In Charge Of An Empty Head

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They think that they have finally done it.

They have managed to make my head a vacant possession. They have reduced me to one of their non-thinking masses.

Their eyes have been following me. No, that is not quite right. My head is so empty now that it does not always remember the way things have been. They walk past my classroom door and peer in. A couple of the more empty-headed have occasionally stopped to walk into my room, as I am in full teaching mode, to talk to some students. There is no excuse me, sir, just a definite appropriation of territory.

The ones who do this are youngish, fat (flattish), dull as ditch-water, and stupid beyond reasonable imagination. If the Gestapo were to start up again, and it probably will, these would be the first on its list of recruits. Their incapacity for empathy aligned to their dullard adherence to whatever rules are in place at the time, would mark them out as ideal candidates. ‘The line of duty’ springs to mind. As a result of this, my resistance has been shaken into action.

I do little things such as trying to have fun in a lesson. Here I am not necessarily talking about a fun lesson for the kids, but one for me. I tend to find that if I am enjoying myself they have a good to better chance of doing so as well. I am not always right on this one.

The more I think about it, the more it appears to me that the whole department is built upon arrangements made after an army of invasion has established itself in occupation.

Above the tubby girls are two moderately aware practitioners who stick to the script. Their teaching goes nowhere without the appropriate PowerPoint. They do that whole cut and paste PowerPoint thing where massive chunks of text are squeezed onto each slide. After that, the person at the front (it used to be a teacher) reads each and every painful line as if delivering the commandments from on high. The kids get to copy off the PowerPoint rather than doing the shockingly old-fashioned thing of copying from the board.

Above these two guards is the leader of the department. Young, driven, smiling to the ones in favour, and to every child who crosses his ‘learning base’ threshold. He could be the manager of a factory or a supermarket. His job is to make the kids feel happy. He does that well. However, when he is not smiling, he is not smiling.

The three leaders of the small department are constantly telling others how good they are at the business of teaching even though the results don’t bear this out. In fact, these three are often telling everybody else how good they are at everything else. It’s a form of blessing that the school has them in the first place.

Oh, and let’s not forget the truly horrible woman who glares and glares at anybody not within her circle of trust. The circle of trust just happens to be those who she deems to be the most important members of the department, the leaders.

So, today I will go in and do my very best to wobble the cart. I am expecting to be marched off the premises by lunchtime and shot in the car park of the local supermarket.

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When they read out my crimes against modern education, it will be from a PowerPoint; and it will be full to bursting. 

The Piper 37

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His subject had been left alone and she was still disorientated from her ordeal. He had been watching her for some time, hoping that he would get this opportunity. 

It brought him the Andrews mother. She served her up as an offering and he knew that the brothers were nothing without her. She could be used to his advantage. She would draw them in and then she could be dealt with. The Piper hated mothers.

The female doctor had been called away to help somewhere else while the nurses were busy working at the far end of the ward. Nobody really checked the identity of the middle-aged doctor; he walked unquestioned and unchecked amongst them.

“It is Mrs Andrews? Yes?”

Laura opened her eyes and looked up. At the end of the bed stood a man of fifty with steel grey hair and an imposing stance. She had never seen him before and was surprised at what felt like an acid flood beginning to sweep through her body.

“Mrs Andrews, I have been placed in charge of you and am a little worried by your condition. I would like to do a few tests with you to make sure that everything will be okay.”

Laura felt that something was wrong.

“I was with the young doctor, the woman. She seemed to think that I was recovering. She didn’t say anything about tests. Where is she?”

“Forget about her. She is very young and still learning. Now you have me and I have years of experience in this field. We want to make you better, Mrs Andrews. We want to make you well again.”

There was something wrong with his tone. She recognised the practised professionalism that was so common in doctors, but there was something else lying just beyond his words that was not so common. This one could smile sweetly as he pulled the lever at a hanging.

