scale model of a war torn city

The individual within a society cannot be viewed as such, or even humanistically. They are constructs, stereotypes and clichés because they exist within the confines of a controlled environment—language, sexuality and race are the roots of politics, religion and nationalism. A minority or majority is little more than a mass discernible only statistically. The perspective of terrorist attacks throughout history unveil the insignificance of the individual in relation to murderous attack—the victims are determined simply by belonging to what the terrorist sees as the enemy group. Within a society it is the city that best represents this dehumanization; cities exist to create and condense a workforce run by a centralized government; they are an artificial environment that upholds man’s desire to deny and defy nature.”The city must, necessarily, by its very essence, stand opposed to nature…but it can also be a component of manmade nature.” (Cities without cities, Thomas sieverts, 2003 spoon press, Oxford.) Much like the airplane could be viewed as the fifth evolution of the wing in history the modern city could be seen as the 5th evolution of society.

The expression of a city is the age old desire to distance oneself from nature; “Since the railway, car and electronics have exploded the spatial limits imposed by the muscular capabilities of human beings and animals, the city has been extending almost without restraint into the countryside. It’s expansion and the degree of its dispersal follow the relevant traffic and communications technologies…the forces which produced the compact city and kept it together for 200 generations—by which i mean the priest kings and religious associations, temples and churches, walls and markets, feudalism and the guilds—had definitely come to an end before these technological inventions.” (cities without cities, Thomas Sieverts, 2003 spoon press, oxford.)the church would have led to this, the few lucky characters who became wise earlier than the others, who realized that the voice came not from God but from a poorly evolved channel between the left and right brain, creating phonetic static in the cerebral hemispheres. Not only did they confirm God’s voice on a daily basis, but they claimed to channel it and needed support from their people in awaiting it. This came back to the same old urge—when man became self aware he became aware of his mortality. Adam and eve spring from this myth—their fall is not from god’s grace but the birth of introspection, self abhorrence and language. The city is mans most acute expression of suppressing the natural world, and himself within it: “The body and its environments raher, roduce each other as forms of the hyperreal, as modes of simulation which have overtaken and transformed whatever reality each may have had into the image of the other: the city is made and made over into the simulacrum of the body, ad the body in its turn is transformed, ‘citified’, urbanized as a distinctly metropolitan body.” (Bodies- cities, Elizabeth Grosz)

This may seem a violently negative approach toward the city, perhaps encompassing all modern institutions, but to me it seems crucial that everything falling under the banner of civilization be seen as some accident, similar to the way a body reacts to a virus, and not borne of a complacent sense of choice or self-hood. I will elaborate further using not blood, sweat and tears, but cement, steel and mortar. Everything we need to know about the wrld is evident in the artificial environments we have created, from the farcical to the coldly functional, they epitomize a mass psychology or perhaps one psychology with a mass teeming beneath it. I have always been bemused by the lauding of cities as ‘beautiful’, always perplexed by the efforts taken to visit a far-off city. To me they are brutal, inane and repellent. For me it is complete artifice, a controlled environment manufacturing choice and built from the will of few: “The factory attracts worker settlements to it…the population needs schools and shops…the growing employment and consumption attracts further institutions.” (Cities without cities, Thomas Sieverts, 2003 spoon press, Oxford.)

The term ‘Urbanicide’ was coined during the civil war in the Balkans at the start of the nineties by Marshall Bergman, most likely in relation to the siege of the city of Sarajevo. It implies the killing of a city. Now anything that can be killed must hold life, or at least a certain symbolism of it. In the conflict between Israel and Palestine the Israeli president ________ Sharon has gone on record saying: “I know the arabs. They are not impressed by helicopters and missiles. For them, there is nothing more important than their house. So, under me, you will not see a child shot next to his father. It is better to see an entire village levelled by bulldozers row after row.” As well as the destruction of a home or city representing the existential denial of rights to individuals, it also gives them a sense of their identity. Even landmarks have been erased in Palestine, denying the communal identity of these people.”Landmarks, the point reernces considered to be external to the observer, are simple physical elements…those familiar with a city rely increasingly on a systems of landmarks for their guides—to enjoy uniqueness and specialization, in place of continuities used at an earlier date.” (the image of the city, Kevin lynch.) Austrian writer Hermann Broch wrote : “The truth of an era may be generally read in its architectural facades.” Take a less extreme situation—Budapest, Hungary, or London, England; capitals of dissolved empires with glorious architectural facades now restored for the sake of tourism or left to degenerate. You have to ask yourself why, but you also have to see that what this architecture epitomizes is seen for upholding the autocratic empires that treated most of their people like cannon or workshop fodder. “The old city by selling bourgeois culture has been deprived more and more of day to day features of living…the burden of the old city as the identity bearer, is overloaded and collapsing.” Cities without cities, Thomas sieverts, 2003 spoon press, Oxford.)The only people who whole heartedly uphold a pastiche patriotism are mostly too young to remember these empires and see them through rose tinted shades as modern governments let their community disarray and atrophy.

I am constantly curious what Britain would become if it suffered similarly to Palestine; the Victorian buildings accommodating sniper rifles from their high windows, wal after wall of high facade turning most cities into barracks. In certain parts of the world where extreme wealth and extreme poverty exist hand in hand the wealthy who live heir do so in a war context on a daily basis; the fear of space, of the outside wall, retreating into themselves through a constant sense of occupying enemy territory. This can be seen in places such as L.A. where one: “Observes an unprecedented tendency to merge urban design, architecture and the police apparatus into a single comprehensive security effort.” (city of quartz: excavating the future in los Angeles???)

Refugee camps have had their case argued as cities of resistance against the forces that made them homeless; in a community completely robbed of their roots, their politics, the term refugee, rebel or terrorist is easily bandied about. This temporary space exists in the state but beyond state control. The Roma gypsy people had made a conscious choice to live in this temporary zone, frequently finding themselves brutally evicted by local vigilantes and unsympathetic governments. India’s slums could be classified as temporary zones, but this would only be in as much as the homes themselves lack any concrete or definite structure; the slums are huge, working communities that are almost completely self sufficient. In a similar way to the fate of the Roma gypsy’s property developers generally buy the land and put resettlement projects in placing, transferring the slum community to high rise projects, which, by and large, completely destroy the commerce and economy of slums, due to the non-transferable lifestyles of low level tenements and ever-malleable homes.

There is a long tradition of cities being represented as heaven – Athens—or as hell—sodom—they enable the fruition of the self or instigate its dissolve. In the bible the tower of Babel is the edifice in which a united civilization attempts to reach the skies, to reach God. God sees this and decides to ‘confound their language’ distributing mankind across the globe. With globalization in place the world is, once again, not far off from speaking one united language. Interestingly, in Dubai, the world’s largest building has been constructed, in a landscape only truly available to the excessively rich. Babel was institution; it would have had a hierarchy and is likely to have been built in the middle East, perhaps in Afghanistan—the whole of the middle east having once been the fertile crescent, ‘the cradle of civilization.’ To digress slightly upon this by contextualizing an evolutionary aspect of man, namely the voice box. I believe that the initial use of the human voice box would have been imitation, enabling early man to trick certain creatures and to avoid others. The primary attempts to capture the sound of this instrument, thousands of years later, would have been functional and performed by the elites of the civilization—who would have used it as a control device, to keep track of debts or possessions; device being the optimum word. This would be closely followed by the ever evolving mnemonic capacity of the mind, that would eventually turn to the written word. The word was originally little more than a tally that the ruling powers used to keep track of debts owed; the eventual invention of the written word left people dependent on a external device, instead of an internal effortof memory. It is notable to add: “The major advances in civilization are advances that all but wreck the societies in which they occur.” Bring this back to Babel and the bible’s insistence that ‘In the beginning was the word and the word was God.’

