Culture

palfestireland

Progressive Film Club: Palfest & “5 Broken Cameras”

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Progressive Film Club

Oscar-nominated “5 Broken Cameras” amongst the attractions in upcoming Palfest.

We finished our screenings for summer last Saturday and plan to resume in September or October. We thank you for your great support for our events.

In the meantime we will try to keep you posted on any upcoming films that might be of interest such as these that are being screened during the upcoming Palfest (full details from site).

SMALL HANDS IN HANDCUFFS

Wed. 8th July 2pm
The Pearse Centre
Admission Free, donations welcome

In October 2013, Anrai Carroll, a 16 yr old Transition year student travelled to the West Bank to make a film about child arrests in Palestine. Posing as tourists, Anrai and his mum, activist Brenda Carroll flew to Israel and travelled on to the West Bank where Anrai finally met Mahmoud, a boy his own age who was arrested at 14 and imprisoned for almost a year and a half, also Rasim, 18, who lives in fear of a knock on the door which could mean his arrest.

Anrai’s film shows not just the physical journey but the painfully emotional and sometimes scary transition from naive xbox player to a wiser and stronger young man. What started as a simple idea in Powerscourt Lawns, Waterford has grown into a global symbol of solidarity.

FLYING PAPER

Thurs. 9th July 4pm
The Pearse Centre, Dublin
Admission Free, donations welcome

Flying Paper tells the uplifting story of resilient Palestinian youth in the Gaza Strip on a quest to shatter the Guinness World Record for the most kites ever flown. This feature-length documentary film is directed by Nitin Sawhney and Roger Hill and co-produced with a team of young filmmakers in Gaza.

FIVE BROKEN CAMERAS

Fri. 10th July 4pm
The Pearse Centre, Dublin
Admission Free, donations welcome

A screening of Emad Burnat’s Oscar-nominated Documentary, – an extraordinary work of both cinematic and political activism, 5 Broken Cameras is a deeply personal, first-hand account of non-violent resistance in Bil’in, a West Bank village threatened by encroaching Israeli settlements. Shot almost entirely by Palestinian farmer Emad Burnat, who bought his first camera in 2005 to record the birth of his youngest son, the footage was later given to Israeli co-director Guy Davidi to edit. Structured around the violent destruction of each one of Burnat’s cameras, the filmmakers’ collaboration follows one family’s evolution over five years of village turmoil. Burnat watches from behind the lens as olive trees are bulldozed, protests intensify, and lives are lost. “I feel like the camera protects me,” he says, “but it’s an illusion.”

“It presents with overwhelming power a case of injustice on a massive scale, and gives us a direct experience of what it’s like to be on the receiving end of oppression and dispossession, administered by the unyielding, stony-faced representatives of those convinced of their own righteousness.” – Philip French, The Guardian.

OPEN BETHLEHEM

Sat. 11th July 4pm
The Pearse Centre
Admission Free, donations welcome

Armed with her camera and a dilapidated family car that keeps breaking down, filmmaker Leila Sansour plans to make an epic film about a legendary town in crisis but just few months into filming her life and the film take an unexpected turn when cousin Carol, Leila’s last relative in town, persuades her to stay in Bethlehem, her hometown she had left years before, to start a campaign to save the city.

As the pair launch OPEN BETHLEHEM, Leila finds herself trapped behind a wall in the very place she so much wanted to leave. The face of Bethlehem is changing rapidly with potentially detrimental consequences. Reports predict that if trends continue the Christian community of Bethlehem, a city that provides a model for a multi faith Middle East, may be unsustainable within one generation. Leila’s plan to stay a year stretches to seven.

OPEN BETHLEHEM is a story of a homecoming to the world’s most famous little town. The film spans seven momentous years in the life of Bethlehem, revealing a city of astonishing beauty and political strife, under occupation. The film draws from 700 hours of original footage and some rare archive material. In fact the making of this film has led to the creation of the largest visual archive of Bethlehem in the world and plans are currently being discussed with University College London (UCL) to turn the collection into a museum.

