This is Robert Llewellyn's personal blog. The views contained in here are mine alone and do not reflect the views or opinions of anyone else I work with or for. Just thought I ought to make that clear.

Saturday
Mar142015

We don't know what happened.

Try as I might, the Clarkson story keeps seeping back into my world even though I have repeatedly tried to throw it in my already bulging ‘pointless celebrity gossip’ bin.

I once again wish to repeat, although I disagree with everything he has ever said he still makes me laugh sometimes and I vehemently defend his right to be casually racist, slightly homophobic, generally misogynistic and a comically cyclist baiting bully.

If you make the mistake of reading any of the recent newspaper reports about this fracas the comments below, no, don’t even look, but the comments are very divided.

There is a sizeable group that loath him, they just want him gone and are jumping at the chance to hasten his fall from grace. There is also a sizeable group that worship his every move, hate the BBC who pay for and broadcast Top Gear, hate wet liberal tossers like me and want real men to drive real cars in the real world 

These old school proper men are very angry, before anyone knows what actually took place in that hotel, they’ve all rushed to sign a bloody petition to save Clarkson.

It’s easy to see both sides in this nonsense have overreacted, but I am going to stick my limp wristed, namby-pamby, save the Polar bears lefty neck out and say the Clarksonites have overreacted more.

They want their Sunday night entertainment and some member of the ‘PC brigade’ at the BBC has spoilt it for them. They don’t care what happened, Clarkson is God, everyone else is a nanny state control freak who won’t let them say the words they all say to each other all the time, like normal blokes having a normal conversation. Normal racist slurs, normal misogynist references, normal, run of the mill homophobic banter.

I’ve been the recipient of this normal male anger many times. If I write or say something about electric cars, wind turbines, solar panels or the fact that’s it’s time we ditched the tired old internal combustion engine, I get abuse from this same, small minority. 

I’ll be accused of being a do-gooder, a lefty moron, a tree hugging pouf, a vegetarian cyclist, not a real man, an eco Nazi or most confusingly a member of the ‘PC brigade.’

What the hell is the ‘PC brigade?’ The politically correct brigade I assume.  Do you know anyone, seriously, anyone who is politically correct? I don’t. Do you know anyone who has ever used that term seriously? I don’t. If someone said ‘you are not being politically correct’ I’d call them a tosser.

But then when I think about this, I wouldn’t casually use racist terms, I wouldn’t try and belittle a man because he was gay, or a woman because she was a woman. Not because I don’t want to offend anyone but because I don’t have those feelings. I don’t think I am better than a woman, a black person, a gay person or a Muslim.

The only people who ever use the term ‘PC brigade’ are people who are desperate to shout racist, sexist or homophobic abuse in the street.

Clarksonite men cannot understand how the world has changed around them, how they are not, as they feel they should be, still the most powerful, most respected people in the world. They don’t see themselves as a minority, they see themselves as normal and everyone else is weird, foreign, female, gay or has skin the wrong colour.

But Clarksonites are a minority, if you look at global population data a very small minority who clearly feel they don’t have a voice. Hence the rise of the abhorrent UKIP.

In Clarkson’s particular case he is not a powerless member of a powerless minority, he’s very well connected. I saw him last year at Cornbury Festival having a fag with Rebekah Brooks, the ex editor of the News of the World. They are pals. I say no more.

He’s pals with our current Prime Minister. I say no more.

He has a column in the Sun newspaper where he vents his ‘world is unfair to white men who want to drive fast’ spleen. He’s very rich and powerful and having met him a couple of times, he definitely is a big and imposing figure who is clearly very used to getting his own way.

Who knows what will happen to Top Gear. For all these criticisms I’d be very sad to see it disappear. Or go on Sky because I don’t have Sky for all the obvious namby-pamby liberal reasons.

For the many on Twitter who have suggested I put my name forward as his replacement, I’m flattered at the consideration but I would rather extract my own teeth with rusty pliers than step into that hornet’s nest. For a start I'm just another old white bloke on the telly, there's enough of them already

However, if the BBC was to dare to re-launch a totally different show about cars, the impact they have on our world, the wonders of new technology emerging, the idea of not owning cars but still having access to them, the true impact their construction and use, the true impact our demand for fossil fuels has, and it was presented by 3, funny, politically incorrect women. Now that's worth considering

 

Monday
Feb162015

Ecotricity and the Labour Party

I am not now, and never have been a member of any political party.

I’ve also never been a member of a sports team, a stamp collectors club, a private London gentleman’s club or any sort of club.

I’m just not club membership material.

However it’s the political party membership I’m always relieved to have avoided.

Imagine how uncomfortable it would be if, say as a Labour Party member you supported the Blair Government of 1997.