   What I am getting at is that the function of language is inherently corrupt and animalistic, regardless of how it has been dressed up throughout the ages. I don’t think—don’t believe, I should say—that human intelligence is a key component of evolution, just a environmental causality. I read in—note this down—guns, germs and steel by Jared diamond—that Cro-Magnon man used their advancements in weaponry and communication, basic technologies, to commit the first genocide of any species, the Neanderthals. Language and technology are the advantage that defined the general success of one culture over another. The time binding of literature informs a people generationally, it warns them and teaches them how to prey upon others; this is why the more sybaritic we become the more literature deteriorates—it has nothing urgent to convey. In history you have to wonder how tiny numbers of Spaniards were able to conquer and colonize the Americas. Diamond notes that germs were the primary cause of deaths amongst indo-Americans, due to the European domestication of animals—something not heavily done in the south Americas, thus no prior immunity amongst them–but the initial conquests were made possible because the Spaniards knew what to expect from earlier expeditions and had a strategic advantage through writing. At the root of all Diamond’s thinking is that history has been determined by geographical position and that alone. The actions of the individuals are predetermined by the environment. Those who influence the environment can easily determine the actions of those living in it

Noam Chomsky’s concept of linguistic  ‘competence’ is solidarity through names and titles in our terms of address, e.g.,  Mister, Miss, and even the formality of  forename abbreviated or pronounced in full. It seems to me that the ‘collective conscious’ that Karl Jung hypothesized would be transmitted through language; the implications of this in regards to socially accepted ‘competence’ are quite foreboding; the human nervous system coupled with the assumptive continuity of an expression existing in a pre-destined context. Language itself, its evolution is a bastardization of influence, a ‘culture vulture’ brought about by the ever closing quarters of civilization, courtesy of the agriculture that gave birth to industrialism. To turn against preconceived notions and refresh the meaning of icons is an effort; language exposes the root of this: the speaker will always choose the phonetic principle that they find most efficient. This is how language appears as an invader, a malign cell achieving symbiosis in the human host; a word virus, as William Burroughs put it.

If ‘environment’ is something that has determined our history what is happening when we are so keenly creating an artificial one? We are taking charge of our destiny, leaving nothing to chance and potentially eradicating a nature which has only bought us death, violence and confusion. That is a flippant positive, one epitomized by Walt Disney who : “wanted to create his own amusement park…he wanted to project the vernacular of the amercan small town as an image of social harmony…disney’s fantasy both restored and invented collective memory..uopian in nature, where we carefully programme out all the negative, unwanted elements.” (landscapes of power, from Detroit to Disneyworld, Sharon Zukin.) For those in a position to determine the outcome, or even plan the onset, of a city have a clear idea of what it is they want. There are so many reasons for gravitating towards a city, even more so now that they infringe so greatly on the countryside; but how can we comprehend the mass population of a place like L.A. which has : “The military syntax of contemporary architecture insinuating violence and conjuring up imaginary dangers…today’s upscale, pseudo-public spaces full of invisible signs warning of the underclass ‘other’” (The city of quartz???) L.A. has gone so far as to create barrel shape benches that are impossible to sleep on elaborate sprinklers in doorway to prevent loiterers and one restaurant even having a thre inch thick trash cage covered with spikes to safeguard their garbage from the homeless; they have abolished public toilets, which has led to the homeless washing in the sewer effluent; security surveiled car parks; libraries are closing  from disuse and what is applied to Israel as a retreat into the interior when in occupied territory—not so much a fighting for territory but an abolishment of anything that is not your own personal existential space. It is even more curious that the huge cities of this world are home to mass numbers of the poor, suffering in the streets that appear to be rising so quickly in order to avoid their growing number. This could be the last expression of human nature—to pave over it.

Beirut was prophecy for certain cities with the onset of globalization; it has lost its meaning through continuous conflict that has persevered nothing but only served to chart a resistive and unending map of human violence. It sees contradictions of warfare pass in and out of it, as the world changes so fast around it that the enemy can only be defined by country. September 11 was a suicide bomb for more than one reason—it was the expression of a people who are out of touch with the rest of the world. Corporate conglomerates avoid war because it is bad for business. Technological developments may initially be military apparatus but in a globalized world the free market does not want to employ them in actual conflict, only to manufacture them and to deal them very indirectly to opposing sides. That aside this is still a world engaged in constant warfare, and it is that which decides the city—its relevance in a warring, money making context.”In a world of ubiquitous computation and telecommunication, electronically augmented bodies, postinfobahn architecture and big time bit business, the very idea of a city is challenged and must be reconceived. Computer networks become as fundamental to urban life and street systems. Memory and screenspace become valuable, sought after sors of real estate. Much of the economic, social political and cultural action shifts into cyberspace. As a result familiar urban design issues are up for radical reformation.” (W.J.Mitchell, city of bits: space, place and the Infobahn.)

The cities that thrive today do so because they are functional in a globalized world. The territory, culture, or people are secondary to whether or not the city can fulfil its role as agitator between opposing sides—even if one of those sides are the country it happens to be based within.”The  space constituted by the global grid, a space with new economic and political possibilities, is perhaps one of the most strategic spaces for the formation of transnational identities and communities…global cities concentrate a disproportionate share of global corporate power and are one of the key sites for its valorisation.” (globalization and its discontents, saskia sussen.) The twee element of globalization is that it is multi-national; it knows no loyalty, but it knows what’s bad for business. Still, for business to continue someone has to be conflicting with someone else. Peace is truly possible only when we embrace our exploitative selves fully. If early tribes and civilizations succeeded or failed because of Geographic advantage, as Jared Diamond has it, then the environmental advantage has been replaced in globalization by those who have the technology, the natural resources and the information to succeed:

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The search engine of old shells


There were a few precedents around the millenium for a information shedding of baggage, the one that springs to mind would be the offices who decided to delete all their business emails and restart their communication from zero. Although this is certainly a more practical, impersonal and dated form of expelling unwanted and overabundant information from one’s psyche it is a similar principle to the phenomenon that is now takes places amongst pilgrims, one jokingly labelled New Meccas or New Jerusalem. The implication summoned by referencing these archaic holy places is that it is a pilgrimidge to a greater realization of the projected self through communications networks.  Once a year the faithful download the software by which to crack off their old shells known through networking sites, email and business. The only maintained connections are those that are chosen, and will be preserved in the software which otherwise effectively scrambles all previous imformation attached to that individual and allows them a rebirth as a user of global communications networks. Initially this could have been the frustrated or rebellious response to omnipotent surveillance of personal information, but it now stands as the meeting place of phoenix’s destined to rise from the ashes, free of past mistakes or burdens within the projected character that may have been odious to some.

The large numbers of people scrambled at New Jerusalem/Mecca also has a drawback; although their may be safety in numbers it still makes the origin of some rebirths possible to trace. Certain savvy predators make it their cruel ambition to track the devoted into their new projected selves. The traceability is due to the increase or decrease of certain sites, particularly networking sites–email, thus far, is the most elusive to these people. The predator will not be choosy; he will look for those vulnerable new users before performing harrassing them with merciless character assasination that cripples the growth of their new self. They will be stuck with this handicap until the following year when they can realize themselves once again.

When the new selves are in place and have moved on their are still the graveyards of their old selves to be seen, utterly unused, former friends calling out to them but to no avail; the old photographs and interests that will have been left behind in their yearly release toward greater perfection.

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The thinly veiled existence of J.Madan

Madan’s death in Marrakech resembles a dream i had long ago; one so vivid i can practically feel the day from inside his eyes. The pluralities between us are the reasons i had to kill him off; he was possessed by the spirit of confrontations, and the desire to serve his art greater purpose. He treated his writing like a weapon; he referred to it as “expropriation” recalling the terrorist actions of central Europe in the 1970’s and third world Guerrilla movements. His approach is a vanishing point of the form itself, where everything is lost because the original ambition is obscured. If i didn’t have him die I’m not sure i would have known what to write.

   He never existed outside of the most extreme element of me, but also the most outdated, deluded fragment. He served as the vessel for justifying large amounts of information, transitions, tones and theories in the context of a short book. This anthology dismisses the intricacies of day to day existence for broader, more imagined scope. Most novels spend endless pages trying to bring you to a simple point or feeling; i fear there are no such subtleties here.

   A psychological evaluation of the twenty one year old Madan has come into my hands. He has a noted speech impediment which seems linked to an oral fixation as a child. He cites his memory of infantile erection as bought on by imagining body transference amongst toys; he is non-gender specific in the youthful imaginings. He is marked by an over affectionate mother and depressive stepfather. He shows early fascination with, and cruelty towards, animals.

