Kdo je John Galt?

An emaciated man in a loin cloth holding the globe on his shoulders.

Last month, I was in Prague. On the tram, heading back to the hotel, I saw an advertisement on a the backrest of a bench that read, "Kdo je John Galt?" Whether you read Czech or not, anyone who has read Atlas Shrugged would instantly recognise what this advertisement was for.

My reading list this year has been enough to make any person's head explode: The Fountainhead, The Communist Manifesto, The People's History of the United States, Atlas Shrugged, and What's the Matter with Kansas - just to name a few. In short, the most politically polar opposite books possible. Being a left-wing anti-capitalist, one would probably make some assumptions that I would hate the Ayn Rand books and love all the rest. One would assume wrong!

The Fountainhead is - hands down - one the best books I have ever read! It gave me chills; it made me cry. I loved those stoic characters! I loved the unexpected truthfulness and savagery. In Howard Roark - absolutely unwilling to carry out his work in any way other than in his own vision - I saw my own reflection and the hard grind I created for myself in the music business by adamantly refusing anything but my own artistic vision - knowing full well it was commercial suicide. I didn't even intend to read Atlas Shrugged this year, but after 727 pages of The Fountainhead, I simply needed more!

I wasn't drawn into Atlas Shrugged in quite the same way as The Fountainhead, but I enjoyed it for the first 500 pages. Then the writing went to hell in a hand-basket.  The scenarios and relationships that were such a novelty in The Fountainhead were recycled for Atlas Shrugged. The dialogue  was utterly wooden (I am not the first to call it such, but there simply is no better way to describe it). The characters were carbon copies of each other - not in the way that Dominique Francon and Howard Roark were male and female versions of one another - they were simply identical to the point that I had to keep flipping to the beginning of 10-page average monologues just to remind myself who it was that was speaking! Just when you think there can not possibly be any more half-hour reading sessions of banal, repetitive "dialogue," towards the end, the Chapter "This is John Galt Speaking," delivers the most tedious 70 pages of reading in history... I think even the Book of Genesis was a better read! (Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating, but you get the point). Despite my resolution to always finish a book.... despite having already read over 1,000 pages of this beast.... I nearly gave up! But I didn't, and the end was even worse than I could have envisioned.

Everyone on the hate side of the love/hate response to Atlas Shrugged usually hates it for its laissez-faire capitalism preachiness. Believe it or not, I didn't mind that! Though I disagree, I appreciated the opposing viewpoint. What I hated about Atlas Shrugged was the sadism of 1,168 pages of extremely poorly written material by a woman who was capable of writing one of the best books I have ever read! For me, one of the most glaring failures was how she so obviously hated her own antagonists. This was not apparent in the Fountainhead, but in Atlas Shrugged, she created a cardinal sin of fiction-writing. The antagonists were just evil for the sake of it. In good fiction - in life - nobody is evil. Even Hitler believed that what he was doing was right. Though we loathe to admit it - even Hitler had likeable qualities. Anyone who creates should love their creation... even when those creations are intentionally horrid. I've written a song that is intended to be so unbearable that the listener can't make it through... and I have an affection and love for that song practically akin to that of my own flesh and blood child.

There is something about Ayn Rand's philosophy which - despite disagreeing with her - I do wish to defend. I think it's very important for readers to remember that Ayn Rand died in 1982, which was the very start of the unravelling that has lead to today's capitalism. If Ayn Rand was as resolutely firm in her beliefs as I would hope she would have been - she would be just as disgusted with the current state of affairs as I am. In Ayn Rand's world, the corporations of today are nothing but looters, accepting handouts. According to Ayn Rand's viewpoint, there would have been no bailout for the banks... they would have been allowed to fail. In Ayn Rand's universe, there would be no exploitation of workers in horrible conditions, because she believed in fair pay for a fair day's work. Her cohorts would have been the 3Ms of the corporate world, nurturing, promoting and rewarding innovation from even the grunt workers if they had something to contribute. She believed in maximising profits and reducing our daily toils so that we could enjoy the fruits of our labour. Who would disagree with that? She saw - first hand - the great abuses that can occur under Communism. I imagine she is probably seen as a great hero in places like the Czech Republic, where statues and museums stand as a constant reminder of the potential horrors of Communism. She didn't live long enough to see the same abuses happen under Capitalism. If she was still around today, I do wonder what she would have to say about the state of the world's economy.

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TyLean Polley is an avant-garde recording artist. You can get a free download of her music at TyLeanPolley.com

“I support the troops!”

A sheep running through a battle field with a helmet on. Caption reads, "nothing will end war unless the people themselves refuse to go."

