Coronavirus

Been writing lots but never sure what to put here. All things considered, here’s something I wrote on 3 March 2020 for Biggar Writers’ Group.

Increase the profits, outsource the lot
The Chinese work hard while I sail my yacht

A web of production reaches all lands
Churning out parts as commerce demands

Taking the lead while the west forgets
That manufacturing innovation begets

Belt and Road, Huawei too
What did we think the Chinese would do?

Work as our slaves for evermore
Or get ahead, they know the score

And all the while in a grubby market
A virus mutates and finds a new target

Quarantine and isolation
Make for an tricky situation

Streets are empty, factories too
Now what’s the economy meant to do?

Mandy Meikle still edits the Reforesting Scotland Journal but is loving having time to think and learn how to write creatively.

Posted in Poems | 1 Comment

To the future

JP Morgan or Deutsche Bank?
Whichever goes first, you’ll have me to thank

Decades of nonsense were mine to sustain
I really thought you’d use your brain

Worthless money backed by thin air
Worked for a while, we’ve got debt to thank there

Subprime worked too, for a while
Then printing money in the Square Mile

Bailing out the creditors, debtors can go bust
It’s all for the greater good, in austerity we trust

Cashless society, everything digital
Yawning gaps that seem unbridgable

Let’s not worry, the quants will prevail
Negative interest rates, oil from shale

Mergers and buy-outs, where will it end?
When there’s nothing to buy and nothing to spend.

Mandy Meikle still edits the Reforesting Scotland Journal and really should be preparing for tomorrow’s editorial meeting!

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Don’t get mad at the optimists

Don’t get mad at the optimists
They know not what they do
Blind hope for the many
Reality for the few

Don’t get mad at the optimists
Their data they give freely
While you and I may sigh and ask
‘You believe this shit, really?’

Don’t get mad at the optimists
As positive visions accrue
Their stories are more palatable
The truth would never do

Don’t get mad at the optimists
With their turbine-driven futures
We are all electric now,
Our lives run by computers

Don’t get mad at the optimists
They are right in many ways
Humans are amazing beasts
And yet the world’s ablaze

Don’t get mad at the optimists
It’s only human to want more
And what’s wrong with a little luxury?
Self-sufficiency’s such a bore

Don’t get mad at the optimists
They’ve got a tough lesson to learn
Wants will wane, needs may be met
As we wait for the seasons to turn

Mandy Meikle apologises for the poetry and is immensely excited to be seeing The Chemical Brothers soon!!

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The adaptation

The chants and shouts from the crowd died down as the Prime Minister’s unreadable face appeared across the city centre on the strategically-placed Tru-Vu screens, each one gathering data on those below and beaming out party propaganda in return. Born in 2000, Prime Minister John Jeffries and his cohort had vastly different views on society than did previous generations. Gone were the days of the welfare state—John Jeffries senior had seen to that.

“People, your attention!” Silence followed the voice like a well-trained dog. “You will have witnessed the awful, unforgivable scenes taking place across this great city.” The crowd murmured, if you listened carefully. Unknown to them, similar scenes had taken place across the British Federation but news reports rarely told of life in faraway places.

The PM looked out across what was, had he actually been looking, a sea of grey. “It is now 15 years since The Adaptation began—these shortages and cut-backs are nothing new. We must adjust to our new normal of degrowth, a process it is futile to fight. These are frightening times, for all of us, but I can assure you that this Government is doing everything it can to keep all legals safe and provided for during these times of scarcity”, he said as a camera light glinted on a cuff-covered gold wrist strap.

The grey clouds released their cargo on the crowd below, further dampening the mood. “This guy’s scary as hell,” one old protester muttered to his neighbour. “So cold, so rational, when he’s talking about things like denying free healthcare to people over sixty. Do you think he has parents?” The man pulled a pair of shabby red gloves over a pair of shabby red hands.

“I’m sure he does”, replied the other man, who seemed to be wearing a Rupert the Bear scarf, “and I’m sure he and his family have the money to pay for the best of care. If you’ve got money, The Adaptation was nothing.”

The Adaptation certainly wasn’t ‘nothing’, not to anyone, but by the time it happened the control of information had become so tailored to the individual contract-riddled consumer, that it was easy to split people’s news streams up—one story for the ‘haves’ and one for the ‘have-nots’; one for the compliant, another for the discordant. If you control the information, you control the people but that control is easier to gain if the group in question believes that they are doing better than the rest.

So, The Adaptation was many things, depending who you were talking to. The main geophysical event was two metres of global sea level rise in less than five years—none of the climate models had dared to build in ‘unknown unknowns’. And the response by all who could respond was mostly building massive sea defences with what resources were left, followed by figuring out how to grow food and deal with waste in this newly-warmed world of walled islands, where billions died during years of floods, famines, disease and a new breed of hurricane—the hurricane wind scale no longer stopped at five.

All debt had been cancelled, which was not as much fun for the indebted as you might think. Similarly, UniPay gave everyone a basic income in exchange for so many hours working for the common cause. Again, sounds good and, indeed, it was until the Youth First party came on the scene in 2032. For forty years, since the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, individual young people had taken part in international negotiations on various environmental and sustainable development issues. Groups and alliances formed, books were written about our children’s stolen future, climate activism rose and fell in the public’s awareness, but it was always there for the children—shadowing their futures ever darker. Then, as so often happens, one person seemed to be in the right place at the right time to seed a movement. It was in August 2018, twenty-two years ago, when 15-year-old Greta Thunberg began her school strike. For a while, it seemed like the grown-ups might wake up, but that’s not how things go, is it?

