Lenin, take the wheel; In which Marxism reflects Christianity.

Quick Disclaimer: I am going to focus on the conflict between Marxism and Christianity for two reasons: The first is that in their current forms they are ideas that were created and evolved in Europe and both have spent a lot of time and energy trying to combat each other. The second Is that, as you will read, I grew up in a Christian family in a Christian society and have never studied comparative religion to the degree required to analyse the fundamentals of a religion I didn’t grow up in, so I will not be discussing any similarity between Marxism and Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Scientology, or any other religion. please direct your “P.C. gone mad” themed hate mail to Pravda.

I grew up in North London around adults who, for the most part, casually described themselves as Socialists or social democrats in a pinch. In fact the first communist literature I ever read (A book I totally recommend by the way) was given to me by my Anglican mother for a Christmas present, who – after hearing me regurgitating the books opinion that religion is a scam we all need to dispense with in order to achieve a communist utopia – calmly told me that Christian Socialists exist and that they are fine with both God and worker controlled means of production. I spent most of my teenage years growing into more and more of a Trotskyite, attending meetings, rallies and once shaking hands with George Galloway on Spanish television. I tutted at the inferiority of religion, and those who didn’t see the truth, way and the light of my particular sect’s doctrine. I also still went to church, partially out of habit, also out of a need to keep the friendship group I had built by the time I was 14 and I honestly had no idea if I believed in it all or not, and if my doubt was a bad idea or not. Though this is hypocritical  do remember I was a Teenager, so I continued to espouse the doctrines of both the Socialist Worker’s Party and  the International Anglican Communion with differing degrees of enthusiasm throughout my teens.

It was only in my first year at University when I got to meet the regional head of Socialist Appeal; A man whose response too being disagreed with was to continue repeating Leninist doctrine until you gave up and he could claim victory, did I begin to think that this whole Marxism thing might problematic. This was also around the time I lived with self Anarchists who managed to convert me to the ideas of Ms Goldman and Mr Winstanley after pushing at the open door that was my ideas about how we should live. I’m laying out my political life story because I think it’s important to know that Growing up with one set of values then turning around and examining them in retrospect can you get a good view of them.

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The stained glass windows of Sachsenhausen’s memorial to the Soviet soldiers who liberated the camp

I suppose I need to start with the fact that organised Christianity as a rule, is anti-Marxist and Marxist Communism is generally anti-organised Christianity. This tends to be sold by the proponents of either doctrine as the result of two fundamentally different conceptions of the world, however I really do believe that they tend to hate each other for the same reason that McDonald’s and Burger King hate each other; they’re muscling in on each other’s niche.

Both base their ideas of the same essential theory of history. This begins with the premise that humanity was once without sin; Marx’s Eden takes the form of “Primitive Communism”, in which small, proto-democratic, nomadic tribes existed in a world with no property, with the fall taking the form of creation of the state and thus bringing property (Sin) into the world. Both Marxism and Christianity hold that whilst mankind is in a corrupted state of being, the words of prophets can save us.Talk to a Leninist, and the term “Class Consciousness” will come up. This is dialectical materialism’s answer to righteousness; to be class conscience is to believe and understand the inevitability of the coming upheaval of the worker’s final battle with Capital and property. As a class conscious individual it is your solemn duty to your fellow human to proselytize and convert as many soldiers of Christ Communists so you can all bring upon the apocalypse revolution as described the central texts.

This might seem simplistic but do remember Marxism has Orthodox as well as Reform ideological strains, these are the results of schisms and sectarian actions resulting in murders and violence. for eighty years it was hard to argue that the Kremlin stood in direct contrast to the Vatican, receiving pilgrims and ushering them to the holy sites of revolutionary communism, whilst dictating excommunications and distributing it’s propaganda around the world. Marxism produced it’s Martyrs whose blood was shed for our salvation, along with a priestly class to interpret and re-interpret the scripture whist drilling the fundamentals into the young.

Do keep in mind that the people’s flag is deepest red because they dipped it in Communard blood

I understand that a large number of you who’ve read this far are forming the opinion that since the fall of Communism, this argument is essentially irrelevant; that the lack of KGB agents funding local communist parties to keep fermenting revolution means this thousand word comparison between two ideological institutions is some lefty navel gazing; And honestly you might be right. I suppose as I’m writing this from the perspective of an Anarchist – a group traditionally treated as nice dreamers with very little going for us than faith, particularly by Marxists. This is something I resent, as If the last hundred years have taught us anything, it’s that if there is a workable alternative to capitalism, it almost certainty isn’t Bolshevik Marxism, and I believe that isn’t because Marxism is antithetical to the faith and society it attempted to replace but because it has managed to imitate that faith to the point of being a grim mirror of its crimes and excesses.