There is something that truly irritates me which habitually falls out of the mouths of thoughtless masses, "I support the troops!"

"Really?" I wonder to myself. Do you have one living in your house? Are you providing them with food, transportation, spending money, etc.? Or maybe you just mean that - by default - you support the troops, because you pay taxes,

No... what is usually meant by this mindless utterance is that one APPROVES of the troops, as though that approval carries any weight in real terms what-so-ever. And how far does your approval extend? Does it apply to everyone who joins the military? Do you realise that by giving your approval of troops, you inadvertently give your approval for the murder of women and children? These are the things that happen in war... and make no mistake about it, every American combat that has ever occurred saw the death of innocents.

Desert Storm was lauded as a relatively bloodless war with only 147 US battle deaths.... but no one in America wanted to hear about the thousands of civilians - women and children - who died. In fact, with all the propaganda about the supposed "smart bombs" that were able to hit specific targets, approval of the war went through the roof at 85%. Of course, the propaganda pedallers didn't bother to mention that the smart bombs missed their targets 40% of the time.  Here is just one example: a quote from the director of a paediatric hospital in Baghdad as told to a New York Times reporter about the first night of bombing during Desert Storm, "Mothers grabbed their children out of incubators, took intravenous tubes out of their arms. Others were removed from oxygen tents and they ran to the basement, where there was no heat. I lost more than 40 prematures in the first 12 hours of the bombing."

The troops you support did that... caused the deaths of dozens of newborn babies. Do you still support them?

What's this argument I hear? "Oh, but the troops didn't do that, the people running the war did that!" There hasn't been a single draft in my lifetime. The people who signed up for the military did so because of people like you... revering without thought those who slaughter others, simply because it's seen as patriotic to do so. In the back of their minds, they had to have known that signing up for the military might result in them either advertently (if following orders) or inadvertently killing innocent civilians. I have known more than a few military men who have expressly joined up for that very reason... they wanted to kill people.

Of course, some of our "brave men and women" are not able to cope with the destruction and death caused by their own hands. They come back with PTSD, emotional wrecks. THESE are the troops I support... veterans. Maybe if YOU would stop blindly "supporting the troops" and by default lending your approval to war, death, destruction and bloodshed, the troops I support would cease to exist.

What's this other argument I hear? "They are fighting for our freedom!" If you really believe so, then that's a discussion that is far beyond the scope of a blog. I will leave it at this:

Reads, "war, good for few, bad for most" with one image of a hand holding a glass of wine and another hand being shot.

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TyLean Polley is an avant-garde recording artist. You can get a free download of her music at TyLeanPolley.com

Women in High Places

Poster of woman making a muscle. Caption bubble reads, "we can do it."

Poster from WWII

I have just read an article on The Telegraph by Isabel Hardman about the obstacles women are still facing in the workforce. I don't disagree with anything Isabel Hardman has said, but I would like to add a few more dimensions to the argument.

The article asks why, nearly 100 years after the first female MPs were elected, there are still so few Angela Merkels and Theresa Mays. It then goes on to point a finger at the crippling cost of childcare in the UK, causing women to drop out of the workforce when they reach their childbearing years. The cost of childcare is, indeed, a serious factor to this, but I believe the problem is much deeper and more convoluted.

One must first ask the question, how feminine are Angela Merkel and Theresa May? I don't mean their look or their sexuality.... but how do they behave? Do they behave as women, or have they merely engaged with aplomb that ability all women possess? The ability to adapt. You see, I don't believe that the majority of the women who have risen to power have done so because of changing attitudes towards women but because of their own abilities to be one of the guys and function as men function.

I have spent most of my life in the music industry. When you take into consideration all of the behind-the-scenes activity, it is vastly made up of men. I was only the third woman to graduate from my university with a degree in music recording. I became a fixture in the music business, and I gained a lot of respect, but how? By being one of them. By laughing at crude jokes, by acting completely un-offended when a rap artist was recording yet another song derogatory to women and condoning domestic violence.... by even singing on such tracks when I was asked to do so. I was called a lot of names and very nearly sexually attacked on two different occasions. I suffered marital problems with my first husband who could not cope with my constantly spending time with "other men." Looking back, there is no other way to put it.... I went through a lot of shit, just because I was a woman! But that was ages ago, right? No. I'm 31 years old! How did I persevere? Honestly... I never found any of it daunting, because I was so completely focused on my goals. I adapted a "when in Rome" policy and rolled with the punches.

