AUDIO Coming soon

IN CONVERSATION :

Aaron, Freelance Journalist (In Person. Canterbury, South East England)


Aaron is a freelance journalist and Hare Krishna. We met late in the afternoon at the bar of a Canterbury pub. We quickly established we had a mutual interest in writing and journalism, and he agreed to speak to me for the project after finishing with a previous engagement.

TRANSCRIPT

JO: I’m sat with Aaron in ..

A: The Bishop’s Finger, Canterbury

JO: which is not a bad choice because I think Shepherd … is it Neame

A: Shepherd Neame, yes

JO: is they say the oldest brewery in the country ?

A: I wasn’t aware of that.

JO: And I think it’s Kent based.

A: I think so, yes.

JO: So, although you had a … that’s when we met isn’t it, at the bar … you said, “if you want something local” .. you recommended a micro … “there’s a nice micro-brewery”

A: “micro-brewery called the Foundry”.

JO: something that I’ve seen in evidence in a good number of places, actually, on my trip. And, Aaron … I can’t remember how we got to this, but we got to it quite quickly, you’re interested in being a political journalist ….

A: you mentioned that you were a writer and I assumed that you meant just writing as in fiction or something like that …. but I mentioned to you that I want to be a political journalist …

JO: that’s not what you’ve been trained to do yet, is it? It is not the path you have followed necessarily …

A: not specifically …. I studied psychology and criminology at Canterbury Christchurch University in Canterbury …

JO: Are you from Canterbury?

A: No, I’m from Essex originally

JO: ok

A: I was born in Colchester .. the oldest recorded town in Britain. I came here 8 years ago to study

JO: and it clung on to you … it’s a bit like me with Bath.

A: Canterbury’s a place that stays in your heart when you live here. …. So many people … there’s a lot of people who come here to study and stay after their studies. It’s somewhere that always stays home to you once …

JO: what is it you think … what gives it that quality?

A: It’s a city so it has a lot of vibrancy but it’s more on a town scale so it has the friendliness of a town with the vibrancy of a city. There’s an interesting social dynamic here because although it is a city and in cities you tend to get segregation ’cause people go into their own social groups … but you’ve got a constant tide of students coming in and out here so it keeps it fresh and people live in very diverse environments …

JO: Does that mean when you walk into a place like this you’ll find quite a good cross section of people?

A: Yes. The Bishop’s Finger is more of a local’s pub than a student pub but there’s plenty of pubs in town which students frequent .. and obviously you get different pubs like the Seven Stars is known as being one of the rougher pubs where you have the people from the underclass, if I can use that word.

JO: More deprived sections of the area?

A: yes. And it’s a sports bar as well so you’ve got the sort of lads on tour mentality … but in general in the pubs and bars here I’ve noticed it’s very friendly. I’ve made 90% of my friends in smoking areas. I noticed myself a few years ago when I went to Colchester, if you go up to someone and try to speak to them in a smoking area, they think you want a fight because in my home town, if someone asks you for a lighter, that’s an invite for a fight. But here, it’s like … “sure bro”.

JO: No, no. I want a fight.

A: Yes.

JO: Wow, I’ve never heard that before. And you said to me … I can’t remember exactly what you said you’d been up to since university … but it’s not journalism, is it?

A: ok, so .. no … I got sidetracked … so I studied psychology and criminology and during my studies I suffered a severe depressive episode … spent a good part of ..well up until a few months ago … struggling to defeat that … it was very intense to start with … I couldn’t even read a sentence on a page ….

JO: yes

A: I was paralysed on my bed 20 hours a day … all that kind of thing.

JO: that’s terrible. Sorry to hear that.

A: It’s a fact of life. It’s something that has made me stronger.

JO: you’ve come through it, yes?

A: yes. Very much so. Excuse me, my thought train is a little bit blurred. So, yes, I had to withdraw from my studies as I wasn’t able to continue and I fell in love with a Dutch girl and fell in love with Europe as a result of that and I want to move to Europe to be close to Brussels.

JO: you’re in Europe.

A: yes, geographically, but culturally and politically maybe not … so my idea was that I would work in hospitality … good hospitality … so I’d be able to pay for myself to be able to move to Europe because if you want to be an independent journalist then you need some kind of income …

JO: as I’m going to find out very soon.

