Route 42 to Dystopia

As they used to say in the Sixties: you’re either on the bus or off the bus. Funny how the shiny red vehicle driven around the Olympic handover ceremony sported a big black-tinted front window, rendering it more like Judge Dredd’s fascistic cop helmet than the cosy Routemaster and Swinging Sixties’ values it was meant to evoke.

Brollies, broadsheets and bowlers blew across our screens like ancient relics from a defunct civilization, viewed from our current meltdown, while a small child walked over the still-writhing bodies of an undead workforce. A brilliant metaphor for the state we’re in, but possibly not the 2012 paradise the British Government was aiming for. They might as well have brought on the dancing riot cops, strung the set with CCTVs and painted a big number 42 on the front to represent the number of days’ detention-without-trial we now enjoy in the land of Magna Carta. We could have called our contribution to the festivities ‘A Streetcar Named Dystopia’ and been praised for our wonderful irony, something else we used to do well.

American friends may decry a dollar now on a par with the peso but, boy, do they have a laugh when it comes to our civil liberties and the number of petty rules and regulations afflicting our existence. No wonder they call our nation Old Blighty! Restrictions aplenty for us, but have you noticed how few restraints there are for big business and those who wield actual power over our lives? We have more CCTVs than anywhere else in the world and, while we may have neglected public housing for decades, an unprecedented binge of prison-building means that at least we’ll have a roof over our heads when the banks appropriate our homes and we take to the barricades.

Civil Unrest? Food riots? ID cards are the best solution our genius masters can come up with. Personally, I’d rather have EGO cards that restore the sense of self we’re currently flushing away along with our rights and welfare.

How come Gordon Brown was the only person in Britain not to know that Hedge Funds are a bad thing? We’re being driven into a dystopian future aboard the Judge Dredd bus to the tune of Whole Lotta Love while New Labour’s friends do their final bit of looting of the public purse. Next stop’s Terminal — end of the line. Everybody off. Hope you enjoyed the ride.

Anna Chen is a writer, actor, poet, singer, songwriter, comic, cineaste and martial artist.

Blog: ‘Madam Miaow says...’


Hello Dalai!


How lucky we are to be born in the enlightened West where we eschew cults of personality in favour of merit. Not for us those mindless automata praying at the altar of Stalin, Mao or Simon Cowell. No, we sophisticates know when we’re being shimmied up the garden path. After all, we got rid of our troublesome clergy in the 16th century. Hey, we even decapitated one of our kings – only one, but it’s the thought that counts.

So what exactly is the lure of the satsuma in specs that is His Holiness, the Dalai Lama? In contrast to China’s trigger-happy capital punishment system he’s certainly seductive.

Celebrities and politicians – two cheeks of the same overfed bottom – flock to Dolly for enlightenment and the chance to soak up a bit of the transcendency transmitted by His Happiness without doing any of the work. Fame, glamour and power? Yum!

Caught with a rodent gnawing away at your fundament and in need of redemption and a bit of nifty PR? Hello Dolly! Owned a few human beings in your time like Dolly’s beloved mother? Forgiveness is yours.

But Sharon Stone, reincarnated as a moron, said the recent devastating earthquake in China was karma for Tibet. Seventy thousand people died as some sort of divine retribution for politics. What kind of a religion is that? Funny how when anything happens to other people it’s karma, or bad stuff they’ve earned through their own actions. Yet whenever bad stuff happens to the Tibetan ruling élite it’s so unfair.

Just a suggestion: maybe what’s happening to them is divine karma coz in their medieval feudal theocracy one tiny group of Tibetans used to own all the other Tibetans. Maybe it’s divine karma because those peace-loving Buddhists used the death penalty until 1920 and torture well into the 1950s. Dolly was overseeing CIA-funded guerrilla warfare from exile in the 1960s – even while he was publicly renouncing violence. What is that, anyhow? Extra backup just in case the divinity’s asleep on the job? It’s okay, God, move along. Nuthin’ to see, we got it covered.

Ooh! There I go being all Chinese and oppressive again. ‘Leave him alone, he’s mastered the art of being happy.’ Know what would make me happy? $180,000 dollars a year paid into my personal bank account by the CIA(1). I reckon I’d never be in a bad mood again.

On the other hand, look what China’s had in one year: freak snowstorms, earthquakes, flooding. One plague of boils and I will be hedging my bets.

