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By Jason Michael
Riding “the Buffalo” back in the mid-1990s – a two-colour Ryobi press, my class-political education began with Mick; a cousin of my faither’s who worked “the Beast” – the massive four-cylinder Komori at the other side of the factory. Michael was an excellent printer, meaning he read the paper for most of the day with an ink stained tea towel hanging out his manky overall pocket. You see, a “good machinist” doesn’t need to be tinkering with his machine. It’s running like a dream, clank-clank-clanking away, churning out tons of printed sheets of SR-A2 paper. It was an entirely different story for me. I was a grafter. I didn’t have a scooby what I was doing. Nothing ever seemed to go right. The anti-offset was blowing in my face, giving me the look of a cocaine baron after a narcotics raid. The aluminium plates were coming loose, making a hissing sound as the unfastened ends flew in the wind as the rollers spun at full print speed. What this meant is that I never got to read the paper. On the rare occasion when things were up and running or someone had been called in to fix the mess I had made I’d get a chance to chat with Mick.
Now, cast your mind back to the Asterix comic. Mick was Obelix, a towering Gaul of a man with an impressive Germanic moustache through which he filtered his tea and in which he saved some of his lunch for afters. He spoke his own language, never saying Hi or Hello, only something acerbic like “How’s your arse for love bites?” – no doubt aiming for that insult of insults of the 90s factory floor, the suggestion that the addressed was gay. Odd to reflect on now, but it was never in malice. Mick was a good guy. All the baddies lived in “the office,” characters like upsidedoon-heid – a chap with “hair in aw the wrang places” on whom nature had played a cruel trick by making it impossible for him to crack a smile. Mick never smiled, but the worker’s smile is seen only in the glint in the eyes and in the understanding communicated between his peers. In this regard Mick was always laughing.
Cocaine! It was feckin' coke - class A terrorism funder - caine. Charlie destroys lives and families. It is a globa… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…—
Jason Michael (@Jeggit) June 12, 2019
Politics always managed to get Michael on his high horse. Something or other would be reported in the paper – always a tabloid – and Mick would be off on a rant. These streetwise philosophical soliloquys were highly entertaining. He had a way with words, and never minced them. Sure, you wouldn’t want the local parson to overhear one of his printshop lectures, but I always knew, even before I had the words to describe them, they were speaking truth to power. They came from a deep sense of frustration and injustice. Men like Mick have always been the mouthpieces of class struggle, they have always been there, sitting by their machines, to put into words the experience of the working class – the lived experience of the great and silenced majority.
“Born with the silver spoon up their arses,” he said when the cash-for-questions scandal first broke. “Normal rules don’t apply to them.” What followed was a tour de force of class grievance that has stuck with me nearly verbatim to this day. “We’re talking about a group of people whose wealth and social position excuses them from the laws their class imposes on the rest of us. Their big houses and private estates are not only bigger homes then we have, they are states within the state – they are territorial exceptions where the upper classes are free from police surveillance and legal supervision. This is the class that writes the laws and hires and fires the working-class men and women whose job it is to enforce those laws on us. They are above the law, untouchable. That’s what ‘elitism’ means. Power is the freedom to live outside the law, and to celebrate this great liberty they put real effort into their decadence; taking whatever and whoever they like to satisfy their urges – little boys and little girls, high class hookers and bargain basement handbag swingers, men and women and horses if they feel like it. Heroin isn’t called ‘the poor man’s coke’ for nothing.”
God only knows how he arrived at all this from reading the Daily Record, but then he didn’t. This was the voice of his father and mother, the experiences of the guys around him. He might have been the prophet was he wasn’t the well-spring of wisdom. Mick was, and likely still is, the spokesman of a class that has never failed to understand social inequality. In a twenty-minute tirade he was able to say more – and more sharply – than any of the academic lecturers I have had since. Power was never simply a matter of being able to make others do what one wanted them to do. Real power is power over life and death, the ability to write laws to one’s own benefit and be exempt from them – be that by the constitution like the monarch or by virtue of living beyond the reach of CCTV and having the chequebook that pays the police and the judges.
When, in the midst of a Conservative Party leadership contest, the drug use of a few senior Tories made the news, Mick came to mind. Wouldn’t it be brilliant, I thought, to take him out for a pint and get his take on this? Kilmarnock – my hometown – was ravaged by class A drugs. All around us we watched what my mother described as a “zombie invasion” progress. Deindustrialisation, inter-generational unemployment, lack of opportunity, and sheer social despondency led so many of my generation – people of the same class – to smack. When HIV and AIDS became the “junkie’s disease” the feeling was just the same as it had been when it was the “gay disease” – contempt. House-breaking became commonplace, and violent crime shot through the roof. Addicts would stop at nothing to get a fix. This zombie invasion spread all over Scotland. It was spreading over the whole world, and everywhere it was the same story: This was a righteous punishment being visited down upon the feckless and lazy underclass – people like Mick and me.
Cocaine and heroin truly deserve the title “the Godzilla of drugs.” In the countries where they are produced, they fuel terrorism, murder, and guerrilla war. Their value devalues the value of human life, as superpower-backed governments, drug barons, and traffickers export them all over the globe – creating in their wake paths for the trafficking of children and other sex slaves. In every village, town, and city where they have arrived they have reduced human beings to animals, savaged the fabric of family bonds, and corrupted to their fundaments communities and entire societies. Yet, look at the difference in how the media and the state treat those fuelling the demand. Youngsters smoking grass in London are treated as thugs, demonised and criminalised by the police and the legal system, making it impossible for them to get anything close to a fair hearing before a magistrate in a courtroom where everyone from the judge to the clerk “dabbled” in cocaine in university. Michael Gove and Boris Johnson don’t get this treatment. The news only mentions this is passing. They are forgiven – everyone did it when they were young and stupid.
Normal rules don’t apply to these people. Johnson and Gove & Co. are above the law. Their houses are territorial exceptions. Vice and power are bedfellows, and vice is a package – a worldview manifested in a lifestyle. Cocaine doesn’t come alone, and the more money one has the more of the package one is able to afford. Prince Harry photographed naked with a naked escort in Las Vegas was an image completed with white powder and bottles of the most expensive Champaign – Vegas hardly seems worth it otherwise. Gove’s admission that he once regularly enjoyed some blow tells us we can be sure there was other blowing going on. Cocaine is hardly like a pint one can savour alone at the aul’ fella’s end of the bar. It’s a “party drug!”
Call it prejudice or a chip on my shoulder – I call it common sense, but here’s my take: The admission that these people [used to?] use coke is a window into a bigger picture of their reality. What is for millions of people around the world the root cause of their suffering is to these privileged upper class shites a mere recreation, a good buzz that accompanies all the other privileges their wealth and social position affords them. Not even hiding it from their peers, they organise exclusive get-togethers in the most luxurious hotels where they can hire in all sorts of fleshly delights. Wasn’t this exactly what we learned from the Presidents Club bash at the Dorchester Hotel? Isn’t this exactly why the only supervision at such events has to be done by young undercover female journalists posing as “waitresses?” Sure, I’m prejudiced. These people are pigs – and what makes me so bitter and want to break into a rant as Michael does is the fact we allow ourselves to be governed by these swines.
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