really good reason to cause a (peaceful) fuss and make our voices heard….nothing.

2. And this is the real point: no free-market supporter, no capitalist, would EVER claim that neglect would never happen in our system. No capitalist has ever claimed that our system would provide perfect cheap universal healthcare to everyone. No capitalist has ever made that famous promise of “no child left behind”. Why? Because those promises are unreal. No one can promise that, because the world simply doesn’t work that way. It’s like promising that it won’t get cold (actually that’s the sort of promise the Met Office would make), or promising clueless voters that under no circumstances can we allow this Bank Holiday to be blighted with rain. That’s because free-market supporters are in touch with reality. It’s called rationality. The world cannot be different just because you’d like it to be. (This is the single biggest reason why egalitarianism is evil.) Not even with a blank cheque and the nation’s funds behind you can this be done. The NHS fails, like socialism fails, because it simply cannot work. You cannot have a system based on supply and demand that doesn’t obey the laws of supply and demand.

But, as I said two years ago, after everything that has happened, after the evidence of history, after the countless deaths through neglect and malpractice under the NHS, after the pathetic waiting lists, the shoddy service, the terrible quality, bored unincentivised doctors and nurses, regulation after regulation, a national debt in the hundreds of millions, careless and evil commissions failing to do their job, and some more deaths, the Left will not be budged! It will still say: if we get rid of the NHS (or greatly reduce its scope) think of all the people who will die or not be able to afford healthcare.

And what exactly has your system given us?! See the NHS section of my A-Z links page; we are talking tens of thousands of avoidable deaths. Over the decades it’s probably a lot more than that. In the 21st century, old people are burning books in the back garden to keep warm because they can’t afford to pay the bills, or just dying in dirty hospitals. Babies are dying from neglect, but the Left still has the sheer bald-faced arrogance to blame private businesses and free markets for the world’s woes, and scream that we cannot possibly abandon “the envy of the world” and let our babies, mothers, fathers, friends, parents and the elderly alone to die. Err…and what exactly do they think is happening under their system now?! It’s like a Soviet commisar declaring that capitalism is evil because it cannot feed the starving people of the country. And that is why it is incredible arrogance, because none of these deaths ever, ever, makes the Left question its ideology, or even wonder if there is maybe some little flaw with its system. The answers it always proposes? More tax (of course), more regulation, more ‘reforms’, or another quango like the CQC.

In my opinion, most quangos are inherently open to inefficiency and corruption, incompetence and carelessness for three simple reasons: they are not directly answerable to their customers. They are not directly subject to the laws of supply and demand. They are financed by the State. I leave it to you to consider whether this maybe, in some tiny way, just might create a conflict of interest where objectivity is concerned.

tl;dr – the NHS yet again kills more people, a government quango yet again fails to spot it. National insurance will continue (and rise). The very thing that doesn’t exist and which will cure the healthcare industry, a free-market, will be avoided on the grounds that it can’t possibly care for everyone, everywhere, all the time, instantly and freely. And since socialised medicine can and does (!!) we cannot abandon it.