Then this wonderful smiling man prayed to some sort of God who told him to invade a country that was no danger to the UK and as a result the meltdown in that area has made everything much, much worse.

Now, that’s the obvious, unfathomable uber-fail of the Blair administration, but it wasn’t all bad.

I want to inform those not old enough to remember, under the previous bunch of dodgy Tory posh boys there were thousands of homeless people living on the streets, hospitals were crumbling, we had massive unemployment and our social infrastructure was on its knees.

The Labour party made a progressive and undeniable difference, the social fabric improved immeasurably, you could see the changes taking place and we are now surrounded by new schools, hospitals and urban infrastructure improvements that took place under the Blair-Brown stewardship.

But they did invade Iraq, they did allow unfettered, semi criminal or actual criminal banking practices and during this period I am suggesting that the Labour Party became completely absorbed into the military industrial complex.

Contrary to current Tory spin, big business is fine with Labour because the New Labour party poses no threat to big business.

The Labour party was founded over a hundred years ago by ordinary working people to try and bring some balance to a brutal, paternalistic, sexist, racist, homophobic bigoted social order.

The Labour party was radical, they challenged the status quo, the minority ruling elite hated them, corporate bosses and the press hated them but they didn’t give a toss.

When they finally came to power after WW2 they changed the political and social landscape forever.

I voted for Tony Blair in 1997, I was pleased as punch when he got in and that feeling of euphoria lasted, ooh, weeks.

Because Blair and his corporate cronies had worked out that to hold on to power they had to do deals with the truly powerful, most importantly the banking industry and energy companies.

The Labour party are happy to go along with these massive multinational corporations because they ‘secure jobs’ and ‘keep the lights on.’

They are also the big muscle behind fracking, massive coal extraction, dodgy deals with Putin for gas, even dodgier deals with the Saudi regime for oil and gas.

The world is changing fast, more and more people are becoming aware of where our fuels come from and are feeling more and more uncomfortable about it, but the Labour Party seem deaf to these changes.

Technological developments are changing the face of the energy matrix. Renewables are now increasing at unprecedented rates and are already cheaper than fossil alternative and will become increasingly cheaper. Energy storage systems are coming on line which will make relying on 100% renewables a perfectly plausible alternative.

New companies like Ecotricity who are developing these systems are having a greater and greater impact. Not only do they produce their power purely from renewables, they were also the first people to create a nationwide rapid charge network for electric cars.

A large section of their customer base are people who are very well informed about the energy industry, people who made a deliberate decision to avoid the big six and go with someone different.

When you pay your Ecotricity bill you know you are not paying for imported coal, fracked ‘natural gas’ or the Conservative Party.

Many Ecotricity customers are either members of or supporters of the Green Party. When you sign up to be an Ecotricity customer, they donate £60 to the Green Party. It says so clearly on their website.

All good stuff until recently it was announced that Ecotricity had donated a quarter of a million quid to the Labour party.

Many people were up in arms, not surprising really as the Labour Party are so pro fracking. Yes, okay, with increased ‘safety and environmental controls’ but they have fallen for the corporate hype.

Now I should reveal here that I have had a long and close relationship with Ecotricity, I am a big admirer of Dale Vince and I think what he and the people in the company have achieved is nothing short of miraculous.

Ecotricity sponsored last years Fully Charged series, their anti fracking adverts are funny and pull no punches.

But the Labour party, although resisting the open season on fracking the extraction industry is enjoying with the bankers in Parliament at present, they didn’t resist the changes to trespass laws which mean the fracking industry can extract ‘cheap gas’ from right under your house.

The Labour Party are pro fracking, that’s all there is to it.

However, if Labour do somehow manage to secure a majority in the forthcoming election I would readily agree that they are far more likely to be open to the notion of wind, wave and solar power and far less keen of fracking the living shit out of every corner of the British Isles.

The Labour party won’t be kowtowing to the UKIPers who’s grasp of global events is, at best, moronic. They are more likely to be influenced by the Greens because that’s where they’re loosing most votes.

So maybe what Ecotricity have done is rather clever.

I hope so.

 

Friday
Nov142014

It’s not Matthew, Mark, Luke and Joan

I have an ever-increasing sense that we are witnessing the violent death throws of the Patriarchy.

I think it first hit me when I saw the footage of Pussy Riot doing their head banging stuff in a Moscow Church. The people most offended, upset and able to do something about it where a bunch of bearded men in long robes with comically large crosses hanging around their necks.

Bearded old men in the Sudan condemned a woman to death for marrying the wrong man, okay, they’ve gone back on that decision because of the international outcry, but they still did it.

Bearded old men in long robes encourage bearded young men to go and fight holy wars every day of the week.

Bearded old men in long robes try to justify the vile event of a bunch of tragic men who raped two teenage girls to death in India.