From nowhere he had sprung and suddenly he wanted to carry out tests. He had moved his position to the side of the bed and had put a comforting hand on her arm. The way that he held it, the way pythons held their victims.

“Now, you will listen a little and I will make you well again. You don’t want any more bad dreams do you?”

She had told no one about her dreams, not even the female doctor so how did he know?

He was squeezing her arm tighter now and his eyes were looking deeply into hers and she saw him. She saw the dark shape that liked to call itself The Piper hiding behind his retinas. She saw the dark waters opening up and the creatures that were reaching out to pull her back in.

She tried to scream but his hand was over her mouth with a handkerchief. She could do nothing but breathe in and, as she did so, the substance contained on the cloth entered her system, ending any hope of struggle.

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The waters opened up again and the hands pulled her down.

 

‘Evil Has Won’ Pro-American Germans feel betrayed.

Michelle Goldberg

By Michelle Goldberg

Opinion Columnist

President Trump met with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Wednesday.CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

BERLIN — Klaus Scharioth, who served as Germany’s ambassador to the United States during both George W. Bush’s and Barack Obama’s administrations, was born in 1946, the year after Germany’s surrender in World War II. His earliest impressions of America were of a magnanimous, generous country.

“It was never forgotten that the United States included Germany in the Marshall Plan, which you would not have expected,” he told me, speaking of American aid to rebuild Europe after the war. He remembers getting packages of food from the Cooperative for American Remittances to Europe, or CARE: “The victor sends the one who is defeated, and who began the war, CARE packages! Imagine that. It doesn’t happen too often.”

In the world he grew up in, America was seen as the guarantor of the liberal democratic order, an order in which Germany, abandoning its aggressive history, would come to thrive. And so for many Germans, it’s a profound shock that the president of the United States now attacks that order, while appearing to fawn over Russia.

“Germans have grown accustomed to the fact that the United States would always be their friends,” Scharioth said. “And it’s like when a very good friend leaves you. It hurts. I would say of all European countries, the Germans psychologically are the ones who are wounded most.”

I traveled to Würzburg, Germany, last week for a conference about the free press, where journalists from Russia, Turkey, Hungary and Poland, among other countries, spoke of the challenges of reporting in conditions of ever-increasing authoritarianism. Afterward I spent a few days in Berlin, speaking to politicians and foreign policy experts as Donald Trump threatened to blow up NATO. In both places there was a funereal sense — not universal, but pervasive — that the era of open societies might be ending.

“For me, the key thing is the Enlightenment,” Scharioth said. “I think that keeps the E.U. together, the values of the Enlightenment — a free press, religious freedom, minority protection, free elections, democracy, a free judiciary independent of all the other branches of government, tolerance, respect for others. I’m afraid the United States might no longer be speaking out for these values. And that makes me very anxious.”

Obviously, even before Trump, not everyone in Germany admired the United States the way Scharioth did. As in every country in Europe, there has been significant anti-American sentiment in Germany, particular on the far left and the far right. But those Germans who do believe in the best of American values are struggling to come to terms with a world in which the United States, whose support has undergirded German foreign policy assumptions for 70 years, can’t be trusted.

“The trans-Atlantic relationship is not going to survive eight years of Trump,” said Marcel Dirsus, a center-right-leaning political scientist at the University of Kiel. He’s not sure it can survive four. “What comes next is anyone’s guess,” he said.

That phrase “trans-Atlantic relationship” might sound like a diplomatic banality. But a world without it would be an extremely different place. America has long wanted Europeans to spend more on their own defense, but should every nation in Europe feel the need to significantly build up its military — and perhaps to nuclearize — the continent would likely become far less stable. There’s no reason to take for granted that most countries in Europe would remain open, pro-Western democracies.

Ironically, part of the original purpose of NATO was to prevent a return of German militarism: Lord Ismay, NATO’s first secretary general, once quipped that the organization’s purpose was “to keep the Soviet Union out, the Americans in and the Germans down.” European integration was premised on American protection. Now that protection is no longer reliable, and to some, America itself seems like a threat.