  • In 1998 the LA Times reported declassified documents showing $1.7 million a year paid by the CIA to the Tibetan independence movement in the 1960s, with $180,000 paid to the Dalai Lama personally until Nixon stopped US support in the 1970s. The Tibetan government-in-exile acknowledges the $1.7m but denies any went directly to the Dalai Lama.
  • Non-Iron Lady

    May I say that I hate ironing? I don’t own an ironing board and, while others may sneer at polyester, I offer prayers and sacrifice small mammals to the scientific genius who invented it. Forget silk and wool: some of my favourite fabrics are by-products of the petrochemical industry. I’d have shares in the stuff if I could afford it. And if it wasn’t a total capitulation to capitalism, comrade.

    What’s wrong with crinkles, anyhow? Characterful, and proof of a life lived in the tricycle lane. Or sleeping on the sofa in front of telly bingo which, I understand, is the preferred cultural activity for the modern student, according to respected pundits such as Richard Littlejohn – and we know how much his opinion counts.

    No, I like to launder and wait for the creases to yield to the warm glow of perspiration during wear. I may be a sweatbucket by the end of the day, dampness being part and parcel of the synthetics experience, but I look perfect. It’s a marvel – the stuff practically maintains itself.

    I bought an iron once. A super-duper mega-expensive one the price of the GNP of a small African nation done over by the World Bank and IMF, in the hope that such profligacy would encourage me to damn well use it. It was so fancy with its water-softening cartridge and turbo-charge whatnot that it soon became obsolete as the next generation of technology swiftly replaced it, and the cartridges disappeared from the shops. The last few times I tried to use it, I left a fossilized snail-trail of calcification across my (exclusively) black wardrobe. Not attractive. I looked like a health hazard and tasted of limescale.

    So I don’t iron. I cook instead, a skill worth having in the dystopian post-apocalyptic nightmare staring us in the face. If I am to compete with the cockroaches then I’d rather be a sated slummock than a starving clotheshorse. Speaking of which, just how pretty do you think skinny supermodels are going to look in a world where there may be occasion to eat your Loved One the way polar explorers get maximum mileage out of their huskies?

    Not owning a tumble dryer either, I can pride myself that my domestic slovenliness contributes to the well-being of the planet. So, next time you see an immaculately ironed frock, graffiti the planet-hating peacock for wrecking the environment. Only don’t use an aerosol.

    *Anna Chen* is a writer, actor, poet, singer, songwriter, comic, cineaste and martial artist.

    *Blog*: ‘Madam Miaow says...’


    China Panic

    ‘China – leading the world in toy manufacturing.’

    However you choose to read it, that’s not an advertising slogan Mattel’s likely to be using any time soon. The Dim Child’s Best Friend had to recall two million toys made in China due to their illegal lead content, including Barbie pet and furniture playsets. That’ll teach the Plastic Glamourpuss to put lifestyle before study.

    If parents want to alleviate their heavy metal anxiety before their offspring discover the joys of headbanging, how about a Barbie library playset featuring real books with words and sentences and everything? Or a Barbie environmental protest playset where you scrawl your own placards, shave Barbie’s head and stick a stud through her navel? No. Didn’t think so. Who needs sinister lead-encrusted death-toys to damage children’s brains, anyway? That’s TV’s job.

    It’s official. 2008 isn’t just the Year of the Rat and the Beijing Olympics. It’s also China Panic Year. The sleeping dragon awakens, so everyone’s trying to shoot it down before it wipes the gunk out of its eyes. The British media keeps pressing the ‘filth and pestilence’ button with SARS, Foot and Mouth and Asian Flu. America gets poisoned toothpaste and a pet food scare.

    ...the colonialist subtext is that we fiendish orientals don’t value human life the way cuddly westerners do.

    Legitimate criticism is that, to keep prices down and foreign trade perky, China allows no trade unions. Maybe they use Wal-Mart advisers. You want your consumer goodies cheap? Then welcome to the free market, and its ugly sisters: cost-cutting and corruption.

    China executes more citizens than the rest of the world put together: shameful, brutal and a sign of defeat. But seek factual reportage and cool analysis and you find the Cold War language of the 1960s. I don’t recall China being responsible for the deaths of a million Iraqis, but the colonialist subtext is that we fiendish orientals don’t value human life the way cuddly westerners do.

    The protester who breached security in order to place smog masks on the Terracotta Warriors at the British Museum must’ve forgotten just who’s been pumping carbon into the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution. Let alone who’s encouraging the rainforests to be destroyed in order to grow palm oil to keep their Humvees on the road.

    Expect China Panic to increase in 2008 with the Beijing Olympics shoving the nation’s superior economy down everyone’s throat and turning us all into green-eyed monsters. It must be terrible growing up believing you were destined to rule the world forever, and then discovering you don’t.

    *Anna Chen* is a writer, actor, poet, singer, songwriter, comic, cineaste and martial artist.

    *Blog:* ‘Madam Miaow says...’



    Subscribe   Ethical Shop