World on Fire – Amy Chua

‘How exporting free market democracy breeds ethnic hatred & global instability’

Amy Chua’s book puts forward a compelling case to support the statement above and cites a huge number of examples, throughout history, to demonstrate how democracy and free markets have been to blame for genocides, war and ethnic hatred all over the world.

Before picking up ‘World on Fire’, I had an opinion, which I believe is shared by most of those living in the Western world, when it comes to how a society should be run economically and politically.

Before I get into what that is exactly, I will say this, I am no scholar and I have never studied any form of political theory academically, but I share that in common with the majority, which is why it is important to demonstrate how radically my views have shifted, because if mine have, then so can everybody’s.

When it comes to less developed countries, I used to believe that holding elections, opening said nations up to international business and encouraging competitiveness, would improve the economic stability of a nation and its people, without issue.

Here, in the UK, we have one of the most developed economies, societies and political systems in the world. Yes, it has its huge problems, however, the majority of people live much richer lives than those living in 2nd and 3rd world countries.

So naturally, transplanting our system into countries like Afghanistan, Myanmar, Guatemala, Mexico, Venezuela and Rwanda would have an incredibly transformative effect and alleviate such nations from the clutches of poverty.

How wrong I was….

Amy Chua highlights this problem in western attitudes and demonstrates what happens when democracy and free markets are implemented without planning and regulation.

The results of doing so have caused mass genocide, civil war and entrenched racial hatred.

The complexities of her case are argued clearly and backed up with hard evidence from across history, so you should not expect such a compelling and complete summary from a clueless 24-year-old.

The main jist of her point is as follows;

Nations which have been under the rule of a dictator or controlled by a one party state for many  years suffer greatly when democratic elections and free markets are suddenly implemented, whether that is by an outside force (always the bloody USA) or the remnants of an old regime.

Chua states that the following pattern appears every time this happens.

  • The old system comes down
  • Democratic elections are instantly organised in order to give the people the opportunity to decide on a new ruling party.
  • One particular party or individual chooses to run their entire political campaign on a ethnically driven message in order to gain the support of the majority of one specific ‘race’.

The most famous example being Adolf Hitler – Remember, the Nazi Party was democratically elected by the German people. Hitler couldn’t murder his way to the top because he could never get into power, but what he could do was blame the Jewish people for the downfall of the German economy and signing of the Treaty of Versailles which brought about the end of the first world war and defeat for Germany. Hitler used an ethnically driven message to gain the support of the majority by blaming an ethnic minority for the struggles of the ordinary German person. The rest, is history…

  • Once the leader or party has gained control of the government, the promises that they made to the majority must be fulfilled otherwise their hold on power would not last long.
  • The ethnic majority and government make it their mission to destroy an ethnic minority which is believed to be economically dominant while also to blame for the poverty and suffering of the majority. (I told you this wouldn’t be so clear)
  • The rhetoric used by the ruling party is always based on the same general message – ‘The foreigner/outsider has come into our country and sucked it dry. They hold all of the money and power, we must take it back’

A clear example of this is South Africa, where a tiny population of white people, descended from Europeans, hold a disproportionate amount of power and wealth, compared the majority of black natives.

  • The ruling party and enraged ethnic majority (who believe the propaganda) embark on destroying the economically dominant minority in order to ‘take back’ what is ‘rightfully theirs’.

One of the most horrifying examples of this exact pattern being followed is in Rwanda, when in 1994, one of the most atrocious genocides in history took place.

The country had been under a dictatorship until it fell and democratic elections were held. One particular party chose to blame the suffering of the ‘native’ Hutu people on the ‘foreign’ Tutsi people.

Once the party got into power, it ordered the Hutu people to go out into the streets and massacre every single living Tutsi in the country.

What followed was reported across the world as entire cities descended into chaos.

Men, women and children were dragged into the streets and hacked to pieces my mobs of roaming Hutu’s.

As poor as that summery is, I hope you get the basic idea because this is literally going on right now, all over the world.

‘World on Fire’ is an incredibly rich and educational text which puts a fresh view on the rise and trouble with globalism.

Other tentative subjects are examined, such as why half of the world celebrated when the twin towers where destroyed on 9/11 yet live in hope of someday being able to live in ‘the land of the free’.

Anyway, if you want to understand how the world actually works outside of the bubble which we can’t help but live in, ‘World on Fire’ will certainly give you something to think about. The argument is clear and, though hard to read at times, makes complete sense, democracy and free markets are incredibly venerable to exploitation if not managed carefully.

What is so impressive about Chua’s work is that she actually offers a viable solution in the final chapters, but to try and deliver her proposals would do a lot of hard work and years of research a huge disservice.

Read the book, learn something new, see the world differently. Easy.

Kraftwerk – Publikation

Kraftwerk – The Catalogue 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Tate Modern

It’s 2013 and I have come straight from my graduation ceremony to Latitude Festival.

I’m standing in a field with 30,000 people wearing 3D glasses and four men appear on stage wearing, what looks like wet suits, they stand in front of a their own individual podiums and the lights go down.