   As a young teen he asserted his machismo through homosexual slurs towards other boys; the school years are marked by violence and rebellion. A narcissistic sexual fantasist, he suffers terrors throughout his teenage years. The perception of women is equally dissonant; either one of defiling or debased, or sentimental and reverent. Fantasies of murder, paedophilia, bestiality and incest appear in mid-adolescence but disappear by late.  They mark his early approach with women with the Madonna-whore type. This therapeutic evaluation is also out-dated, better treated by neuron-therapies and chemical stabilizers where the tensions are irreconcilable.

   Madan would wonder if this type of character existed before the twentieth century. The evaluation determines his focus as “intellectual by design, given the subjects discomfort with his physical form.”  He also believed that no true psychological ailment can exist without a physical ailment; But, if the self image is distorted so that the individual imagines a deformity… He looked at the Italian families removing the testicles of their infants in hope that they would become castrati opera singers. These singers would be androgynous, with choir girl range and the volume of a man. The sound was, reportedly, supernatural (reportedly because only one recording of castrati exists and it is apparently a poor example.) He went on to cite mutilation by parents in the third world, done in the hope of ensuring their child better takings in their future role as beggar. Madan as my ventriloquist puppet asked: what is mutilating the boys and girls in the developed world?

   I was disturbed recently by someone’s description of Norwegian teenagers as a bunch of bourgeois, hedonistic depressives. They are a very well cared for country, equal to England, and similar in that the climate does inspire bleak feeling. What perturbed me more was this complacency when placed alongside tales i had read from war torn Sarajevo; that the people in the thick of it, courtesy of the body’s supply of adrenalin and endorphins, were practically oblivious to the situation. They were high off their own supply, and walking into gun fire and the paths of tanks. The old chestnut of having to kill for paradise is not far off the mark; utopia bought about the horror.

   Hypothesis is a dangerous thing; Freud’s “death instinct” was merely a hypothesis, but the speculation still deludes psychoanalysis this day. Psychology turned to mysticism then to medicine through lack of a better idea. After Madan’s death i was asked by a friend to explain why i thought the company of people to be a damaging thing. Fortunately i remembered an article i had read about the proportion of infants faces—the babies’ features inspires a certain chemical release in the adult, i am unsure which chemical, and this is what inspires nurturing. The impact of others cannot be underestimated. We are woven to the autonomic nervous system which is engaged with the world at large through the senses.

   Over the eighteen months following the creation of Madan, from birth until death, i imagined compiling his loose biography from memory, from letters, emails and the few friends i could trace through other friends. He was an efficient subject, one that made me wonder who holds particular relevance in a life; it is not always the people we assume at first. Most of the work in this anthology needed rewriting, and great liberties were taken with it. By no means would I ever have intended for these works to be stand alone; they were an attempt to find a voice within many voices and influences. After such a long period of time i could not bring myself to discard the writings as they tracked the evolution of an author, namely I. My initial approach was to hide myself and allow the creations to speak through me. What i wanted was to make sense of my own mind. Writing a book, however sloppy, is a great brain training device.

   I wrote as Madan  that “It is hard to believe you can achieve anything when you come from such an apathetic place.” It is shocking to see so many people i have cared about fallen into bitterness, touched by tragedy, kitsch and complacency. I am not exempt, but i refuse a “life of quiet desperation.”

   The question is by those who have cared enough to reach the end of the novel is: who is the author? Now think if the compiler is the author then who is Madan? And if I (Astley) am J.Madan and can also say I’m not then what is left to say? Jean Genet wrote that “The author must assume a terrible responsibility for his creations.” I am making orphans of my creations and having them adopted by another who i have eventually killed off.

     I Am not proud of what i have done.

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detatched first person narrator

I was recently struck by a description of Norwegian youths as self harming, depressive and hedonistic. Perpetual boredom coupled with a well cared for population leads to a people actively seeking their unique miseries. This situation immediately coupled in my mind with what i knew of war torn situations; that during the conflict the people caught in the crossfire have such a high release of endorphins and adrenalin that they are insulated to the horror of the situation. In fact it seems that they find it fascinating, walking into the line of fire. They are, literally, high on the supply the body generates.

Addiction is a question of exposure. When i see myself standing in that black tiled hexagon, and the faces around me i notice stress in the jaw and my heart palpitates, but it is not with fear.

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Lost in Morrocco

 A guide is a necessary evil through the streets of Marrakech, especially the medina and the unnamed streets compiling the labyrinth of souks (markets stalls). The guide will always haggle for dirham or euro in extortionate amounts, and refusing them down to moderation ends in incomprehensible flapping and drama. The guilt trip is the always the salesman’s last resort.

Sigmund Freud acknowledged that his dubious metaphysical templates of ID/EGO? SUPER-EGO was inapplicable to Arab peoples. This is most likely due to their tendency to trust instinct over mind, walking unmarked streets to the undistinguishable front doors of Riads. There is no threat of crime here, beyond pick pocketing, but the streets are waiting for the unwitting. The unwitting are there for the taking in the eyes of the people who live here.

I foretold in advance that the closer we came to new town, Gueliz that the snake charmers and street performers would degenerate into begging, deformities, shoe shiners and orphans galore. I was not wrong. In the medina all interactions are fuelled by commerce – even photography; it is not beyond someone within a panoramic shot to step forward and ask the camera wielder for a contribution. In the restaurants and Riads the workers labour endlessly over their guests.

The repetition of faces in old town is more defining than the stores the face will sit in front of. Typical traveller bellyaching is always directed toward the traffic and omniscient hustling. A young child cries “Mama” on cue as she pleads for change; a man twirling a fez top in passing calls for payment in return for his ill defined entertainment. Travellers are talking of missing single rooms, pristine bathrooms, television and breathing a sigh of relief for McDonald’s.

I hear streets being described as dodgy in English. Always trust the speechless guide; the more they speak the more they want. I was led from taxi Riad without the boy uttering a word. The French-Arabic is a core language for a people who, true to any nomadic people, comprehending a dozen languages quite adequately. I notice the English are particularly perturbed by this, the flitting only adding to their sense of isolation. To enter the mind of a person it is essential to understand their mother tongue. The greatest flaw in Karl Yung’s collective conscious was his reluctance to pin point exactly how the conscious was carried between one and another. In this way he went from psychology to mysticism. I have hypothesized for years now that the collective conscious is carried through language. In speaking the speaker externalizes themselves, and engages the nervous system with that environment. If this is not possible then fear and isolation ensue. The act of listening is automated when understood; the listener is simply a bystander. Ill comprehension reduces the listener to a state of acoustic terror. It is important in this situation to keep one’s eyes wide and ears closed to anything purporting to an imaginative leap.

Everyone appears to be waiting for something, only compelled by an interior sense of time. Clocks are nowhere to be seen. When the listening down into oneself ends, the locals are animated by the tendency to make their living wherever they may stand. The Julian calendar, Julliard time ceases to apply to a people who ply their trade wherever they stand. I find it hard to envision a smooth change for these people to offices and homogenous high streets—although time can change everything. Tourism will most likely turn the community of nomadic life—one where a nod or touch of the heart makes the people inexplicably, incomprehensibly familiar—into the degradation of begging.

The streets of Morocco’s old towns react like a body; signals are transmitted throughout them. Government would be the likely place to assume the heads position. The traveller exists as an invader to this nervous system, a benign tumour—and is treated as such. They will pay for their interaction, although this value is not driven by money necessarily, it is easy to see why it becomes so; and why not? The same principle as the internet applies to these mutating money making attempts, where business can be ascribed to anything; vocations born of simple interaction, minute details and ridiculousness. Clouds pass the March sky in raised intensity of winds. Cats yodel in territorial displays. Corrugated steel roves and wicker overheads—there is little graffiti on the walls. I see the city as an extension of the people—manufactured, built by hand—directly from a wordless wave of communication.