A: so I got sidetracked for the last 4 years. I ended up working at a 4 star hotel – the Abode Hotel – in Canterbury … ended up working my way up to bar supervisor, fell in love with making cocktails

JO: I like cocktails.

A: I’m told that I am one of the best bartenders in Canterbury. Ended up managing a bar for someone else who was a customer. I moved over to there. I never had any energy for writing ’cause …

JO: it’s a long shift, yes?

A: yes … it consumes your time, and when you go home …

JO: what are the hours typically?

A: on weekdays when I was working …well … the Abode is .. it fluctuates but generally about 50 hours a week … unsociable hours.

JO: 50? Yes. It’s a big number, eh?

A: Yes and then at Teatro’s, I was working from 2pm to midnight each weekday, and possibly like 2pm or midday ’til 1am on Fridays and Saturdays …

JO: so, quite an onerous working life …

A: yes … I won’t go into too much of the detail of why I lost my love of cocktails and that sort of thing because my focus now is onto .. to begin writing .. ’cause that’s sort of immaterial now. I lost my interest in that …

JO: so your passion is really the writing …

A: for writing … for helping …

JO: that came out immediately ’cause I think you said you wanted to write about the homeless … homelessness in general and particularly in the local area

A: yes.

JO: And in fact I had just come from interviewing someone about that, in a homeless charity.

A: right.

JO: you may know the one down the King’s …

A: there’s Catching Lives ….

JO: yes … Catching Lives … Kelly I think at Catching Lives and then I sat down and spent 20 minutes with Martin who was sat on the street next to it.

A: what did he look like? Was he young?

JO: no he’s probably 50s … probably a face you would recognise …

A: I would imagine I’ve probably seen his face. I’m familiar with a few of them. There’s Warren who I’ve been speaking with for about a year or more. He told me the other day that doctors only gave him a year to live. I’m a Hare Krishna now … that’s something that really helped to save me from abusing drugs and alcohol and also moving away from the position that I had … the meditation I found really helpful to do … to deal with depression and this sort of thing .. . I’ve been trying to encourage him to join me to try and meditate because there are not many things that’s going to stop a life-long alcoholic from killing themselves and he’s only got a year left apparently. There’s Warren. There’s Roly [ ] … he was a teacher at King’s … not King’s … St Edmund’s Boarding School which is on the university hill … St Stephen’s Road … on the hill …

JO: don’t worry about detail like that …

A: he was a teacher of sport and, I think, English and he had a very bad situation with his family and break up and he ended up moving to Spain … came back here and ended up homeless on the streets for six months …. during which time I became quite good friends with him. I invited him to stay at my house one night when he was … it was like a storm and stuff and we have become very good friends off the back of that

JO: yes

A: he’s now living with accommodated living … I don’t know if I’m going off on a tangent …

JO: no …. it’s all fine. I’ll bring you back if I think it’s not helping …

A: the thing that sparks me to become a writer was a friend … my medium has been to Facebook post … I’ve always enjoyed language … I’ve always enjoyed communicating to people … a friend told me “oh, you should write!” and I always thought to myself .. I tried writing and I can’t do it because I tear it apart as soon as I put it on the paper …

JO: I can relate to that.

A: yes. So I decided that possibly I could be an observational journalist so I could just look at something and record it and I wouldn’t feel like I was involving my ego with it. And one thing that piqued my interest was the prolific number of homeless people in Canterbury and how it is ignored. Porchlight is massively overworked and also it hasn’t been covered properly.

JO: What’s massively overworked?

A: Sorry. Porchlight, which is a charity which helps to …

JO: ok

A: sorry, Catching Lives. Porchlight is the hostel and Catching Lives hands out free food …

JO: so they’re basically struggling with a problem, which is what Kelly was saying, which is just many times their size …

A: yes

JO: So, would you say … is it pushing it a bit far to say you have a sort of social justice motivation, or … is it particularly homelessness, or is it more general ?

A: No. Homelessness just seemed like an easy starting block for me because it’s not something that has been focused on …

JO: it’s a bit weird actually because it’s in your face, isn’t it?

A: yes, this is what I mean … this is what really sort of interested me about it was that Canterbury is quite a wealthy area and it’s not a big bustle like London so there shouldn’t be so many homeless here.