Website ;- http://www.palfestireland.net/

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Working Backwards

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Book Review  

Jolly Lad, John Doran  (Strange Attractor, 2015)

An Encyclopadeia of Myself, Jonathan Meades (Fourth Estate, 2015) 

The autobiographer has something in common with Narcissus although not if the comparison only reduces the writer to being an egoist in love with the story of his own life. Before Narcissus sees himself in a pool he is ardently solicited by the nymph Echo but he rejects her advances and she wastes away in grief until only her voice lives on. When, later, Narcissus sees himself reflected in the water his anguish, like Echo’s, resides in not being able to embrace what is so dearly desired. He dips his arms in the water, reaching for the neck he sees, but cannot touch for himself. Consumed by his own grief, Narcissus dies and mourners find only a flower by the water’s edge. It’s a potently suggestive myth, inlaid with parallels: repetition as representation – verbal in one case, visual in the other; yearning for something out of reach; failure to reciprocate desire leading to death.

Unlike the autobiographer who will be worth reading, Narcissus fails to register a difference between his present self and an image that would represent him. What he sees is not his own self but an other that reflects his self; he speaks and sees his lips moving in the water  but the image doesn’t speak to him although it is a visible and spatial repetition of his voice. Like a letter without an address, his desire returns undelivered to its sender. Derrida’s opposition that pits a writing that is always deceased and deficient against the full presence of the living voice, the script versus the body, is part of the constellation that makes up the author as a selfhood presenting itself. Writing your own life retrospectively attempts to create the self’s authentic voice but, like the image Narcissus beholds in the clear water of the pool, it cannot provide what is being sought. In Ovid’s Metamorphoses, the narrator addresses Narcissus: ‘What you seek is nowhere; but turn yourself away, and the object of your love will be no more. That which you behold is but the shadow of a reflected form and has no substance of its own.’ Autobiographies can be calibrated according to their degree of success in acknowledging the inherent failure in trying to reach what has passed, as if an echo could somehow be the real thing. As the White Queen paradoxically observes, ‘It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards’. John Doran in Jolly Lad has a knotty problem that compounds this immanent impasse: can he bear to look at his previous existence? He writes of a ghastly past that he desperately needs to leave behind but achieving this entails asking himself what kind of self will take its place.

Doran’s childhood was marked by the kind of material deprivation that characterized many working-class families around Liverpool in the 1970s and cannot be simply pointed to as an explanation for his troubled self. His father, reduced to working short hours and a pinched income, had little sympathy with John’s manic attraction to pop music and only in adulthood is his son able to contextualise his father’s moroseness and hatred of U2:

Of course, this was another example of capitalism’s great cloaking mechanism in full effect. Blaming expensive hat wearing stadium rock divots for your lot in life is no less unreasonable than blaming immigrants, the police, the middle classes, those on the dole, claimants of sickness benefit, your neighbour who has a better car than you, those on your shop floor who have better shift patterns than you, the secretary you suspect to be fucking someone else in middle management, the students who are  only working in your office over the summer break, black people, Asian people, Europeans, people from Wigan, people from Manchester, people from London, people from Yorkshire, people from the other, better side of Warrington Road…

(True, it might have been no less unreasonable than blaming others but, let’s be fair,  some mea culpa  should be expressed by son to prescient father for identifying U2 as bellends.)  

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It’s Not the Economy, Stupid

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It is undemanding to look at the photographs taken by Ciarán Og Arnold after the financial meltdown of 2008 and regard them as sad signifiers of life in a distressed small town in the Irish midlands suffering the throes of economic collapse. There is no work for young people but not everyone can emigrate; ergo: hopelessness, ennui, barely suppressed anger and frustration for those left behind on the scrapheap. The Celtic tigers were stuffed with greed, corruption and a venal populace and alongside the dead skin lies the human wreckage. Oh, what a pity.

