Big Society!!

(Intro x4)

(Verse 1)

Do you want to work at the BBC?

Do you want to make money for HSBC?

Profit from death, they’ll privatise you’re last breath,

No More NHS,

It’s pissing down in this dirty old town,

The wind strikes at your undersides,

The aged, decrepit, the frail and addicted, young and affected,

Wait in the howling wind for the elected

(Chorus)

This is David Cameron’s idea of a big society,

This is His dream of a warped up reality

(Bridge)

(Verse 2)

Do you want to study in a hole with no electricity?

For two thousand pounds a term,

Paid directly to the University,

They’ll enlighten your soul with intellectual garbage,

But forget it if you’re disadvantaged,

Because all they want to do is pocket the lot, and leave you to rot,

And if you can’t pay, they’ll kill you on the spot,

(Chorus)

This is David Cameron’s idea of a big society,

This is His dream of a warped up reality

(Bridge)

(Verse 3)

The union’s strike for the worker’s right,

But the Union reps, they ain’t gonna feel the bite,

On forty grand a year, they’ll be all right,

They say money is the power,

And like lemmings off a cliff they’ll follow you down,

But I don’t follow the same dreams,

I don’t perceive the same world,

I don’t want to go to Eton,

I don’t want a promotion,

(Chorus)

This is David Cameron’s idea of a big society,

This is His dream of a warped up reality

(Middle 8)

There ain’t no hope for us the youth,

This society ain’t shedding its skin for truth,

It would rather hide in deceit and lunacy,

Cameronism laid bare in all its cruelty,

Punishing the poor for the gambling of bankers,

Singing the gospel of money, greed, individualism

Indoctrinating the people, and Etonionising Parliament,

New Labour can’t save us now

(Chorus)

This is David Cameron’s idea of a big society,

This is His dream of a warped up reality

Trip!

The wind sighed softly as our four shadows (and backpacks) trailed in silhouettes against the setting sun, marching steadily up the steep incline towards the crest of that hill dominating the darkening sky. The soft thuds of our boots on the hardening earth meticulously sang in rhythm to the whistling of the wind. Above and beyond, nothing could be seen but barren rocky outcrops drinking the last of the sun’s light, fields of green grass turned crimson by the light of that setting ‘autumn’ sun and sheep grazing in the meadows below. Yeah, a beautiful setting surrounded our four shadows as we continued to march towards the impending freedom of insanity that awaited the other side of that ridge. “Just a few more feet,” a wheezing voice echoed inside my head, as I struggled to regain my breath as we continued to head upwards towards the setting sun, which was sinking slowly but surely behind the hills directly above us. “Fuck me, how much longer man?” I wheezed, out loud this time.  “It’s just this crest here,” the reply was delivered by the wind, which was beginning to pick up speed the farther on we climbed. It was also getting darker, much darker.

Our little gathering this evening included Dic Nugget, a short man in stature, but what he made up for in height and weight, he more than compensated for in the size of his black, tangled dreadlocks, which far surpassed his shoulders, and probably his waist too. It was hard to tell for sure right now due to the all-encompassing and rapidly advancing darkness, as the sun had more or less all but slipped off to slumber behind the hills by now.  Dic wore his signature turquois khakis loose around his waist and his signature headband striped and tarred in the ever familiar colours of the Jamaican national flag adorned across the top of his head, through which his dreads hung and weaved around like they would the roots of a tree.

Then there was Neil Davies. Neil was a large man, well over 6 ft. but almost as skinny as those liberty caps he loved to consume so much. He sported a mangled mesh of brown hair which was never particularly long, just bushy. But anyway, we were all scruffy looking bastards with an appetite for psilocybin mushrooms really. Why the hell else would we be traipsing up the side of this mountain at nightfall for?

The third in our party was John Strebora, another lover of eating mushrooms. He was short in stature, around the waist and maybe around 5”7. He wore short and trimmed down black hair, and was always grinning like a fucking Cheshire cat on acid.  And then there was me, Omar Awana. A strange name, I grant, which may also indicate that my parents were stoned when they named me. I stood at 5”7, and tonight wore a navy blue t-shirt with the inscriptions ‘GWERINAETH’ (REPUBLIC) written in white lettering, pair of jeans as black as the night sky with two gaping holes above both knees, a pendant wooden necklace fashioned in the shape of the African continent and a headband tied around my head. Again, through which my dreadlocks hung loosely around.

Eventually, our feet felt even ground as we arrived at the top of the crest. Still, the jagged outline of an endless hilly skyline slid and spiralled for countless miles farther on. I glanced around to take in my panoramic surroundings; to the east, west, north and south an endless web of hills and ridges encircled us. Directly above us stood the jagged peaks of the tallest giants grinning in the shade of the pale full moon light that had begun his day’s work of ejaculating light into the dark corners of the world. Below us it was just about possible to make out a menacing orange glow in the distance that indicated the direction of the nearest town.

“Well then, let’s brew some fucking mushrooms,” a voice booming and brimming with excitement came bouncing out of the darkness towards me from out somewhere to the left. It was possible to make out three immovable shadowy figures standing solitude around me, but to make out faces was impossible.

“Let’s make camp then; Dic take the stove out. You got the mushrooms right Neil?”

“Yeah, yeah, they’re here. Hurry up though; I’m fucking freezing out here.” The wind was picking up speed, and unless we began tripping soon, we would probably freeze to death. It was hard to move due to the stiffening cold that was like some monster wrapping its icy tentacles around our throats, slowly preventing our ability to breath.  We all sat down almost simultaneously on the cold, hard earth, crossing our legs and adjusting our positions so as we sat in a near perfect circle that was soon to become our cooking area. Rucksacks were tossed violently out on the ground, the stove removed from one dark-blue ‘sack and carefully placed down in the middle of our circle. “I’ll find some stones to create a small fire-pit,” I announced. “Yeah, cool. We’ll put that tent up ‘en,” Dic replied. Our moment of stationary respite was short-lived, as we all reluctantly lifted ourselves onto our feet again and began to get productive.