JO: It just strikes you as being something worthy of attention …

A: Yes … but, I mean … one thing that intrigued me … or one thing that drove me to want to write politically was my criminology studies … only a small amount of reading, I realised how crooked the system is and how slanted our media system is … like, for example, one thing I remember reading was ..so … I might have the figures slightly off a little bit …

JO: don’t worry about that

A: in the same year, as a rough approximation … £1.5bn is the amount … the cost incurred by benefit fraud … £105bn is the amount … cost incurred by corporate fraud … but who do you hear about? You hear about the scroungers on the street, not the businessmen who are raping society by filling their own pockets. .. say … no magic money tree .. really? But billions to give to the DUP. But you can’t pay a nurse enough to pay her bills.

JO: yes. Preaching to the converted with me.

A: so that’s what drove me to want to write as a journalist. … to try and … my original intention was to become a police officer but I thought my hands would be tied by the lack of budget, and the system …

JO: is that something you began to understand through your criminology studies, yes?

A: yes. It was very much an interest for me to see the way the media paints … encourages us to fear so we don’t question

JO: fear as a control technology.

A: 1 in 5 Muslims are extremists … or something … that was the Sun front page. 1 in 5 Muslims. Really? Where did you get … where did you pluck that statistic from? Mark Twain said “Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics”. It sickens me. I remember feeling that when I was reading it. This information is all here but again it’s restricted. Aaron Schwartz killed himself because he … I think it was Aaron Schwartz …

JO: yes

A: because he distributed … well, if you know the story, I don’t know if you want me to say this …

JO: yes … it’s all good stuff … I can’t remember the name … was it Reddit? Was he behind Reddit?

A: I think so.

JO: one of the big social media news platforms …

A: he made … illegally made JSTOR and all the big archives public source like millions of different journal articles and those archive companies didn’t want him to be prosecuted … they were happy to let it go. But it was the US Federal Government that wanted to push for him to have a life sentence in prison. What does that say about the philosophy or the approach of a government or what they want when you’re doing nothing more than distributing information among the public and you’re going to be sent to life for that and he ended up killing himself as a result.

JO: yes. I remember reading about that. I think he’s quite a revered figure in certain sections of the critical media world and social media world …. so, if you don’t mind .. I mean, I’ll talk about whatever you like … but, if you don’t mind, I’ll steer you a bit now because I’m curious to know … everywhere I’ve gone … how well would you say you know Canterbury and the area? Let’s talk about the state of the country .. the condition of the people … and then thinking about the region and the area compared to the rest of the country … is it any different to anywhere else do you think or .. ?

A: Canterbury … yes, I think Canterbury is a cultural or a … sorry … sociological jewel in the crown of Britain .. in that there’s people … you can see now, there’s people of all walks of life walking past …

JO: we’re sat at the front window giving onto the street so …

A: Canterbury is a very accepting place .. there’s a very low level of xenophobia or racism here .. you get it… ..you get the occasion where you see it … I remember at the time of Brexit, some drunk was stumbling down the street chanting EDL …

JO: but that’s a sort of isolated thing, really …

A: yes … it’s not … it’s not the status quo here … certainly not …. where …. take my home … I don’t know much about the rest of the country but I know that London is very segregated … you have Muslim ghettos and black ghettos and Jewish ghettos … I don’t know if ‘ghetto’ is an appropriate word ….

JO: so if I … yes, I was going to say … what … what do you mean by ‘ghetto’

A: maybe I should say ‘community’ to not sound so … to not sound so … [ ]

JO: I’m not understanding it to be derogatory or anything but … are you talking about an area whereby through various sort of social pressures, people of a certain background tend to end up …

A: well, I think it’s a little bit of both …I mean … by nature, humans want to be like like with like so if they think this road has a lot of Eritreans living on it, then “oh we’ll go and move there because we’ve got lots of people who understand our language” …

JO: birds of a feather flock together …

A: yes … but also … with that … I think it’s probably more that … social pressure … on the reverse … an Eritrean minimum wage worker is not likely to be able to move into a middle class white area ….

JO: so, it’s a combination ….