This is the pound-shop moralism of the ‘beautiful soul’ that Hegel descried in The Phenomenology of Spirit.  It’s too easy and comforting to feel you are standing on the outside, not needing like Pontius Pilate to wash your hands, as if somehow you have nothing to do with the wretched cultural wasteland
 that produces the deprived micro-community so sorrowfully captured by Ciarán Og Arnold. The male angst and sense of despair depicted in his photographs epitomise the rage that resides inside Irish society, a visceral response to life that goes beyond mere economics. If Joyce’s Dubliners presented a dark side of early twentieth-century life then I Went to the Worst of Bars… does something similar for the early twenty-first century.

The temper of these photographs is  immanent for there is no outside, and in place of a simplistic dualism of  subject – a photographer – and object – desolate dance clubs, dismal alleyways, inebriated older men, aggressive younger ones, two goats in a field, girls dressed up for a weekend night out – we see a totality that fuses facts with values, poor lighting with a poverty of opportunity, crappy wallpaper on a wall with horribly stunted horizons, budget-priced film stock with a culturally bankrupt environment.  Ciarán is the sound geezer who has clicked the shutter on his camera but the photographs are communal: the zeitgeist of an Ireland that goes largely unrepresented or, when it is acknowledged, is mediated by the perspective of an Irish media that would have us believe we are all paid up members of that middle-class constituency so piquantly evoked by George Harrison:

Everywhere there’s lots of piggies
Living piggy lives
You can see them out for dinner
With their piggy wives
Clutching forks
and knives to eat their bacon

Ciarán Og Arnold does not show us these people but they are the audience silently confronted by the faces, the furniture and vegetation, the cheap clothes and the empty bed that he presents us with.

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New Proclamation to the People of Ireland

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Proclamation
The Next President
OF THE
IRISH REPUBLIC
TO THE PEOPLE OF IRELAND

IRISHLADS AND IRISHLADIES: In the name of O’Brien, Martin-Murphy, Esat Digifone, the Dublin United Tramways Company, and of the dead executioners who met with unhappy accidents on their way to midday Mass, from whom she receives her old tradition of being neither this nor that.

Having patiently perfected her zeal, having waited, resolutely as a cat bound and gagged all night in the outhouse, for the right moment to reveal herself on Facebook, she now seizes this moment, with her one good typing hand, supported by all her children who thankfully went away and quietly died in flats above chip shops at Cricklewood, and by gallant allies first in London, and now, Berlin, but relying in the first instance on her own weakness, she strikes in full confidence of her ongoing defeat.

I declare the right of others – henceforth to be referred to as the financial markets – to the ownership of Ireland, and their unfettered control over all Irish destinies –male, female, hermaphrodite, thin, fat, or medium sized – to be sovereign and indefeasible. Our long subjugation by foreign institutions and dudes named Rupert, or lately Gunter, who knew and still know what’s best for us, has extinguished us. Nor should we be ever again be spoken of, except by madmen roaring on street corners and those who will be henceforth called Shinnerbots on Twitter, our candle having been successfully quenched by our own hand. In every generation a rabble of corner boys (joined occasionally by Bernadette Devlin and her likes) have conspired in back alleys and attics secretly converted for said purpose to assert the lie of our right to national freedom and sovereignty; eight times during the last four centuries they have asserted it by force of pikes, Lewis machine guns and Kalashnikovs. Standing against such fundamental wrongs and re-asserting our most recent surrender in the face of Goldman Sachs, on legal advice received from Peter Sutherland Senior Counsel, I hereby proclaim the Irish Republic to be a state subjugated to people whose names I don’t even know, and couldn’t pronounce if I did, and pledge my life, and more importantly yours– and those of your inconsequential children – to the cause of our ongoing interest payments and GMC/Sierra Ltd, in which you should all immediately buy fucking shares.

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elly

Kelly

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“He has balls”, a Labour Party source   

 d

The clasp of his handshake once reassured

prospective mothers-in-law

he’d not disappoint their daughters.