Through the darkness I prodded on awhile from the camp, scanning meticulously for any signs of rocks that we could use to build a fire pit. I walked for perhaps a hundred meters before reaching the cliff edge. I stared down for what must have been a minute and a half in silent admiration at the sheer depths of the abyss that seemed to drop endlessly below. A profound feeling of despair and loneliness took hold as I looked down into the endless darkness dropping so many hundreds of meters. But somehow it felt almost like I’d imagine looking into the depths of Hell and hearing only contented silence whilst knowing full well that somewhere out there you can still hear the screams of a million tortured souls, silenced by shadows. A despair so strong, but yet a freedom so pure. Fuck. Back to the rocks. I picked up a pile of suitably round and medium-sized rocks from the ground and carried them back to camp.

Again I prodded back towards camp, towards the flickering light that had suddenly appeared out there in the ocean of darkness that encapsulated everything by now. This flickering light must serve as an indication that the gas-canister powered stove had been turned on and the mushrooms brewing. “Here are some rocks. We carried some firewood up in them rucksacks did we not? Those mushrooms brewing?”

“Yeah, mushrooms on the stove. Yeah, we have some firewood out here,” came the reply by John who had meticulously laid out the firewood down on the ground. The tent was also up, albeit flapping viciously in the wind. It was hard to make out the colour of the tent in the dark, but it was around the size of, well … I guess any normal-sized four man tent. Our intention was to sleep in the fucking thing. No good navigating the treacherous slope back down to civilization until at least dawn.

After surveying the tent, my gaze was then drawn back down to our make-shift kitchen. By now a metallic saucepan sat centre-stage on the stove; within it lay countless little caps, bobbing lightly on the surface of the bubbling water, wrestling for space up top. “There must be about a thousand in there. Jesus.” I exclaimed, half in awe, half in shock. “Yeah, soon to be some more,” grinned John as he ever so casually protruded another handful of slimy mushrooms from a pouch and dumped them into the broth.

Again, we all sat down cross legged on the hard earth, staring at the brewing broth while John assembled the stones and set about lighting a small fire; a feat he accomplished within minutes.  The new found warmth and light emulating from the fire, albeit small, was indeed welcomed.

Up above, the moon sat watching, waiting, sniggering at the little people playing on the top of his hill. The moon knows, the moon listens, and the moon waits.

30 minutes later ….

 

I dipped my plastic cup into the broth, scooping up as much of the mushroom juice that I could fit into the thing, wiping away any excess pieces of mushrooms still sticking around the rim of the cup. “Iechyd Da!” I exclaimed as I raised my cup into the frosty air and drank the fucking thing down in one. As I tossed the plastic cup onto the side, I had to resist the urge to throw the whole thing back up! “Ugh, tastes like shit!”

“Yeah, … to..o … right!” John wheezed and coughed and spurted, trying desperately to get some words out of his mouth in between strained gulps of mushroom juice. Dic and Neil had already drained the last of their cups, and were already headed for the sanctuary of the tent to wait for the trip to kick in. “Yo, in the tent,” a near-distant voice tried to compete against the groaning, lashing wails of the wind. John and I ran, rucksacks in tow, with murderous intent the twenty meters or so to the sanctuary. “Quick, quick, get in. That wind is savage.” We all scrambled desperately into the sanctuary that the tent provided against the whips that the wind was dishing out at us on all sides. We slammed our rucksacks down victoriously on the ground-floor of the tent. “Here, here. Take some of this. It will clear your mind a bit whilst waiting for the trip to kick in.” Dic was waving around a salt shaker, half filled with cocaine. I took the shaker from his outstretched hand and sprinkled some of the divine white powder onto the palm of my hand, and then proceeded to snort the substance up my nose. I handed the shaker over to the shadow on my left.                                                                                                                                                 “Well, now we wait,” said Neil. “Now, we wait”, a chorus of echoing voices preceded and nodded in agreement. “Here, take some of this,” a bottle of blood, red wine was being passed around. I took the bottle, drank deeply, and passed on to the shadow on my left.

“You know, we should seriously think about sabotaging the Israeli water supply with magic mushrooms. It would do those fuckers a world of good, plus maybe they’d leave people alone then,” it was Neil who broke the ‘political’ flood gates, apparently.

“Yeah, sure, send that little fascist Netanyahu a bomb while you’re at it too. Magic mushrooms would be the last thing that I’d think of unleashing on those fuckers,” I said. “No, no, no, no, no. Bombs won’t solve the Middle East out. Netanyahu’s death won’t solve anything; he’d just be replaced by some other guy. Spiking the water with shrooms though? That’s a good idea. Make them look and perceive life differently. Make them appreciate and value the lives of other humans a bit more,” it was John this time who took the argument further. The wine bottle was again passed to me; I took another swig and passed the bottle on. “What we need is peace and harmony. World peace, not politics and violence. Just learn to love and respect each other as humans. Why can’t we just do that?” John pleaded passionately, advocating world harmony.

“Exactly, there’s got to come a time eventually when people will begin to realize that hatred just breeds further hatred. The cycle of violence continues only because we allow it to continue, and it will stop only when we want it to stop, get me?” Dic spoke out for the first time during the conversation, primarily because he was busy slicing up lines of cocaine on the top of his I-Phone. He passed the phone along with a rolled up £20 bank note to me, complete with adorned Queen of England’s face curled up and ready to accept the white tsunami headed her way. I grabbed the phone with a trembling hand and proceeded to hoover up the white dust up my nostrils before passing it on to my left.

