Reply to Ian Bone regarding TATE
First of all one simple and absolute point: No money – not one penny –
came into our pockets from Tate Modern regarding King Mob.
Moreover, we have never ever sold any of ‘our’ stuff apart from the odd bit of money here and there from bookshop sales of BM Bis and Blob pamphlets and that was during the 1980s and early 1990s. The gal (Tracy) who pocketed the dosh – I believe between four and five grand – was in serious debt, well, serious debt for a working class gal. And thereby hangs a tale.
For years I went out with Tracy’s Mum – Tricia – a woman I deeply respect and admire to bits. In her youth Tricia was a raucous, wild, juvenile delinquent in London’s north and east end even venturing farther afield with her gang of mates usually on the whizz. In no time at all she attempted to rob a bank but got caught in the act. (Interestingly enough it was a branch of Barclays and the one I banked with. Talk about surrealist montages and coincidences…..) Anyway and inevitably, she was banged-up for a long time. Consequently she deploys a semi-literate form of writing which is positively Joycean in its wayward brilliance. After, and back on London’s streets she quickly became pregnant and got married. Her husband, a painter and decorator and distant acquaintance of the Kray twins, soon massively cracked-up and subsequently committed suicide. Left by her self and with no money, Tricia with three kids to feed and look after got into all kinds of further trouble with regular fines to pay. None the less though working hard for short periods in numerous factories here and there, debts mounted. She again quite opportunistically married a gypsy just to relieve somewhat the money situation and Tracy became the off-spring of this encounter. Finally Tricia ended up as a school dinner lady and later, a very dedicated, anti authority shop steward and not your more typical, anything for an easy life, shop steward. She was very sarcastic – always the street fighter - and really put the backs up of council officials. A work related ‘industrial injury’ happened and the council – oh, aren’t we surprised - used the injury as the means of getting rid of a very sharp thorn in their sides. Consequently, she was put on invalidity benefit. In short a story of traditional poverty, east end villainy and delinquency overlapping with a raw trade unionism. Somewhere in between all of this she met me! She instantly liked me as “a brainy yob” and “a man similar in spirit”.
Tricia’s life story is fascinating. From the days when e.g. she’d attack art students tearing up their drawings and paintings among all other kinds of unacceptable activity to the time when the Labour party wooed her hoping she’d become an outspoken lefty MP (Tricia’s memories of the young and opportunistic Diane Abbot are highly entertaining) to TU big wigs like regional secretaries of the T& GWU, trying to bed her by way of showing off a mock Adam fireplace in their offices together with the obligatory, “You’ll go far if only you’d drop your knickers” etc which she treated with laughter and disdain. Commendably, careerism was out of the question and being very sexy, the beautiful Tricia never used that tool (!) to advance herself!
Tricia’s daughter for reasons I won’t go into here kind of adopted me as ‘Dad’ as her real father quite brutally rejected her. As the years rolled by she also got into a lot of debt. Consequently her Mother borrowed money from loan sharks to pay it off. Needless to say Tricia is very poor and although superb at budgeting is always too proud to mention her circumstances. Finding this out the situation for me was completely unacceptable as by now this proud gal was ill, in remission from cancer with a serious heart condition and developing osteo-arthritis yet looking for ways to work so she could pay off her daughter’s debt….and still fighting council officials over just about anything!
Throughout the years Tricia inevitably got to know about King Mob – often endearingly referring to it as King Mop – but we hardly talked about the activities at all though when doing so it was with interest. Her daughter though became somewhat fascinated taking things like pamphlets away and reading them. Then she started asking for more and more. Initially, in giving Tracy this material I also saw as a means of ensuring that in the event of my death, these things and others – would be preserved and passed on to relevant quarters whom so ever they may be. By then I knew some of these things had become pricey as I was informed by especially the Here and Now group in Leeds. Tracy had also picked up on this via the Internet as she worked on computers as a personal assistant – a job she hates – and then I kind of knew she’d get round to flogging them though did ask me if I minded. My answer – go ahead if you so wish though keep some – also became a way of saying go easy on dipping into your mum’s purse and cancel the poor old gal’s debts she’s voluntarily taken upon herself to pay off! Tracy must then have done a lot of searching around on the Internet and at some point she hit on Tate Modern, though that’s hardly surprising.