And though his infrastructure’s

in desperate need of an upgrade,

he’s confident he can get his

waterworks fit for purpose,

ladies and gentlemen, here tonight,

and those at home

watching on TV, sometime

within the next twenty

five years. And if doing so

 d

involves flogging

every last rain drop,

from Bellmullet to Garryduff,

at a savage discount, to the guy

who despite his wallet’s ongoing

morbid obesity, has hair

that looks like it’s been stuck

to the skull with Evo-stick,

then Kelly’s the kind of pragmatist

who’ll make shit like that happen,

whether anyone asked

it to or not.

 d

His tongue rough

as the carpet in a room

where Stevie Coughlan

once talked against the Jews.

For the past six months,

every erection he’s had

has been a member

of the Heavy Gang

about to throw a Provo

onto the railings

from a Garda Station

second storey window.

 d

According to recent polls,

in certain areas of Tipperary,

he’s only slightly less popular

than Richard the Third. At least

half a percent less hated

than this time last week.

Of unequivocal victory,

he has no alternative

but to be certain.                                           

 d

KEVIN HIGGINS

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A Mediated distribution of
the real and the fictional

What’s in a Photograph?

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Wikipedia scores zilch when it comes to introducing the term fine art photography:

Fine art photography is photography created in accordance with the vision of the artist as photographer. Fine art photography stands in contrast to representational photography, such as photojournalism, which provides a documentary visual account of specific subjects and events, literally re-presenting objective reality rather than the subjective intent of the photographer; and commercial photography, the primary focus of which is to advertise products or services.

This begins by implying that non-fine art photography cannot the act of a creative photographer or —  another possibility given the partisan logic of the premise  —  all photography created by an artist belongs to the fine art stable. The error is then compounded by a categorical contrast between the esteemed subject of fine art photography and two other types of photography: the representational sort, such as photojournalism, and the commercial kind. We can take the hint and regard these last two as inferior: one is merely a visual record of what exists and the other merely vulgar advertising.

Two books published by Hatje Cantz embody what is really at stake here. World Wide Order is a collection of photographs by Julian Röder, divided thematically but united by a concern with the incestuous union of power and economics that we know as capitalism. The first section is entitled The Summits, a series that started when Röder was a participant in the protests at Genoa in 2001 and which evolved as he recorded moments from the opposition to the G8 summits in Brussels, Evian, Gleneagles, Heiligendamn, Thessaloniki and Hokkaido. Impressive as the 2003 anti-war protests were, bringing millions of civilians onto the streets around the world, they were essentially passive and cannot be compared with the spirit of protesters that Röder captures with his camera. He records civil disobedience as it should be — organized, focused, prepared to defend itself, courageous – epitomised by a shot taken at Gleneagles in 2005 that calls to mind an infamous  moment photographed during the Battle of Orgreave. As the G8 organizers retreated to rural locations in order to outwit opposition, conflict moved from urban barricades to country lanes and fields. Gentrify this if you can.

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Early Birthday Poem For President Higgins

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After The Abuse Hurled At Him By Gurriers

after Oliver Goldsmith and Marilyn Monroe

 

You stand stall, your integrity so vast

you need help from an army officer

dragging it up the steps of aircraft.

Your intellect a Gillette disposable

razor, and matched only

by your ability to make

a simple idea sound complex.

Why evade the issue,

when one can instead engage

in circumlocution?

 

You’re bigger to us than Thor,

or Apollo, only with a slightly

different hairstyle. Times

when our thoughts were stuck

on bread and butter, for lack of either;

we’d turn to you for inspiration,

the ripple moving across your

enormous forehead signifying either

impending flatulence or thoughts

on the situation in Nicaragua.

 

The insult thrown at you last week

the worst a head of state has suffered

since Charles the First lost out

to an axe of questionable parentage.

Though rest assured, all

about Galway, men and women

of consequence are having

heart attacks on your behalf,

and raising glasses

to the man we know

never called anyone

a wanker.