“Hey! I feel a little weird. Something’s happening; maybe some fresh air would be nice.” Three silent nods nodded in approval. We all walked out the flap-entrance of the tent into the waiting arms of the night.

 

The Trip

 

The air outside the stuffy tent felt cool, and somehow milder now than earlier. However, the wind still kept howling at the moon, lashing its savage whip down upon the mountain-top that we stood upon. I looked up towards the sky; it was dark, and full of clouds, but every now and again the full moon would pop out, send us a wave, and pop back into the clouds again. I looked at the faces of Dic, John and Neil, and it was hard to make out their faces completely, but I could make out just enough to know that they were all grinning. “I feel like taking a walk,” I said, glancing upwards towards the ridge above us extending all the way up to the sky and the stars beyond. Of the latter, it was hard to make them out due to the density of the clouds above. “Let’s go somewhere,” agreed Neil. I looked down on my hands, which I noticed were trembling a bit, or was I just beginning to experience some double-vision? We started walking in unison towards some unknown direction; I couldn’t quite make out if we were headed up, or down, or nowhere at all. Hell, my mind didn’t even know where we were going, let alone my body. I couldn’t be quite sure, but I think we were headed towards our fire-pit, and my suspicions were realized when we sat down in front of the slow, burning embers.

We all sat in complete silence for a while. I think we were all at that stage just before real lift-off. You know? That point where the rocket’s about to take off, you feel a sharp, gut-churning feeling in your stomach, like some little gnome is going crazy with a pair of shears in there. Certainly the cocaine helped level out the feeling a little, but if anything, the red wine had made it a little worse. Shit. The bottle was still in the tent.

“Fuck, fuck, I need to … I..ne.ee….d to … yeah!” I sat up from my hard-earthen chair and headed for the tent in some haste with my arms outstretched with, I believe, the sole-intention of pushing Mr. Wind out of my way. I tore open the tent door and slid inside, squatted in the far corner, untied my belt and pulled my trousers down to my ankles. I squatted in the corner ready to take a shit before a momentary moment of sanity returned to me as I realized that I was about to take a shit in the tent and decided to retract the thought from my mind; the moment of sanity was short lived however, as the following seconds were preceded with loud cackles. I lifted my trousers back up (but not completely) and proceeded to piss into the corner of the tent. I watched in sheer amazement as a yellow lake began expanding in between my legs, the yellow liquid dripping and streaming all over the place. As I watched the river of piss begin to flow in my direction, I decided it was time to vacate the premises, to abort the mission. I pulled my trousers up, fumbled with my belt and walked back out into the night.

I scanned the new horizon that suddenly confronted me. No one was in sight; everyone had taken off running in unknown directions. Now this WAS lift-off. I couldn’t quite make out from which way the sounds were coming from, but somewhere out there I could hear distinctive, but muffled cackles ringing in my ears. I began to follow the sound, but somehow got tangled following the trail. Up above, the moon was indeed laughing this time. Pissing himself with laughter and amazement, looking down at us shroomed-out little people playing at the top of his hill.

Now, reality was really beginning to distort itself, to erode and dissolve into something really quite different. Everything became distorted; sound, smell, reality, perception of size and distance. Still no sign of anyone else, only this faint, muffled cackle in the dark and this terrible ringing in my ears that was beginning to get annoying. That fucking cackling sounded like some drunken witch had taken a wrong turn home and had gotten lost on her broomstick while trying to find her destination. I decided to walk a little towards the light I could see in the distance. Of course, this light that I was seeing in the distance was the light pollution emulating from the nearest town, which meant I decided to walk further down the hill. Where the fuck was everyone else? I could hear their cackling, but it was impossible to interpret in which direction it was coming from. I decided to take off down the slope regardless.

… A little later

 

 

I got as far as the plateau, just before the ridge begins winding up from the valley floor towards the hills above, having lost all sense of being at this stage. My initial mission of re-grouping with the others was certainly forgotten for now. “Whaawe, fuck!!” From the corner of my eye I saw a movement, a figure darting just past my screen of vision. I craned my neck to try and get a better view at this ‘figure’ that was stalking me in the shadows. My neck wouldn’t crane far enough to catch up with this shadow, so I tried craning my body instead. The move was attempted too quickly, and I slipped on a strip of wet mud and fell flat on my arse as I tried to move my body into such a position that would’ve enabled me to face this creature following me. As I lifted my head forwards towards the sky, I could sense a presence lurking nearby. Was it the creature? It was close; I knew the thing was close. I adjusted my eyes, gave them a sharp rub and BANG! It appeared before me. The creature; staring down at me with open bemusement, with these pale, green eyes, and yes! It took me a few seconds to distinguish what these green lanterns seemingly just floating in the darkness were. They were eyes, no doubt about it.

I slowly attempted to get back up onto my feet, using my hands to steady myself. The creature remained immobile, it just perceived to be watching me with keen interest. Its white skin contrasted starkly with its eyes; its green, green, pale eyes floating in the darkness a few feet away from me, but its skin was as thick and white like winter snow. My gaze suddenly became fixated on something else, somewhere out there behind me. It was some intriguing noise that drew my gaze, some scurrying noises out there in the tall grass. My gaze was turned maybe a couple of seconds before my eyes found that of the creature’s again, which still hadn’t moved, it was just staring intensely at me. Except this time it didn’t look like an animal at all. In fact, it wasn’t an animal. It was … whha… The… fuu… it was a washing machine! I rubbed my eyes again. Yeah, those eyes were …what…digital..green..screen. No, that can’t be right?

