capitalism

List of Items Which Fall Through the Letter Box After I’m Dead by Dave Eales

_45592638_inflation_basket446x288One of the key indices for measuring consumer habits, and their effect on the economy, is the Consumer Price Index (CPI); called a basket of goods, its contents influence a number of policy decisions, one of which is inflation. The CPI is also an interesting measure of changes in cultural taste, and as ever on this site, this has implications for class; for example, as the Grauniad highlighted, this year’s index saw the following: “Women’s active wear leggings, quiche and raspberries are in vogue while pork pies and bottles of lager drunk in nightclubs are out.” I’m too much of a coward to make judgement of how this affects class habits, particularly as the influence of advertising is often high.

uk debt clockThe year before also saw the inclusion of gin, cycle helmets, and non-dairy milk. It’s an interesting exercise (at least I think it is), to go through the index and look at what you consume yourself. It gives you a distant sense of how you influence, or are influenced by, consumerism. However, this also shows how connected and co-opted we are by the products we consume, and the mechanisms we use to do so; a big one being debt. Debt is the diesel that fuels the economy. Years ago when I finally decided to get a contract for my mobile, I couldn’t get it because I didn’t have a debt record. I had never borrowed money (we don’t have a mortgage) so I couldn’t be trusted, at least by the computer which kept saying no.

Dave Cropped BWLife, as they say, goes on when we die, and in today’s poem by Dave Eales, List of Items Which Fall Through the Letter Box After I’m Dead, we find a fascinating and depressing set of missives from bodies that don’t know your body is no longer sentient. I’ll leave you to read the poem to see the detail, but for a moment, think about yourself dead (apologies) and what your letterbox would receive after you’ve gone. How much capitalism still chases you; still tries to get you contribute further to the nation’s debt; doesn’t discount you completely from the ever-changing consumer price index. Given the limited amount of spare landfill we have left, I’m sure coffins must be way down the list of consumer items these days. By the way of an end, a fun fact; we are now a global population of 7+ billion – do you know how many people have died since the dawn of people? (c107 billion). Have a great week y’all.

Dave Eales was born in Apapa, Nigeria in 1962. He grew up in Nigeria, South America & UK. He spent many years working in IT in London, as well as writing and drinking in his spare time. Dave lives in France and is currently working on his first novel.

List of Items Which Fall Through the Letter Box After I’m Dead

A letter inviting me to apply for a gold credit card at 17 % APR;
A bill from the Electricity company for £46.22;
A voucher entitling me to enjoy any king size pizza for £4.99 (garlic bread not included);
A letter sent to the wrong person, she no longer lives here;
An advertisement from a bank, promising the lowest rate mortgage available;
Some dust;
A postcard from a long forgotten girlfriend;
A demand for council tax from Islington Borough Council;
An offer to invest in Jupiter’s high income fund ISA;
A reminder from Central Islington Library concerning overdue books;
More dust, leaves too;
A First Direct bank statement, showing a credit balance of 342.39;
A birthday card, (unopened).

 

 

Fracking, North Dakota and Prophet and Loss, a plague foretold by David Olsen

001-fracking-57ed6af0d7315-57ed6af0e7d4eWhen it comes to making a decision, we all like to think that we have rational minds of our own; we are open to listening to both sides of an argument, then we put our tick or cross in the box, give our opinion in the pub, at work, or Speaker’s Corner. But the truth is, we are all a guilty of bias. However, I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing; for example, if Boris Johnson or Alan Sugar say something I’m pretty sure I will disagree with them; so the nihilistic part of me says, why bother listening? Most politicians with wealth (often inherited), are all eyes on maintaining their privileged lineage, thus couch their arguments in a thinly veiled rationale, which usually equates to bullshit and hypocrisy.

