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Monthly Archives: February 2014

the void

what-next In breath-takingly savage news, it has been reported that the DWP plans to stop Housing Benefit payments to low paid part time workers if they fail to carry out ‘work related activity’.

When Universal Credit is finally introduced, those earning less than the equivalent of the minimum wage for 35 hours a week will be forced to constantly look for more or better paid work to qualify for in-work benefits such as Tax Credits and Housing Benefit.  Part time workers could face being sent on workfare in the hours they are not at work and will have to prove to Jobcentre busybodies that they are constantly looking for another, better paid job.

Currently sanctions are usually only inflicted on unemployed people, lone parents or those on sickness or disability benefits.  Sanctions are often imposed for the most trivial reason such as being a few minutes late for a meeting with…

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the void

Boycott-workfare-holiday-inn From Boycott Workfare

Another high street chain has now been exposed as using workfare: Peacocks have taken on workfare placements instead of hiring staff.

London Boycott Workfare is taking action on Sat 1st March. We invite other groups to pay a visit to your local store too and put the pressure on for Peacocks to pay its staff!

Visit Boycott Workfare’s website to read how workfare means job applications are ignored in favour of free labour:  Peacocks exposed: Apply for a job – get workfare!

Protest at a store on Saturday 1st March!

1pm, Peacocks store on Seven Sisters Road, Holloway with London Boycott Workfare

Peacocks Store in Catford with Lewisham Green Party

Can’t make it to a store on Saturday 1 March?

Let Peacocks know what you think on their social media channels:
Facebook | Twitter: @peacocks

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

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Pride's Purge

(not satire – it’s the Daily Mail!)

On the 31st of December last year the Mail gave us this article:

Mail-romanians 1But then – after just about every bit of information in the article turned out to be wrong – the newspaper went to great lengths to deny they had misled readers. The Mail’s tortured explanations by its Corrections Editor Hilary Kingsley can be seen in full here:

Buses, planes, Bulgarians, Romanians and The Daily Mail

But today – surprise surprise – we get this ‘clarification‘ tucked away where the Mail is really really really hoping nobody will notice:

Mail - romanians 2

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They could have said all that in just two words:

WE LIED.

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For the sake of the Daily Mail’s journalistic reputation, best keep this information to ourselves:

 

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rogueclassicism

… or something like that. Here’s the incipit of an item from the Independent about something the Iris Project folks did:

It’s easy to imagine the designer of the latest alternative London Underground Tube map, finding herself surrounded by swathes of exhausted and seemingly half-dead commuters, inspired to re-work the iconic design as a map of the Greek underworld.

‘The Underworld’ map cleverly re-imagines the traditional London Underground map to advertise a project by the educational charity The Iris Project.

The map shows the black line that usually represents the Northern Line replaced with the ‘Hades Line’, named after the Greek god of the underworld, while the District Line becomes the Kokytos Line – the river of the wailing.

While tourists famously struggle to pronounce stop names including Leicester Square, Southwark and Greenwich, the Iris Project have included tongue-twisting imaginary stations on their map including: Hekatonkheires – impossibly strong giants…

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So I’ve been reading bits of Tacitus for my A-level, as you might be able to tell from the Tacitus quotes turning up everywhere. It’s…interesting, particularly in how clipped and varied the prose is. By “interesting”, I mean “almost unreadable because so much text is left out and what’s left is incredibly convoluted”. Don’t get me wrong – it’s fun – but it’s also quite difficult, especially when you first get thrown into it.

One of the interesting things about Tacitus, and indeed one of his main themes, is the way he writes about certain people. For a start, he certainly doesn’t write sine ira et studio (without anger or zeal), as he promised to do; rather, he alleges a lot of things about people, usually leaving the worst allegation till last so that it’s more psychologically available to the audience. He may also describe a trait of the person rather than the person themselves (for example, describing Nero’s grief as immoderate as his happiness rather than saying that Nero himself was immoderate). The need for these subtle allegations, and indeed for Tacitus’s writing style, partly arose because of the toxic political climate that some of the “bad emperors” created. I put the term in quotes, as while historians of the period like to characterise them as near-universally awful, modern historians sometimes reject these views and cast the traditional “bad emperors” in a more positive light.