I tried to speak to the machine, but words failed me. Only an ad-hoc combination of gibberish came out.  I was in disbelief as to what I was seeing up here in the mountains. But to my bewilderment, the machine did speak, grinding its metallic teeth, churning, sinister, and dark. I couldn’t make out what words this mechanical beast was spitting at me, but eventually I found the courage to confront this monstrosity. “Who the fuck is you to try and intimidate me man?” I screeched at the mechanical monster. “Get out of here,” I put one foot in front of me, and waved my hands and arms around like a mad man to try and frighten the beast. It worked; the beast retreated, scurrying off on its mechanical legs into the darkness somewhere. This was indeed a victory. However, I still had other problems to face.

I turned around to try and catch a glimpse of whatever it was that I had heard scurrying around in the undergrowth. The valley had suddenly become deathly quiet. Even the wind had stopped whistling, the moon had stopped laughing and the trees had stopped sighing. It was time that my attentions turn to re-grouping with the people that I had left behind at the top of that hill. Glancing upwards again towards that crest in the distance felt like I had just completed walking the Pacific Crest Trial and asked to go back to the start to do it again. I began walking.

The Top Again!

 

 

It must have taken me at least an hour and a half to get to the top, but when I eventually arrived, it was deserted. The moon and the wind were the only company there to greet me. Where in the world was everyone else? I arrived at our make-shift campsite; the burning embers of the fire had all but died down, the tent was still flapping viciously in the wind, but nothing else seemed to have changed that much since my last visit a few hours ago. Nothing … apart from … I ran towards the tent, unzipped the door and peered inside. It was empty, and only one dark-blue rucksack stood within. This was bizarre. They wouldn’t have gone back down without me? Would they? I zipped up the tent door, sat inside and pondered. We were four shadows trailing up that hill weren’t we? My mind began racing with worry, with confusion, with fear. Why was there only one rucksack in the tent?

I sat within the tent for what must have been a good half-hour in complete silence, without even moving a muscle. The salt-shaker and the bottle of wine were still littered on the floor. I grabbed both, took a swig of the wine, and proceeded to chop up a fine line of cocaine. I was beginning to think that I had gone mad. I unzipped the tent door again and walked out into the night.

It was cool out here; the moon was beginning to yawn and ponder going to bed, and the wind had by now dropped to a steady breeze. I decided to walk towards the cliff edge slowly, shouting out the names of those who had abandoned me. It took me a good twenty minutes to get there due to my snail-sized steps. When I eventually got there, I again studied the enormous depths of the abyss that dropped so many hundreds of feet below.

Whilst deep in thought, I heard a voice, a whisper. I looked up, around and below to try and determine the source of this voice. “Over here,” it whispered softly. I looked out across the cliff edge, and sure enough, there was a man standing there, half consumed in shadow. “Who are you,” I whispered back. The man stepped forward, revealing his face. It was Bill Hicks. He was standing in front of me, cigarette in mouth, chugging away, but somehow floating above the cliff edge. “Remember Omar, all of this, this is just a ride. It is just a ride.”

“Wwwhaat? … Why are you here? I just came up with some friends to trip man,”

“What friends? They’re in your head boy. They’re in your head. You walked up this barren land with nobody and nothing. You will leave here with even less,” came Bill’s voice, as cool as a cucumber drifting through the early morning breeze. This cryptic message left me dumbfounded and confused. “I don’t understand,” I said. “You will, in time. It will all became clear, because remember! This is just a ride. You see the bottom of this abyss here?” was his reply.

“No, it’s too dark to see the end of that tunnel,” I answered his question. “It’s time to join me, to join all the rest whose time on Earth has run its course,” was Bill’s cryptic response.

                                              “But Bill, what does that even mean man?” I said. “Come. Place your foot in front of the other, and walk out into the darkness,” was his answer.  And then, as soon as Bill’s spectre had appeared, it dissolved and disappeared. I was left again in silence, an eerie silence that scared me more than anything else. I looked over the cliff edge at the darkness that lay down the bottom, took one last look at the yawning moon, and as Bill had instructed, I spread my arms wide like an eagle, placed one foot and then another in front, and walked out into the darkness.

It felt like I was falling for an hour when in actual fact it might have been more like twenty seconds. But either way, it was just a ride. The morning breeze felt cool on my face as I fell into oblivion, into a final sleep.

…The yawning moon’s gaze was now drawn to the scene of the boy falling off his hill to his final slumber. He began laughing. A laugh so coarse that it could frighten the shit out of anyone; he has seen the lives of billions go before, another death won’t faze him. The moon sat and pondered a while after life had left the boy, thinking of his own immortality, thinking that if his lights were to go off forever, so would the light of everyone on this planet that he watches over. The moon closed his eyes and slid off to sleep, thinking his final thought for the day; for the boy now;

…. There is only darkness.

The sky was a black hole, broken and dying!

We slivered silently into the night,

And held each other firmly, as if losing grip would mean the end of all things,

The collapse of Empires and the death of Kings,

We proceeded to walk slowly down the broken streets,

Clouds of dust seemingly danced to the wrong beat,

The clouds drifted unknowingly, innocent in the cold breeze,

And we walked on past like apparitions, barely visible through the smoke,

Barely alive, standing in the wake of death,

Choking on ash and gasping for breath,

The streets were empty and cold, dark and old,

Decaying, rusting underneath the fierce glow of the moon,

The cobbles, the bricks, the broken buildings held a million stories,

Lost in the vortex of time’s forgotten pains and worries,

There was not a soul in sight, everyone was dead,

When the bombs fell we were still shivering in bed,

And everyone’s now gone, everyone’s left,

If they would’ve told us a year ago that nuclear Armageddon would kill us all,

We would’ve laughed,

gwrth-niwclar

We still proceeded on walking through the empty, decaying streets,

Through the clouds of dust and the rubble,

Ahead, we could sense nothing but trouble,

The sky was a black hole, broken and dying,

She wept because humankind had abandoned her,

And we could see that no free birds were flying,

They had all vanished like everything else, sucked into the everlasting mystery of space,

Looking up at the lifeless sky, I kept asking myself the same question: Was it worth it?

