Perdido Street Station and the oppressed of the fantasy worlds

Am reading what must by now be “fantasy classic” Perdido Street Station and I just want to mention what a great relief it is to read a story that isn’t about kings, queens, emperors, el presidentes* or any other type of monarch or strongman. Is it that China Miéville is a Marxist? Perhaps in the socialist utopia, you don’t have to write about 15-year-old princes and princesses anymore.

* Fantasy has a distinct lack of dictators, though, doesn’t it? Or rather, there are a lot of dictators, but they all have some sort of magic jewel or sword that allows them to unleash terrible violence and prove their worth to rule over everybody else, so they’re not evil dictators somehow. And usually that magic macguffin can only be used by members of a certain family–basically monarchy propped up forever by extreme genetic power. Like Hapsburg Spain with psychic nuclear bombs. That actually sounds like hell on earth, I wonder why the “anointed leader” fantasy is still so popular?


On elections

Hearing post-election sadness from across the waters. Many people really thought that Labour would have made a difference. I half believe them, but really? What on earth does Labour do that the Tories don’t?

Privatization is a trend that continues regardless of which party is in power. Labour began the process of privatizing the NHS; Labour introduced PFIs; Labour introduced the academy system. Most of the current Conservative policies are continuations of Labour policies.

And neither party has any particular respect for the poor. I was around when Gordon Brown eliminated the 10p tax band and was surprised that this supposed social democrat, who wasn’t like Blair, who really wanted a fairer society for everyone, was trying to squeeze the last penny out of the poor. If he needed more money, why couldn’t he tax the rich?

Of course, there’s the practical problem: You can’t tax rich people because they can afford lawyers and newspapers. But really, the revelation was that for all his son-of-the-manse act, Brown was a neoliberal thinker, just like the rest of us, more or less. And the first tenet of that sort of thinking is that rich people are better than poor people.

You can see that sort of thinking reflected in party members’ statements after Ed Miliband’s resignation:

“The issue of aspiration in people’s lives; we can no longer relate to them as a party of aspiration. And that was one of the big successes that won us three elections.”

“People want a fairer, better Britain, but they also need to have confidence in the ability of a government to manage the economy competently. We need our party and next leader to celebrate our entrepreneurs and wealth creators and not leave the impression they are part of the problem.”

Well, that’s the kind of talk that makes me believe that Labour was going to roll back all those Tory cuts. These are party members reacting against a party manifesto that, on the intro page, highlights that “A Labour government will cut the deficit every year” and mentions benefits mainly in terms of caps and workfare. (There’s a vague promise to reform the Work Capability Assessment, but mainly in terms of how to get the disabled back into work.) It’s not exactly bleeding-heart. Yet it’s still not enough for half of Labour, it concentrates too much on depressing, less worthy people.

Let’s be honest. If you’re poor, or you’re sick, or you’re not aspiring in exactly the correct manner, Labour doesn’t really have time for you. If you’re not, Labour has time for you as a voter; if you’re not and you’re rich, Labour has all the time in the world for you. It’s not wickedness, per se; it’s just the overall neoliberal system that Labour is part and parcel of.

Why would anybody vote for Labour? Is the hope that Labour would be slightly less flagrant about things? Or that the attitude would be different? I guess the Tories really hate the poor and ill, exploiting them with visceral glee: “I’m going to choke one out to my bank statement whilst snorting cocaine through a gold straw!” Whereas the Labour party merely treat them as embarrassing failures, narcissistic wounds in New Labour’s side: “Why couldn’t you have helped me by all becoming stockbroker success stories from the ghetto? I hope you know that this hurts me more than it hurts you.”


(Addendum: I’m still not angry at Ed Miliband, for some reason I like that guy and am glad that he doesn’t have to deal with Ed Balls for years on fucking end. See, politics are not always a rational choice.)

Let’s Read Queen of the Tearling: Chapter 10

I’ve put it off for as long as I can, but let’s get back to the Tearling.

Javel, the gate guard who was hanging out with evil Arlen Thorne earlier, is now doing some more evil conspiracy shit. Unsurprisingly, not everyone is happy with Kelsea’s plan to stop the slave shipments—nobles who run toll roads and made regular money from slave convoys, people who are scared of war with the vastly more powerful Mort. This would be an interesting look at the opposition to Kelsea’s reforms if the people involved weren’t described in sub-David Eddings terms, so everyone is ugly, fat, drunk, and weaselly. I mean, the gang includes an evil priest and a rapist gate guard. Can’t thin, ordinary-looking people be morally wrong? Without being grimdark wrong? Continue reading →