I feel possessed as a move about; something moves me one place to another. I remember nothing and only stop when my stomach calls. This would be the perfect place to get lost—

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The Reich way

It is always advisable to bring the past into the present to understand the future. In “The function of the orgasm” by Wilhelm Reich, Reich hypothesizes almost indisputably that all neurosis is born of the suppression or confusion sexuality. He places emphasis on suppressed child sexuality by authoritarian parents as the root of neurosis. He later writes in the section entitled “Fascistic irrationalism” that: “Whether man is a social being or a mass of protoplasm reacting in a peculiar and irrational way depends on whether his basic biological needs are in harmony or at variance with the institutions he has created with himself. In view of this it is impossible to free the working man from the responsibility he bears for the regulation or lack of regulation of biological energy…it has become one of his most essential characteristics that he is only too happy to shift  this responsibility to some fuehrer or politician.” This stands in contrast to the theory of Julian Jayne’s Bicameral mind wherein the dissonance between the left and right brain in early man crated the voice of God from the then more dominant right brain (subconscious). The upward act of prayer was a delusion, summoning not higher powers but the return of a subconscious voice early man could not comprehend as coming from within. This is also his template for man looking to ‘external’ authorities.

In light of the 1960’s sexual revolution it is hard to embellish Reich’s theory on the everyman looking to heap his confusion into the lap of a dictator. That is not to say it is invalid, simply that it is not so clear cut—and i am writing this in the year 2010. Hitler was said to have Jewish blood, and had two hunchbacks in his family; it has always been my conviction that he took the hatred towards his family to fever pitch, at first the nation and then aspiring to conquer the globe. He was essentially turning a neurosis into politics. Even Reich sees that dictatorship—i am steering the term away from the specifics implied by communism and fascism—was inevitable, that it “thrust mass neurotics into the open.”

Is this to say that Julian Jayne’s’ hypothesis can be ignored? Not at all. Indeed it makes more sense in present day. Modern societies have successfully created the simulation of freedom in relation to sexuality—internet pornography. The act is taken to the most dehumanized point—dehumanized in it being robbed of feeling, and by that i do not mean love, moreover anxiety, realism and the intricacies of intimacy. Large parts of the world are spectators to an act they are not necessarily performing themselves; the act of watching is not value free. The act is not one suppressed element of sexuality; it is moreover the abandonment of sexuality to being a viewer of the sexual act. Modern psychoanalysis has mutated into chemical neuro-therapy, prescription rather than hypothesis and analysis.  Advancement of Chemically altered metabolisms, in times of great upheaval and suffering, will eventually lead to a sure fire state of peace, one to turn Buddhists green as lotus flowers with envy. Then they could chant the envy away.

This situation creates a fantasist neurosis, perplexing the self image and creating an unusual template of what makes up sexual norms.  Feelings of anxiety and inadequacy are sure to be increased should a porn dependent person become engaged in the flesh. It brings up many hindrances over self image, and what is considered the ideal within a society. Any failing or rejection naturally leads to a retreat within simulated realms. Would the act of masturbation during pornographic viewing in children later lead to disinterest in the sexual act altogether, i wonder?

Ultimately the sexual revolution has led to another dynamic of neurosis within majorities. In a revised definition of totalitarian society it seems that the people would most likely be free to watch the sexual act whilst relinquishing their freedoms to higher powers. In the absence of faith, and the disillusion with religion, it is logical that the most a people can be promised are guiltless pleasures of the simulated flesh. The prayer is made to the powers that be to continue the sybaritic lifestyles that free the individual of all responsibility beyond that which is required to continue reaping the rewards. Society’s individuals, as an armed force, are no longer required in a world which has extended its political differences in the hope of unity, and closed its borders to anyone not recognized within them. What’s left but to enjoy an isolated exhaustion?”

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Michael Jackson’s progressive leprosy

The plastic surgeries that ravaged Michael Jackson’s physical form have come to redefine leprosy for the millennium. His existence was a constant manifestation of the Surgeon, since it was a sign both of His anger, and of His grace.

The first physical signs of Jackson’s leprosy became evident in his early twenties, as a lightening of the skin. He was initially diagnosed as suffering vitiligo and lupus, although many suspected he was bleaching his skin. The joint diseases can now be seen as misdirection by publicity men in excusing his aversion to direct sunlight.

The deterioration of the nose became the feature most notably altered by Rhinoplasty (the disease when isolated to the sinuses). Jackson broke his nose as a young teenager in a stage accident, but reported little to no sensation of pain directing from it; this could also be cited as the first evidence for the onset of his affliction.

The absence of pain reported by the leprous, also permits little to no psychological distortion of character. This arguably results in the stunting of psychological growth. Jackson had been described as a ‘man-child’ throughout his career.

Around the time the disease was publicly recognized Jackson was in the “Bad” stage of his musical persona; which is to say that of the criminal. This is relevant in that, over time, we see his progression from sinner to penitent and finally disciple. Unlike most public figures he was always humbled by the power of the deity. He became the devoted son, suffering for the father in the eyes of his mass audience.

The advancements in plastic surgery occurring in the late eighties and nineties acerbated the ravaging of his image. Unwavering faith aside, this became an unending source of anguish for the performer who had continual difficulty in projecting his chosen exterior to his mass audience. The chin augmentation was an attempt to accentuate his masculinity, corresponding with the street wise machismo of “smooth criminal.”His lip augmentation ideally summoned young Elvis’ plush mouth. The autopsy performed upon his death showed the disease to be most advanced around the mouth, deteriorating monthly over a ten year period; Autologen, the substance used in reshaping the disease within the lips is quickly absorbed by the body.

The technologies that made the music video possible also advanced the exposure of Jackson, which would eventually cost him his continuity in the public eye.

The browplasty that cursed his forehead was greatly discouraged by his specialist, Robinson Gupta. The incisions exposed markings beneath the hairline, leading to hair implants, many of which did not take to the failing flesh. Gupta’s services, dismissed prior to the operation, were reinstated fulltime thereafter. M.J. remained a disciple of the surgeon’s until his death.

The cheek augmentation was Gupta’s finest application of the disease. This is evident in the minor attention it received in the international media. This is more notable for it being the only part of his body touched by another under scrutiny of the public eye (Lisa Marie Presley.)

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Dillinger’s federal erection

The criminal, the sociopath is cultivated in order to justify its institutions and a hierarchy…illegality is an artifice that sprang into being with those propositions. The greater the civilization, the greater the crime. The Volstead act in America as a pertinent example of mass manipulation and collectivization in a society “labouring under the illusion of freedom.” I hold John Dillinger in high regard as a symbol of this; that modern societies intentionally create a vacuum for crime in order to boost stagnating economies and to spread fear amongst the majority should mass dissent over government policies ever occur.

   The Dillinger I have read of is acting under powers of suggestion, almost a somnambulist. The man has a constant suspicion that his mind is not his own, that his hand is forced and he’s right; such criminals were anticipated in the Great Depression well in advance and pounced upon by when they came to light. The law enforcement was waiting, the newspaper hysterics, all predictable responses to their environment, just as the criminals were: “It is an identity conspiracy—the actions of the little man are predetermined by the environment. Those who influence the environment can easily determine the actions of those living in it.” Dillinger’s mythological penis and later castration serve as a cautionary tale, echoing the influence of Wilhelm Reich’s “Function of the orgasm” Castration symbolizes the loss of power over our own mind; Dillinger’s castration post mortem was a terrible violation, but scarily significant.

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Bosnia and Herzegovina


   Travelling creates a headspace for endless reinvention of the self, a recomposition of its facets and a weaving of them into new, more fictional, territories, away from the familiar eyes of friends and family. Our familiars harbour dated ideas of us, they solidify our identities simply through having seen us over a period of time; how comfortable are we in being ‘known’? Breaking from our mundane captors into lands that know nothing of us, we can spin tales and projected elements of our characters that we had previously talked of but are now able to epitomize. This is why every backpacker bemoans others and the tourists traps that expose the shared desire to define originality through the world at large, our external environment optimistically transposed to reveal some untouched upon aspect of human experience. It’s most mystifying how personal perspective is disregarded in the rapid flitting through masses of the world’s scenery, reducing the budget travellers to little more than the uniform cameras they use to soak up the imagery.