For greed and insanity had finally sealed our fate,

We were all that was left now of this once mighty human race,

The rest had gone towards the sky and left without a trace,

Now we’ve nowhere left to hide, nowhere left to run,

But if we leave this world behind, we can find peace in the sun,

And we carried on running regardless, passing carcasses of cars and empty bars,

We carried on going until a feeling of exhilarating loneliness took hold,

A despair so strong it forced us to kneel,

We faced the sky, like spirits, we were ready to die,

When suddenly, a sliver of crimson appeared along the horizon,

A rising sun faced us to the east, climbing out of the darkness,

A heat so fierce,

An end so beautiful,

We stared wide-eyed at the spectacle,

Marvelling at the crimson arms of the sun as it twisted meticulously through the sky like vines,

We needed a better look, we needed to see,

So we darted up the nearest broken tower, the largest in all the city,

But all that we saw at the top made us shudder, for it was countless miles of smoke and death,

Rising like pillars into the sky, ‘Salam Alikum brother!’ a tribute to all that lay forgotten in the rubble,

We unwrapped and loaded the gun that we had, trembling all the while,

I raised it to her head while she stared up into oblivion, shaking like a falling leaf on a misty autumn morning,

And without further warning, I pulled the trigger,

A single tear crept down my face as I raised the gun again,

Numb to all pain within,

As everything was already lost,

I hesitated a moment, just a moment,

Before raising the gun to my own head,

And ending the life of the last human on Earth.

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Cai O’Marah//Palestine pt/1.

I followed the events of the war in Gaza last July closely. I remember the images of burning buildings, carcasses lining the streets, mortar shells fired from naval vessels off shore targeting children playing on the beaches, images forever etched in my memory. It was all adorning our TV screens hourly for more than a month. A hideous reminder of Israel’s continued occupation. The lies spewing out the TV screen from national statesmen, the Americans, the ugly face of (Israeli Prime Minister) Netanyahu telling people to calm the fuck down. Telling people in international addresses that bombing children is a required step towards stamping out extremism and terrorism. Tell me, who the fuck is the terrorist? Yeah, I was aware of the Israeli occupation previously, but the flames of passion were lit for me last July. I decided I needed to visit the Palestinian Territories for myself, if only to witness, to learn, to speak with the people living under a brutal occupation. I made contact with a grassroots (and secular!) organization based in Bethlehem in the West Bank (travel to Gaza is currently only granted to individuals and groups with journalistic or diplomatic credentials). The week before my departure was socially well-stocked up on nights of drink, dance, song and cocaine. My friends kept warning me not to antagonize anyone with a gun, and not to come home in a body bag! After that, I was set to go, to actually travel to the very place that has occupied the catacombs of my mind for at least six months now. But first I would have to travel over-night down to London!