When I met with Cem Özdemir, a member of the German Bundestag from the center-left Green Party, he spoke with awe of the Statue of Liberty and all it represents. “That was the dream of everybody in the world, that one day we would all live in democracies,” he said. “One day, we would all live in a world that is fair and just. If the guy in the center of this world is evil, evil has won.”

Özdemir was the first politician of Turkish descent to serve in Germany’s parliament and, as a former Green Party co-chairman, the first to lead a major political party. He has sometimes been referred to as the German Obama; an Obama bobblehead sits on the desk of his office. He was staggered by the turn America has taken.

“It reminds me of a James Bond movie,” he said. “You have a guy” — Putin — “who has a clear plan. Step 1, Step 2. It’s Brexit, it’s President Trump, it’s having Europe stumbling, it’s having authoritarian regimes getting stronger on a daily basis, it’s an escalation in Syria. He gets everything he wants.” But while the world seems to be ruled by Bond villains, he said, there is “no James Bond.”

Özdemir hopes that a more integrated Europe, anchored by a Franco-German alliance, can serve as a counterweight to mounting illiberalism. Knitting the countries of Europe even closer together will be a monumental challenge, since right-wing populism is on the rise within France and Germany as well as outside them. But he sees no other choice, given the existential threats to liberal democracy bearing down on Europe. “From the East we’re attacked by Mr. Putin, and now we’re also attacked by the White House,” he said.

It’s mind-boggling that one freakish American election, resulting in a presidency that a majority of Americans never wanted, could do so much damage not just to the United States but also to the global order that the United States created in the wake of World War II. But Germans know as well as anyone the havoc a single demagogue can wreak when the forces of decency are exhausted and unsure of themselves, and they can’t help seeing Trump through the lens of their own hideous history.

“When I talked to my American friends in 2016, I always reminded them of what happened in Europe,” Scharioth said. “Nobody thought in the early 1920s that Italy would become a dictatorship. Nobody thought that Germany, supposed a quite cultured nation, would get rid of democracy in a very short time. Maybe when you have this European experience, you might be more pessimistic than others.”

When Truth Becomes Fiction

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“Ninety-five percent of people who walk the earth are simply inert. One percent are saints, and one percent are assholes. The other three percent are people who do what they say they can do.” 

The Dead Zone   Stephen King

 

I read this book in my late teens or early twenties. It struck me then as something to think about and now it strikes me as prophetic., a successful businessman and delusional egomaniac, becomes a contender for president and would have convinced the blue-collar workers, rednecks and those left out of the American dream, to put him in the Whitehouse. King, being King, made a ludicrously sounding plot believable and now America, in homage to one of its greatest commercial writers, has made the dream come true. The world is going mad and soon Trump will be conducting the cacophonous calamity that will play out on the world stage.

 

I am scared to death of the lunatic. I am scared of those who see his illiberal-evil and believe it. I am scared that what King’s character dreamt about will actually happen. Give me vampires or zombies. Give me a super plague or virus. Give me anything but Trump (and that is not an order). The inauguration hasn’t taken place just yet but soon it will be history. How much are betting companies’ odds on Trump being trumped before he truly takes office? Will a lone gunman try to JF DT?  Alas, there will be nothing that shakes Trump’s immoveable belief and manifest destiny. Only in books do the villains falter at the last; in the real world they continue apace, get their nasty business done and then fade into a distant memory of a one-time terrible illness.

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And so, it has come to pass that the epitome of ignorant evil has survived his first year; almost. Indeed, his stance had become emboldened by the persistent sycophants and fawners who are now anxiously waiting in the queue to shake the hand of America’s best. It makes me sick, sick to the very core of my being that “the will of the people” can be so wrong. And yet isn’t it that this very will is what our newly promoted populist politicians would have us believe is in the same ball-park as the first commandment that Moses inscribed on his tablet? Thou shalt not ignore the will of the people.