Finally I was utterly relieved the debt problem was sorted. If I am in grave error for doing this what else could I have done? Sat back? Or asked former radicals to pay up who’d got plenty of dosh and/or inherited wealth? No the refusal and subsequent humiliation would have been too much particularly as I’d crossed swords with all of them. I first of all though made sure I explained in detail to a few clued-in people what had taken place as I knew very well I would be accused of TATE GOLD - or something like - and pocketing money. So I was waiting for all the slandering I’d become accustomed to over the decades to start up again mentally preparing to file it alongside the rest. And what were these? In the pay of a Rachmanite landlord as a parting shot from a bust-up relationship which was then spread among community politicos and Labour party lefties who would gleefully point me out in the street as a complete scumbag; a brutal sub-contractor who loved sacking workers and not paying wages; a petty criminal who enjoyed robbing his nearest and dearest; a strike breaker; a millionaire who owned a global garden furniture cum living sculpture business; a brute who loved smacking women; a bully boy who regularly gave people nervous breakdowns I came into contact with, and oh, not forgetting the more low key though constant accusations of cowardice, lying, cheating and being a very weak person with jelly for backbone. Finally though I know all too well the mud will stick and it is the mud which will be remembered…..
As for snooty elitism, well, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. I do though keep well away from revolutionary milieus as it is so often where these stories and rubbishings start. That doesn’t mean I don’t find individuals in these milieus pretty good, even exceptional, it’s simply the context I don’t like. On the other hand in the midst of general upheaval (e.g. the miners’ strike of 1984-5) changed circumstances meant people in the process of changing on all sides and then what yesterday was unpleasant can become something else entirely.
The friends I have whose company I really enjoy are simple though often in a profound way: Ex lorry drivers, ex builders, ex civil servants, ex miners (many ex’s with de-industrialisation) ex sex trade women; women who’ve spent periods in gaol – one a good friend who killed her horrible husband (she actually didn’t do it) and so on. It’s their warmth and loyalty and immediate rush of sheer friendliness I like together with fascinating stories. Moreover, and most importantly, having no side – rampant in revolutionary milieus - they aren’t constantly looking for ways to rubbish and denigrate you. And they are all from the bottom end. However, I also find exasperating the almost seemingly inevitable way they can’t put things together - what was once called “false consciousness” – but there again, I like that recent American description of “left necks”. In any case you change each other over time and the warmth of the embrace avoids all that obnoxious teachery, pontificating project of external enlightenment stuff which just doesn’t seem to work. It thus becomes a life process responding to given situations you experience together and the ‘neck’ stuff seems to fall away bit by bit. So you live in hope. On the other hand, the degree of stupidity and lack of awareness is now so grave that false consciousness could be the major factor ensuring the end of life as we know it……but that’s another story.
Chew on it
Dave Wise (Mid September 2008)
Anybody out there?
Perhaps further comment on my (ours) ‘isolation’ from revolutionary community may be relevant here. It really wasn’t a chosen path rather forced somewhat on us. I persist along this lonely road although quite frankly here the emphasis must be on “rather” because it is also fraught with difficulties not least having to constantly deal with the dumbing down which has invaded everywhere especially during the last two decades or so. Nonetheless and sadly, you find it rather more fulfilling than the revolutionary milieu and by that, I mean the consciously anti-Leninist milieu.
One of the main reasons is simply to sidestep constant rubbishings and the need to try and counteract them which, I feel as an arrow penetrating the heart and coming from the latter milieu. The present company I keep fulfil some of the need for spontaneous friendliness almost like some longing for a return to a childhood when you had simple, down-home mates whom you roamed together among the sooty fields, peripheries of industry, general dereliction, waste heaps, sewerage works, polluted rivers and the like getting up to all kinds of illegal activities which the authorities tended to waive most of the time. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable memory you forever wish to recreate but this time, hopefully with a greater sense of purpose.
It’s hardly surprising you avoid contact with people who are mistrustful, envious – or whatever – plus the one constant – always looking for ways to have a go at you; to take you out and something which I’ve sadly found out over the years is the daily fare of ‘revolutionary’ milieus. Maybe it has to do with the hell of sheer reaction and the internal bitterness which is its product together with the pervasive feeling we can no longer overthrow this unbearable hell. Whatever the reason, it is also very unpleasant to deal with. Maybe it has to do with some ‘reputation’ you’ve got concomitant with a certain jealousy as though you are milking it like some celebrity. Nonetheless it is an ambience you resolutely and even absolutely avoid as the company of others you keep know nothing of this side of your life or, rightly or wrongly, simply don’t want to know. These are people who don’t even look at your webs, don’t want to know about your publications even though – just occasionally – you’ve mentioned them though only in passing. It just seems healthier and infinitely more pleasant and relaxing even though talking down simply doesn’t come into it as it is a too & fro situation packed with interesting comment, laughter and life. Needless to say they live in the social arena of largely the bottom end of the seemingly extinct working class.