Another factor is Queen Bee Syndrome, where a woman in a position of authority views or treats subordinates more critically if they are female. This doesn't just happen with women in high places, but women in any place. We see successful women, and we react by tearing them down rather than aspiring to be like them. Whether this may be a biological or sociological reaction, I don't think it's without hope. Recognising that we - as women - have a tendency to do this is the first step towards not doing it and instead trying to help each other in a common struggle.

The cost of child care is a big factor for a young woman with a career who wishes to raise a family. But whilst everyone is trying to treat the symptom, they are completely overlooking the cause! Why - in a liberated equal society - is it only the women giving up their careers to look after children? There are lots of stay-at-home-dads these days, but they are not getting the respect they deserve. Parents should be treated as equals with equals rights to maternity/paternity leave and equal considerations for those times when children must come before work.

The other half of the symptom is a relentless work culture that has no time for parents or their "excuses." Sometimes your child is sick. Sometimes you are late, because your child spilled a bowl of cereal all over you, and you had to change your and their clothes last minute - then they needed a nappy change. Sometimes that meeting that wasn't scheduled yesterday is just going to have to go on without you, because your child's recital is today, and you need more notice than that in any case. As any parent knows, we - the parents of the world - have acquired a skill set that can be put to good use in our careers.... the abilities to multitask and delegate, to function under incredible pressure and "get on with it" no matter what the circumstances. Yet our status as parents seems to be overlooked as an asset and treated as a liability.

Last, but certainly not least, I would like to address the idea that mothers with careers only chose to abandon their careers, because childcare would be too cost prohibitive. Some do, but not all of us. In fact, I think if you thoroughly evaluated the women who sacrifice their careers for their children, you would find a bottomless well of leadership and potential.

I work part time, but I mostly stay at home with my son, and I become a fairly nasty specimen to anyone who suggests that I should have him in nursery care for his "social skills." Why? Because I am a leader, and I am raising a leader. You say "social skills;" I say "conformity."

My son marches to the beat of his own drum and is fiercely intelligent. Perhaps he would have been like this even if I had been shunting him off to nursery from the day he turned six months old. Having a strong belief in environmental factors, I tend to think not. Staying at home with him is not the only option... it is the best option! Not because I am a weak woman who has dropped out of the work force.... because I am a leader. A leader adamant about raising my own little leader.

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TyLean Polley is an avant-garde recording artist. You can get a free download of her music at TyLeanPolley.com

 

 

The Pessimistic Apathetic

Campbell 2

 

Following the No More Austerity demonstration in London on the 21st of June there was surprisingly little news coverage. Some claimed there was a blackout. Whilst I am not amongst those who believe there was a blackout, I do believe that it is very naive to not consider the possibility. Anyone oblivious to the reality of media driving public opinion has neither studied history, nor marketing, nor psychology, nor ever seen Fox News.

What I found more surprising, however, were the scathing opinions of people who are supposedly left wing Labour voters. Following an article in The New Statesmen, there were facebook discussions that exposed a lot of people as nothing more than pessimistic, apathetic defeatists. The opinions of many supposedly left wing people included:

  • The people who marched are just whiners.
  • The people who marched probably don't vote.
  • The people who marched should just vote differently next time or form their own political parties.
  • Demonstrating makes the left look like squabbling lunatics.
  • Marching is antiquated and there is no room for it in the modern era.

Calling people who are motivated enough to take a stand and voice their opinions in a peaceable, public demonstration "whiners" blows my mind. A "whiner" does nothing but moan. A protester exercises their democratic right.

I think you would have struggled to find anyone in that march who was eligible but did not vote in the last election. These were political minded people with agendas who take their vote seriously. To say that the people should "just vote differently" suggests that anyone marching had voted for the government now in power. In fact, a disgustingly small percentage of the population voted for this government, as I previously explored in my post about the strikes. As for forming new political parties.... well that is precisely what Left Unity has done! In fact, had it none been for that march, I would never have heard of Left Unity, a left wing political party born out of a need for the left to put their individual differences aside and unite against the right.

My personal favourite, however, was the idea that marching, protesting, strikes, etc. don't work in the modern era. These words make me embarrassed of my own generation! A generation of instant gratification with absolutely no sticktoittiveness. Do you think Rosa Parks sat in the white section of a bus and that was segregation in the American south ended?  Do you think women won suffrage with one well-mannered public demonstration? Do you think gays and lesbians are now able to legally get married only because of an annual gay pride parade? You have an awful lot to learn about the persistent nature of the people fighting for equality in this world. Protesting is a process and a perpetual mindset.... not a one-off way to spend a weekend. Do you know how good we have it protesting in this day and age? Historically speaking, it's a fairly novel thing that we are now able to strike and protest without bloodshed and death!