This is Kraftwert and it is the first time I have ever seen or heard anything of the German band. The show begins and for the rest of the evening I’m in a trance.

‘What the hell is going on’, I remember thinking.

A spectacular visual show plays behind the four Germans as their stripped techno booms out across the Norfolk countryside. The atmosphere is unlike anything I have ever felt as songs like ‘Autobahn’ and ‘The Robots’ are greeted by the crowd like some of the greatest hits from a Beatles gig.

Watch a clip from the show by clicking here to see what I mean…..

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Back then, I had no idea the impact the group had made on music since the 70’s or the cultural phenomenon they were, nor their story. That was until I picked up ‘Kraftwerk – Publikation’, the biography written by David Buckley. A book which has shone a light on the inner workings of a group which, as I now recognise, is one that has been responsible for revolutionising music as we know it today.

Kraftwerk are shown to be the godfathers of techno music as they precede the likes of Giorgio Moroder, who many believe is the man to have invented the genre. The breakdown of the musical style created by the Germans is incredibly interesting as Buckley frames it expertly within the social and technological environment of post war Europe.

It is also nice knowing that the book was written by a fellow Scouser and Liverpool fan, how do I know he is scouse and a Liverpool fan you may ask? Only a devout red would manage to talk about The boot room, a place where Bill Shankly and other staff would discuss tactics at Anfield, in comparison to the legendary Kling Klang studio where many of the greatest songs where manufactured by Kraftwerk. A cheeky mention of the Peter Crouch robot dance didn’t escape my attention either….shameless.

Anyway, the book demonstrates how Kraftwerk emerged onto the music scene in the 1970’s as outsiders who were ‘anti-music’  only to become a group which the likes of David Bowie and The Jackson 5 were desperate to work with.

It was because of a style which had never been seen before. Kraftwerk made electronic music before electronic music even existed as a form. The group made music with nothing but synthesisers and samples of electronically edited sounds of the world itself, such as passing trains or a car engine.

Do me a favour, have this song playing in the background while you read the rest of the article and you’ll get what I’m talking about. (You might even recognise part of the melody…)

Listen to ‘Computer Love’ by clicking here

Though the band are seen as revolutionary now, this was not the case in the 70’s and 80’s.

But it wasn’t just the way the music was made, it was the subject matter as well. Songs focusing radiation, nuclear danger, computers and robots. It was a far cry from sex, drugs and rock and roll….

Buckley expertly captures how the rest of the world perceived the band at the time. Cold and robotic, making music without conventional instruments and harbingers of an end to music. The four German horsemen of the musical apocalypse.

This was due to the fact that the music world believed that ‘real music’ was made with guitars and songs stuck to the same ridged pattern.

But the end of music never came. Instead of death, new life radiated throughout the sonic universe.

From the moment Kraftwerk began making music, they sparked a mutation within the industry which grew and spread amongst the ‘cock rockers’ who had ruled for so long. Similar to introducing a new animal into a foreign ecosystem, Kraftwerk began transforming the very fabric of the environment which had lacked innovation for so long.

“All great things must first wear terrifying and monstrous masks in order to inscribe themselves on the hearts of humanity” – Friedrich Nietzsche quoted by Buckley.

Kraftwerk went against every convention when making music and performing, which is what makes their art so appealing. They copied no one and where true innovators, declining offers to work with some of the most influential musicians of all time, in order to preserve the authenticity of their own sound.

At certain points in the book, upon learning that Kraftwerk turned down so many chances to work with other musicians, I felt that the group had a certain level of arrogance.

However when I considered the following point, I could see why the Germans were so devout.

Would Picasso have ever invited Salvador Dali to draw all over his own paintings? Would Van Gogh have invited Pollock to cover his work in splashes of green?

No.

These artists had a style which was uncompromised, it was their art, their vision and I believe that Kraftwerk saw their own work in the same way.

Who knows, if they had worked with others, would their music remain so potent, so recognisable, so undeniably Kraftwerk?

Buckley’s biography captures the importance of the band exceptionally well, however, the story is not simply one of their artistic output, it is also one fraught with tension, legal battles, life threatening accidents, social history and the evolution of music as a whole from the 1970’s to the 2000’s.

An obsession with bike riding, clashes with producers and a whole host of other vital parts of the Kraftwerk story are covered, but I would suggest reading the book instead of an amateurs summary to get the whole picture….

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The story of Kraftwerk is as compelling as any in the music industry because of how divisive, revolutionary and important the group have been over the past forty years.

David Buckley delivers an outstanding piece of work which is incredibly educational in its documentation of the band, its impact on culture and all of the conflicts which eventually broke the original group apart.

Personally, I have learned an incredible amount and my perception of what music can be and what it should be has changed.

For any music fan, I would argue that Buckley’s biography is essential reading. Not only for Kraftwerk’s personal story, but for the wider influence they had in changing the entire sphere of music.

Music would be very different today had Kraftwerk not existed which is why I now understand the stunned reaction thousands had on that summers evening in Norfolk four years ago.