A: yes …

JO: and I’ve just remembered, I did speak to a guy in his twenties in the North somewhere … I ought to have become more specific than that … I’ll have to … I’ll have to check where … I think it was in Nottingham late at night … he was in a bar .. bartender … probably wasn’t the manager … I think he was just at the foot of that ladder and he said that … he was a student … he was about to begin his university years and he said that his mother was working to try and encourage … if I remember rightly … members of her community to integrate a bit more ….. so that was something I’ve heard from someone of a particular section of the community ….

A: right

JO: so that tells me I shouldn’t always assume people … you know, people have agency, don’t they? It’s not all done to people.

A: yes

JO: people make decisions

A: yes, of course … I … as another example of a different shade of English culture or environment … I spent most of my early … sorry… from the age of 11 and onwards until 23, I spent that in a village called Little Clacton which is connected ….

JO: Little …

A: Little Clacton

JO: Clacton

A: yes … which is connected to Clacton-on-Sea

JO: yes

A: … which used to be a major seaside resort like Margate and those sorts of places … and during the … when people started to be able to … the economy there would have been very good at the time because there was lots of employment for tourists and that sort of thing … when people started to be able … as far as I can work out for myself .. when people started to be able to afford to go on holidays abroad, it left a very big economic vacuum there so unemployment went right up and with that crime rates went right up … and now it’s a very bleak place to be … Walton-on-the-Naze is a horrible place in the winter …. it’s just empty … it’s like a ghost town … they have many gangs … it’s not like …

JO: so, it’s all sort of relatively deprived …

A: yes

JO: and it’s something you’re saying that … that resulted from …

A: … from an economic vacuum … because if people don’t have something to occupy themselves, then … I remember in my criminology studies a man … men generally … need something to affirm their masculinity … and not having a proper job role … you don’t have that sense of masculinity any more so you have to go and club someone round the head to … make up for it …

JO: to assert it

A: yes … and that’s very much the idea .. I remember going out on nights out in Clacton and I used to always say you are more likely to get in a fight with someone than you are to pick up a girl … and it is very much like that … you look at someone the wrong way … or … and they’re going to club you round the face … and …

JO: not good

A: no … it’s a bleak place to be … my depression spikes if I go back to Clacton … I really can’t stand …

JO: so it can actually trigger …

A: yes .. it’s a bleak place .. a ghost town …

JO: yes … it’s I think … probably a story that’s familiar to a good many places around the country …

A: a good example is Jaywick Sands … people from Jaywick Sands say they live in West Clacton because they don’t like to say Jaywick …

JO: Jaywick?

A: yes … Jaywick … yes … Brooklands … I think the Brooklands estate .. it was a .. it was an old set of villas in the 50s and it got sold off to people who could afford it from the London area so it was very cheap housing .. it was never meant for people to live in … it was just a holiday resort and it’s now regarded … it’s now on the list … like … I can’t remember the name of the index .. as the most deprived area in England … I think maybe Britain as well .. but yes … certainly the most deprived area in Britain … They don’t have proper streets. You look at pictures of Jaywick and there’s burnt out houses and … it looks like a third world country … and that’s really like an amplification of what Clacton is … it’s complete abandonment of the economy there and the thing that fills the hole without any kind of structured employment is drug use and drug selling and there’s lots of … it’s known for heroin dealers and that kind of thing … that area …

JO: yes … nice

A: so that’s a contrast to London ..I don’t know much about the rest of the country … there is a … well there’s Brightlingsea … I could give a slightly less dark painting of .. Brightlingsea is just down the road in Essex …

JO: but as a sort of general characterisation, we’re looking at .. we’re looking at a patchwork … and quite a finely grained patchwork … by which I mean … I don’t mean all the poor are over there and all the well to do are over here … I mean it’s sort of cheek by jowl seemingly

A: yes

JO: … you can enter pockets of poverty right next to a more cosmopolitan centre ….

A: yes … only 3 miles down the road from Clacton – this dystopian thing that I’m describing – is Frinton-on-Sea … and they have this thing inside the gates … across the track is where all the nice people live … all the middle class people live … that’s not where the estates are. … you’ve got the nice stately houses and all that kind of thing … and that’s only 3 miles away from Clacton

JO: it is quite noticeable and remarkable, I think … I mean .. I’ve seen it .. and I hope it is reflected in the photos I have taken … the extremes of inequality are there to be seen … in front of your face … you know … you can be talking to … like, in Soho, I was stood outside on the street at 11pm at night or something talking to Gary who is moonlighting on the … on street collection … refuse collection … as a favour for someone, whilst being a bin man. He’s homeless. He’s couch surfing because he’s homeless.