   Two young boys sit with their mother in the train carriage with me, wearing Serbia football shirts, while their mother dozes against the window. I ran for the train in summer heat and am now sufficiently sweating and frustrated by the stuffy carriage. The ticket collector comes; in Hungarian she tells us all to move. We move. She returns again, and tells us to go further, dismally gesturing on and on to us all. Only the front two carriages of the train from Keleti, Budapest go to Sarajevo. Sitting back down, the two boys have realized that I am English; as I read one of them makes jokes about me, doubling up his brother by saying occasional things to the side of my face, thinking i don’t understand. I eventually look him straight in the eye and ask him his name is, and call him a naughty man; the mother smacks her son on the leg, overwhelmed by fresh embarrassment, possibly for not having stopped him earlier. I say that I am English and do not really understand.

   They pull they pin on the bulk of the train at Pecs, not far from the Hungarian border. This leaves you without about eight hours to go before arrival in the BiH capital. You can smoke on the trains, tying string to the heavy, spring back windows and ventilating the old fashioned east European khaki seating and six room carriages. Of all the countries in Europe this is the only one I have truly wanted to see, one that I have wanted to visit for an especially long time. The edgy stigma surrounding Sarajevo comes back to me as soon as i step out from the train station, later than due by an hour and a half, causing me to miss the uniform lift that would’ve taken me and other travellers to the hostel near Bascarsija square. Two Danish lads rendezvous with a fifty something American who had joined the train somewhere in Croatia; He sat in my carriage and i know that he had skin cancer and had spent five years working in a cannabis factory in Holland. He had met the Danish guys in croatia and they plan to race the American to the top of the Bosnian pyramid that exists in a town called Visoko; the pyramid isn’t an official archaeological find, much uncertainty exisiting over what it is exactly, if anything at all. I ask them if they know the way to Bascarsija square; they tell me to follow the tram lines because they have seen a sign somewhere that says that, or to get the number three tram, A taxi driver pulls up, asks me where I am going; he says twenty Marka and I tell him no chance and he drops it to fifteen; he has a broad baby face, a pinkened complexion which mingles with a definite intensity upsetting his generic type with a unplaceable brutality. I am nervous—i do not like city’s at night. I remember being lost before in Croydon, looking for a friends house til four in the morning and ending up sleeping on a mattress left on the roadside. I remember the years i worked in a city centre bar, every weekend witnessing an incessant stream of violence; understand that i am not afriad, but that i am not careless, and distrust people simply through having dealt with them in countless contexts.

  I followed the tram lines; I came to typical high street just beyond perpetual construction site and apartments so typical to this part of Europe. At a open cafe I ask a young guy where Bascarsija square might be; he answers in perfect English, rendering my poor pronunciation of his mother tongue redundant, teasing his friend who attempted to override his directions, saying you should not listen to him, beginning a banter of, him; who me? My friend here, he throws a sarcastic hand his way; or should i say co worker? I’m just your co-worker now you piece of shit? Don’t listen to this guy, he’s not from here. I had spoken to three people, ready to unleash my patchwork quilt of east European language in order to reach my destination; there’s is no need. The people here generally speak English more fluently and with greater confidence than, say, the Czech or Polish. The high street goes from typicality to cobblestone Turkish; i pass a mosque, cafes. I see a drinking fountain and the relief of my hostels name.

   It was late, I reached the Ottoman style Bascarsija square too tired and flustered to really pay attention to it; my cheap hostel was a twelve bed, three bunk set up. The joyous aspect to this is that every time someone turns on their side in the middle of the night the whole thing creaks as if the support is about to give and they will crash through ontop of you; I didn’t sleep well the first night. I had not seen the city yet, I had seen few of the people. I entertain exaggerated ideas of what to expect.

   In the morning what makes the hairs on the back o f my neck stand up are the mountains looming over the city, an irrepresible green, most notable from the ornate drinking fountain in Bascarsija square, pigeon square, the core of the miasma of streets that weave amongst and through the plush greenery of the mountainsides, amongst the articulate red tiled rooves of the house peppering it with no particular plan; there are the economical high rises in Novo Sarajevo and apartment blocks, titillating bearing the scars of three years of shelling; a beautifully restored Orthodox church is a few hundred meters from a minimalist synagogue that acts as a Holocaust museum and the cluster of mosques that source of its crafts and gift shops, its coffee houses and shisha bars. I see these people as having once dashed between buildings to avoid sniper fire; blood stains on the asphalt, and huddled in their kitchens as the frontages of their homes were assaulted. The young people who are from here were not raised here; most still working in central Europe. But they all come back; they are Bosnian. The dashing is gone; the pace is laconic, cheery compared to most of Europe. Tito is still here in spirit and image, everywhere in fact; an understandable rose tinted idolatry that is justified…

   On the park that hold the monument for dead children, I watch young mothers and grandmothers sit on benches, talking side by side as their children concoct a variety of games, rallying into large groups betraying solidarity of the city’s community. For a large place it is familiar to so many of those it houses, relaxed; people are not strangers here. Near the monument a little boy wields a toy Kalashnikov. Boys will always have a fascination with guns; is this form of insensitivity on the parents part, to let him play soldier near this monument? I think moreover it is telling that the people are not prone to flighty hysterics, not cross examining child’s play with hyper sensitivity, or watching them with intense caution. Many times I had and would be told again that the “people here do not want any more trouble.”

   Outside my hostel I began speaking flippantly with a group of French university students; I ask them what they think of the city. They are disappointed: “it is a bit touristic.” The implication that it has too many visitors, not too many, but enough for them to lose interest. I’ve heard this expression used enough over so many cities to muse over it here; at the heart of backpacker culture is the longing to find a landscape completely unique, an idea explored years ago by Alex garland with the beach, for the tourist to reinvent himself away from home as a traveller or new frontiersman and to see the objective world as the possibility for a original extension of his identity, or reinvention of it. Naturally common sense will tell you a place are only as good as the company you keep, for example, or as what you put into it, and that any place worth visiting will result in the situation that you will have equally interested company. One especially confounding aspect of back packer culture is largely their reluctance to speak with anyone from the place, the people who make it as it is. This makes even less sense in a place like Sarajevo where so many people speak English. Surely with the overkill of digital photography the idea of going to see a place is becoming ever more redundant? That the experience has to go beyond the sights… In a desperate bid for fruition and industry tumultuous landscapes will turn to the outside world in the hope of visitation in order to sell the raw materials of their daily lives and hopefully provide for themselves more consistently than they had beforehand. I saw graffiti in both Prague and Budapest that read” tourists go home.” That implies all visitors. And what then, dear bomber? The iron curtain was pulled back and its governments mindlessly sold the land beneath their feet. The immense population growth was only made possible by such rapidly flourishing passing tourism. It collapses just as simply–take Mexico for example with the discovery of swine flu, the industry collapsed, leaving it to degenerate into drug feuds and general crime and migration.

   Still, perhaps this is the overall intention of the back packer and naive host alike. The tourist goes in, helps to beef up the economy and pulls out after a length of time to leave the place in a greater shambles than before. When the place has adequately torn itself apart again the tourist interest resumes, more privileged boredoms titillated by the idea of a lawless lands, the chance to see a horrendous gunfight or be flashed on the metro. You can pick up the local high grades for a lot less at that point and if you visit a club the locals will throw themselves at you for the price of breakfast. Citizens of the developed world inadvertently create their expendables.

   Benoit’s face reveals itself through a smile, one that ages him and makes him curiously familiar, and the reminiscence of a friend I can’t put my finger on. He has hitchhiked from Normandy to Bosnia, and plans to cross the Mediterranean. He tries to make me wear a turban top go into Mosque but I refuse, explaining  that I have no real feeling for religion whatsoever, although I have a curiosity for its customs and cliché iconography. He bought a bicycle at the first town he came toy in Croatia and subsequently travelled across the country with it, he tells me. At the Croatian border the guards said to him, be careful in Bosnia. He has a problem being in Sarajevo now; he slept by the river in a town about an hour from the capital, a town called Ilyash; I explain that i had some family from that town. He tells me to come look at his problem; while he was asleep by the river a puppy came a sidled up next  to him. In the morning there were another two huddled into him. He took the first, naming him after the town. He stole a plastic shopping basket, placing the animal inside. The pup is adorable, peering around from his elevated position.