Do they work? No.... they usually don't. Not in singular instances. It is the collective affect. It's the hive of activity that all the protesters experience which spurs us on to fight again the next day, and the day after that, and the day after that. You know a secret that the most successful, right wing, capitalist people know which you don't? Failure is a huge part of success. Not just failure... repeated failure!

Has the protesting and the strikes from 10 July had an affect? Oh, I rather think they did! One of the biggest themes throughout both the No More Austerity march and the strikes on 10 July was a demand for the removal of Michael Gove as Education Minister. Today, it was announced that Michael Gove was demoted to chief whip, and Elizabeth Truss, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Education and Childcare (who had proposed some incredibly heinous ideas about putting 2-year-olds in 12-hour school sessions) was made the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Michael Gove was replaced by Nicky Morgan who is expected to be a "more conciliatory figure who will “reach out” to teaching unions as they threaten more strikes like the one staged last week."

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TyLean Polley is an avant-garde recording artist. You can get a free download of her music at TyLeanPolley.com

 

Do I Support the Strikes?

Today in the United Kingdom there is a massive strike of fire fighters, teachers, civil servants and local government staff. I heard on the radio this morning that around 1 million people are on strike. In a country with a population of 64 million, this is a considerably large proportion of the population.

The conservatives would like to place legal restrictions on strike action, requiring at least a 50% yes vote of union members before strike action can be taken. This is a preposterous idea! People don't always participate in voting, and the numbers are not always what they seem.

In the 2010 general election that brought the coalition to power, voter turnout was at 65.1%. The percentage of votes for the Conservatives was only 36.1%. The people who voted for the Liberal Democrats were vastly not in favour in a Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition, and therefore, I will not consider Lib Dems votes in this equation. This means that only 23.5% of the registered voters in this country were in favour of the current government. By their own standards, adhering to a rule of action only when 50% of voters agree, they would not be in power right now. Even if the Liberal Democrat voters had been in favour of a Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition, they would still fail to achieve 50%, with only 38.5% of registered voters having "agreed" to the current government.

Labour - supposedly the party of the working people - is not openly supporting the strike action because of the disruption it will cause. Conservatives, of course, are infuriated that anything should interfere with "business as usual," since they care far more about business than people. My husband's union, NASUWT, have decided not to strike, and he is considering changing his affiliation to NUT. My political party, Left Unity, are overwhelming in support of the strikes.

Am I in support of the strikes? No! I support them in their attempt, but I condemn them for not going far enough. What is a one-day strike? Where I'm from, in Pennsylvania, the teachers have an unbelievable amount of power, because when they strike, they do it properly. The walk out - and they stay out - until their conditions are met or an agreement is reached. This means schools are often on strike for weeks at a time.

People often ask me what I like or dislike about the UK. This is one thing I dislike and think the Brits could learn a thing or two from American passion. If you want radical change, you have got to be prepared to do radical things.

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TyLean Polley is an avant-garde recording artist. You can get a free download of her music at TyLeanPolley.com

No More Austerity

Photo from No More Austerity march.From the march of 50,000 people against austerity.

Some people are driven by a need for appreciation. Some are driven by money. Not me.... I'm driven by an addiction to new experiences, and on Saturday, I did something that was a first for me: I marched in protest!

My husband, my son and I made our way to London by train and then took the underground from Kings Cross to Oxford Circus. We were running about 15 minutes late, and I was feeling anxious about whether the march had already left and we missed it.... and I hadn't written down directions; would we find the starting point? As soon as we rose on the escalator from the depths of Oxford Circus Underground Station, I realised how unfounded these worries were. My eyes were instantly pulled toward a No More Austerity sign on the wall of the ticket hall... and then to a TFL employee with a pink mohawk. As we ascended the last steps leading to the street - carrying our pushchair, our home made sign and our child - I could feel the levels of excitement in the air rising in tandem.

On the journey, we had been painfully hungry and hoping we would have time to grab something to eat, but we completely forgot about our hunger as we drew closer to the assembled protesters and deeper into the electrifying hive of activity. We obtained a sign that read "Gove Out" and more leaflets than we knew what to do with.

Photo from No More Austerity march. Sign reads "tax the corporate moguls" with pictures of the starbucks, google and amazon logos.

We weren't there with any particular group, but we filed in near the NUT teachers' union. (My husband is actually a member of the NASUWT teachers' union, so this seemed close enough). Not that this mattered as our place within the march kept changing, having to occasionally stop to sort out our child. This turned out to be an advantage, because we got to see the wide range of people who were there to protest, and perhaps more impressively, just how far some people had come to march, including considerable representation from Wales. One person in particular caught my eye, having beautifully hand-crafted a banner that shamed our paint-still-wet cardboard made hastily that morning. It was turquoise, white and purple macramé and read "Tax the Rich."