This applies to today’s subject, fracking. Type ‘arguments for and against fracking’ into your preferred internet search engine and you actually don’t need to read what is being said, just who is saying it, to know which side you are on. Unsurprisingly, the likes of Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, CPRE argue strongly against fracking (causes earthquakes, polluting, won’t have huge impact on energy costs), whilst the likes of Spiked Online and those supporting oil and gas companies argue in favour (it’s not dangerous, it’s clean, will create jobs, reduce prices, etc.). Then there is Drill or Drop, which reports ‘evidence-based’ journalism about the onshore oil and gas business.

A lot of the problem with the search for new energy sources, which are sorely needed, is the governance behind their implementation. In today’s neo-liberal world, where co-operative non-profit ventures are rarely considered, big business with its anabolic influence, doesn’t need to ask for our trust, because government won’t hold them to account and are ever-seeking to offload fiscal responsibility. David Olsen’s poems, David 2007d (2)Fracking, North Dakota’ and ‘Prophet and Loss, a plague foretold, expose the effects fracking and rabid capitalism have on the lives of people directly impacted by them. From the beginning of such processes: ‘Columns of stainless steel stab the earth./ Waste gas flares from a pipe;/ orange flames corrupt the blameless sky.’ To their catastrophic end: ‘Through every field and farm will swarm/ conforming fools consuming all,// returning naught of worth.’ The case for and against a biased attitude is a straightforward one; your opinion is either biased toward ensuring you make huge profits whatever the consequence, or it is skewed toward ensuring you have a livelihood; a job, a home, enough food, access to health services, to education. Of course, if we weren’t so biased we’d use the terms objective/subjective so that everyone would really know which side we were on.

 

David Olsen’s Unfolding Origami (80pp, 2015) won the Cinnamon Press Poetry Collection Award, and Past Imperfect, his second full-length poetry collection, is forthcoming from Cinnamon Press. Poetry chapbooks from US publishers include Exit Wounds (2017), Sailing to Atlantis (2013), New World Elegies (2011), and Greatest Hits (2001). David’s work appears widely in the US and Europe. A poet, playwright, and fiction writer with a BA in chemistry from University of California-Berkeley and an MA in creative writing from San Francisco State University, he was formerly an energy economist, management consultant, and performing arts critic.

 

Fracking
North Dakota

A young rancher leans on a fencepost,
squints at a distant horizon as if to discern
the future of his family’s land and livelihood.

Prices of open land rise with groundwater
toxicity. Soon neither man nor beast
will inhabit this home on the range.

Columns of stainless steel stab the earth.
Waste gas flares from a pipe;
orange flames corrupt the blameless sky.

Land, once infinite and timeless,
is now changed, changed utterly
by the eroding flood of dollars

created beyond the wounded horizon
by the reckless click of a mouse.

Prophet and Loss
a plague foretold

He hears the stirring underground.
Too long ignored, the sage intones
his grim portentous prophecy:

From drought shall arise a plague
devouring every fecund bud
and diligent leaf, leaving bare

sterile stems to grieve their loss.
Through every field and farm will swarm
conforming fools consuming all,

returning naught of worth. And their
new verities and misdeeds will be
unnumbered as indifferent stars.

Now the sightless sage awaits
the frenzied buzz of locust wings,
the reckless theft of common wealth.

 

Saving for the Hamper by Ali Jones

oxfam coop stampsWhen I was young, my mum used to collect stamps. We had a Co-op on the corner. I remember she would come home with the shopping and blue stamps, letting me stick them in to slowly fill the pages until you had enough for a dividend (the books are low value collector’s items these days). The Co-op’s stamps were a response to their competitors’ schemes, especially the catch-all Green Shield stamps, which were very popular during the 1960s and 70s. Its founder, Richard Tompkins went on to set up Argos. These were the precursor to modern-day loyalty cards that now involve you giving them information about your habits through your purchases thereby capturing your ‘loyalty’.