The PM continued, “You must understand what a privilege it is to have the right to voice your opinions. Many countries no longer allow such flagrant shows of democracy…”

That was true, at the moment, but only because Britain had clung on to the illusion of growth economics longer than the rest of Europe, thanks to the Bank of England’s ability to print money. Meanwhile, the European Central Bank seemed to substitute positive for negative investment returns, plumping for $15 trillion of the latter. So as each country collapsed thanks to its own brand of economic idiocy, controlled dissent was allowed for a while, primarily to allow infiltration and intelligence gathering. After a few years of determined despotism in those countries which had prioritised their digital infrastructure over non-essentials such as lights and incubators, all dissent had been rooted out and all dissenters re-educated or recycled.

“…in a controlled and orderly way. However, should public violence and disorder ever erupt again, I shall have no alternative but to call the Army in again—this time, immediately. My tardiness before allowed the death of several police officers….”

You see, it is easy to create an illusion if you have all the props: a massive energy bank is key, energy being the ability to do work or make change happen; willing engineers duped into building completely unsustainable technologies in the true belief that these miracle machines will bring peace and prosperity to all; people the world over brainwashed into thinking that humans, Homo sapiens, are intrinsically incapable of cooperating and must be controlled; and last but not least, hide the fundamental truth that every species on Earth is interconnected. Sentimentalism always hinders profit.

“The violent protesters have shown that they do not care for life and harmony. We, the Youth Party, do care about life and harmony, even if the means to that end involve death and violence. I thank you for your time.” The PM and his expressionless face finished with the Youth Party’s salute: the raised fist of solidarity held out at shoulder height. The  backdrop bearing the party’s logo—an angular hourglass in a circle—faded to black.

Mandy Meikle wrote this in response to the following exercise: “The year is 2040. There have been riots in the streets of London after Britain has run out of petrol because of an oil crisis in the Middle East. Protesters have attacked public buildings. Several policemen have died. Consequently, the Government has deployed the Army to curb the protests. After two days the protests have stopped but 25 protesters have been killed by the Army. You are Prime Minister. Write the script for a speech to be broadcast to the nation in which you explain why employing the Army against violent protesters was the only option available to you and one which was both necessary and moral.” What’s most worrying about all this is that the exercise apparently comes from a 2011 exam paper for 13-year old children with aspirations for Eton.

Addendum: That said, https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/luke-sandford/eton-exam-question_b_3358711.html is interesting as it sets some context: the candidates had also been questioned on Machiavelli’s The Prince on whether it is better to be feared than loved (if you have to pick one) and were apparently asked both to summarise the argument and explain why it is unappealing. And it’s for a scholarship exam, not just getting in but getting a scholarship to get in. All very debate-worthy!

And no, I don’t know what the Rupert the Bear scarf means – yet.

Posted in Civilisation, Climate Change, Writing | 4 Comments

Ode to the unbusy

Now, not later!
You’re such a procrastinator.
Reports to write, money to earn
Tax receipts, amended return
That phone call to make
Hands that ache…

There’s always a reason,
no matter the season,
to postpone what we know we should do.
Is it a mental illness, or a case of feeling blue?
Or is it something deeper
Success has a gatekeeper.

Worried you’re not good enough?
Anxious dreams of living rough?
No place for the slow, there are targets to meet
Lose your job and you’ll be out on the street.
Or maybe it’s just fun you seek
Life’s too short for a full working week.

No, not me. I’m no procrastinator.
Busy, busy all the time, nothing left til later.
My life is well-stocked and neat.
Work-life balance working a treat.
Positive thinking, biting my tongue
Gyms to work out in, songs to be sung.

Friends as yet untested
Races run and mountains crested.
Work-waking hours filled with hilarity
keeps the mind from considering reality.
If I didn’t keep busy, everything timed
I might stop, and think, and then lose my mind.

Mandy Meikle is thinking of everyone in London protesting for the planet. https://rebellion.earth/international-rebellion/

Posted in Poems | 2 Comments

Balloon

Think of a balloon—red, if you like.
Bigger it gets with each puff.
Red becomes pink, molecular bonds taut.
Expansion slows but continues—stop for a breather but then carry on.
Relentless…
Until…
Relief.

Something has to give, it always does if change continues
in one direction,
unchecked, out of balance.
No up and down;
no growth and contraction;
no youth and senescence;
no yin and yang.

Just up, up, up go the stocks,
bigger and bigger become the fields
and the egos,
more taut becomes the skin of the balloon until…
Well, you know what happens.
It’s happened before.
Why on Earth will we be surprised?

Mandy Meikle had another excellent time at EIBF (edbookfest.co.uk) and has realised she needs to know much more about her creative side before charging on to write the most boring novel ever…

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Only human

There’s a phrase going round in my head:
‘The world would be fine if we were all dead’
But surely that’s immoral?
Humans mean more than coral,
or fish, or bees,
or birds or trees…
‘God gave us all the species to use’
To use, perhaps, but abuse?
Life is a circle, you want a line – with an incline
You think that hoarding wealth is just fine.
Humanity has no wealth, no intrinsic worth
without every creature here on this Earth.

So let’s stop the killing,
the mining, the drilling.
The incessant, one-way take, take, take
has to become make and remake.
Time will heal but how much remains?
Tipping points loom, can we shake off our chains?
Can we see though the false stories,
abandon our categories, our laboratories, our territories?
Will we choose a better way to be
or will Nature impose change and watch us flee?
Impassively.
Shit happens.

4/6/19

Mandy Meikle is as surprised at this turn of events as anyone. Dedicated to Elvis McGonagall’s misanthropic rabbit!

Posted in Poems, Writing | 2 Comments