A: right

JO: so, he’s working 50 hours plus … or 40 hours plus unsociable hours … different sort of work obviously … but … and then past us both comes a .. you know … six figure Lamborghini

A: right

JO: just posing … going round in circles …

A: yes

JO: it’s totally normal … it’s become … it’s become sort of “yes, what’s remarkable about that?”

A: yes

JO: people don’t see it

A: yes … you get desensitised to it after a while … with the … I don’t know … I don’t want to digress ..but with the bombings that have been happening, it was shock and horror at first … everyone was changing their Facebook pictures and stuff like that but now it’s just … because there have been so many of them that it has become the norm … so “oh, it’s another one” …

JO: we can acclimatise to it …

A: yes

JO: this was said earlier today actually by someone, as well ..

A: right

JO: we seem to have a frightening ability to adapt to things … and evolve with them …

A: yes

JO: and I’ve heard it from the homeless too that … I had breakfast with Simone in Nottingham … in Cambridge … and she said … it’s … the word she used, I think, was ‘disgusting’ … it’s disgusting how we’re allowed to be out here and it changes you and you become unable to live in a house

A: yes

JO: if someone puts you back in a house … which, of course, isn’t happening …

A: yes, they become institutionalised in a way …

JO: yes, that’s what Kelly was talking about …

A: yes ….

JO: On a slightly happier note …. and I ought to disappear before too long … I keep ending up travelling in the dark … I seem to be trapped in this loop of being tired, getting up late as a result, starting the day late and then travelling in the dark … anyway, at least it’s main roads, I think, to Brighton … If I said to you, “ok ….” … if I wanted to describe this system – I think you started by saying ‘system’ … if I said the system we live in is a ‘Live and Let Die’ system, would you feel … does that mean much to you? Do you think it’s a fair summary? By which I mean, a very significant …

A: One thing that attracted me to moving to Europe is because I don’t feel like they’re so ‘live and let die’ … there’s more of a tone of socialism there … more of a social [ ] … a social support network …. it’s more rehabilitative towards criminals and that sort of thing …. I always called and still call Britain ‘America’s Little Cousin’ …. because it’s not quite as extreme … you’re not having prisoners making … like free labour in prisons … making licence plates and stuff like that … but there is … this is the capitalist hub of Europe …. so I would say that we do have a tone of ‘live and let die’ definitely … We still have some support networks like the NHS but that’s constantly being eroded … but yes, I would say yes

JO: so you’d say that’s a reasonable descriptor …

A: no magic money tree for the nurses …

JO: I’ve also been putting it to people ….. alright?

A: yes

JO: I’ve also been putting it to people that we are in an emergency situation because whilst the likes of the people that run this system … consciously … and benefit from it – or, I guess they perceive they do – whilst they might choose to run such a system ad infinitum, actually, I’m saying, we’re doing such a lot of damage to the Earth System that it will come to an end, including for their own kids and progeny … I think that’s where we started, isn’t it? Do you feel we are in an emergency or does the social inequity sort of … inequality … make you so unhappy that the other issues can wait? Do you know what I mean?

A: Emergency …. emergency in terms of preserving our environment, do you mean?

JO: yes, like sorting the climate problems out … which probably means changing the system so that it’s not doing what it is doing to the Earth System

A: I would say that I don’t think we have long left to sort ourselves out and the planet … If we keep going the way we are, the people who run .. who own the machines are so consumed by their own egos, they don’t care … Only until every last tree is gone … you realise you can’t breathe bank notes … so .. .they don’t even know that they’re killing themselves, I think, because they are so consumed by their greed …. so I would say that we are very much in an emergency situation. I don’t think it is going to happen tomorrow or maybe not in 20, 30, 50 years but if we don’t change the codes of practice that we have and this utter dogmatic approval of capitalism and the free market and the idea of allowing companies to do whatever they want because you have to have the free market … to have competition … all this kind of thing …. I don’t think we’re going to be able to sustain it … Capitalism has become its own entity now. It’s … capital is for capital’s sake … it’s not for the benefit of the individual … it feeds itself now … it’s some kind of [ ]…

JO: are you of the view that there are, sort of versions of capitalism which might be acceptable ?