The stamps were first introduced in the United States towards the end of the 19th century; given to customers who paid in cash as opposed to credit. There are though other schemes, especially saving for Christmas, which is implied in Alison Jones’ poem, “Saving for the Hamper”: “There was more to it than I thought, the pulling together Profile Picof pennies/ in a small leather purse and counting them when no one was looking,/ the card left face down on the kitchen table, in anticipation of a stamp.” These schemes were/are targeted at those who may not have bank accounts, or a way in which they have enough extra money at the beginning of December. This was the case for the grandmother in this poem, “I did not see the strange woman/ who woke in the dark and went digging through her pockets,/ knowing she would find nothing more than ghosts and prayers.” The schemes are now fairly widespread, the latest being Toys R Us; this despite a number going bust, sometimes before the Xmas return to its customers, such as Farepak where people tried for years to get their money back without success. Pleasures change, whether it be a computer game, or as in our poem, “The sweetness of boxed dates was as surprising as summer rain,/ and now I know that hope was a wellspring beneath the ground.” Merry Christmas everyone, whatever your faith or time of the year it may be, at least when it comes to the concerns of capitalism.

 

Ali Jones is a teacher, and writer, living in Oxford, England. She holds an MA in English, focused on poetry in domestic spaces and has written poetry in a variety of forms for many years. She is a mother of three. She is interested in the relationships between place and personal, in terms of ancestry, the everyday, geology, folk lore and fairy tales.  Her work has appeared in Fire, Poetry Rivals Spoken Word Anthology, Strange Poetry, Ink Sweat and Tears, Snakeskin Poetry, Atrium, Picaroon Poetry, Mother’s Milk Books, The Lake Magazine, Breastfeeding Matters, Breastfeeding Today and Green Parent magazine. She writes a regular column for Breastfeeding Matters Magazine, and blogs for The Motherload. She was the winner of the Green Parent Writing Prize in 2016, the runner up for the Mother’s Milk prize for prose in 2016, and has also written for The Guardian. Her poetry pamphlets, Heartwood and Omega are forthcoming with Indigo Dreams press in 2018.

 

 Saving for the Hamper

There was more to it than I thought, the pulling together of pennies
in a small leather purse and counting them when no one was looking,

the card left face down on the kitchen table, in anticipation of a stamp.
There’s more to making a celebration than I ever expected,

the small processes of finding one thing to set against another
one thing to leave out, to make do without. The chill of the larder,

the echoes in the meat safe that I did not hear, stilted to lift it
from the reachings of hungry mice. I did not see the strange woman

who woke in the dark and went digging through her pockets,
knowing she would find nothing more than ghosts and prayers.

It was always better than I hoped, the old need keeping us strong,
the anticipation of cardboard boxes and shredded newspaper,

spam, Dundee cake, jellied fruits, Baxter’s soup and beetroot relish,
My grandmother’s cooking always tasted the best. At those times,

I think we had something else with us all along, in the way she worked
hour after hour, back bent beneath the heat, drifting between

house and garden, bringing everything in, currants and plums,
potatoes and peas, turning the soil, not a scrap wasted, ever.

The sweetness of boxed dates was as surprising as summer rain,
and now I know that hope was a wellspring beneath the ground,

as she worked, letting things in, immersed in the purr of the wireless,
bleeding carols through the air, making things possible, gathering us in.

the spaces left bare by matt duggan

Homage_to_Catalonia,_Cover,_1st_EditionIt is seventy years since George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia was published; his personal account of the Spanish Civil War. Now, the papers’ headlines carry the same title, as the people of Catalonia once again go against the Madrid government in a so-called ‘illegal’ referendum on independence. Irrespective of one’s views about the subject of the vote, the state response of violence against all and sundry was abhorrent. Scenes across the region, but in particular Barcelona where much of the media was concentrated, and lest we forget where a terrorist atrocity was carried out along the famous Las Ramblas, showed an elderly woman with blood pouring from her head, another with a woman’s fingers being broken, and many other such beatings.