Arriving at an airport feeling like shit at 4am is not fun! Sleep had not come easy on the train as it whizzed past the midland cities of Wolver Hampton, Birmingham etc. with nothing to see outside the steamed window apart from a dreary landscape flooding in rain-water and the specks of distant lights from closed windows seemingly just floating in the darkness. To make matters worse, when I eventually arrived at Euston Station in London, I was told that the next connection to Gatwick was not until 5 am. This guy also went ahead to tell me that the terminal will be closing in fifteen minutes and will not be re-opening until 4:30am. This must have been around 1:15am.
Having not slept for eighteen hours or so, the thought of hanging around in the cold, wet of central London was not a prospect I was willing to entertain, and certainly not accept. As I was ushered out the station I made a point of asking someone else about connections to Gatwick Airport at this time of the morning. This other guy told me to follow signs for King’s Cross and assured me that they have connections to Gatwick twenty-four hours a day. Great!
I plodded along through the rain-swept London streets until I arrived at King’s Cross Station-a huge, impeding building towering high above the imminently visible London skyline. A huge, red-bricked menace protruding out of the ground, at first barely visible through the smog and the smoke and the fog that grasped insistently onto the London streets on this wet, windy and dark Tuesday morning. I walked in through the main entrance and asked someone, anyone, about a connection to Gatwick. I was directed to follow a flight of stairs deep into the bowels of King’s Cross Station and follow signs for Brighton…I was told that this train (the next in thirty minutes) would take me to Gatwick Airport. And so it did!
It must have been around 4am when I finally arrived at Gatwick Airport. The main terminal was quiet, almost deserted. I caught the shuttle train from the main terminal to North Terminal-where my plane would be departing from. In my exhausted, disheveled and unorderly state, an airport was quite possibly the last place on Earth that I would choose to spend the next five hours or so; my plane was not departing until 10am. I think I would’ve preferred to spend the next few hours in a nice, cozy cell. At least they have beds.
When I arrived at the North Terminal, it was full of tired people, just like myself, napping on unnaturally uncomfortable chairs. Those cold, metal airport chairs! Whenever you would attempt to lie-down, you’d feel these metal stakes like cold knives pricking up against your back. I decided to give up on trying to get some sleep, went over to the coffee shop, ordered a black coffee and sat, perched on a stool, drinking coffee and reading some Hunter S. Thompson. Reading did not come easy, my eye lids were drooping as low as they could possibly go without actually being shut. Even when they were fully open, my vision was blurred to the extent that each word had to be read and re-read at least three times before the meaning was understood, and a sentence had to be re-read maybe four times before they became coherently structured in my mind. It felt almost like riding a wave of an acid trip as the head of the wave began crashing down onto these jagged rocks jutting out of the ‘otherwise’ seamless ocean. In the end I gave up, tossed the book back into my travel bag and resorted to nursing my coffee, sipping slowly on the hot, black liquid until the gate opened two hours later.
My exhaustion was drastically increasing with each passing minute, but by the time I had passed the security checks and sent my rucksack rolling out of sight (hopefully!) into the bowels of some plane, I had at least two dozen choices for breakfast and drink awaiting to greet me on the other side. I chose a Mexican joint and ordered some tortilla wraps and two large tequila cocktails. Good choice! It turned my exhaustion temporarily into tipsy energy. However, when I eventually boarded the plane, I drifted off unknowingly into a semi-conscious sleep all the same, which would last from take-off to landing. Every so often I would leap out of the vortex of my vacant and dreaming mind and back into the realms of reality before drifting off again. Like a piece of wood rolling down a steady stream getting stuck on a rock before being carried away by the currents again. I was on my way to Tel Aviv, Israel. My dreams were full of gargoyle-faced Israeli border guards waiting to greet and haul me away into some damp, dark, detention cell. These alien creatures, half-feline, half-lizard snapping my passport up with their tongues and hauling me away with their claws. Red, blood-shot eyes, vying for blood. I was aware of the Israeli custom of interrogating travelers, and quite frankly, I was nervous! The fuckers are notorious for denying entry to suspected international volunteers, journalists, musicians and even people with just a slight interest in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict….but fuck it, at that point, there was no turning back!
“Oh, fuck!” I exclaimed. I had woken up from my sketchy sleep on the plane, but had smacked my head against the seat in front of me in the process of tumbling out of the vortex of dream-land. I was subjected to a few odd stares due to my efforts. Did I say “fuck” too loud? I think I did. Shit! The stewardess was busy up front informing us on her microphone that we are now heading for the descent and that we should all put our seat-belts on. I looked out the window. We were still hovering lightly above the clouds, who were slowly eating up the last of the crimson sun’s rays for the day. And suddenly the plane made a nosedive, the engine roared with a determined ferocity, nose-diving towards imminent collision with the clouds. My seat jerked a touch as the plane maneuvered on through the sky, heading down, heading towards the barrier of white clouds barring our way. And suddenly, just like that, the clouds parted like dust in the wind to let us through, like golden sentries raising their spears to let someone pass. The other side reveled a fading blue sky, slowly giving way to darkness. A shimmering ocean, reflecting the last of the sun’s light. A burning crimson eye sinking below the ocean. And ships! Large, naval vessels moored just off shore. And the Middle-Eastern shoreline, stretching on for countless miles below us. A part of the Mediterranean horse-shoe, stretching on along the ocean trail from Istanbul to Beirut, Tel Aviv to Alexandria, Benghazi to Tripoli, Tunis, Algiers, Tangier, Gibraltar. Yeah, if you followed that shoreline for long enough, you’d eventually end up in Morocco on one side, Turkey on another.

“Passport,” said the man sitting inside the booth. He didn’t have any lizard or feline features, but his eyes were stone cold, I could see no warmth in those eyes. I slapped my passport down into his cold, outstretched hand. The fucker didn’t even look up to acknowledge my presence. You think maybe they train these fuckers in the art of being overtly rude and cold? In almost every airport you go to, these passport control guys always make you shit yourself, always make you feel uncomfortable and nervous. Maybe it’s just me?! He studied the passport for a good five minutes, typing slowly into his keyboard every so often. At long last, he looked up, studied me with cold, sharp eyes before saying, “How long will you be staying in Israel for?”
“My plane is due to leave on the 5th of February,” I replied.
“What will you be seeing in Israel?”
“I don’t know. Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, anything I find really. I hear it’s nice,” I grinned sheepishly at the man. He didn’t seem to find any of this amusing.
“Have you any friends in Israel?”
“No,” I replied.
“Tell me again, until when are you staying in Israel?”
“Until the 5th of February.”
“Ok, I want you to go and sit in that room over there. You see, I will bring your passport over. Wait there,” he exclaimed.

Oh shit, ‘here we go,’ I thought, but did as he instructed. The room was small, square-shaped, with a total of maybe twelve seats with their backs to the walls. On the far side of the room, there were two closed doors with names inscribed in gold lettering on them. Something in Hebrew. They were clearly offices of some kind. There was a girl maybe in her late twenties in the room when I opened the door and stepped inside. She was pacing nervously around the room, looking extremely agitated. I sat down. I tried to make eye contact with the girl in the room, but she was too preoccupied on pacing around, and too nervous to engage in conversation it would appear. Her pacing made me more nervous then I would’ve otherwise been I think.
After around fifteen minutes, the door of one of the offices sprung open, and the girl was beckoned inside. After a further fifteen minutes, the door of the second office sprung to life. A women looking like some hippopotamus who just woke up on the wrong side of the bed came to the door. Again, she had the cold, dead eyes that the man had had. She ushered me inside her office. I was invited to sit down on a chair looking across her desk. I sat down. I noticed that she had my passport open on the desk in front of her, and was clearly studying something on her computer screen. Was she Googling my name? Or is that just sheer paranoia? If it is paranoia, I don’t believe it is wholly unfounded paranoia.
“Cai O’Hara,” she eventually said.
“O’Marah,” I corrected her.
“Where is this name from?” Oh fuck, I thought. She wants to know if it has any Arabic roots. But they don’t look too favorably on the Irish here either. Palestinians could learn a lot from the IRA. The Israelis know this. “It’s Irish,” I said finally. She nodded in approval anyway. I guess I passed the first test. “Tell me, for how long will you be staying in Israel for,” she said inquisically.
“My plane is due to depart on the 5th of February,” I replied.
“Why so long? What will you see here?”
“Tel Aviv, Jerusalem. Whatever I find really,” again, I grinned whilst saying this.
“Are you a student? What is you’re occupation?”
“No, I’ve graduated. I don’t work currently, but worked throughout last year,” I replied.
“How much money have you got here? How do you have money if you don’t work? How can you come here?”
“I just saved up over last year whilst working,” I said, ignoring the first question.
She nodded, but seemed to spend the next five minutes studying my answers in silence.
After five minutes she looked up, handed me a card and my passport and said “you can go.” I left the office as quick as I could. After exiting the room, I looked down on the card. It was a visa-entry card, valid for three months. The episode at the airport lasted maybe one hour, I discovered later that I had been lucky. I have since met someone who admitted she was to visit the Palestinian Territories. She was held back at the airport for six hours of questioning before being allowed through into Israel.