An introduction to Charles Bukowski and a review of ‘Women’

Charles Bukowski wrote with raw, unfiltered, unapologetic and gruesome power, enticing you into his filthy world which becomes impossible to forget or move on from.

Women

Charles Bukowski wrote with raw, unfiltered, unapologetic and gruesome power, enticing you into his filthy world which becomes impossible to forget or move on from. 39 years on from ‘Women’ the world is a different place and it is interesting to consider if a book like this would even get published anymore. In an age of hypersensitivity, media narratives, political fuckary and cultural suicide, Bukowski may be appealing now, more than ever.

I read ‘Women’, his 1978 novel, over the course of three days and watched the excellent 2003 documentary ‘Born Into This’, immediately after, hooked into Bukowski’s dirty world.

Women is a semi-autobiographical account of Bukowski’s life as a 50 year old writer living in L.A in the 1950’s, surrounded by alcohol, women and not much else.

The story follows Henry Chinaski, the alter-ego of Bukowski, as he moves from poetry reading, to all night drinking sessions and onto multiple encounters with women.

Almost every page is soaked with beer or cheap wine, every other, smeared with bodily fluids.

There is no metaphor, there is no romance, there is no heroism and there is very little joy.

But still, there is a lightness to his writing, a strange, twisted humour which you can’t help but smirk at, as each unadulterated sexual encounter passes.

If you start reading the book you might make the early assumption that it is nothing more that smut, but that would be missing the point completely and trust me, there is nothing erotic or tantilising about his portrayal of sex.

He is brutal in his depiction of himself and his description of his treatment of women.

Early life and writing style

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Before Bukowski got anywhere near notoriety in his 50’s, he had worked at the post office for around 12 years and had wandered America, holding odd jobs and living off one chocolate bar a day, however, the man was writing the whole time.

His poetry was rejected wherever he went but nothing put him off, he had an obsession.

When taking into account the volume of work produced and the type of content he was producing, you could make the assumption that Bukowski was a man who was desperately troubled and saw writing as the best way to stay sane.

His stories are real life accounts and when reading Women, there are sections which feel confessional.

Psychologically, the man had suffered greatly at the hands of his parents who abused him from a young age, he had also suffered from Cystic Acne which left his face severely scared and was socially rejected from a young age. Add alcoholism and severe loneliness into the equation, it’s easy to understand how he had toughened up and wrote without fear.

His writing style in ‘Women’ hit me like a lightning bolt, I tore through the pages and was done with the book after a few tube journeys. It’s incomparable, however there were similarities drawn with the likes of Alan Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, writers known for defining the beats during the same time period, but nothing could be further from the truth.

“I sat down next to her. ‘I’m—-‘ I started to say….

‘I know who you are, I was at your reading.’

‘Thanks. I’d like to eat your pussy. I’ve gotten pretty good at it. I’ll drive you crazy.’

‘What do you think of Allen Ginsberg?’

‘Look, don’t get me off track. I want your mouth, your legs, your ass.”

This quick exchange in ‘Women’ tell’s you everything you need to know about Bukowski’s opinion of comparisons to the beat poets, he had no time for them at all.

He had no time for kicking eyeballs or romantisising about being a bum in America, he presented life as it was, no filter and no flowery language to cover the smell of reality.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed reading ‘On the Road’, which remains one of my favorite novels. The mythical nature of Kerouac’s representation of America played a major part in changing literature and youth culture in the late 50’s and early 60’s, and remains iconic to this day, however, its a dreamy world, full of promise, youth and adventure. Its not real, it’s not Bukowski.

Instead, the dirty old man wrote about nothing but the truth. There is no pretending in his writing, he never tries to present himself as a great lover, intellectual or hero, he’s actually more of a villain….

He titles a book called Women yet admits to knowing nothing about them.

“Why do you write about women the way you do?’

‘Like what?’

‘You know’

‘No I don’t’

‘Well, I think it’s a dammned shame that a man who writes as well as you do, just doesn’t know anything about women.’

I didn’t answer.”

It’s little extracts like this which show that Bukowski understood his faults and lack of appreciation for the women he wrote about. The entire book is a pretty harsh character study, though once you understand his background, his unashamed approach is understandable.

In the documentary I mentioned earlier ‘Born into this’, Bukowski talks about how his horrifying childhood shaped his uncompromising style.

Watch the clip here.

It’s a pretty brutal education to say the least but the upbringing Bukowski endured contributed to the definition of his style and contemporary literature from the 50’s onward, not bad for a drunk old man.

Conclusion

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The book is a vital read and one I thoroughly enjoyed (despite the fact that I had to make sure nobody was reading over my shoulder on the tube due to the explicit content).

That being said, it won’t be for everybody. In an age where offence is caused by assuming somebody’s gender or sitting with your legs parted on the tube, this book would undoubtedly make a few peoples heads explode….

Bukowski did abuse women, but he put it out there, he showed the whole world his soul and invited the mob to burn down his house. So whether you agree with his representation of women or not, reading such an open and honest account is incredibly refreshing when hypersensitivity is king in 2017.

So it’s fair to say I’ll be greedily working my way through his collection over the next few months and will undoubtedly be writing about him again soon…