A: I think it’s about balance. I don’t think .. I think to have real … to have real progress, we can’t be really tied to ideology … I think ideology is limited … As soon as you write the word of God, you lose the name of God. And I mean that in a universal way. You can’t … you can’t have true progress if you are just going to live by one … by something that is written on a page or on a constitution … You have to be adaptable to the situation at the moment. You can’t just have blanket free market .. I’m not saying that I want to become a … I want us to be a communist state or whatever but we need balance … we need some kind of balance … and I think over the last ….

JO: do you feel those terms are useful? I mean … I’ve often struggled … I mean I’ve studied some of it … I’ve struggled to understand what people mean when they say ‘capitalism’ or ‘socialism’ or ‘communism’

A: I would say they are necessary because we have limited brains … we need boxes to put things into

JO: what do you think ‘capitalism’ means?

A: interesting question …

JO: I would find that … it is … I would find it very hard to answer succinctly … but what sort of thing comes into your head?

A: I guess ….

JO: see? It’s not easy. And nor is socialism.

A: no. It’s not easy to put it into a word but capitalism, I guess, would involve having a universal currency, competition between businesses … at its extreme level no state involvement … we would live in a corporate world run by companies … I think capitalism is not human centred … If I could make it simple, capitalism is not human centred, it’s capital centred and by that, humans become capital, so then they become expendable.

JO: Is capital another word for money or is it something different?

A: I would see capital as being anything of value to a human … so, I can have … if I have influence over 50,000 people, I have social capital. If I have 50,000 pockets in my pound …

JO: yes, the other way round

A: £50,000 in my pocket, then I have cash capital … but then, on a personal level, if you have a great family life and your wife loves you, then that’s a form of family capital, I guess. So, it can be lots of different things.

JO: ok

A: I think probably the first thing people think of is money.

JO: Yes, sure. Ok … so if we’re …. I mean … another aspect of the emergency is the nuclear weapons situation … are you too concerned at that ?

A: … Christopher Hitchens is a massive role model for me in terms of journalism. I remember him saying the only way we are going to die through nuclear war is … delete ourselves through nuclear war is if .. through tyranny or a madman .. and we have both … we have that now with Kim Jong-Un

JO: something like that

A: Kim Jong-Un and Donald Trump … they’re both complete narcissists … they’re like two sides of the coin … two different sides of the same coin … you’ve got the head of capitalism in the world and the head of communism in the world, although the power levels are possibly different … China has their foot under the rug with South Korea and Russia as well … North Korea … sorry … DPRK …. if you have insane people like that who are just waving their dicks around … then they get .. they’re acting in this mode of passion where they’ll press the button to save their own ego and not care about the consequences … wipe everyone off the face of the planet ….

JO: yes …. I’m slightly … I mean obviously it’s not satisfactory but there have been occasions … plenty of occasions in the past when people at various points in the security structure have not done what they were asked to do or supposed to do …

A: yes … there’s a story of a submarine commander … captain .. isn’t there? … who was told to press the button …no …yes … I think it was a Soviet warning system was triggered ….

JO: yes … that’s the one I have heard …

A: yes

JO: I think there’s a film called ‘The Man who Saved the World’ or something …

A: right

JO: in the early 80s …

A: yes

JO: is it the same story ?

A: I think so …. the warning system was triggered and he was given the order from the Kremlin to fire and he hesitated because he knew that’s … that’s the end of the world and then they found out it’s just a false alarm, so yes, he could have caused the end of the world … effectively

JO: yes, there’s a UN process that is making good progress towards a ban ….

A: on nuclear weapons …

JO: do you know this?

A: I’m not aware, no

JO: yes, I think it is true that over 50 countries have …. this is where my knowledge of the procedure will fall down … I will have to do my homework in order to narrate what’s going on but effectively a majority or a good number of the nations of the world are up for a ban and, of course, the countries that are hold outs and have actually been trying to stall and disrupt that process are the nuclear weapons states including our own

A: … but say you get down to only two countries who have nuclear capability … who is the last person to put the gun on the floor? They trust the other to do the same. It’s very difficult …

JO: … but personally I don’t feel it is … technically or even socially … technically in the sense of socially … is it possible to find a way of doing it that is satisfactory to all parties? Yes. I don’t think that is difficult. It’s politics. It’s why … why do states and the sorts of people that see themselves as being at the helm of these entities … why do they want to retain nuclear … why do they want there to be nuclear arms in existence ?