But this is not the only concern the people of Barcelona have had to fight against. In August of this year there was a demonstration on the streets and beach of the city against the continued building of tourist apartments, which is having a negative effect on local peoples’ access to housing. The head of the local federation of neighbourhood associations (the FAVB), Camilo Ramos who supported the protest, said it ‘demands that Barcelona reconquers spaces that were previously … in citizens’ control, such as la Rambla…; there are increasing problems in the city, such as expulsion of lower income people due to the increase in prices of rents and shopping halls, as well as a growth of flats altered into tourist houses.’

20150808_152657Matt Duggan’s poem, The Spaces Left Bare, reflects on such a protest during a stay in Barcelona; one that can be seen as a wider indicator of heightened capitalism and its effect on peoples’ ability to afford housing in major cities and conurbations throughout the world; something that echoes developments from San Francisco to Delhi and no doubt beyond. And like in London leaves many places uninhabited, at night the room lights up for no one/ then fades as dusk wakes the clock; / where guests will never reserve or stay.’ In the future, will they say this is a homage to capitalism? Is the Spanish government’s actions a homage to democracy? I think not.

Matt Duggan’s poems have appeared in Osiris, The Journal, Ink, Sweat, and Tears, Into the Void, Black Light Engine Room, Prole, The Dawntreader, Algebra of Owls. In 2015 Matt won the Erbacce Prize for Poetry with his first full collection Dystopia 38.10 http://erbacce-press.webeden.co.uk/#/matt-duggan/4590351997. In 2016 he won the Into the Void Poetry Prize with his poem Elegy for Magdalene. In 2017 Matt did his first reading in Boston in the U.S. and has been invited back to be headline poet at the prestigious Poetry Reading Series held at Cambridge Public Library in April 2018 where he will also be doing his first readings in New York with beat poet George Wallace. Matt is working on a new collection Look What We’ve Become.

 

 

The Spaces Left Bare

The only human figures to pass on these walls
are the shadows in opposing rooms
those reflections

                              during the summer months
bounce from the ceiling like ghosts dressed in black suits.
Air is stale and needs recycling
windows gleam with no visible fingerprints,
immaculate laminated tiles

                              underfloor heating
                                                  the spaces are left bare. ……

Where beneath the plush gothic balcony
a homeless man sleeps in the open air
at night the room lights up for no one
then fades as dusk wakes the clock;
where guests will never reserve or stay.

Chip Van by Lorraine Carey

tesco farmsThe supermarket giant Tesco did a funny thing recently. They invented farms. They began selling food items produced on farms that don’t exist. So now you can buy chickens from Willow Farms, diced beef from Boswell Farms, and a variety of fruit from Rosedene Farms. The amazing thing is, they can get away with it. But the reason they did it actually makes sense, for they realised that people still want to feel that the food they buy is made locally, and not in a factory. The tragic irony is that it is the real farms upon which these imagined ones are modelled, which are suffering at the hands of this type of big capitalism.

vans shoesOne of the contradictions of capitalism, or should I say one of its cons, is the issue of choice. On the ugly face of it, your choice of purchase, whether it be an earring or a car, is endless. You can get a seeming boundless range of designs; for example, when researching chip vans for this feature, I came across the popular shoe brand Vans, and yes, you’ve guessed it (unless you haven’t) was an image of a pair of shoes covered in chips – you can also get a pair with pepperoni pizza design. But the contradiction in all of this, is that as consumers we tend not to go outside our comfort zones. We wear remarkably similar clothes, eat a small range of foods. Hence trends emerge, promoted by social media, the most recent of which sees half the western world running around playing Pokemon Go.