 

As a person, I would gladly ignore the slavishly ignorant will of a people who have entered into the wilderness under the guidance of a snake-oil salesman and shaman. They believe that they speak the truth because they dare to say what others nowadays find repulsive. They like to call a spade a spade, a Jew a Jew, a liberal-minded woman a whore or a dyke and a gay an abomination. The truth is to be found in the core of their excremental souls, the way of seeing past evolution, empowerment and even-mindedness. Empathy left the harbour a long time ago and has now been scuttled in the mid-Atlantic.

It is a central irony that in seeking to combat extremism, Islamic in particular, the most powerful democratic nation on earth should elect an equally barbarous ignoramus who seeks to exercise power in the same manner a lynch mob would dispense Frontier-Justice.

 

And there it is folks, the reason for education. The central motivating factor for me to become educated and to attempt to lead others in that voyage of discovery was to rebalance the sides. I wanted to help put more decent thinkers into the world in order to combat the inevitable rise of the ignorant who often feign their own disappearance in order to spring back again when least expected. It’s like an overused cliche from a cheap horror-flick; the keep coming back.

   

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Serialisation Of The Piper Book 1

From the beginning…

Read After Burnout

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THE PIPER

Stealing souls (Summer 1966)

“For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment; I am the Lord. And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt”

(Exodus 12:12-13).

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Even in this state, the boy knew there was something wrong with the man in the white coat.

In fact, if facts were anything to be believed, he knew that this was not a man at all. His outward appearance was just that. The boy saw what he really was but could do nothing about…

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Purposeful Hand Use Increases Satisfaction. For Plants And Beyond.

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Purposeful hand use enhances well-being in a technologically saturated culture.

Research has shown that creating or tending things by hand enhances our mental health and makes us happy.  Dr. Kelly Lambert (bertlab.com) explored the relationship between hand use, current cultural habits, and mood.  She found that hands-on work satisfies our primal need to make things and could also be an antidote for our cultural malaise. Too much time on technological devices and the fact that we buy almost all of what we need rather than having to make it has deprived us of processes that provide pleasure, meaning and pride.  Making things promotes psychological well-being. Process is important for happiness because when we make, repair or create things we feel vital and effective. It’s about losing ourselves to the moment, allowing the rest of the world to continue without us having to notice and just making things.

When I was a young man, my father often pointed out that I did not study for my subjects at school nor did I make things (I wasn’t good with my hands). Ergo, I was set for a life of non-achievement, dreaming and possible drug use. I hate to admit that his jibes would come at least 75% true. He never, ever watched me play sport so had not a clue about how good at that I possibly was. In truth, I was and always have been, up until the night of the burnout, a dreamer. Now, I only dream about tooth extraction. I also dream that I will one day be good with my hands.

Research has shown that hand activity from knitting to woodworking to growing vegetables or chopping them are useful for decreasing stress, relieving anxiety, and modifying depression. There is value in the routine action, the mind rest, and the purposeful creative, domestic or practical endeavor.  Functioning hands also foster a flow in the mind that leads to spontaneous joyful, creative thought. Peak moments occur as one putters, ponders and daydreams. One can be tickled, moved or transformed by a thought or idea along the way as well as by the endpoint.

Psychology Today 

 

My Little Big-Man phase of being a landscape gardener exposed me to the joys of building or creating things of feverish beauty or of beautiful functionality. Perhaps, I tended towards the functional with my love of creating lawns from the madness of an overgrown garden or simply creating fences whose geometry was simply gorgeous. My landscaping years were my forty-night escape into the ethereal wilderness of the immediate present (I was living for the moment). Indeed, that present sometimes presented me with a feeling of absolute euphoria!

 

 

Creating something with your hands fosters pride and satisfaction, but also provides psychological benefits. Because it can uncover and channel inner stirrings, wounds smart less and growth ensues. When you make something you feel productive, but the engagement and exploration involved in the doing can move your mind and elevate your mood. As you sift, shape, move and address your project your inner being moves too. As one of my clients said, “It isn’t so much what you can do, but what you do do.” The process itself provides value.