A: it’s almost a status symbol, isn’t it? This country has nuclear capability … I think that might play a role in it … if we give up our nuclear capability then we’re not quite as cool as the other nations …. do you know what I mean? Cool is the wrong word … not as important nation ….

JO: the nuclear armed states and the people occupying those positions feel they would even by en masse agreeing to get rid of them would be reducing their status vis a vis the rest of the world or something like that?

A: yes … it’s like who’s got the biggest dick, isn’t it?

JO: … but are they actually … I mean is there … is it actually a real power or is it … or, I mean, status you could argue is a sort of soft power but … is it actually a real power?

A: I think it’s a passive power … which could …

JO: … a sort of a threat …i.e “don’t try this with me or …”

A: yes … knowing that you can protect yourself, I guess … but I think maybe in some sense it’s like owning a Rolex as well … I’ve got this really expensive thing I must be .. I must be important … do you know what I mean?

JO: yes … no, I think that’s fair enough. So, if we’re trying to paint a picture – which I want to do – of a ‘Live and Let Live’ system, what does that look like in terms of institutions, and the way people operate, and the physical landscape, how does that all change, do you think?

A: It’s very difficult to implement anything that’s really sort of utilitarian, with capital involved, because people have personal interest. I don’t know how we would ever reach that state but I think that if we were to have a true live and let live situation, we would have to get rid of capital and I can’t imagine a world where we would be able to do that. Star Trek is a good … sci-fi has always been a good predictor of the future … or good at forming ideas of the future and they don’t have currency there .. There is a small … I can’t remember much about it … it’s called the Venus Project …

JO: yes

A: they are trying to … they want to encourage a world where we don’t have capital and everything is shared. I don’t know how that would ever work. I can’t imagine it. My brain is not big enough to imagine that.

JO: It’s not easy to do … it’s part of the reason I’m trying to do this ’cause I … a lot of the people I have listened to or read over the years who I know are not happy with this world as it is … the people who are of the view that ‘a better world is possible’ … is the slogan … one of the slogans that is used …. are not great at illustrating and describing what they would appear to want us to move towards …

A: well, I think a step towards it … it wouldn’t be complete but a step would be global government …. a breakdown of borders because if you are part of the same globe or part of the same nation, then we’re all together and … I’ve always found it odd these conspiracy theorists talking about ‘New World Order’ and stuff … I want a New World Order! Not in the weird tin-foil hat they talk about but a unified government that acts for the interests of the planet and our environment rather than … I hate the ideas of nationalism … I was so upset about leaving Europe

JO: Brexit, yes

A: … because I see that as a step backwards … I don’t like nationalism. I want to see unity. You notice that in … during the … during the campaigning, the focus was pretty much solely on the economy and money …. There was no mention of the reasons that the European Union was formed in the first place … to prevent the nations of Europe warring with each other again … and the cultural implications as well … the separation … the focus was just on the money … “we can do good deals with China” …

JO: I mean I would also add to that … the idea that Brexit is necessarily … the way it’s being pursued a nationalistic direction is deeply contestable … because apparently … apparently the May government is now talking about reversion to the WTO rules which is … which is an emphatically neoliberal legal structure which will be much less protective socially even than the rather neoliberal European Union … so it’s …

A: neoliberalism has had its chance … or it has had far too much of a free rein … [ ].. something that has really … really done a lot of damage to the world and society is this idea of the free market

JO: [ ] I felt that Brexit would actually empower those in Britain who have been making the European Union, by being in it, more neoliberal probably than it would have been with Britain outside of it. By the same token, Britain outside the European Union will probably be more neoliberal. Far from being more nationalistic, it will be more neoliberal than it has been inside the European Union

A: right

JO: … where France and Germany and Italy and others are constraining it slightly … only slightly

A: yes

JO: … but slightly

A: I think the EU needs reform … [ ] power can be too centralised … it’s like trying to make one pair of shoes fit 28 different people … 27 now …

JO: however many … n …

A: n

JO: What about the physical landscape? Do you have a sense of how … like, if you fly over Britain or look at a map … if I got this road map out, it’s largely white, which indicates the presence of farmland … farm systems …

A: right

JO: do you think we ought to all be geographically arranged the way we are … or do you think there are alternative configurations or is it just something that is never really discussed or talked about?

