20. Red Wine and Revolution 2: The Luxury of Atheism

moon and sunThis is part of a fictional story called The Spletzer-Martin 5 set in London in the not so distant future. It is very much a work in progress.

“Atheism is a luxury of the rich!”

This was Louise saying hello. She flopped into the large expensively embroidered armchair and let out a rather melodramatic sigh. Elsie didn’t bother to ask if she was okay, nothing Louise did was ever so bland as to be okay. All blonde hair  and long disapproving nose, she’d been chatting up the 50 something bar tender who now gave them the benefit of candles and canapes on the house. An office party had been held there earlier and the food would only go to waste.

“its alright for you” she said to Elsie “you can afford to buy food, you don’t need to scavenge like this”

There they were, both in this exclusive London club due to Louise’s abilities to blag. Elsie watched her nibble fussily at the snacks, picking out the bits that weren’t to her taste, and couldn’t help but smile. Louise was perfectly suited to her situation. A Twilighter (1) extraordinaire.

There was something different about her now though, a darkness round the eyes, less playful than before,  hard-edged somehow, with age and fatigue collecting at the corners of her mouth.

” a friend of mine died from the cold six months ago, and now another one has gangrene in her foot and may loose it.” She said this to Elsie in an accusational fashion.

“Is she in hospital?”

“Of course not! She has no money for hospital. There’s a “See-er” in the tunnels taking care of her”

“A See-er? What’s a See-er”

” Like a witchdoctor, shaman healer type, there are quite a few practicing in the tunnels now”

” But surely she could find a charity or something to help her?”

Louise didn’t actually spit at this comment but only because that would mean them being thrown out of the club. Instead she glared a silent glare for a whole 60 seconds. Then finally she hissed:

“She’s ill, she can’t walk, how can she go hunting out charity hospitals! They’re over crowded anyway and she’s likely to be dead before she gets seen! Besides she’s been living in the tunnels for three years now, since she lost her job and couldn’t pay the rent. The Underlondoners (2) don’t trust anything belonging to  above-landers”.

Elsie was silent.

More calmly Louise continued:

” they’re starting their own religion down there, they need it to survive. Money doesn’t rule them down there. What is important is knowing the way round the tunnels. Where to find clean water, where’s best to come to the surface to scavenge for food, what remedies can be obtained from weeds and found remains. They’re returning to old folklores. When I first found out I was thinking they’d be bound to die out then, but no, it’s what is keeping them alive. Belief, psychology. is incredibly powerful”.

She took a sip of red wine, formed a deep frown across her forehead and looked directly into Elsie’s eyes

“Are you an Atheist?”

“Yes, of course” said Elsie “aren’t you?”

“Not anymore – If you are lying on a sodden blanket in pitch darkness, in severe agony, knowing there is no one coming to help you, if you’re convinced you are about to die, slowly, painfully and alone, do you rationalise it? Do you way up the scientific odds? Sing “Always look on the bright side of life”? No, you beg God – and any god will do at this moment, you’re not fussy – to save your life. I know, I’ve been there, and until you can say you’ve been there and didn’t find yourself begging God, you’re Atheism is shallow”.

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1. Twilighters – The term Twilighter started being used in the early 2000′s by the arts council of England to distinguish between respectable people and the type of person who was not worth counting as potential audience. It was later adopted by the government and media to describe a section of the public who were poor,  in temporary accommodation, in unstable employment if any. With the reforms to arts funding and low income self-employment tax it came to include most artists and musicians.

2.  Underlondoners – Those who live in the tunnels under London. Read Water

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19. Red Wine and Revolution – Elsie’s thoughts.

19. Red Wine and Revolution part 1 – Elsie’s thoughts

Carnival masks
Masks

Elsie stared intensely at the reflections in her wine glass, every now and then she swayed it gently from side to side and watched the ripples of wine roll. The sofa was large and comfortable and this evening she had time to think. Then again thinking was really what she was trying to avoid. Recently she’d found she preferred being overwhelmed, swallowed almost, by the small things, like the redness of her wine, or the reflections in the glass, or the old well worn rip in the fabric of the sofa.

She still missed Abel but her real concern was currently Douglas. He had gone from depression to jovial optimism. At first this had pleased her, but now it seemed to evolve round “jokes” about the extinction of large quantities of the human race.

“The human race is too large” he said with a grin, “the planet can’t sustain this level of consumption, something must be done.”

She couldn’t argue with his logic, but the solution…

It wasn’t genocide exactly, in that it wasn’t based on any ethnic group particularly, it was simply based on the idea that those with money and education should survive, along with a small number of obedient serves to oversea machinery (most labour could be done by computers after all), whilst those without would be killed – humanly of course. He said this grining the whole time, a joke “ha ha”, and Elsie would laugh along too. Still, something told her he might be serious.