Because emperors were all-powerful, yet had no defined method of succession, this resulted in a lot of backstabbing and intrigue to get the job – and a lot of paranoia if you did eventually manage to become emperor. Indeed, Domitian, one of the bad emperors, was said by Suetonius to be so paranoid that the gallery where he took his daily exercise was lined with highly-polished stones so that he could see anything happening behind his back. And emperors were particularly paranoid when there was a high-ranking and popular man (this is Rome, it’s fiercely patriarchal) around, since he could easily wrest power from the incumbent and be loved more. They also hated dissent, one of the reasons that the Senate was heavily declawed around the time that the old Roman Republic was morphing into the Principate.

The upshot of all this is that not only were people afraid of open dissent, but since the senatorial class now had very little power it all became a bit of a mockery. Since people could not openly criticise the Principate without being forced to commit suicide, they used Latin’s quirks to imply but never outright state their dissent, and since rhetoric had very little practical purpose in an autocracy Latin prose became ever more florid and varied to the point of being near-incomprehensible. This is how Silver Latin arose.

Anyway, this was never about Silver Latin, but more about silver men…Roughly speaking, he divides members of his own class into three categories.

Firstly, there are the obsequious senators, who recognise just how limited the power of the Senate is and how little they can do about it, but will happily serve even the most temperamental and tyrannical emperors if it means they get to save their own skins. As can be seen from my own failure to write sine ira et studio – and Tacitus’s too – he does not give a particularly favourable impression of these people, because he disapproves of their spinelessness and reluctance to stand up to a corrupt system.

Secondly, there are the martyrs, people like Seneca and Thrasea who died at the hands of the regime. Tacitus romanticises them – certainly his portrait of Seneca is very favourable and glosses over a lot of the unfavourable things he did – but he reserves the highest honour for a third category of men: people like Agricola, Tacitus’s father-in-law, who did their best to preserve the old Roman virtues under the empire. This is an interesting view, and probably born partly out of guilt – Tacitus served as praetor in 88 and later as quindecimvir (a member of the priestly college in charge of the Sibylline Books and the Secular games), then in the provinces from around 89 to 93. This was all under the reign (81-96) of Domitian, and Tacitus and his property survived unscathed while others died or were exiled for their opposition. It certainly didn’t put him in the easiest of positions.

Yet Tacitus had a point: he did not live in a democracy. He did not even live in a pretended democracy; Domitian had done away with any pretence that the Senate had any real power. And he certainly did not live in a time and place where dissent was tolerated. Dead people aren’t very good at effecting change, for the most part.

This was a silver age, for silver men.

Pride's Purge

(not satire – it’s the UK today!)

A man with heart problems who couldn’t complete a work capability assessment because he had a heart attack during the interview had his benefits stopped by the job centre for ‘withdrawing’ from the interview.

I promise you this is not satire. Here’e the story from the Oldham Evening Chronicle:

Heart-attack victim in cash-axe shock

The UK under this government is getting harder and harder to satirise day by day.

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Big thanks to Robert Cragg for the heads up on this.

Please feel free to comment.

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Pride's Purge

(not satire – it’s the UK today!)

What do unemployed people have to do these days to prove to Job Centre staff that they really are looking for work and avoid being sanctioned?

Stand on a street corner all day with a sign around their neck saying ‘I need a job, call me“?

Well no actually, because that’s exactly what this man did:

all I want is a job
And he was still sanctioned by Job Centre staff because they reckoned he wasn’t looking hard enough for work:

Benefits blow for Wolverhampton billboard jobseeker

Looks like the only way you can get any benefits these days when you don’t have a job is by becoming an MP. 

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Please feel free to comment.

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Réseau International

catalunyaUne nouvelle plus qu’alarmante ! L’Espagne subit en ce moment même un coup d’état institutionnel mené par l’extrême-droite politique, religieuse et les plus hautes sphères de l’armée, alors qu’un inquiétant mouvement néonazi grandissant pratique, de manière toujours plus décomplexée, de plus en plus d’interventions de plus en plus violentes contre des mouvements de gauche ou des lieux d’occupation, centre sociaux et culturels  (et occupent des villages ou des régions en territoires conquis) – comme cela se produit de plus en plus régulièrement aussi dans l’Est et le Nord de l’Europe – souvent sous l’œil bienveillant de la police ou en son absence programmée.

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