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Please don’t leave us. An English Ex-pat’s plea to Scotland

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With the vote getting closer, questions about the U.K. splitting up come up at least once a day to me, the resident Brit in a foreign land. I’m not begrudging the people asking because if I knew someone whose country could potentially break up I would pick their brains about it non-stop. The short answer to “Do you think Scotland will become independent” is: No.

I’m not Scottish… I mean a little bit, my dad’s family is from the borderlands around Carlisle, and, despite visiting, I’ve never lived in Scotland; the fact that I think Scottish independence is a terrible idea at this point comes from a place of concern less about Scotland and more about the rest of the U.K. I really do believe that my home country is going to get actively worse if our northern brothers and sisters leave us. This isn’t just because the resulting flag would look terrible, even though that is genuinely my main emotional reaction to the Yes Campaign. I mean just look at it, the English Flag is boring, the Scottish part makes our flag look cool. Since I’ve been talking to people about this issue, I’ve developed certain concerns that I want to bring up with Independence campaigners.

So I have a lot of sympathy with  most of the practical Goals of the S.N.P.  Apart from less Westminster domination, the general social democratic bent of the vision of the Scottish parties in general is something I wish the southern part of the island embraced. Particularly that Ospreys outnumber cconservative members of parliament is something I profoundly envy; so much so that the consistent polls showing Scottish people are consistently more satisfied with the Scottish parliament than any other part of the U.K. is with its local government makes me really hope that we’ll one day have parliaments like Holyrood in Wales, London, Cornwall and the English regions in the model of U.S. states, something I think can only happen if Scotland stays in the union. I don’t seriously think this will happen by virtue of Scotland staying in, and that isn’t my main fear regarding Scottish Independence; England and Wales will be measurably worse.

I mean.... look at it, it's terrible

I mean…. look at it. it’s terrible

I Understand that Scottish nationalist have limited interest in what happens to the English but please have some Britannic solidarity. I understand that the belief is that once you gain independence you will throw off the smug aristocratic southerners that are currently formalizing the unpleasant public school oligarchy in Westminster. You are wrong. Firstly please remember that once Scotland withdraws its fifty-nine M.P.s from the U.K. Scotland will lumber England with an inbuilt Conservative majority. Remember also that the S.N.P.’s proposal for independence includes using the British pound and keeping the Monarchy and other things that link the British ruling classes, north and south of the border whilst physically separating the rest of us. This will mean that the increasingly solidified oligarchy of parliamentarians, banking executives and media producers is still going to dominate the what will be the former UK with a weakened opponent in a divided populations. Yes the current National parties are dead against Independence but do remember that despite evidence to the contrary they are emotional beings with an emotive connection with the idea of “BRITAIN” existing despite the fact that Scotland and England will be easier to control once separated.

I’ve mentioned that English nationalism is weird and bitter, and will only get worse with the loss of Scotland. My parent’s generation are the ones who lived through the dismantling of the British Empire, a social move that resulted in the creation and popularization of the U.K. Independence Party, and other reactionary organisations, I can only imagine how ugly about right-wing England is going to get, particularly run as it will be by a series of political parties that will increasingly use begrudging Scotland as their political bread and butter.

My point, Scottish nationalists – and English people who support Independence at higher percentages than the Scottish do; is that whilst It will be initially satisfying to see David Cameron’s smug, flabby face sadly fill the screen of our T.V.s to tell us that he will go down as the British leader who was so bad the part of the country split off. That initial satisfaction will melt away as the new English government cracks down, firstly on the notion of autonomy for regions and secondly by ratcheting up pressure on Scotland, which will still be using the pound. A political situation which will mean that my homeland will become a sadder, hollower shadow of its current self.

 

PS.
If you do leave you need to take Northern Ireland with you. That whole mess is your weird step-child.

If you have a problem with that, take it up with James IV

If you have a problem with that, take it up with James VI


Mascots, Hotdogs and Baseball. My love affair with the minor leagues

My partner keeps telling people that I was born to be an American; I like eating bacon covered pancakes at 3am, I unthinkingly talk loudly in public, and the grid system of city planning just seems sensible too me. one of my favorite aspects of American life  is baseball, something unique in the world; a sport Americans have modified and made better (sorry Football, you’ll never be half the game Rugby is). I think I love Baseball because, like a guitar, it is very easy to play competently, but still needing a lot of skill to play very well, the fact that you never need to run further than 90 feet (60 feet in softball) means you don’t have to be athletic, something which lends itself to being played casually in a way sports requiring body armor or being fast doesn’t. its for these reasons and more I think it’s safe to say I am kind of in love with Baseball. I haven’t just fallen in love with playing baseball, I love watching it and just like an annoying hipster at a party, I want to go on record as stating that small time venues are much more fun.