   We go for a coffee; I say I have a pretty good knowledge of the city, of the country and its history. I give him a guided tour of the streets I have heard so much about but not seen for myself, talking as if i have always been here. Everyone stops to pet the animal, men and women alike. He is a great starting point of conversation; I say I will find my own Ilyash simply because he is the best chat up line I have ever come across. The second chat up line is introducing ourselves when asked where we are from as Multinational, England, France and Bosnia. A man fishing at the river practically tries to steal the animal; Benoit won’t give him away. He is forced to resolve that the pup has sabotaged his travels, deciding to take the animal to the veterinarians as he takes the animal back from the old man who pleads to keep the dog in a bid more complex than I can decipher; I tell the old man that Benoit  has decided to take the animal from the country that we are going now to the vet to get his vaccination papers. He stares after us glumly.

   Benoit is a sweet juxtapose to the other hitchhiker i met, the American who joined my train carriage in Croatia. The American was travelling  with thousands, generally staying in hotels and throwing in the towel and taking trains and flights when the thumbing didn’t work out. He was practically in tears when he found his ticket came up short of Sarajevo and they tried to kick him out at Zenica. All he had to do was pay the ticket collector a few euros to tun a blind eye.

   It’s the first day of Ramadan; I regret not going to the Gazi Husrev Mosque the day i arrived. The firework explodes signalling the days end; the city is illuminated as the sun fades on it and song  drones from the minarets. In the daytime I had noticed soldiers amongst the devoted, in and around the courtyard, betraying the anxiety and perhaps animosity levelled at this particular form of worship. But these are not simply Muslim worshippers; they are a completely mixed bunch of people, the Slavic faces, the Mediterranean and darkened gypsy feature that peer out from the headdresses are something completely unfamiliar. We make so many associations through our general experience that it is always impressive when our generalities are disrupted. The military are in small supply, along with occasional police presence. Outside one mosque I see a sign saying make a choice, and another equating the word NATO with a swastika… Age old tensions, however extreme their catharsis may be, do tend to ebb and flow. The fear is always that they will meet boiling point again. The poor will always want to blame someone for their desperation, their frustration; they will always direct it at those who are successful.

   A Jehovah’s Witness approaches me whilst i sit at the bird’s nest overlooking the city, the point where they set off the firework to signal the end of the fast for Ramadan. He says there is nothing better than to sit amongst nature. He begins translating passages from the bible, asking if i have ever thought about God. He cannot understand that my ideas which so closely resemble religiosity can lack association to a god or particular faith. He tells me that Islam pray to Death; I say this is similar to advice in the orient that advice encourages one to perform a task as if one dead; this is a positive thing, death implying one who is free from conflict The core of western faith is the root of utopian thought in that bliss can be achieved in living, and sustained day in day out. There is bliss, happiness, but it is the by product of as friction, as energy release and tension. Both western and eastern religious thinking advocate the denial of the flesh, which is something I can sympathize with. Peace is especially elusive in gratification and perfection. Those cultures that negate and fear the idea of death are the cultures that have been subjected to the greater manipulation by their hierarchies, drawing distinctions between man and animal and aspiring to god. I agree to come to a reading, as he seems convinced that i am ripe for the love of God. He is further spurned on by the fact that my Uncle was also a Jehovah’s witness; i fail to mention that he only became one to increase his chance of parole after being sent down for manslaughter. It worked.

   The subtle; difference between religions have turned into gulfs over time much like  childhood traumas can create a hindered and neurotic–even psychotic–adult. Given institutional religions blessing of prolonged longevity, most religions have only seen their efforts turn to suicidal bids at conversion or crippling chokeholds. Bosniaand Herzegovina understands this better than anywhere in Europe, never having the geographical distance to determine a singularity in its influence. It predicted the future of a Europe without its empires, monarchies and self possession a hundred years in advance.

   There’s a great fortune in travelling in being able to speak English; the language pervades through all countries, even amongst people you wouldn’t expect to speak it. It is the significant language of the world; take Italy or France, for example; they do not belong in Eastern European, in the Balkans. There is nothing here that accommodates them. But it does accommodate English speakers, and speakers of Slavic languages. The greater irony of Western Europe is that they will have to accommodate greater teaching of English in the very near future, to a standard that East Europe already has. Even when making general chit chat with a German man working just south of Moscow and dealing with Germany, he says that the Italian companies that they deal with have to have interpreters. They are out of the loop because they are dependent on translation; central and east Europe are more proficient, practical and intelligent than western European people. It would have strewed after the fall of the Soviet Union for sure, east Europe turning to the previously oppressed influence in order to liberate themselves and their homes. The Balkans is different; Yugoslavia was an extremely successful country. They did not turn to anyone, but they did, eventually, turn on each other; this is its tragedy.

   People from the Balkans have a train of thought that must be finished, monologues that have to be continued. Even when interrupted the conversation will come full circle at some point. I first noticed when engaged in conversation with my friend Branko; he cannot be interrupted; he will hold onto what he was saying like a breath until he can desperately exhale again. In this time he will have heard nothing that you have said; he watches you disdainfully. I remember telling him about my time in New York, how unflinchingly ignorant and obnoxious they could be, talking about a bus driver who dropped the case of an old lady and then coldly watched her pick it up off the floor. I dismissed the whole of New York as arty bureaucrats. He equated Bosnia as being the same way, saying that the people will rob you, beat you and kills you but they will not help you. I don’t see it personally, i told him. I feel infinitely more threat walking around my home city tan walking around Sarajevo; naturally every city has its problems, and areas that invite them. I always thought that I looked for intellectual reciprocation but he simply does not look for this; his thought process is like a train. He told me that phrases in Bosnian, meaning Serbo-Croatian and reflections from Serbian, are some of the most difficult in the world. He had lived in Chicago for sixteen years, since he was eleven, America having arranged a visa system to take in varying children during the Serbian war. He lost both his parents. Since returning to BiH he has enrolled in the army; we talk of the Second World War, Stalin’s back door deal with Hitler, and the first victory won in the Balkans over the Nazi’s. Branko doesn’t like Russians, they don’t have much tact, he says. He tells me of a captain, a Russian, who kept calling him the Turk. He called the captain a Nazi lover and they ended up in a fight. The thing with Branko is that he really hates the Turkish.

   Branko is writing a book called Assassin’s Creed, about Italy. I start laughing, saying like the computer game. He is pissed off; I ask him why he doesn’t write about Bosnia? He missed the war and lost his parents to it. There is plenty for him to think about, I say. He asks how someone can write about the suffering that his friends and family have only told him about, that he did not see for himself. I understand that guilt.

  Yahida’s name is on her bracelet; I don’t catch the pronunciation at first so she shows me; she is about six years old; she is tall for her age and with large gaps between her teeth. She plays with her cats outside my hostel, wearing them around her neck like a scarf and singing to herself. Some is rehearsing a loose grunge band in one of the building, an overly bass heavy sound.. She is stunningly confident, starting up a conversation mingled through with Bosnia and occasional English. We get stuck on one lot of Q and A; her mother walks past us both as if I am also a child. Her voice deepens in quick inquisitive rhetoric directed at her mother; she wants to know if I am English or Spanish, finally. She asks me to tie bandages around her hands so she can pretend she is a boxer. The relaxed confidence possessed by so many is one of integrity and defiance. There is another Nick I have met  here, from Ireland–he left his position as a newspaper editor t come live in Sarajevo, to write a book whilst here. He tells me I’m a presence, which makes me laugh. We decide that we are falling in love with this place; but a place is only the sum of many parts, and the biggest is the people who inhabit it.

   My friend used to live in Mostar, but has since moved to Foca. It is easier to catch the coach from Mostar rather than straight from Sarajevo. With the exception of the area surrounding the stari grad, the old bridge, the town of Mostar is either unassuming or still tormented. It did not even have the structural edifices of Sarajevo to add continuity to the identification of it’s remain. It was nothing; but it is starting, it is changing, and a ton is appearing again. Now with a huge passing tourist trade there is an imbalance of its earning, a fleeting industry. I walk down to the base of the bridge; two primary divers are making a collection to jump off the bridge, one man walking the rim of it whilst the other stands appearing to psyche him up for the 21 meter drop. People applaud. He drops unhesitant, a three second fall, his legs tucked into him to keep the centre of gravity beneath when at the last second he straightens out like a candle, piercing the water. He comes to the surface of the Nerevta rubbing his jaw; when the bridge was rebuilt the firework went up in celebration, and in the early evening the first and one of the best divers ran and swan dived from the immense bridge. This is a brilliantly defiant moment, fearless, and embodied the attitude of a community whose entire life is based upon this bridge, who hang around it, whose livings come from it, and a culture that proclaims that “where there is no bridge there is no life.” I had never thought about them before, and berate myself for the careless oversight.

