The Sermon

Possessed by possessions
lord & master of all we owe,
belonging to belongings:
it’s a disaster, I know.

Chained to the mundane,
our reference frame
is physical;
every day
the same old same,
nothing metaphysical.

And if God’s not dead
he must be mad
or blind
or deaf & dumb
or bad,

still smarting over Christ,
perhaps,
the way the people
have been had.

But in our defence
I’d like to say
we nearly chose
the proper path
but lost the plot
along the way.

You’ve got to laugh.

It’s not our fault,
it’s just the toys
we made
made such a lovely noise

and girls
and boys
are high and dry.

Time to bid
all this
goodbye.

*  *  *

For those of you who like something a bit more visual, I made a fairly amateurish short film of this, which is here:

POST SCRIPT BIT:

Although many people say you should let your work speak for itself, I say that when you’re as big a gobshite as me, why not rant on in a post script bit for a little while longer?

August, 2001. I had been conned by what I thought was an anti-capitalist umbrella organisation called Globalise Resistance into joining them on a coach trip to Genoa to fuck shit up (in a peaceful and loving way) by protesting the G8 conference that was being held there.

Before the bus had even reached Dover, it was clear to me that actually, Globalise Resistance was simply a front for the Socialist Workers’ Party. Still, it was kinda fun engaging them in conversation, and I got asked a number of interesting questions such as “But.. but.. if you’re non-aligned.. how do you know what to think?”

As soon as we arrived in Genoa, it was in the middle of a semi-riot, with the Carabinieri (Italy’s military police) teargassing people for no apparent reason.

We tried to get a carnival-like atmosphere going, but this proved rather difficult when the ‘Black Bloc Anarchists’ arrived, trashing buildings, setting cars on fire and generally causing as much physical destruction as they possibly could.

Of course, the ‘Black Bloc Anarchists’ were actually members of the security services in disguise.

Several times, they were spotted (by myself and others) crossing police lines, using police walkie talkies and the like. Clearly, this was a false flag operation designed to discredit the anti-capitalist movement.

As evening fell, the SWP and myself found ourselves holed up in a car park with thousands of others while helicopters swooped overhead, banks were petrol-bombed and looted and rumours of violence (which turned out to be correct) spread through the camp.

I turned to the guy next to me, whom I had met during the day, and who was now desperately trying to protect his expensive camera from thieves. His name was Jem Bendell and had been friendly enough since meeting in what were trying circumstances.

To offset the carnage all around, I asked if he wanted to hear the above poem- which, indeed, he did.

Clearly, the poem had a profound effect on Jem, who used it as the opening scene of his first book on corporate social responsibility, the rather pithily-titled The Corporate Responsibility Movement: Five Years of Global Corporate Responsibility Analysis from Lifeworth, 2001-2005 (currently selling in paperback on Amazon for a jawdropping £63.71 – for a paperback!).

This book is apparently a best-seller in his academic field and was integral to his making his reputation as a guru of greenwash, appearing at Davos-type events and preaching to the be-Rolexed about things that aren’t going to trouble the business-as-usual paradigm too much.

The introduction is available in pdf for free download right here– I’m on pages 2-3.

He returns to this meeting in a 2011 piece on his blog called Where is the Movement?:

“Rolling onto my back, I lay my head on a rucksack, staring into the night sky. The tarmac still pushes up through my sleeping bag, but somehow it feels more comfortable this way. I think of the few times I have slept out in the open, in fields after parties, or on beaches while travelling—times when I could revel in the sense of floating through the immensity of space, secured on the edge of a cosmic plan, or comic fluke, called planet Earth.

But tonight I can’t drift away with thoughts of the infinite expanse of space. Police helicopters hover above, their cones of light traversing the car park like manic stilts. Dreaming is not permitted.

It’s the G8 Summit in Genoa, 2001. I stretch my neck. My face feels sticky with the residue of vinegar I was told would help me during tear-gas attacks. Are we being searched for or spotlighted, I wonder? If they shine their lights on us for long enough, perhaps they’ll discover what they’re looking for? Perhaps we’re all here to discover what we’re looking for—something different, something possible?