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Camden Riversharks Vs Sugarland Skeeters at Campbell’s field

I say that with the the unfortunately named Citizen’s Bank Park as my only Major League stadium experience; I can’t comment on the the apparent glory of Fenway Park or any other MLB stadium, but the supposed august aura of stadiums and teams isn’t really why I go to baseball games and if that’s something you feel you need from a baseball game then this post probably isn’t for you.

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Behold! The embodiment of American optimism!

To explain what I find so compelling about minor league baseball (possibly America as a whole) I need to talk about James Buchanan. So, arguably, the worst president in U.S. history is also the only commander in chief from Pennsylvania, specifically Lancaster, where the former President’s house is maintained. The unkind way to describe the James Buchanan house is as a perfect example of a polished turd. The entire experience is geared to focus on his extensive diplomatic career and home life, whilst casting his four years in office between 1857 and 1861 (in which the divisions over slavery became immeasurably worse with little or no government action leading to the civil war) as sort of on purpose, so that things got so bad that Abraham Lincoln could win in 1860 and free the slaves. I bring up the 15th President’s fan club because it seems to be held together by the shear amount of optimism it must take to stand around in a hoop skirt praising someone so universally regarded as a failure all day. Not that Minor league Baseball suffers anything like disdain and apathy that history has given Buchanan, they’re both excellent examples of a culture whose driving force is to not, under any circumstances, consider throwing in the towel.

So the highest level of minor league Baseball is a weird paradox for players, though it technically has the best players outside Major league, the majority of players are there either because they used to be a Major Leauger who got worse/injured/both or players who are not quite good enough for an MLB team but good enough to get paid to play ball during the summer. This means that the quality of ball playing isn’t going to match up to larger teams with deeper pockets, the players are either mediocre, washed up or unrefined, this means in the fight for ever decreasing ticket sales the management pull out all the stops to make everything else about visiting a  minor league baseball stadium the most fun you can have during the summer whilst your shirt is still on.

Mascots, and general messing about in between innings, are probably a good place to start, and in that scene my favorite team to visit is the Reading Fightin’ Phills; which has not one but three mascots and a mascot house band, just encase we didn’t cover all bases of possible uses of felt. These mascots are not just under employed actors, the Phill’s Logo is an ostrich so last year the team bought some Motherfucking ostriches  to hang outside the stadium and great guests which lends the red-brick stadium the look of an arena of curiosities. This is not to knock the folks who do dress up as weird cartooned versions of whatever the team is named after, it mus be super hard to run around at the height of summer dressed as lighting if it was personified by a bird, or a shark or a cow or a ripoff of Mr Met, and yet continue to good naturally amuse children whilst they’re parents are watching the game, It’s just it’s hard to compete with some actual ostriches just hanging out at a ball game.

A Cow, lighting embodied by a bird, a crazy hot-dog vendor riding and ostrich, a friendly shark and a mosquito…              cos baseball

The messing around between innings aspect of minor league baseball might actually be the one part of capitalism I find endearing; People dressed as Ice tea bottles race around bases so you can make tiny bets on who wins, this is a variant on people dressed as vegetables or presidents (when the vegetables are racing an evil gumdrop tries to foil their race). As well as this, families are selected to fire yogurt through a target as a team to win a years supply, The Camden Riversharks held a Hogie tug-of-war between kids sponsored by Wawa. The clunky shoehorning of advertising into the thing that management does to keep people from walking out of the stadium whilst nothing is going on is so terribly blended into what is happening you kind of feel empathy to the poor bastards who have to regurgitate that every strike out is “brought to you buy Susquehanna bank!” . An aspect of a Trenton Thunder Game that made me wonder if this field of advertising is only open to companies who share a name with a certain kind of baseball play, and if someone works out which is more expensive based on how often they happen, Is there someone sponsoring grand slams I wonder?