Within this advanced stage of capitalism, a concentration of ownership by large corporations, puts pay to many small businesses which simply can’t compete with such economies of scale and bullying marketing tactics. You have to go ‘niche’ if you want to succeed; to carve yourself a slice of choice no-one has yet had a taste of. But even here, big business will eat it up. Take real ale, for example. For years the likes of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) supported such producers, but now it has been taken up and turned into ‘craft’ ales so as to make you feel that is more artisanal. Similarly, local coffee shops are under attack from the main chains such as Starbucks.

lorraine careySmall family run businesses and trades have been squeezed from such practices for many years. But I think one of the businesses that hasn’t been corporatised in this way, is your fish and chip shop (with the exception of Harry Ramsden’s in the UK, which is now a series of franchises). Lorraine Carey’s nostalgic poem, “The Chip Van,” takes us back to a time when such food outlets were more ubiquitous. (more…)

Driftwood Detroit by Julie Hogg

Imagine a city built from nothing. A city that didn’t begin its life as a series of villages. A city, once a wasteland that now houses hundreds of thousands of people who work in the purpose-built factories, to make goods for the capitalist world in order to service a communist dream.

IF

Lanzhou Xinqu is said to be China’s newest city, hewn out of the country’s northwest mountains, which by 2020 will have half a million inhabitants. These cities literally start completely empty. Such utilitarianism has given rise to the most aggressive form of industrial development in human history. One that is driven by a technological revolution backed by authoritarian rule. What will happen when a particular city’s utility ends, especially if only one product is being made? Will they simply close the city like a shop?

The lessons from western democracies, similarly driven by capitalist development, is not a good one. Local economies, founded on a single product or industry, are at the mercy of fickle and itinerant globalisation. The poster child of such a change is Detroit, the motor city. Once a thriving metropolis, now whole swathes of it are empty, with the population dropping by 25% in the first ten years of this century.

We saw something similar in the UK at a smaller scale with the mining industry, and now more recently in steel. As the base price of steel falls, the owners such as Tata in the North-east of England decide that’s it – up FullSizeRendersticks and leave. Julie Hogg’s poem, Detroit Driftwood is a Philip Levine inspired lament for Middlesbrough, where in nearby Redcar over 2,000 workers will lose their jobs. “A city is being sedated/Jesus Christ where are you now!/Listen, for God’s sake, to the almost incidental/silver-tongued debates.” (more…)

Monopoly by Catherine Smith

monopolyI think we have all seen those World War Two prisoner of war movies, where the men connived their escape in secret, digging tunnels with makeshift, man-made tools, then releasing the soil from their trousers in the exercise yard. The men did however, receive assistance from their respective military services back home. One of the most ingenious of the strategies for escape came in the early 1940s from MI9, the British secret service unit responsible for escape and evasion; they hatched a plan with British Toy maker, John Waddington Ltd to develop the game of Monopoly for the imprisoned men. They set up bogus humanitarian organisations to get the games into the camps, but the aim was not to brighten the spirits of the men through this capitalist game, but to hide tools in small boxes within the package. The most important development however, and why Waddington were brought in, was their ability to produce silk maps; these were easy to hide (down boots) and quiet, unlike their paper counterpart. So the game was instrumental in the war effort.

100_1683Monopoly has been around for over a hundred years, although it was only licensed as such in 1935 and has been the joy, and frustration of many families across the world since then. It was originally intended to educate people in the iniquities of monopolistic capitalism; but as Catherine Smith’s poem beautifully shows, the competitive nature of capitalism, particularly between a parent and child can overcome any benevolent thoughts. “Almost bankrupt and only recently released from jail,/she owes her ten year old/four hundred quid in rent/….she pleads poverty.” But the boy is unrelenting, “He points out/she could give him Leicester Square,” showing no sign of compassion for his rival’s predicament. “She thinks how/this is what capitalism does to children,/-brutalises them.” So she fights back, “she’ll take her chances,/and hangs onto Leicester Square.” She does this not by rational economic thinking but through human experience; “She likes/the Japanese men with their cameras…/she likes the pigeon shit, the café/ with the gilt-framed photo of the Queen.” And I guess the moral of the story, whether it be to free prisoners or help educate our young, we need to be careful of the multi-headed hydra that capitalism can become, and how “no favours asked” is a rare and touching thing. (more…)