I can’t sleep and turn to Rik, a guy I met on the streets during the day. ‘D’you want to hear my poem?’ he asks. ‘Yeah, why not . . . ?’

[…]

Rik Strong’s The Sermon, which he recited to me as we ‘bedded’ down in a carpark during the demonstrations at the G8 Summit in Genoa, captured some of the emotion that drove many of us to protest. There was certainly a lot of anger at the suffering being caused by economic systems, and the lack of accountability of political systems to the people.

There was also an angst about something more deeply wrong about modern life. Western society didn’t relate to how we felt inside. Publicly people didn’t seem to care for each other, yet we knew that deep down they must do—surely? For us there had to be more to us than working, shopping and looking out for Number One.

This was a holistic critique, and one that connected professional and lifestyle, the political and personal.

Yet 10 years on its difficult to say exactly what or where “the movement” is now. Many people who were active in protests back then have this nagging thought: We were everywhere, we went everywhere, but we got nowhere. What was it that led to the weakening of what seemed at the time to be a global awakening?

It’s an interesting post, which you can read the rest of here. Jem was lamenting the evaporation of the anti-capitalist movement very shortly before Occupy appeared and the pointless baton of protest passed on to another generation of fuckwits.

A few months after Genoa, I met up with Jem (now Professor) in Bath, in which, over a few beers, I outlined my political philosophy (if you can call it that) as being some kind of anarchist libertarianism.

He confessed to me then, though he was clearly embarrassed about it, that he was working for the exact opposite of that.

Still, he’s a nice enough chap, I am sure, and has clearly made a fucking shitload of cash by telling corporate psychopaths pretty much what they want to hear.

So returning to Jem’s question- “Where is the Movement?” I can only answer this: I don’t know about any ‘Movement’, Jem: But where is my royalty payment?

* * *

POST POST SCRIPT BIT

So, I thought about the above question for a bit and then decided to find Jem Bendell on twitter.

I sent the following message:

@jembendell I wrote about our meeting in 2001 http://www.makeyourselfuncomfortable.net/?p=883  dunno if the last question’s rhetorical but a few quid wouldnt go amiss.

He quickly replied:

@rongridcharts finally! i couldnt find yr contact info. left a message on yr youtube posting a while back. ill follow u so u dm me yr email?

This I did.

A few hours later, Jem sent me a very thoughtful email – which I am sure he won’t mind me posting (and if he does, I will happily take down):

Thx for making contact.

tried looking for you again earlier this year, as I wanted to recite that poem in a talk I gave… and so I did. Your poetry in an inaugural lecture 🙂 If you watch it you will see that Im not a capitalist corporatist whatever.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j-Opqi-2UgY

I wrote my views on Davos etc in a blog for Al Jazeera. Im not much liked by the many in the secretariat: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/01/201312114315751606.html

If you read the intro to that book where I use the poem, you will see its mapping out a view for a different type of economic system, based on democractic principles. I took that further in the end and spent 6 momths in india helping a few open source coders create software for community currencies… this as i ended up realising that the monetary system is at fault.

ive sought to use my networks in the established ngo, busienss, academic worlds to bring these ideas and initiatives to new audiences.

but the recent climate science has made me question everything now

https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/jem-bendell/future-of-climate-debate

the first time i had a salary is this job, for the last 2 years, here in cumbria.

i dont remember getting a royalty check yet for the book in 2009. ill ask them. it wasnt a best seller. ill send you all the royalties as a gift. if there are any!

but better than that, do you perform spoken word? maybe we could get you involved in one of our activities… perhaps less of the fuck poetry, more of the other stuff. what are u up to now?

and, somewhere, i still have the recording i made of you that night in genoa… problem is that camera broke so i dont know what to play it on. i was really poor back then. but i guess i had a posh accent 😉

it would be great to get that recording up on youtube. u also recited another one, i think.