All of these old beardy blokes have one thing in common, they represent the patriarchy.

It’s got little to do with the individual religions they profess to teach, lead, have divinely bestowed upon them by a mythical bearded old man in long robes they call God.

Now, I do understand that criticizing any culture I have little knowledge of is dangerous.

Grouping together a whole race or religious group because of the actions of one or two nut bags is the job of UKIP supporters.

However, as a white, western liberal living in a privileged bubble (apparently) I have to face an ugly fact.

I’m also a man.

The bedrock of all religious belief is by its very nature, patriarchal.

(Patriarchy: relating to or denoting a system of society or government controlled by men)

It’s all about the father being in control, it’s all about a great big, bearded angry dad otherwise known as god.

You don’t have to be a scripture scholar to understand that all religion was dreamt up and written down by men.

Ooops, sorry, I mean God, a bloke, with a beard and long robes. My bad.

Check who wrote the New Testament in the Christian bible

It’s not Matthew, Mark, Luke and Joan is it?

Who wrote the Quran?

A bloke.

Who wrote the Old Testament?

A bunch of blokes.

Religion was made by men to extoll their own virtues, control their offspring and chattels, (that’s the Mrs and the cattle BTW) and lay down the law.

Many years ago I read some of theories about the dawn of patriarchy, the pre-historic connection desert people in the Fertile Crescent made between shagging and childbirth.

These theories indicate that before we started farming, keeping cattle and living in more organised, settled communities, patriarchy simply didn’t exist.

We lived in a matriarchy; as the saying goes, “the mother came first, the son merely followed.”

(Matriarchy: a form of social organization in which descent and relationship are through the female line)

No one knew and more importantly cared who their dad was but you knew who your mum was because she raised you.

The theory is, and it’s backed up by ancient cave paintings and fertility statues, women were revered and in control of their own destiny.

Scary.

I’m not saying this state of affairs was better or in any way perfect, I’m merely suggesting that patriarchy isn’t ‘the only way we can function.’

The human race is always evolving, new relationships and roles emerge and there is no ‘right’ or ‘only’ way to live together and raise children.

Anyone who tells you otherwise is going to be more interested in power than love.

Anyone who tells you otherwise is going to be a bloke and more likely a religious bloke in a position of power in your community.

The tedious argument that men are ‘naturally dominant’ only exists because we’re all endlessly told that from day one.

We are, I believe, currently seeing the tattered and despoiled cloak of patriarchy slowly disintegrate and that frightens the b’jayzus out of a lot of blokes who’ve invested their entire existence in such dated nonsense.

Any religious nutter with a brutal countenance, long robes and a beard is a patriarch, terrified of the power of women, determined to cling on to power because, poor sausage, that’s all he’s got to fill the void in his heart.

These bearded gentlemen come in all flavors, Russian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Muslim, Jew and any number of offshoots of all of them.

Big beard, long cloak and complete confidence that their particular strand of virtually the same religion is the right one.

Bit tragic isn’t it?

They are all from the same Abrahamic tradition that stems from the same bit of land on the Eastern side of the Mediterranean that blokes have been fighting over for millennia.

And these squabbles always involve men, boring, tedious blokes who want to impose their self claimed ‘divine law’ on the rest of us.

Tedious but sadly, in some cases we are seeing at the moment, still ridiculously powerful and dangerous.

It’s got naff all to do with genuine religious belief, which, despite my cascade of offense I do actually have respect for.

How weak do you have to be to express such fear from one woman who won’t do as you demand?

How pathetic are you that when your daughter/sister doesn’t obey your every bullying command you kill her to protect, and read this carefully, ‘the honour of your family.’

‘Oh yeah, they’ve got a lot of honour that family, they killed their daughter in the street and we all respect that.’

Hello, it’s 2014, not AD 414 for pities sake.

So as a wet liberal tosser living in a privileged western bubble, I do judge cultures I don’t fully understand when it’s brutal, stupid and based on blatantly enforced ignorance.

As privileged western liberal men we should do all we can to deride and undermine patriarchal power no matter what flavor.

We need to show by example that it is possible to be a man, to be a real, proper bloke, without mutilating little girls, raping and murdering women when they don’t obey our ridiculous demands and claiming some kind of divine superiority.

I’m not saying women are always right or in some way superior, I’m not even saying all men who believe in some sort of old-dad-god figure are brutes, rapists and murderers, but the ones who are need to be faced up to.

 

If you want to fight patriarchy - but won't fight religion - you're not fighting patriarchy.        @ aliamjadrizvi 

Thursday
Nov132014

Outrageous subsidies!

‘I don’t want my tax money to subsidise windmills!’ shouts a red faced UKIP supporting 57-year-old man who lives in an area where there are no wind turbines.