I can’t talk about Minor league baseball without talking about concession stands. so as I mentioned a few paragraphs ago Minor league stadiums spend a lot of time trying to amuse and entertain you into sticking around even if it’s not for the baseball, no were is this clearer than the food and booze available, something in which Minor leagues outclass major leagues by a mile. in contrast too the $7 bud lite pints for sale at major league games, Minor leagues really really want you to spend money and are well aware how easy it is to leave – for one thing there are almost never security guards at the gates, unlike the airport-esq scrutiny at major stadiums, so whilst you’re not really supposed to, it’s not difficult to bring beer in, this means the prices are usually much closer to what you would actually pay in a bar, with the Fightin Phills going so far as to sell quarts of beer for $8, were as the River sharks will sell you a beer and a hot dog for a dollar apiece most Tuesdays, there are even buffets you can buy into for the price of two tickets.

I think the reason I love the minor leagues so much is that they are a lot more welcoming than their larger counterparts. I know that they’re just as corporate  and in some ways actually more commercialized than the Red Sox or the Yankees but, the fact that these teams have small stadiums that means tickets are never more than $15 and that ticket will probably buy you a seat within high fiving/heckling distance of the players makes me feel a lot more like I’ve entered a community than just walking into a multi-million dollar stadium. I know that’s all bullshit but it’s a nice image to have of America for a few hours. So if you’re not American and want to experience some straight up Americana, I recommend finding a minor league game in the middle of nowhere, they’re cheep, friendly and much more like what you imagine an American summer is like…. plus for real though; $8 for a quart!

It's a fucking quart for $8

LOOK UPON ITS WORKS, YE MIGHTY, AND DESPAIR!

 


The Phelps family are an unwell group of disturbed individuals. Why we should all leave the Westboro Baptist Church alone.

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So when I first read on the scrolling continual “news” feed that is my Facebook page, that the Westburo baptist church was planning to picket ISIS for that particular attempted  caliphate’s treatment of Christians in the area I hoped that the groups feature in anyone’s  publication was the rightful place for people like the Phelps clan:  the written equivalent of the ‘and finally’ segments local news outlets sometimes have, Something wacky and improbable that we can all have a nostalgic chuckle  at.”Remember those insane homophobes from the mid 2000’s with the gaudy signs and bad dress sense whose righteous hatred and media whoring seemed to be the living embodiment everything that  had gone wrong in George W. Bush’s America?” I would Imagine the articles asking me “well it turns out that not only are they still around, they’re trying to be relevant again by traveling to one of the most violent areas of  the planet to hold up their little signs. crazy, right?”

Sadly this was not to be. Apparently these people – sadly deprived of another  hobby – decided to threaten to picket Robin Williams’ funeral, something comedian, Adam Hill made fun of by offering to ship them off to Mesopotamia. All well and good, The GodHatesFags people  isn’t exactly new material but whatever. However this video started going viral, people acted as though what Mr Hill was doing wasn’t rehashing a comedic pinata that stopped being relevant nearly a decade ago but confronting a great and powerful evil, with numerous publications describing the church as “controversial”, A misleading term because to be controversial there has to be controversy.

No one is pro the Westburo Baptist Church, they are not an insidious organisation with a hidden agenda they hide behind to push an unpopular series of destructive policies on wider society. Far from it they actually reject popularity, being believers in the notion of  of “The elect” – essentially that god will come and save those who truly believe and no more, meaning that they have no interest in converting people. It’s telling that news outlets from the liberal left and conservative right condemn the Phelps family church; These people are obviously bad, to the point at which people who basically believe the same things they do make themselves feel better about their bigoted opinions by openly and actively condemning WBC’s methods. In this respect giving a shit about an organisation that is the political equivalent of a mentally ill person ranting on a street corner, we are helping people who have terrible, destructive and backward political ideas to shield themselves from too much scrutiny because they don’t write the most obscene way to to express their opinions on a shiny piece of cardboard and hang around funerals.

It is true that these people do need to be countered when they’re actually doing something actively terrible, it’s therefore a good thing that organisations exist to do that cross country and communities have come together to eject them from areas in which they may do harm. However this should really be kept to a minimum, remember these people are fame hungry masochists, they want us all to hate them because they believe that the amount of hate they receive is directly connected to the amount of sin the people who are angry are aware of and trying to deny, they really really really like it when masses of people come out to yell at them. We should stop being so angry with them and recognize them for the twisted attention hungry people they are and ignore for the large part, they have nothing more relevant to say and have less than 100 members, the only reason a Media outlet is mentioning them is to get the kind of righteous indignation clickbate that can appeal to everyone, which in turn is giving the Phelps family exactly what they want please stop falling for it.

They have a vine account. Are they an apocalyptic cult or a twelve year old?