It can also be said: “Well, hell you’ve also dished it out and then some”. For sure we have – and really heavy too -but this vitriol has had every time to do with a condemnation of careerism, recuperation, crude money accumulation, failure to break with a secure middle class upbringing, failure to ‘lose’ inherited wealth plus overt crap such as mysticism.
It is impossible to survive and breathe in an atmosphere where you know you are examined – even microscopically – for every fault imaginable where essential human warmth and enquiry has been replaced with a hidden inquisition. It’s an atmosphere which is Maldorean but is nowhere near the point of transcendence which the ‘Song’ always hints at. Having rejected career structures and the role of artist, having rejected the role of (usually lucrative) mini boss (as a sub-contractor), having rejected the pursuit of money – though having picked up good pay at certain points for often back-breaking work – means you must surely be the biggest arsehole of all. Just what are you up to for there must be something? And you know with almost wearisome predictability there’s someone out there again waiting and waiting to take you out, who only wants to meet you for such satisfaction, having basically fuck all to do with the ideas or any other thing you might hold dear, merely to quickly assess and just as quickly condemn. Oh, the drugs rush of such encounter! What is demanded is yet another Gunfight at the OK Corral and just who are the Clancey Bros and who are the Earp Bros etc in this unnecessary ordeal? Ah, to find the chink in the armour, the glamour of the dead bodies and subsequent notches on the six gun! On the other hand once I quite liked a slogan in Rennes from the 1970s: “Who is a bigger cunt than a student? A worker” though no longer sure if it wasn’t some smart arse with an aerosol.
Is this paranoid? Perhaps but only a shade. However, it has been my unfortunate experience well knowing that there’s probably more than one genuine individual who wants to meet up who doesn’t fit this characterisation one smidgeon. But for me the depression the day after some ill-designed brief encounter (hardly “ill-met by moonlight”) is just so difficult to deal with psychologically. Better not to take the risk of further despair in an increasingly desperate global/personal situation mirrored in the lives of billions.
Because you’ve gone the extra mile and it an essential extra mile in terms of everyday life obviously means to these people that you are covering-up something far worse than careers or mini-capitalisms. The point is to find out what it is! What you’ve really encountered here is a form of pathology well mapped out by Lautreamont; one that precedes perhaps – to be generous – the new innocence. Historically perhapstoo, this conundrum was first pointed out in Dostoevsky’s “The Idiot” a book which Nietzsche came to admire so much suggesting that an individual who went out today to do unremitting good would again in the Christian/Judaic latter day atmosphere of the late 19th century be taken out just like the original prophets.
However, for us it’s not a question of idiocy or purity, least of all, the problems of a do-gooder but refusal to compromise with the system’s basic requirements. Historically, it could be said, we tried to live a new life as much as possible in an increasingly horrendous situation; a lifestyle which King Mob very roughly outlined many moons ago suggesting we must cut out as much overt contradiction as possible. But that was all and internally you cannot help but feel the failure of your efforts, though perhaps, all things considered, it has been a reasonably successful failure.
Finally though, why all the fuss? Nobody has ever published any of our stuff in the UK, apart from “The End of Music” which really was only partially ours. Whatever was published was done under our own momentum and cost. We finally always lost money and not negligible sums neither remembering there was nothing in our background to fall back on to as we hailed from the relative poor who had absolutely no money in the bank and possessed no assets. (Whatever our arsehole elder brothers did in their careerisms together with their despicable off-spring has nothing to do with us). Quite some time ago we got sick of asking people who publish things to maybe ease up and give our rantings an airing considering they thought it much more important to get all the junk out they’d got lined up to print wasting yet more trees. Anyway, what we did/and still do is always anti copy write so anybody is free to do what they want with it. Yet nothing ever happens in this regard and our words remain “written in water” as Keats eloquently said of himself on the hour of his midnight. So what’s the problem! There’ll be no publishing comeback apart from possibly a comment from us.
As for the ‘good’ person, well let’s say it loud and clear: Yes we’ve been up to all the typical low level scams of those at the sharp end that still haven’t lost their marbles. Things like not paying fares, fiddling energy supplies, non payment of a TV license –for a TV you hardly watch – ducking and diving, bouts of heavy shop lifting, screwing the next door neighbour’s missus given half a chance etc and so on….Dostoevsky’s sublime Idiot never understood why he was so maligned; so hated. We do, thus similar responses a century and a half later never come as a bewildering surprise which is why we sometimes sign off as…..
The fucking Wise twins (Mid September 2008)