It was great to Dialogue with Paul Daly of Socialist Think Tank on Socialism and Spirituality and to talk about my late Father’s work (Professor Syed Hasan Askari, Inter Faith Dialogue Pioneer) informing my Socialist sensibilities.
If you want to know how a variation of collective hypnosis works we need look no further than asking when did the term “KEY ESSENTIAL WORKER” become so affectionate in the Public Consciousness?
There have always been Workers. There were always low paid workers. Did we not see them before? Was a Nurse, Care Worker, Refuse Collector, Postal Worker, Bus Driver, Supermarket Worker, Teaching Assistant and so many more; were they not key or essential only a matter of weeks ago? Or months ago? Or centuries ago?
These workers by the industry of their labour, sweat, tears and injury mighty empires rose up. Where are they now who once thought what they believe to be true and everlasting over the centuries?
We too were sold a dream to become “self” made, a spiritual term diverted. Yet no one asked what is the Self? Who are we? What are we? A collection of identities prone to dangerous levels of exclusivism one sidedness or oppression? Or something more, much more beautiful.
Why such a massive outpouring of love now and rightly respect and gratitude but not so universal before for key essential workers? Why? We can hide from our collective hypocrisy, but sooner or later it will find us. It will trace us down and I hope it will be kind to us and come masked as our “Conscience”.
One’s self hypocrisy is a terrible force unmasked. Unbearable. Even our own hypocrisy will be kind to us I pray. I hope it remembers its root is not to humiliate us in our minds. To belittle us in front of the audience of our own self consciousness. No. This Conscience I hope comes to Awaken us and surely Awakening is the antidote to hypnosis.
Let us awaken to many things in the new normal to come. One of them being gratitude to Key Essential Workers not just as a kind word but a just settlement, treatment and conditions.
There have always been essential workers. I simply refer to them as the WORKING CLASS who take the pulse of collective life. Are they not the closest to every day life? Yours and my neighbour.
A knock at the door. Who is it? Conscience. Who’s Conscience? Your Self comes the reply saying come outside:
“IT IS THURSDAY. AWAKENING DAY.”
Do I not have the companionship of my eyes to bring the distant near? As like the shroud of a starlit night to draw down and embrace me.
Do I not have the fellowship of my ears to bring soft soothing melodies closer? As like the journey of a hidden stream in the hills whose meandering mirrors the lines upon my palms in which the water falls and sustains me
Do I not have the comradeship of my hands to offer peaceful greetings to the World and every Being thereupon? Do not forget about one’s Self remembrance. Memory above memory.
Do I not have my next of kin that is my speech coupled with my awakened free will, to give Form to intuition and imagination? As like the sunrise over the ocean horizon gives form to a sense of awe within me.
Do I not have the soothing touch of my tears to comfort, console and plead on my behalf? To wash away the pains suffered in the struggle and of love lost but never forgotten.
And if should there be none of these faculties and friendships or their powers diminished there will always be the inner Self.
Contemplative. Meditative. Prayerful. Soul.
How to be lonely when there is LIFE all about and all within. Aloneness and solitude are other greater deeper matters but lonely, never.
And so from here, from these friendships above, can the font of consolation also begin for the malady that is isolation.
Pray for relief for those isolated from themselves and from the World. Waiting as they do at the foot of their stairs hoping for some hopeful message to fall through the letterbox.
A message placed in to the bottle of their lives that says the World has not abandoned them.
The distress call was heard. Help is on the way. You are not alone.
When we have systematically poured in to the human psyche bitterness, division, hatred, identity superiority, domination & competition. And further entrenched those ideas in to our exploitation of the Planet. By what arrogance did we think the human biological system & Nature itself would simply be a bystander & not react? The same arrogance perhaps that conceived, created & used the nuclear weapon. Ask Nature if it is deterred by nuclear weapons. What use such weapons & untold sums of money expended in the face of current challenges? Could that not have been put to better use to deter poverty, hunger & disease?