Photo from No More Austerity march. Beautiful handmade macramé sign reads "Tax the Rich." It's colours are turquoise, purple and white.

The demonstration took us from just outside of BBC studio to the green outside Parliament. Interestingly, BBC didn't mention a single word about the protest of 50,000 people on their doorstep. ITV mentioned it briefly.

The following day, I began to dive into my pile of pamphlets and political literature. Some of it was just plain bat shit! (Entertaining however). A lot of the literature made excellent points. One such point was made in an A3 booklet from a new political party called Left Unity. It contained several articles written by different members, and the one that really caught my eye was written by Kate Hudson called European Elections: A Rising Left Amid the Far Right Danger. The article explains that although news coverage is extremely focused on the rise of far right political parties such as UKIP, the rise in far left parties has been nearly as great and in some cases greater.

Dreading the rise of the right, I have been throwing my support behind Labour as the best alternative, although they don't truly represent my opinions and views. Both in America and Britain, the major left wing parties have become - in fact - moderate parties, attempting to pander to both sides. Before the European Elections, I scoured the internet for a party that was on the left and pro-EU. The best I could come up with were the Liberal Democrats. Every other party was either formed on an anti-EU policy or - at best - non-committal to either side of the debate.

I have always been proud to be an unaffiliated, independent voter, open to considering the best candidate for the job regardless of their political affiliation. However, the only thing that remains constant is change, and I now feel I need to openly support the growing wing of politics that I was inaccurately led to believe was shrinking. Yesterday, I had another "first experience." I joined Left Unity!

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TyLean Polley is an avant-garde recording artist. You can get a free download of her music at TyLeanPolley.com

Only the Wanted Ones, Please.

Image

My son's placenta. Yes, we brought it home! No, we didn't eat it. 

Have you ever drawn the connections between the various groups of opinionated masses? Those who are Pro-life and vehemently fight for the rights of a foetus tend to be from the same group of people who use the phrase, "spare the rod, spoil the child," as though abusing children - who they consider idiosyncratic beings with rights in the womb -  is not only a right but a responsibility. This group also tends to believe in the death penalty, oblivious to the fact that judicial systems are flawed and are especially prone to errors during death penalty cases when emotions are so flagrant they waft in the air.

Of course, the opposite is also true. I am Pro-choice.... in fact, I take this a step further. I'm Pro-abortion, because I believe that only children wanted for the right reasons should be brought into this world. There are hospitals in the United Kingdom that will not tell expecting mothers the sex of their unborn child, because they are in areas with large Muslim communities. Muslims will abort baby girls... and I see this as no bad thing! Baby girls born into an extremist Muslim household are not wanted and born into a wretched existence.  If I were a pregnant woman trapped in the Islamic faith, I would see abortion as the humane thing to do.

There was recently a case in the UK where a woman was sued for compensation (on behalf of the child) for drinking whilst pregnant. The child, now 6 years old, was born with developmental problems as a result. The case was calling the pregnant woman's drinking whilst pregnant a crime of poisoning under section 23 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861.The case was won on a local level but then appealed and overturned on the grounds that "an unborn child is not a person in law and therefore no criminal offence could have been committed."

Pro-choicers saw this as a victory, fearing the wider implications of considering a foetus a person and removing a woman's right to choose. I'm Pro-choice, but I see this as a huge failure. Fearing abortions being made illegal is clouding judgement.

I don't believe that it is a slippery slope to admit the responsibility of a mother to her unborn child. Any woman who has an alcohol problem or simply fails to see the health or her unborn child as more important than her own recreation fails to qualify under my policy that only wanted children should be brought into this world. If the woman doesn't want the child enough to overcome her alcoholism or refrain from recreational drinking, she should abort... or better yet, use contraception! The moment a pregnant woman decides that the foetus in their womb will be brought into this world, she inherits the role of mother. A mother protects her child and does everything in her power to make sure they are healthy and well looked after. No one in the United Kingdom can claim ignorance of the dangers of smoking and drinking whilst pregnant. Therefore, any woman who continues these activities is wilfully harming another human being.

You may have noticed that I never referred to the woman being sued for drinking whilst pregnant as a mother. She is as much a mother as a rapist is a father. A pregnant woman who chooses to have an abortion is more of a mother than this woman... at least the woman who knew she was unprepared to fulfil the role of motherhood (or whatever reason led to her decision) considered the welfare of the foetus inside her that had potential to become a human being.

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TyLean Polley is an avant-garde recording artist. You can get a free download of her music at TyLeanPolley.com