I breathed a sigh of relief as I tasted the sweet, Middle Eastern air for the first time. It was humid outside, and dark by the time I left the airport. I followed the signs which indicated the way to the train station, booked a ticket to central Tel Aviv, and squeezed myself in with the throngs of people already packed onto the train like cattle. I didn’t have a clue which stop I was meant to take, but an approachable-looking young couple stood next to me, looking like a couple of hippies, so I decided to ask them. “I’m trying to get to central Tel Aviv. Can you tell me which stop I’m meant to take?”
“Yeah, sure. But where exactly do you need to go?” came the reply. I had a sheet of paper with the address and name of the hostel scribbled on it, so I handed this over to the couple for inspection. They looked at it, shaking their heads emphatically. “I don’t know, but if you take the next stop with us, it will get you close,” “Ok,” I replied.
After no more than fifteen minutes, the train skidded to a halt in front of the station platform. We had arrived at the stop. “Follow us,” the couple exclaimed as we battled against the masses heading towards the exit. From the exit/entrance of the railway station, we caught the smallest bus I’ve ever seen. Almost like a mini-bus, but almost all of its features were that of a proper city bus. Plastic seats elevating slowly from the door to the seats at the top-end etc. The bus was rammed and no seats were available, so we had to cling on to these rubber rings hanging from a metallic pole which slide sideways across the length of the bus. They were like jelly, or soap, and whenever the bus driver would decide to hit the brakes quickly before making a split-second decision not to run through a red-light, these rings would slide way across to the other end, throwing me off balance and sending me hurling across, staggering all the while, to the other end of this pole. I had to keep apologizing to people whenever the weight of my rucksack would send me hurtling into other people standing on the bus, causing a domino effect of people tumbling onto the floor.
“This is our stop,” said the couple, finally. We disembarked the bus and began walking in some unknown direction. The streets were full of people, cars, blinding lights, life! The place resembled something straight out of a sci-fi film. Very elegant, modern buildings piling high up into the sky, shops with intricate light shows and designs, Bob Marley’s voice bouncing out of every corner from high-tech surround sound speakers, bars waiting to greet the night’s revelers, drinkers and vagrants. And it was weird, because nestled in between all this, there were some quaint looking Middle-Eastern style Arab cafes, as you would expect to find in the middle of Baghdad. It was all quite impressive! I had to keep reminding myself that I was in Israel. Not the place I wanted to be, given the circumstances.
“Ok, this is us. You’re hostel is not far I think. If you follow this road down, you’re hostel is on the next street on the left. This road leads directly to the seafront, and according to your map, it should be the street running exactly parallel to the seafront,” the couple said. I thanked them for the help and headed towards the proposed direction. Sure enough, just as the couple had stated, the hostel was no more than five minutes’ walk away.
After receiving my room key, I slung my rucksack into the room and headed out into the Tel Avivian night. I was hungry, and settled for a Middle-Eastern falafel place a bit up the road from the hostel. I ordered a falafel sandwich with hummus and a beer. After eating, I strolled on down to the seafront, to where the sea kisses the sand. It was dark, and the beach was almost deserted. There was only one guy on the beach, practicing Thai Chi, apparently immune to the force of the waves breaking under his feet. The power of Thai Chi I guess. I stood in the serene silence of the beach for a while, looking out to sea, staring out at the everlasting darkness, deaf to all sounds apart from the sounds of the waves breaking along the shore.
“Hey, you there. Come here,” my silence was broken by a voice calling out behind me, and suddenly I was aware of the sounds of the city again. I looked around, trying to find the source of this voice. It came from just across the road. A women maybe in her fifties was beckoning me to come over and join her in a café across the road. I went over to introduce myself. “Wait here, I’ll be back in two minutes,” she said, before disappearing into the café. She re-appeared two minutes later, cradling two bottles of beer. She handed one to me. “Ah, naiswan,” I said, accepting the beer. “Cigarette?” I accepted the cigarette as well.
“What brings you over here to Israel then?” she inquired.
“Well, just looking around I guess,” I replied.
“But why here? You’re young, you could go anywhere, anywhere in the world. No? You look like you’ve got your head on your shoulders pretty good. You follow the news?! It’s not so safe here at the moment, we have Hamas terrorists firing rockets at us all the time, you know.”
“Yeah, I followed the news.”
“Do you study?” she asked.
“I was, have been.”
“What did you study?”
“Politics.”
“Ah, I see. That is why you are here,” the women said.
I pulled deeply on my cigarette, drank a swig full of beer, and plucked up the confidence to try and engage an Israeli in a political conversation. “Say, how far is Gaza from here? I saw what looked like naval ships moored off shore while the plane was about to land in Tel Aviv. You think this was maybe Gaza? I know that Israel has a naval blockade in force on the Strip.”
“No, no. Maybe. But forget about Gaza. Why you want to go there? You have an Israeli stamp in your passport, they won’t let you in anyway,” she said.
“I have a visa card, not a stamp.”
“Ok, ok, they may let you in. But even so, Hamas may think you’re a spy and kill you. It is dangerous in Gaza.”
“What are your opinions on the conflict then?”
“Me? Well, you know. There’s a lot of trouble here. The government has to do what the government has to do to keep every one safe. Palestinians and Israelis.”
“Is denying access of food, water, electricity and other essential aid to the people of Gaza keeping Palestinians safe? Or deporting international doctors and NGO’s from Gaza keeping the people there safe?”
“No, they don’t always make the right choices, but they feel they are necessary choices. I don’t know. I don’t spend too much time brooding over politics myself. There’s a lot of trouble here. The Palestinians, you know! They don’t want Israelis to exist in the first place. Maybe Israelis don’t always react in the best ways. But essentially, it’s all a reaction.”