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Cead Mile Failte

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Now that all the books have been burned

Now that the sea has told you you’re a fish

Now that the baker has eaten all your cake

Now that you know how the bread gets buttered

Now that you know how the wheels get greased

Now that you’re clear on who owns the jam

Now that your water has been turned in to wine

Now that you lie in a trolley made bed

Now that the bright and the best are in charge

Now that you know your future is history

Now that you know at whose table you sit

Now that you know to keep a civil tongue

Now that you know all you read is the truth

Now that the light has been quenched in the room

Now that the dark is your natural state

Now that fear is a constant companion

Now that the exit sign has been lit

Welcome to the ignorance.

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When Joe Brolly Met Georg Lukács

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Joe Brolly wrote an interesting article on the commodification of sport in this week’s issue of Gaelic Life. It’s a topic that crops up frequently as a critique of capitalist culture, from the Against Modern Football movement to combat the pricing of working-class fans out of the game, to controversies over the proliferation of performing-enhancing drugs in elite sport, to debates over whether college athletes should unionise in the United States.

Brolly, a former Derry footballer turned RTÉ pundit, explores it in the context of the amateur GAA and specifically men’s gaelic football. His thesis is that the increasing commercialism of the GAA leadership is driving the sport towards professionalism, instilling a will to win that is sapping the love of the game from the players and producing private bodies which are enriching the few at the expense of the many.

What he’s describing is similar to a process philosopher Georg Lukács called “reification”. This is where human relations or properties are transformed into human-produced things, given a value independently of and surpassing people themselves, and eventually coming to govern our lives. This distorts human relations, forcing us to interact with each other in terms of things rather than as people ourselves, producing a commodity fetishism. The pre-eminence of economic relationships over social relationships also causes a generalised condition of alienation, where we feel divorced from the work we do, the parts of life we enjoy, each other and even ourselves.

Interestingly, Brolly’s analysis reminds us that these processes do not happen in isolation or simply as economics. They are effected by the latent culture. So, in the GAA, commodification is buttressed by existing ideology like the “doctrine of club and county” and “strong community expectation” which produce a “loyalty” to the organisation and make deviating from its line difficult.

Ideology plays an important part in the GAA, which as well as being one of the largest amateur sporting organisations in the world has also, as an institution, often been on the side of conservative forces in Irish politics. In certain respects sport has a similar social function to religion, bonding communities, giving them rituals to share and establishing a sense of tradition – even if anyone who has attended Catholic mass would tell you sport’s entertainment value is a good deal higher. But any organisation of that kind that lasts under capitalism will have the GAA’s contradictions – partly playing a role in reproducing the system, partly providing ordinary people relief from its hardships.

And so on the one hand you have an organisation of over a million members, operating on a communitarian ethos, rooted in local communities, with a genuine sense of ownership for the grassroots, and at the same time its assets are over €2.5billion, many fans are priced out of its biggest games, its former leader sits in the European Parliament with Fine Gael and its most notable moment in 2014 was when it tried to force through a series of multi-million dollar concerts against the wishes of a working-class urban community.

Brolly’s description of the merits of the GAA, an organisation that teaches us “the joys of community and the great satisfaction that comes from collaboration and hard work”, echoes what Liverpool greats said about their sport in the past.Bill Shankly said that football was about “everyone working for each other, everyone having a share of the rewards”. John Barnes said that “for 90 minutes, regardless of whether you are Lionel Messi or the substitute right-back for Argentina, you are all working to the same end.” Both compared this ethic explicitly to socialism.

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Rembrandt: Facing the Truth

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Visual Art Review: 

Rembrandt The Late Works (The National Gallery, London)

Rembrandt: The Late Works, Jonathan Bikker et al (Yale University Press)

Rembrandt’s Universe, Gary Schwartz (Thames & Hudson)

Rembrandt is one of those names, like Nelson Mandela or Martin Luther King, that have ascended to a higher almost ethereal sphere and the person behind the name can only be lauded and lavished with imprecise praise. Shrink-wrapped and simplified for posterity, they are Famous and Exemplary and we are not invited to look too closely at their situations and achievements. Everyone knows Martin Luther King had a dream and that he was a good guy but that’s about it. And we know Rembrandt was a really great painter but not so sure what his greatness consisted in. The exhibition at London’s National Gallery (until 18 January), and two books on the artist, go some way towards taking the man off his pedestal and helping us see what is astonishing about his work.