Douglas seemed to separate people into three different groups, there were those like him – intelligent, rich, educated –  the true survivors and evolutionary successors. Ones like Elsie – educated, intelligent and useful – deserved to stay alive, and the rest – the poor, the disabled, the stupid, the uncultured, the uneducated –  should be wiped out. The global market had been separating the world into the rich and the poor for some time now, this was simply the ultimate and most sensible solution.

Elsie shuddered at the thought. She returned to the beautiful reds in her wine, the long narrow stem of her wine glass, the smell of candle wax and the kitchen downstairs. She’d arrived early and  was waiting for her friends, Louise and Jackie, to turn up. Jackie was a retired academic now artist who had turned seventy and found her career suddenly blosom.

Louise was a single forty year old artist/twilighter*, glamorous in an arty second hand way. She survived by squatting and begging and blagging. She was particularly good at blagging, it was through her that Elsie was now sitting as her guest in this private members club. Louise had somehow convinced the clubs board that she was a renowned artist from New Zealand who was part of a show coming up at the Tate and who would pay her club membership as soon a her agent sorted out this irritating bank confusion that had occurred.

She was actually completely unknown, had been banned from the Tate for striping off and covering herself in cellotape (she called this protest art) and came from Hackney.

*For a description of a twilighter go here

Next – 20. Red Wine and Revolution 2: The Luxury of Atheism

18. The Mutation

17. Elsie’s Pragmatism

18. The Mutation

Oil on Canvas
Originally an oil painting commission for the Cancer Research Laboratories in South Mimms.

What happens to the Sin Eater once he’s eaten all your sin?

Well he’s cast out of course. Lives as a hermit on the outskirts of the village. Who wants to know him? He’s eaten all that sin!

But I race ahead of myself here, for we haven’t got to the Sin Eater of our story yet.

Douglas was diagnosed with prostate cancer in the spring. It was in the early stages. The chance of full treatment and recovery was very good, but it terrified Douglas like nothing had ever done before. The word “cancer” rung over and over in his ears. Until that moment of diagnosis Douglas had been immortal, now he was merely human. A damaged human at that. That he, such an important individual, could have the possibility of death hang over him, seemed appalling. Unacceptable.

There must be some meaning to it.

What this meaning could be started to dominate his every thought. Luckily Elsie was there to look after the art business, and counsel him during his darkest moods.

And they were dark, for the ego of a successful man realising he is mortal can have some real hatred in it. How unfair it was. How there were others more deserving of death. He had so much more to give!

There must be a reason.

Elsie tried to cheer him up. Point out that he wasn’t dead yet and the chances of full recovery were great. She was his best friend during this time. She would not sleep with him, the thought repulsed her, but that didn’t stop her caring for him immensely and feeling sorry for him when  he tried to stroke her knee.

So she sat and listened to him. Listened to his rants, his cursing, his bitterness, and when he was finished let him sob into her shoulder. Her grand boss, the charming, influential Douglas, reduced to this.

There was a reason.

So Douglas discovered. The reason was very simple, the reason was that he should realise how wondrous life is and that he should teach people. Teach people that some are worthy of this fantastic life, and some are not.
17. Elsie’s Pragmatism

15. Douglas, the charmer.

Man looking out over a theatre audienceThe term Twilighter started being used in the early 2000’s by the arts council of England to distinguish between respectable people and the type of person who was not worth counting as potential audience. They were poor, single, disabled, in temporary accommodation, in unstable employment if any. Elsie’s boss Douglas was one of the art consultants that first came up with the term Twilighter. “There’s something of the darkness about them” he said.

Douglas was a very determined man, there was something of the missionary in his righteous zeal, not religious, no, unless you called the religion Douglas.

He wasn’t a horrible man, on the contrary, he was one of the most pleasant people Elsie had met in the art world. Intelligent, witty, passionately engaged in his profession. In his fifties now, director of a large arts company, millioniaire arts dealer,  father of five children by three women, regular judge at big arts prizes, one of those men who, despite the bad teeth, balding head and long grey ponytail, could still manage to flatter a woman with his attention. A well respected and charming man, yes, charming. He was also a sociopath with a grand plan.

14. Betwixt and Between

13. The Alter

12. Malformed and Obscene

11. Her Pet Project

10. Water

Pisces
6th March

There are several hundred people living under London. No one can say when the first people started living down there, but it has certainly been growing steadily since 2000.  They are a close, strong community due to the harshness of their circumstances. The elder generation are mainly people who lost their homes during the big recession, those who couldn’t get jobs, the sick and the disabled who were abandoned as successive governments privatised the NHS.

The elder generation, although mocking of the above-landers, still hold a buried shame and desire to return to the daylight. The second generation however, now in their late teens and early twenties, don’t have this desire. Born in the tunnels they are proud of what they are, scavenging is their art and the above-landers are cattle to be milked.

The biggest difficulty about living down there is finding clean drinking water. Although Underlondon is partially flooded most of the time, and contains the old buried rivers of London, the water is dirty and the rivers have become sewers. Instead the people of Underlondon have sort out the ancient springs, trickles of fresh water flowing from cracks in the brick work. These springs are precious to the people down there and the holy qualities of the springs, appreciated in the past, are returning.