If one is a racist, one is not “One”. Rather, fragmented. If one is a bigot, one is not “One.” Rather, splintered, incomplete. And so on with the discriminations that persist betraying an inner incompleteness that is desperate for a wholeness it can never become.
If one thinks the intelligible, intangible, non-material is subordinate to the tangible, sensible and material. Or that the Higher is directed by its lower in status of Being. Then one is not “thinking” at all.
It is like saying half-being begets fullness of Being. Can a shadow cast on the ground become conscious of itself and then have the audacity to claim that it gives “form” to the Form that created it? No.
There is no scared law, no secret philosophy from antiquity, that dictates Human Beings of The World should remain perpetually innerly divided.
Because the dogma of exclusive materialism overwhelmingly dominates our World there is no room for a non-material idea to help Humanity re-think and ultimately transcend the divisions caused by the mantra that there is only “matter.” That everything is determined by “matter”. Therefore, to some it is no great leap (let us be clear a perverse leap) if the idea of biological hereditary exclusivity and superiority parades shamelessly in front us. It is even given a seat at the Great Table of Ideas as though it had equal validity with all else.
With each day we continue to lose touch with our Soul, our non-material, intangible, immaterial companion. Soon the Discourse on Soul, even its faint contour, will recede from our collective consciousness and there then will be what? I dread to think. Before we ask of God we must ask of ourselves, who are we, what are we and then climb from lower to Higher. From Body to Soul and Higher. As my late father wrote in his book Alone to Alone, First Soul, Then God.
It wasn’t the Economy,
It was Sovereignty,
It wasn’t Sovereignty,
It was Power,
Yes, it was Power.
The hypnosis of Power,
Drawing all to its altar bewitched by Power.
Bewitched by a self-conscious sense of good,
A misplaced sense of good.
It is Power, concentrated,
Not in number of people, many believe,
Concentrated as the very idea of Power.
To hold it and have it embrace you.
To be near it and bathe in its aura.
To worship Power, the abomination,
To dedicate one’s life to it,
All while emptying oneself from within.
Moving from Being to non-being.
From Human Being to half being.
When the journey should have been from,
Human Being to Soul Being,
On the coattails of wisdom of Plotinus who reminds;
“This is not a journey for the feet; the feet bring us only from land to land; nor need you think of coach or ship to carry you away; all this order of things you must set aside and refuse to see; you must close the eyes and call instead upon another vision which is to be waked within you, a vision, the birthright of all, which few turn to see.”
Musa Askari 10th November 2019
Originally published for Community News Teesside Facebook Page.
David Bates is a lecturer in Culture Studies and a member of the Labour Party, who lives in Stockton-on-Tees. He has previously worked as a youth and community worker, and for a Labour member or Parliament.
For further reading please see his recent article “Labourism and the Local: The Situation on Teesside.”Musa Askari: What would describe as your most formative political experiences that have brought you to where you are today in your thinking? Is there any event or series of events that awakened within you a wider consciousness about social justice? How did you fuse them together in to a critique in your mind?
David Bates: I think it was listening to music which first prompted me to take politics seriously – from about the age of 15, I started listening to bands whose lyrics and interviews addressed social issues, such as Nirvana and the Asian Dub Foundation. I can remember seeing Tony Benn on TV in the late 90s and being inspired by what he was saying. I gradually became a socialist but my understanding of what that means has changed down the years. Learning about Marxist theory at University was very important and I later worked at a refugee-supporting charity in Middlesbrough which made me think even more critically about racism, borders and capitalism. This was at the same time as Bush and Blair’s “War on Terror” which also had a very marked effect on me.
Musa Askari: In your recent article “Labourism and the Local: The Situation on Teesside” you reference a conservative culture. What is Labourism and its conservative culture? Are they one and the same?