   In Mostar board with an old couple; a photograph of Marshall Tito is directly over the bed. They have a grape vine and a fig tree; they do not speak English but are easy and physically expressive enough to understand that I am welcome to eat them as I like and that for this house. When i leave i’m told I do not need a key; the door is always open.  In the morning the husband practically chases me around the house with coffee until it is gone. The wife has me pull figs down from the top of their tree. Sometimes I worry that I am lost in the language, but fully confident and paced conversation is much easier to understand than you ever suppose, and much more so than a language spoken perfectly but with no confidence. We all use the familiar medium of humanity; those who know the price of it ascribe much more value to our fleeting moments.

  There was a common expression in England throughout the Serbian war which I was acutely aware of; if a woman was begging in a headdress, if children washed your windows at the traffic lights if something was stolen or went missing and an article in the newspaper talked about increasing numbers of immigrants on benefits the term people threw about was “Bosnians.” That is a hard thing to define for sure; there is no set generic type amongst Bosnian people–it is diverse generically and racially as England is. Also very few English people can speak Slavic languages, if any language at all, so it would be very difficult for them to know what was being asked or who was saying what. What can be done in a war where immigration or death were the choice but to immigrate? The morning clouds move from muddled and vague to speckling the sky like an egg of azure blue, the rapidly rising heat of the morning taking the night’s moisture by force.

    The disenfranchised citizens of the more developed parts of this world are looking for something  but fail to turn their journeys upon their subjective world; they are manifest in the desire to find an expression of the their originality in their external environment. This is why they bemoan other tourists, expecting to happen upon this original aspect of their experience but finding it defiled by the like minded, equally looking to gage their boldness and individuality. It is even more confused when these backpackers travel in groups, and consider themselves travellers. It would seem that they are missing a very obvious point; that a traveller or gypsy did so because they were obligated to no particular place, they had no home. Perhaps this is the psychological sensitivity of these people; they are strangers to their own backgrounds, to their loved ones.

   I drink coffee at a cafe by a lakeside; a teenage boy pulls a snake from a rock and chases the other kids around with it. Miran has four years on me; he throws the pedantic tick of, you understand? Into all his monologues, pennimaesh the Russians say. It does not demand an answer. It is a simple tick; the people of Yugoslavia are the most similar to the Russian people in terms of attitude. They are proud and defiant; they also know that although their country was communist it never bowed to soviet hegemony. In Mostar they produced the Boeing apparently, and given Tito’s pact with India and Africa they were one of the most successful and respected countries in the world for four decades.

   Miran talks about the mine clearing operation in Mostar that he was involved in the late nineties; a British soldier came to train them saying he had cleared mines here there and everywhere; he put up a huge poster of Mostar saying, we are going to clear south east of the city. Some people felt their luck was in, knowing that that part of the city was clear. Miran could no t keep his mouth shut, even though his friends tried to make him. There are no mines in that part of the city, he told the expert. How do you know? Because he had lived there for twenty two years, and everyday he walked through that part. The intelligence pulled out in order to be reassessed, all operations being hindered by information incompetence and corruption. He talks about Tito always, for Miran he will be his politician until the end of his life. He says under Tito there was no corruption that everything, health care, dentists and schooling were free; if you tried to thank a doctor after heart surgery with a present of money, he could not take it. If he did then he could lose his job. He apologizes to the woman next to us for saying if you wanted to fuck bitch you could do it for ten Marka. He says it again and again, anyway, as if the apology was more a question of asking permission.

   At his house he has mine souvenirs, some detonated and frayed, other diffused. He pulls out the huge contraption, which looks more like a rocket. How do they know how many are left? Because every time someone stands on one they count one less, is a running joke.  I tell him I am going to Sutjeska national park, and briefly to the Montenegro coast. Apparently a tourist is missing in sutjeska, but nothing can be done in such thick forestation to recover him. Miran is disdainful when I say that my home town was recently voted the fifth worst city in the world; I relay a story of a gang threatening me with knives for no particular reason, when I was on my way home from work. I said I walked off, but Miran is enraged, he stands and struts about, he declares that they would have to kill him. I am pleased he is not from my city. His wife Maya brings his son in to say hello; this is my life, he tells me, standing the little boy on the patio table. The child dives from the table into his arms, one day he will jump from the bridge in Mostar.

Miran has started opening his house to guests in order to pick his money up; he is bemused by the visitors whose first questions are concerning the landmines and whether it is safe to walk the streets at night. He is near hysterical talking about the people who sleep with the doors and windows shut in the summer time, he tells them to be fresh, to open the windows; sometimes, when need be, they rent out their marital bed and sleep on the patio.

   Later I consider his conversation and realize he would have known little about Tito’s rule, only being fourteen or so when war broke out; he wouldn’t have been fucking bitches for five Marka or trying to thank guilty surgeon’s. What he knows of Tito’s Yugoslavia would have been in his wake, a brief childhood and the rose tinted reminiscence of his elders. He celebrates the life that he never led, the Chinese whisper of a past that sets the benchmark for a lifestyle they all hope to live again someday.

In the middle of the night a Turkish guest of Miran’s, a dowdy and reserved girl, tries to leave, storming through the courtyard, not far from where I am sleeping. Miran chases her saying I can fix it, I can fix problem. The girl is crying; Miran had refused to lock the front door of the house, even the patio door; he had told the girl to leave her windows open. She is hysterical; he talks her down in a tone both infuriated and reassuring; there is nothing to be afraid of, no one will come into my home—show me the person who would come here and I will show him that he has made a mistake. There is nothing to be afraid of here. I leave early in the morning, to find a lift to the national park. I had not said goodbye; he has taken the Turkish girl to the coach station; he sees me and asks why I was not going to say goodbye? I feel extremely guilty; explain in that it is just my way. He says he does not understand that, and shakes my hand goodbye defensively.

   Sleeping outside in Sutjeska national park was a mistake, being so thoroughly eaten by mosquitoes that my face was distorted by bites; i had decided to simply because i wanted to see but i had no tent or even a mat to throw down. The walk back to Foca seemed endless. The night I arrive in Kotor, Montenegro there is a hotshot d.j from Belgrade playing; nearly everyone is going to see him. Most of the quality nightlife has dried up since one of the local entrepreneurs was killed weeks earlier. I am too exhausted to go see for myself, having gorged myself on junk and exhausted from a sleepless night. I lie down, feeling queasy from intense palpitations that rattle my chest.

   The Montenegro coast is swallowed by Russian holiday developments, complexes springing up everywhere, turning a practically provincial fishing village into a swamp of commercial obscenity. One apartment block developer has cemented the side of the mountain that spills up behind his complex, a horrendous slab of cement that would be quite easily visible in a panoramic image of the city. It seems incredible, but is proof as to where Montenegro’s influence and surging economy is drawn from; the animosity is evident in the locals who see their lifestyles being sold out by their own government. Given the Balkan tendency to turn against every occupying influence that has ever taken, I imagine a coup not altogether dissimilar to the Cuban abolishment of American influence. Fog descends over the coast by night, clouding the horizon; after what has to be done is done what next?

   It is the same principle of every civilization; they push toward perfection and in doing so have to manufacture and manipulate the mass consensus of what that constitutes. The individual must be united; this is the principle goal of communication. Globalization has one titanic flaw it that it does not consider its inexorable end; civilizations have always fallen, their people migrating. But if this united civilization falls where will we go? Plato’s republic hypothesized state nurseries in the uniform and idealized raising of children; now, in the more affected part of the developed world, a sort of white noise individualism is redundant, a uniformity that can be guaranteed to incorporate domestic violence, broken homes, weakened schooling, and frustrated and over indulged hierarchies that cannibalize and undermine one another. The tendency towards communication involves a completely open society where thought is given free reign but action is near impossible.