* * *

This was a really great email to receive.

I can’t publish my reply in full, I’m afraid- due, mainly to my current employers- who may well (definitely will) take a dim view of makeyourselfuncomfortable.net.

And though I tend to work in teaching posts in higher education myself, I could easily find myself canned for expressing some of the things I do (or find that work simply isn’t offered to me).

But here’s the edited version, minus details of my work:

Dear Jem

First, I’d like to say how totally humbled I am right now. Thank you so much for thinking enough of my words that you broke with academic tradition to deliver these rather than the usual summing up. I was quite blown away.

The lecture was rich with humanity and humour and clearly gave your audience pause for thought. I’m sorry I doubted you- but the last time I checked your site (a few years ago now, I think) you were talking about visiting Davos and so on- and my kneejerk reaction kicked in. I am, however, not a SWoPpie or anything like that and realise that if we want to change the world, simply shouting in the streets isn’t going to do it. Kudos to you for going in there and engaging with these systems.

Speaking truth to power is a brave thing to do, at the end of the day- and I am aware that it requires a measured and well-researched approach.

Life has been a journey of discovery and growth for both of us it, it seems, since we met in Genoa.

After being forced to leave Bath due to a very unfortunate incident in a restaurant (which I wrote about here http://www.makeyourselfuncomfortable.net/teardrop-explodes/) I spent a couple of years working as a contractor for Reuters in London– until I resigned when they threatened to fire me due to a ‘three strikes and you’re out’ policy for lateness introduced by then CEO Tom Glocer. Cheers, Tom! I then

(REDACTED)

before deciding I had had enough of London and its endless synthetic terror alerts.

Four years in Korea and China followed, where I worked as a TEFL teacher, eventually returning to the UK (via a stint in Italy) to

(REDACTED)

Bristol. Jobs were very scarce in the area, plus I hadn’t realised that an arrest for possession of 1 gramme of marijuana in 1999 meant that

(REDACTED)

I am looking to start performing again, actually, when I return to the UK (I trained as an actor back in the day). I have performed my poetry at slams and so on and the work tends to go down very well. So I would be very happy- and once again, deeply honoured- to be invited to one of your events. Don’t worry about the fuck poetry- I have plenty of other more-suitable material for your audiences. What kinds of events do you mean- academic symposiums and the like?

Back to you- I agree that the monetary system itself needs fundamental reform. It is hard to see how this can happen when finance has so succesfully captured and corrupted the political process. Academia seems to be run as a business also these days, but is perhaps the only establishment sector that can begin to turn the tide. Whether it will do remains to be seen, however, with so much corporate involvement and sponsorship going on.

On the subject of climate change, I tend to believe (through plenty of research and personal observation) that large-scale geo-engineering has been going on for quite some time- they’re just not telling us about it. The true purposes of this I would imagine have more to do with the military (see, for example, http://csat.au.af.mil/2025/volume3/vol3ch15.pdf – Weather as a Force Multiplier: Owning the Weather in 2025) than ‘saving the polar bears from drowning’. But maybe that’s just my reasonably well-founded cynicism towards the military-industrial complex kicking in.

Once again, it is very good to hear from you. Sorry about the note of sarcasm in my blog post- which I will edit accordingly to reflect us being in contact once more. Actually, I left a message on your blog back in March (I couldn’t find an email address on it) but I guess you hadn’t seen it. It was a joke re the royalty payments, by the way- provoked by the eye-watering price of your book on Amazon. I guess the book is aimed at institutions and companies, however. But- crikey! 62 quid!

If you don’t mind, I’d like to place a link to your blog from mine. As you correctly identified, some of my material is fairly edgy (‘fuck poetry‘ plus endless tales of recreational pharmaceutical use gone horribly wrong), so I will fully understand if you would rather not. In fact, I am using the name (for now) Ron Gridcharts specifically so my current employers don’t find the site and decide to fire me.

Very happy to be back in touch and, as I said, available from April onwards.

All the best

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