Good painters are uncanny at playing with the movement of light and colours and Rembrandt is no exception in this regard but not all good painters can depict facial expressions with honesty, compassion and sublime skill. Rembrandt is the unrivalled master when it comes to faces. His abiding concern with capturing moods and emotional states as registered by posture and parts of the body, especially faces and hands, helps explain why he painted his own body some eighty times. Vanity, as you see when stepping into the first room of the National Gallery’s stunning exhibition, doesn’t come into it. The room has four self-portraits in oil and one etching, completed between 1659 and 1669, and they will bowl you over.

A day later I found myself in snooty Knightsbridge and a street mostly dedicated to high-end hairdressers and beauty parlours, one of which offered a ‘bespoke permanent make up service’. Rembrandt is the natural antidote to any such endeavour. He paints himself as he is: limp skin, slack jowls, wiry grey hair, drooping eyelids and a W.C. Fields-like nose. The self-portraits were painted during the years in which his common-law wife, Hendrickje, and his son Titus died, a period of grief compounded by his finances nose-diving into bankruptcy. When he died himself, aged 63, he was buried in an anonymous rented grave.

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Antonio Gramsci: A New Year’s Letter

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This translation originally appeared on William Wall’s website on the 17th of December.

Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937) was one of the great political philosophers of the 20th century. Founder of the Italian Communist Party (PCI), he was imprisoned by Mussolini in 1926 despite his parliamentary immunity. He would spend the rest of his life in prison. He is most famous for his philosophical and cultural writings collected in various volumes as ‘prison notebooks’, often written on scrap paper, in a sort of code, and smuggled out to friends, in particular Palmiro Togliatti who would succeed him as head of the PCI. But he was also a father and family man, and many of his letters to his wife, his sister-in-law and his children still exist. Tender, amusing, nostalgic, loving and paternal, they show a different side to the great thinker. This letter, to Tania Schucht, his sister-in-law who had charge of his affairs, is a good example. It was probably written on the prison island of Ustica.

The text of this letter comes from Fiabe, Antonio Gramsci (Edizioni Clichy, Firenze). I am grateful to the editor, Tommaso Gurrieri for his approval of this translation. The translation is Creative Commons, as is all my work on this blog. See the note at the end of this page.

Dearest Tania,

And so the new year has begun. It is necessary to make plans for a new life, according to tradition: but even though I have thought a lot about such a plan I have never managed to achieve it. This has always been a great difficulty in my life from my earliest rational years.

In those days the elementary schools would assign, at this time of year, as a theme for composition, the question: ‘What will you do with your life?’

A difficult question, which I resolved for the first time, at eight years of age, fixing my sights on the profession of carter. I found that the carter unites all of the characteristics of usefulness and delight: he flicks the reins and guides the horses, but, at the same time, he performs a work that ennobles the man and earns him his daily bread.

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3

The Disillusioned Citizen

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The disillusioned Citizen

As I sit in my cold, cold house

Sticking bubble wrap to my single glaze,

The slap of the letter box like a slap to the face,

Cold as the air, in an unemployed haze.

s

Each day the horrors of my future lie in suspension

No letters of job offers, hope and acceptance; its beyond comprehension.

Dangerous ground the post man dictates,

My mood, my emotions, my worries, my fate.

s

Plenty of bills though, they keep rolling in,

Unwanted, unopened and thrown in the bin.

For their demands just cannot be met,

It’s a number of weeks till my house is for let.

s

Never have I experienced such rejection,

Something is wrong with this country, a malaise; no, an infection.

A glitch in the system, an error of ways,

The dismissal of citizens through their ivory tower gaze.

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