   Uncharted territories do not exist anymore, outside of the oceans and space; only over indulged people lose sense of their own reality. I am always impressed by the freedoms of people in the Balkans, the space and confidence they have, not understanding the bulk of their visitors who one girl described to me an s being born scared. But Miran or his wife could not understand the people who spend three years and thirty thousand travelling; this is the price of a home, of a life, not simply three years.

   Movement and travel are good for direct experience, for events to be recorded, but they do not make for good writing. Good writing emerges from something else, but the characters that speak do so only in the retrospect of experience and interaction.

   The exceptional nature of BiH is born from conflict, from a greater significance that life can take on through their labouring under money grubbing politicians defiantly, from the days of passing the huge uniform graveyards containing friends and firmly on their way to work, past the shelled buildings and the iconography of cultures that have made such impact upon their environments. Past the construction sites and the bridges that have been paid for in blood without a hint of sentiment it rages, this temperament, and one of its downsides is the spectacle it can make of rebellion and honour, which can mislead. You do not visit BiH as you do Montenegro; you are invited into the lives of the people who live there; even the inanimate is imbued with a significance that makes it incandescent.

   Resolving to sleep on the coast, finding a spot amongst the scarred rock formations to watch the sun go down, and covered by cactus wildflowers. The sun is starting to go down on this point of the Adriatic making the intricate colours near hallucinatory, a painful vividness. The moon soon begins to make inflections upon the water, the sea shimmering incomprehensible Morse code; I tell the moon that it is not its time of year, that it has no power over the world until next season. My spoken voice comes out in irrepressible alignment with my thoughts; it must be a chilling sense of isolation for those who converse with themselves in high streets. My thoughts extend to the surrounding insects, showing themselves up in the imagined forms I encourage the clouds to take on. Memory is all a question of triggers, a similar tick or feature to a person could spark off endless reminiscence. I had grieved lives in the wake of my accomplishments, seen my own inadequacies in the light of others. Friends have died, even lovers, and I am something i would never have guessed partly because of them. Some people are simply harbinger to the lives of others, a surreptitious position that rarely reveals itself until you can see you are th eonly one left that recalls a certain time and place. When jean genet was asked when he decided to be a writer he answered, at birth and perhaps before.

   In the night a mock pirate ship floats past chiming, illuminated to the point of appearing ablaze. A rock band is turning out covers somewhere in the distance a sound distorted by the pulse of a nightclub also in an unlikeable point along the coast. I remembered the look I drew earlier in the day having stormed excitedly in the 35 degree sun to the old town and arrived soaked through with sweat; the woman looked me up and down with a hysterical spasm pulling her face to the floor. I laugh to myself.

What would the drop do to my body from here? Nobody knew where I was, so how long could it be before I was identified? I kept thinking of lover craft’s Cthulhu emerging from the depths to pull me from my makeshift bed into the depths. The mosquitoes harassed my, the bites eventually distorting my face and legs for several days. I feel unlimited possibilities and consider how the feeling can be sustained in the familiarity I return to. I remember an art student who claimed to have a spiritual experience in the Adriatic, basing a whole series of clumsy paintings around it. Now I am here it is not impossible to imagine such a thing possessing you.

   A backpacker accidently stumbles across me in the night, having a similar plot for an evening in obscurity He is symptomatic of the addicted traveller, clumsily loved up, flippantly uses words like positivity and beauty. He talks of soul mates. He is from Holland; his family were Romanian Jews who immigrated to Israel; when he visited he attempted to get close to the Gaza strip but stopped because it was against their wish; he talks of beauty, but is drawn to violent places. Later he talks about porn and later talks more about soul mates and perfection; his platitudes are hard to deal with in a tactful way and he becomes increasingly uncomfortable talking with me; he wants to take a year off, he wants to travel for a year and talk with as many people as possible from every part of the world to come to an understanding of the place. I tell him travel can be a bad thing; he clearly wants to leave at this point, to move away from the negative character he stumbled upon, prostrate on a cliff side.

Yahida is still playing in the courtyard when I return to the hostel in Sarajevo from the coast; she sees me from the balcony and exclaims in English, how are you? I shot back, dobro sam. When I exist the hostel she is loitering in the courtyard, ready to ask where I am going. I ask her the word for food, dada; tell her that is what I am doing. An hour or so later she is still there, this time conversing with the many cats that inhabit the alley; I can tell parents are in the vicinity that she’s under strict rules to keep to the perimeter. She is bored. One of the kittens has burns all over it; I ask where they came from. She shrugs her shoulders, before mouthing at a house, a neighbour, and it seems he burned the mewling animal with a lighter. I say that this person is sick, and she puts a rigid finger to her mouth indicating our silence, with a frown that betrays the severe disposition of the neighbour. She asks if I want to play football, which I hesitantly agree to. She disappears, returning with a ragged ball which we kick between the imaginary goals that exist between the entrances of the hostel. Every time it clatters against a wall she creeps tentatively for a moment, thinking that the people in there are asleep; I tell her not to worry, knowing that they won’t use the same caution should they come back drunk. She runs a hysterical commentary of England versus Bosnia with the typically excited maxims of sports commentary. I win 10 – 9 and grab my satchel to go inside; she says shit, drawn out to a long sheet. I tell her I have to pack my suitcase to travel; she looks impressed asking where I am going? To Budapest, and then back to England. To London she asks and for the sake of not explaining where I come from I say yes. It looks like a whole conversation is likely to spring up, more so if my Serbo-Croatian or her English were better. There is no shyness about the girl; children usually skulk off sullenly when playtime is over. I see that the game of football was really an indirect form of conversation, a means to interact with this foreign person. She sees no boundaries other than language and that she cleverly circumnavigated, something I could not do with my clumsy attempts at speaking the lingo. Now I think about a woman in a bar who came up to me while I waited for the toilet to be free, asking if I was next. I answered in English, leading to her asking where I was from.She is from Sarajevo but living in Antwerp; I realize that as a child she would have been one of the few that were forced to flee, but now an adult is returning here comfortably, and amongst friends and family who perhaps never left. An Italian social worker in Kosovo told me of her time there, that the secrets are covered, and only in time do you realize the scars and fear that people are living with, that it is normal for them to live in fear and to have weapons in their home. I answered but it’s a lot like that in Italy, in England and America, amongst other places; she did not like the comment exclaiming that it is not the same.

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Personal hygiene and careless general practitioners of medicine will result in the sustaining of sickly, diseased people who should realistically be allowed to die. If they get the chance to breed, then damaged people become more and more dependent on a health system that should let them die in due course. Medicine will have the dead walk the earth in the name of sentiment.

   In response to this I propose Dirt farms–the temple of your dirty carcass, filth farms, pig parishes, immunity building clinics and spa’s of depraved hygiene to spring up in the wake of massive fatalities from preventable diseases and overuse of antibiotics. The ‘Soil yourself!’ Sauna and spa like a hospital interior or a vivisected airplane from a budget airline. A receptionist shows a list of treatments ranging from a bath in seven different types of excrement, half cooked, outdated  cuisine with potential salmonella to be eaten with cutlery left overnight in pigswill, exhausting oneself in overcrowded fitness rooms cooled by tainted  air-conditioners; suffer light derivation, and have unprotected sex. Even the very young are indulged, fed with unpurified bottles and then treated by gypsy market sellers for gastroenteritis.

   The appalling attitude meted out to customers on reception ads to the experience: “strengthened body, strengthened mind!” Some old hunch back points out ecstatically before slipping beneath the surface of his shit bath. The graffiti room involves intimate details being given by a customer to a nurse who then hands them over to a few snickering teens who spray the intimate details on designated walls throughout the grounds. They jeer at the flabbergasted customer who watches on CCTV. The customer finally breaks from shame, running from the control room to accost the teens, dragging one to the ground with a fishhook before the other teens turn about and kick them off.

   Or the dislocating of sex, wherein four or five members of the opposite sex are paraded before the customer who will then pick the body parts they find most attractive. The parts of each one are cast in latex and then apparently gifted to the client. Unbeknownst to them the parts will be requested to be returned, and if they are destroyed or damaged they will incur prosecution. Shit and belittlement are due their rightful patenting.

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