A: sorry, can you … ?

JO: so .. it’s not very clear … so, at the moment, if you look at the way the British population is distributed across the landscape, large parts of the landscape are farmland which are depopulated

A: right, yes

JO: if there is a population on it, it’s normally livestock … one proposition is that we need to repopulate the land. For example, large parts of the farm … farmed landscape might need to be repopulated by smallholdings, by people living quite different lives in smallholdings, for example. Have you thought about any of this or … ?

A: well

JO: I mean … it was news to me about two years ago so I’m not saying you would necessarily …

A: well … I like the idea of it … people living with more space for each other …. because a major source … I think I might have mentioned … I’m suffering from depression sort of thing … I think we live in a very unnatural environment where we’re stuffed into small boxes, and made to do 9-5s and that kind of thing … a smallholding would be nice but I don’t know if it’s practical for the economic environment and … the way the socio-political structure is set

JO: but that sounds like you do have a sense in which the way we are living … these structures in which we live are not .. not good for humans … they’re not human centred …

A: they’re capital centred, not human centred

JO: so what would a human centred set up feel like, do you think?

A: Living in a group of between 20 and 40 people … [ ] together … I think that’s what we’re biologically set for …

JO: really … what … like … instead of in households of 2 or 4?

A: yes, in small communities ..

JO: actually [ ] …

A: go back … I think the maximum estimate for homo sapiens in the state …. in their current state … is something like 100,000 years … and in evolutionary terms, that’s the blink of an eye …. and we’ve gone in the space of 5000 years maybe, from being nomads and hunter gatherers to living in tower blocks and being forced into …. forced into education and into work and having to act in a certain way and it’s all very alien to us as animals. I think that we have the ‘God element’ in our brain … where we’re more than animals … but we still have that animal part of us and it’s not natural to be …. you go out into a green space where it’s nice green trees and that kind of thing, and you can feel it … you can feel that it is nice and that’s where …

JO: physiologically … you can feel

A: yes … you can feel that’s where it’s more comfortable rather than surrounded by a concrete jungle

JO: yes, I would agree with that … I’m actually physically quite affected, for example, by … I try and stay out of them as far as possible, by supermarkets

A: right

JO: for a whole host of reasons … but, if nothing else … even if you took away a lot of the other factors that I don’t like about them … the actual physical environment …

A: supermarkets … they’re cathedrals of manipulation …. supermarkets … as soon as you walk in the door, it’s all designed to make you think in a certain way or to guide you … they … I heard that they pump the smell of fresh …. the smell of bread in … like purposely into … to entice people to buy bread

JO: near the door …

A: yes … and they play slow music so you walk slower .. and they place kids items at eye level for kids … like I say, it’s a cathedral of manipulation

JO: yes, nice phrase ….

A: it’s the first time I’ve thought of that phrase by the way

JO: good timing … I’m going to stop very soon because it’s the best part of an hour now … it’s been very interesting stuff …

A: … I think we have a very similar ethos … I think we’re on the same page with this stuff …

JO: the good news is … actually I think there’s a good number of people like us all over the place …

A: I think there’s been … I do feel positive about change because I’ve noticed that people are waking up … I think people are waking up to these things with the help of things like independent news sources and that kind of thing.

JO: yes, I agree.

A: Go back just 10 years or not much more than that … before we had … I mean like when I was a kid, we didn’t … I didn’t have internet as it just wasn’t affordable because I was in a lower class family so our information source would have been the Sun, the Mirror, or if you choose, the Telegraph, the Independent, and those sorts of things …

JO: the mainstream media as it is called now ..

A: yes, but you are spoon fed … rather than being able to go and look for it, for yourself. I used to like Vice but they’ve gone kind of .. a bit wishy washy …

JO: I’ve never known that …

A: sorry

JO: I’ve known of it rather than used it

A: right

JO: … but I see people link to it now and then

A: They used to be very … it felt very fresh and very on the ground … but now it feels more commercial than it was … but there’s a great series of sources out there

JO: cool

A: … but I am very happy to have met you …

JO: Me too. It’s nice to connect with people.

END