David Bates: They’re not quite the same but they are very closely related. To use Ralph Miliband’sphrase, Labourism is essentially defined by the Labour Party’s “devotion to the parliamentary system” with all its archaic, elitist, undemocratic features. Obviously some variants of Labourism will be more conservative than others, but ultimately it is constrained by the parliamentary framework it operates in. This is based on a very limited notion of what “democracy” entails, namely that the public votes for representatives every five years and those MPs are then free to manage our public affairs however they see fit. I would argue that we need to implement a far more expansive model of democracy and that’s what socialism is about: extending collective, democratic processes to workplaces and communities. It also means democratising the Labour Party, but this is a mammoth task given the influence of Labourism on the party’s ideas and practices, particularly the Parliamentary Labour Party.
Musa Askari: Without reading your fascinating zine “Teeside A Radical History” I would have no clue that members of the International Working Men’s Association (IWMA) provided support “for French refugees from the Paris Commune who were made welcome in Middlesbrough in 1872.” I did not know about the migratory history of Middlesbrough from its humble beginnings in the 1820s as a farmstead to the arrival of Jewish people in the 1860s to a Black and Asian presence from the mid 19th century.What was your inspiration for composing the zine and what can be done to engage people more with place? I mean beyond celebration of diverse identities that make up a place in a particular moment. To be born somewhere to settle somewhere to migrate to and from somewhere would you agree we should know the journey that place has been on?
David Bates: Yes, I definitely agree. The biggest influence on the pamphlet was probably EP Thompson’s The Making of the English Working Class. But I was also inspired by sociologist Satnam Virdee’s historical work on migration, race and the working class. The idea is that there has never been a single, “authentic”, homogeneous working class — the working class is constantly being made and re-made, and includes people of all faiths and ethnicities, many of whom are marginalised at various points by the British state.In Britain, race and racism have traditionally been used to undermine internationalist class solidarity, hence the emergence of the category of the “white working class”. 150 years ago, working class people in England weren’t always considered to be part of the so-called “white race” and nor were Irish people: they were only “absorbed” into whiteness when it was politically expedient to do so (leading to the marginalisation of other groups, such as post-war migrants). This gradually happened as a means of popularising the British Empire and the “white man’s burden”. It’s fascinating to me that you can see these struggles playing out on Teesside, which had a huge Irish population in the 19th century, some of them political radicals.
Musa Askari: What are the essentials that every community must have in place to ensure stories of struggle on workers and human rights won are preserved? Which of those essentials does Teesside have and lack in your view?
David Bates: I suppose people need resources, awareness, confidence and leadership too. The first problem is that people aren’t really encouraged to engage with this kind of history: instead we’re all bombarded with stuff about Captain Cook and the Stockton Darlington Railway. Meanwhile, public commemoration focuses largely on war heroes and businessmen. So there needs to be greater education and awareness, but of course that means time and resources. I think the labour and trade union movement could be more proactive in this regard. I’d like to see local Labour branches doing more on this — there’s been some great work done in Billingham on ICI history, for example. On the bright side, we some brilliant local historians and film makers like David Walsh and Craig Hornby who have unearthed fascinating stories. It’s really important that these are disseminated.
Musa Askari: In an age of instant messaging, instant responses, likes and dislikes are we at risk of losing touch with the slower stories? Ones that are passed down between generations, between friendships, between family. Have we lost them already like a dying art only to be resurrected for show in some niche tourism? Is social media anti-social? By engaging with it “unconsciously” are we engaging in anti-social behaviour of sorts?
David Bates: I think this is true in some instances: social media is perhaps not conducive to prolonged, in-depth dialogue and debate. But it is very useful for sharing ideas and linking people together in other ways. There’s a really interesting debate about this in academic literature on media and politics. The social theorist Manuel Castells has written about the liberatory potential of online social networks; others like Jodi Dean and Christian Fuchs are far more sceptical.As for me, I have mixed feelings on it! Facebook I find intrusive in terms of the personal information which is collected and shared, but I do acknowledge that it’s good for keeping in touch with people, and for sharing memories and experiences. I find Twitter extremely useful for finding links to interesting stories and articles, but it is not a good platform for arguing with people. I suppose, given that this is a relatively new invention, we’re still learning about what its implications are.
WATCH DAVID BATES SHORT FILM ON “THF LOST HISTORY OF THE TEES