Where as many an above-lander has come to the rational conclusion that there are no gods, the Underlondoner knows there is nothing more rational than treating what sustains your life as Divine.

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9. So where were we…

8. Drunken Delirium
7. Hallucinari
6. Dread
5. Slapdash
4. Eyes in the Machines
3. Underlondon
2. Abel
1. What YOU Need!

( I know I should be listening to CD’s instead of writing this, but I really can’t stand those little black speakers I’ve got, and when I do listen to a piece I like on CD I have to listen to it again and again and again.)

5. Slapdash

Old woman, theatre performer.
Harmonica player outside Baron's Court Station

There’s a woman standing outside Baron’s Court tube station playing, or rather attempting to play, a harmonica. I’ve seen her here before, she hangs out at Baron’s Court Housing project where they do free meals. She wears a wig and theatrical makeup. I thought at first she was a transvestite, like my neighbour Steve who goes to the Coop in stilettos and a mini skirt, but apparently not.

My other slightly more sober neighbour tells me she is an old theatre performer, been out of work for years though, a drinker with mental health issues. “A right care in the community that one” say’s my neighbour “a real special“.

The story goes that she was having medical treatment for a congenital brain disease during the privatisation of the NHS. She could’t afford to continue the treatment with the specialist hospital so ended up going through the Charity Care system. The hack-up job the church hospital did was well meaning but naive and slapdash, her memory was blown to pieces.

This is all just rumours you understand, but she is quite mad!

Still, she stands there at Barons Court station feather bower and all, screaching out lunacy and blowing down that poor old harmonica. The Station manager occasionally moves her along but she’s back the next day. On Sundays she is particularly enthusiastic, her words seem to take on a hell fearing vigor as she denounes the Sunday shopping  public.

Next – 6. Dread

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1. What YOU need!

2. Abel

3. Underlondon

4. Eyes in the Machines

Knicker-less Voting – a political rant

Thursday 6th May 2010

I voted today dressed as a stern school teacher – long dress, hair back in a tight bun – but wearing no knickers. It seemed to make the activity slightly more of an event. It wasn’t an event, notable only for its inability to be anything meaningful. People have fort and died for the right to vote and here I am essentially voting for a hung parliament. I just don’t understand how any of the main parties could make much of a beneficial difference given our dependence on the world economy. So I vote for the situation where the least amount of damage can be done. Knicker-less voting.

As far as I can tell Britain cannot sustain itself without dependence on banks and bankers for maintaining our position in the global economy. Britain, and certainly London, simply does not currently have enough resources to carry on without being able to consume globally, we would starve. So it follows that we cannot put up taxes much because if we do the bankers will leave the country, and we do have to bail them out of trouble so we are in a position where we can still shop in the global economy. If we have to throw money at bankers to keep them here then how can we improve schools and hospitals? “We will organise things better”, “we will cut the red tape”, say the candidates that come to my door. Thats easy to say by anyone not in power, even i can say that, it doesn’t mean anything though.

The big thing I don’t understand about modern politics is how can the economy  and global consumption keep going? Humans, despite all our fancy technology, are still entirely dependent on the earth’s resources. These resources are limited, yet the global economy depends on the vast and ever growing consumption of them. How can this be maintained? Whether you believe climate change is due to humans or not, doesn’t change the fact that we are dependent on the earth’s limited resources. “Nuclear Energy” people say, as if this is suddenly going to solve everything. Really? There is still the basic problem of land isn’t there? Food, over farmed land turns into dessert, but populations are growing and as countries develop they demand more and more food. And waste, all that waste, continually growing, where will it all go?

As for the privacy issues these are likely to stay pretty much the same no matter who gets in power, just dressed up in different costumes (dominatrix or mother?). As the global economy grows and the earth’s resources get used up the gap between rich and poor will greatly increase. Those without will get restless, cause problems, rebellions and war. The only way to control this is through increasing security measures and surveillance.

So my voting was meaningless, because I simply don’t understand how anything much can change for the better without completely radical changes to politics and the way we live and think. Perhaps we are merely carrying out our destiny as organisms – feed, breed, grow in population, consume more, create waste, run out of food, poison ourselves on our own waste – yeast cells in a petri dish.

I don’t have TV or regularly read a paper so I’m not very up to date on day to day issues. Maybe what I’ve just said is complete gobledegoo in todays politics. Maybe people who dress up as school teachers to vote and don’t wear any knickers shouldn’t be allowed the vote!

Anyway, I’ve had my little political rant and will now return to more important issues like Rude Mechanicals. Performing on stage entertains people, cheers them up (hopefully), gives them a moments escape, which is more meaningful than what I’d be doing if I was a politician.

Getting ready to paint a naked man.
More useful than politics.
Painting a naked man
Miss Roberts gets an audience to paint a naked man.