The conversation took a turn away from politics at this point. She came across a bit like a spokesperson for the Israeli government anyway, spouting Israeli propaganda and bullshit. Anyway, after a couple more beers, we parted company. I headed back to the hostel to catch up on some much needed sleep, ready for the next day’s journeying to the West Bank via. Jerusalem.

When musical culture becomes a drug to seduce the sleeping masses!

When musical culture becomes a drug to seduce the sleeping masses!

 

 

Following a response to an article written by Rhys Mwyn (http://link2wales.co.uk/2014/crudblog/blog-rhys-mwyn-why-its-unlikely-ill-discuss-welsh-language-music-like-this-again/) in which he criticises a panelled debate on Welsh music he participated in during this year’s annual National Eisteddfod, I felt I wanted to respond myself, partly for the fun of it and partly due to the article in question’s (http://melynwy.wordpress.com/2014/08/13/we-fought-the-punk-wars-for-this/) criticism of an album review written about mine own band was mentioned in the responsive article (http://melynwy.wordpress.com/2014/08/13/we-fought-the-punk-wars-for-this/). The album review was written by Neil Crud (http://link2wales.co.uk/2013/crudblog/album-review-radio-rhydd-trapped-in-the-game/), and was criticised in the responsive article for making “no reference to Radio Rhydd’s album” at all, but rather focusing on what other bands don’t do. As traditionally, album reviews focus predominantly on the album’s musical merits and contents, this one did quite the contrary. And although I would agree, there is more to the mechanics of Radio Rhydd (and indeed any band) than my political rants and leftfield politico-socio views, I can still absolutely see the point that Neil (Crud) was making.

 

The responsive article raised some interesting points, and although I don’t whole-heartedly agree with them, I respect the views expressed. However, I do believe it to be almost dangerous to allow this accepted consensus that musicians and bands can make music without giving a second thought, or two fucks, as to the lyrical content of their songs. By an almost universal acceptance of this as the modern norm of song writing I believe we are creating dangerous conditions whereby musical culture becomes yet another social drug of the same vein as football which is ultimately used to lullaby the sleeping masses deeper into a semi-conscious sleep. 

 

I have heard several arguments that argue the contrary of the point that I (and I believe Neil Crud) are making. One such point, which I believe was underlined in the responsive article, argues that it doesn’t really matter, because, hey! It’s ‘only pop music’. To this argument, I would say that it is almost a blind and absurd statement to insinuate that culture, and indeed musical culture, can ever be fully detached from politics. Another argument that I have come across in defence of the other side of this particular debate, is that hey! ‘All art is subjective’. Now this myth can be easily dismantled by pointing out the historical importance of art as a propaganda tool in some of our history’s most repressive regimes, such as for example Gobbels’s propaganda campaign during the Third Reich in Nazi Germany used art as a means of winning the hearts and minds of its ‘subjects’. Even if we look at today’s examples we can see just how dangerous art can be as a propaganda tool (if done deliberately by the artists, or not) and in reinforcing faith and acceptance of the status quo. Such modern day examples include artists that performed at musical events at the 2012 London Olympics, which was arguably used to bolster support for the unionist camp ahead of the referendum on Scottish independence.

 

Now my point for writing this article is not necessarily to condemn bands purely for not being overtly political, leftfield and/or contentious. But my point is that songwriters and bands should take greater care in lyricism, because if we like it, or not, there is no part of culture which is inherently, and can claim to be wholly detached from international, and domestic, political events unfolding around us. For an example domestically (within the Welsh language world), Y Bandana could be perceived as the most a-political band, but consistently writing songs about drinking represents a general apathy amongst young(ish) bands and the people that listen to this music. In my opinion, apathy in itself is a political statement, albeit the wrong kind of political statement. There are a lot of Welsh-language bands in Wales at the moment, but all I can see is a lot of bands that sound the same, that look the same and sends out the same message-a lot of bands who are interested in keeping the Eisteddfod-going, Maes(Hysteria)-B crowd happy. Then again, maybe I’m barking up the wrong tree;-maybe culture, and indeed, musical culture is just representative of a general apathy amongst society as a whole. Maybe bands don’t give a shit, because, hey! They just don’t give a shit! – Back to the concluding point, in my opinion music should never be a lullaby drug seducing the masses; music should be something dangerous, exciting, energetic, sharp and honest. And I truly believe that writing lyrics just because it fits with the melody and without giving two fucks about it, is dishonest. Members of these bands have opinions, they must have, but they don’t use music as a platform to express them! To me, that is dishonesty.