Creativity is a powerful tool for altering the inner life because making things or transforming inner states into outer productions fosters solace and satisfaction, even if the stimulus arose from an injury. Wordsworth described poetry as the “spontaneous overflow of powerful feeling.”   Take it out of your mind, through your hand and into the world. Fragmentation and tumult turn into focused drive. Order arises out of disorder. And because it is your own order–organic and not imposed–it provides a special peace or feeling of resolution.  As another client said to me after she finished typing a novella that stemmed from a troubling event, “I got rid of the story.” This is a form of sublimation or turning the raw into the refined. You may or may not be conscious of what perturbs you, but creative action with your hands, mind and body can turn undermining forces into usable energies.

Psychology Today

My own writing provides me with the opportunity to create and to grow something. This book/blog started off as a way of capturing the time immediately after my moment. It ran on and on with me eventually seeing it begin to turn into something of value. The book/blog has helped me through a very dark time and I turn to it for solace and solutions. Unfortunately, solutions never write themselves, only the individual can do that. But it still doesn’t get me away from the need to build. That’s why I found myself heading across England and into North Wales. For me, the chance to work with my hands was a chance to free myself of the creeping self-doubt that was beginning to cloud my days. It also provided the possibility of me learning ‘valuable skills’ that could be employed to make money without having to turn to an ordinary employer.
My friend had told me that he had a job laying a floor. I thought to myself, as I often do as my skills of thinking to anyone else (telekinesis) are rather shockingly bad, that this would be easy and enjoyable.
Blessed are the tremendously naive for they will be rewarded with a great bloody shock.
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Imagine this as a work place in which workers mix concrete, carry bags of sand and cement and spend hours on end bent double. Oh, and let’s not forget that I would endure the constant banging of my head on the ridiculously low ceiling and beams.
Dust, damp and dangerous levels of damaging material floating in the dead air, were just a few delicacies of my dreamy return to the land of the men who are good with their hands.
But it felt strangely liberating. 

Many thanks to:

Carrie Barron, M.D.

The Piper 36

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Few people knew it, but History was about to become just that.

The class was little over half full. Many of the students had been absent these last few days and so had been a number of teachers. Michael had been surprised to see that the government had become involved and had put the recent increase in school and work absenteeism down to the seasonal lack of sunlight.

Lack of sunlight!

It was explained that in countries where the sun decides to take a six month holiday, people become depressed. Depression led to self-medication and lots of individuals turned to alcohol or other such things to alleviate this. Others just stayed indoors. The government advice was that people should increase their vitamin intake, especially vitamin D. Many of the students at St Agnes had opted for a non-school medication  instead.

Many of the students sitting alongside Michael were ones he had only heard of when their names had been echoed into nothingness as the resister was called. Now they were all seated alongside him in the History room.

Mr Hunter was sitting on the edge of his desk explaining how the Nazis managed to seize power in Germany. Michael thought that he looked tired, the way his mother had started to look again.

“On the 30thof January 1933, Hitler gained what he was after. He was given the Chancellorship of Germany.”

The teacher surveyed his audience, a motley crew if he was to be honest, but they were quiet. Some, he suspected, were off in their own private thoughts (or whatever amounted to thinking). His one crumb of comfort was that the Andrews boy was present. He watched his keen eyes from his position at the front of the class and wished that more of them could be like him.

Since his coming to the school, even amidst all that was happening, Mr Hunter felt that the boy brought some hope. At last he had someone in his lessons who understood the processes of debate and reasoning. The others, even the ones who had promised to be academically able, had slowly closed down. It was as if they had given up. Being noticeably ‘brainy’ was not good for one’s chances of survival at St Agnes.