He’s at a petrol station pumping £93 worth of fuel into his slightly battered old four by four that will be able to travel just over 300 miles burning the fuel.

What he clearly doesn’t know, along with most of us, is he has already paid for part of that fuel through his taxes.

‘I know the government taxes fuel at a frankly ridiculous level, what do you think I am, an idiot?’ he splutters.

No, he still hasn’t got it.

He is correct that there is a very large tax element in the £93 he has just spent topping up his tank.

But there is also a massive cost for all of us in subsidizing the fossil fuel corporations before that fuel comes out of the pump.

These are subsidies that have been in place for decades so they have become ‘normal’ and ‘embedded’ which means we’re all used to them, we don’t see them or think about them.

A recent report in Bloomberg news puts some figures on these subsidies and they are fairly staggering.

Globally the cost to tax payers is around $550 billion per year.

This is money we numpties are giving to the largest, wealthiest and most powerful corporations in human history to carry on with their business. It costs billions to find oil fields, to explore them, carry out test drilling, move billion dollar drilling equipment into position, pump out and ship the fuel to refineries.

So these companies get massive ‘tax breaks’ and 'incentives' given to them by their employees.

Sorry, the tax breaks are given to them by the independent governments we elect to rule us, that was just a silly, immature typo.

Global subsidies to renewable energy systems? They are big too, around $120 billion a year

This is because the cost of installing renewables is all up front, once in place the running costs are minimal. Unlike the fossil extraction industries where the costs go on and on, mitigated only by the fact that they don't have to pay for the damage their products create.

With the increasingly divided debate on how we generate power in the future I discern a clear line between older white men who state with tired knowingness ‘it has to be nuclear’ and a much larger group made up of all races and genders from around the globe saying ‘it’s obviously renewables.’

It’s very hard for the average member of the public (I consider myself in this group) who know very little about the intricacies of the topic to have any hope of knowing what’s true.

Or possible.

Or economically sensible.

Or secure from international financial convulsions and conflict.

A clue maybe in the rapid increase in community renewable energy projects (I’m involved in one) and their history of supplying renewable, financially stable and long term power that is not at the beck and call of outside forces.

Germany and Denmark are way ahead in this but it’s catching on and spreading rapidly.

Widely distributed, locally owned renewable energy has, I firmly believe, a very key role to play in our energy future. And the subsidies for this?
Piffling in comparison to the massive payouts the big fossil companies are chomping through.

Maybe if we stopped handing out dosh to these chaps, we might have a bit more to build an infrastructure we can genuinely depend on. Silly idea I know. 

Here's a bit more detail on the how's, why's and excuses used to fork out billions to the hyper-rich. It all makes perfect sense :-)

 

 

Sunday
Sep282014

Diaries

I have a window in my schedule.

Time for a little calm reflection after 58-and-a-half years of seemingly frantic activity, 21 years of parenting and a very busy week.

Inspired by a dream last night I dug out a dusty box from at the back of a cupboard in my office and found these.

The box contains my diaries from 1970 to the late 1990’s. After that I started keeping a diary on computers.

These 27 books of varying size are all crammed to the covers with handwriting.

They don’t all relate to a specific calendar year, some periods are sparsely recorded in contrast to the occasional 20 or 30 pages describing one day.

Unlike the diaries of say, Tony Benn or Peter Ustinov, they are not full of wonderful anecdotes about famous or powerful people, revealing insights into our political history or anything resembling great literature.

Okay, there’s the odd reference to someone you may have heard of, but they are mostly miserable self-obsessed scribblings about how rubbish I am, how incapable I am of finding love, how I’ve failed at everything I’ve ever attempted to do, how poor I am, stressed, tired and forlorn.

Thankfully, every now and then, even I am surprised by the insights I had into my own personal politics, my hypocrisy, embarrassment and social awkwardness.

Some of that is quite poetic and brutally honest.

I knew then and I know now nothing in these diaries was ever written to be published if for no other reason than they would make very dull reading.

There are screeds of pages where I try and work out stories, where I have arguments with myself about what it is I’m trying to say and the best way to say it.

 There are half written plays, sketches and songs dating back to the late 1970’s,

There are rants about homophobia, racism, sexism and the brutality of the ever-growing corporate controlled globalized free-market economy.

So in a rather ungainly and self-obsessed fashion they do record how the world has changed in my lifetime.

It’s not all for the worse even though things seem fairly shitty at the moment.

The easiest thing to do, the lazy UKIP reaction is to trick yourself into imagining it was ‘better in the old days.’

As someone who was around in the old days, let me make one thing perfectly clear. It was shit in the old days.

It’s a teeny tiny bit better today than yesterday, and tomorrow will be fractionally, infinitesimally better than today.