“We know that Germany was in a terrible state after their humiliating defeat in the First World War. This was made worse by the Great Depression of the 1930s, a depression that the country never really recovered from, but what other factors could have been involved in turning a leading European country into a state that did not merely condone violence, but also used it to increase its popularity?”

He looked out at his audience once again and waited for a show of hands that he knew would never come. Even the Andrews boy was a reticent participator today. Not being too eager to let his learners off the hook so quickly, the teacher waited.

Michael wanted to suggest something. He knew that he did not have the answer, but also knew that that was not what history was all about. People simply weighed up the evidence and measured one argument, one interpretation, against another. It was like playing Cleudo. Nevertheless, this morning he kept his hand down.

The lesson had been running for twenty minutes when the door opened and in walked Liam Flowers. He smiled at his classmates and raised a knowing eyebrow to Michael.

“Good afternoon, class. Good morning, Mr Hunter,” he flourished, turning to the man perched on his desk.

“And good afternoon to you, Mr Flowers. Did you have trouble finding us?”

“No, sir. I never have trouble finding anything I really want to find.”

He stared deeply into the eyes of the teacher. Mr Hunter looked back before cutting short  the contest. Michael watched the exchange from the back of the room and understood that something was taking place.

“If you would care to take a seat, you might find yourself interested in what we are discussing. I know that you are an enthusiastic student of history.”

Flowers had to hand it to the old man, he didn’t rise to the bait.

“And what,” the boy asked moving to the available place next to the Andrews boy, “would that be?”

“Michael Andrews, could you possibly inform your partner as to what we were discussing?”

This was a regular trick that the teacher used to make sure that everybody was listening. What hurt Michael was that Mr Hunter knew, had to know, that he had been the only one listening. It was bad enough having to sit next to Flowers, but having to openly engage in conversation was something else. Still, he was in the spolight. The whole group turned around in their seats to witness what was going to happen.

“Mr Hunter,” his throat felt suddenly dry and he instinctively swallowed. He coughed slightly and hoped this did not translate into obvious trepidation. “We,” he began once more, “were talking about Hitler’s rise to power. Mr Hunter wanted us to think about the factors that may have contributed to that.”

“Hitler again? Is he still banging on about him? Mr Hunter we’ve all had enough of Hitler. Why do we have to put up with you working through your own issues? It’s becoming just a little boring.”

“The rise of the German far right is an essential part of your study,” the history teacher replied calmly. “If you wish to do well in this course, you…”

“We get another teacher?”

“I was about to say that you attend both in body and in mind.”

“Not many faces here today are there?” Flowers was not to be outflanked. “I wonder if your audience might not be getting sick of the bleeding-heart liberal who is supposed to be teaching them about history, real history. What’s he been telling you about Hitler and the Jews?”

He turned to Michael. “You listen to him don’t you? What’s he been saying?”

“He didn’t have the chance to say much before you came in. We were just looking at the things that could have got Hitler into power.”

“Well that’s not difficult is it?” Flowers had the stage again. “Hitler came to power to save his country. No, he came to power to save the world from socialists and Jews. I dare say that our fine teacher over there might even fall into one of those categories. Do you, sir? Are you a Jew or a socialist?”

“I am your teacher and a human being who does not seek to persecute others for his own benefit. What are you, Mr Flowers?”

“Oh, that’s easy. I am Liam Flowers. If you are able to hang around for a little while, you’ll understand just who I am.”

There was silence.

Flowers watched the faces of the assembled to determine if anyone else had the balls to stand up to him. Nobody attempted to meet his gaze.

“And you,” he said looking at Michael once again, “do you believe that I am who I am?”

“No.”

Flowers thought for a moment.

“Very interesting. You deny me my existence?”

“Not that.”

“What then?”

“It’s the quotation. I think you know that you used it.”

“What’s that then?”

“I think I know what…” interjected Mr Hunter.

“We’re not interested in what you think, old man. Your time has run. What do you think, Andrews?”

“I think you have a problem. I think that you have a God complex.”

“God is the least of my problems.”