Co-editors: Seán Mac Mathúna • John Heathcote
Consulting editor: Themistocles Hoetis
Field Correspondent: Allen Hougland


Working for the Golden Cow
John Heathcote
The Amen Corner: Theatre review by John Heathcote

The Sacred Cult of the Severed Head


An examination of that paradoxically-named concept - the work ethic, (also known as The Sting, or There's one born every minute . . .) including Ten or more good reasons to go back to sleep when the bell goes.

 I'm told that there are those who enjoy emptying the sea with a bucket; who dream of being chained to a rock whilst the eagle tears the liver from their living flesh, every day renewed to suffer. Pressed into the mould of the uniform soul, programmed and drawn within two dimensions, the one thing you can never recapture - your time - is being stolen, exchanged for plastic and paper, promises never kept when we come to collect.

For those of you who equate progress with technological conquest, or civilization with the variety of pictures projected inside your home, holding faith in fashion and possession; hold up before your spirit turns to something heavier than uranium.

Possession becomes the owner, and you will be swallowed by the Golden Calf. Each leap we've made along this road has been heralded with the promise of higher living standards, less labour for the people. However, the result only ever seems to be that a small technological elite become able to order their world a little better; excluding even more of the base population from the benefits of the new technology. The mass of the populace are left to live on the toxic landfills, eat the genetically altered protein, consume the mindless trash offered as prole entertainment. Meanwhile, those with access to wealth can multiply their original amount by investing in the hard work of others. It is of course easier to do this rather than work one's self. And because of the growing disparities in wealth, it becomes more difficult over the generations to bridge the gap, without effecting some sort of Year Zero policy. This situation is presented as the ever-present norm, and it is only by clouding history with the struggles of tyrants, that people now are left unaware that they are expected to work more regularly than any previous generation, except perhaps those condemned to the galleys by our great prototypes, the Romans.

One of the great aims of the Protestant Reformation, led by the Teutonic Monk Luther, was to transform secular society into a monastic lifestyle. The stark aestheticism and Old Testament harshness his Reformers promoted, were perfect for the Controllers of society. They now had the religious excuse to elevate work above worship in the eyes of the Creator.

No more of the hundreds of Saints Days littering the Calendar, each an excuse for riotous, communal celebration. Today we feast, for tomorrow we may die.

No more bright colours, ergot-influenced art; no visiting the witch who lives on the Heath to cure a sick heart or broken bone; no dancing, no singing the old songs. And soon, no more common land, a country of freemen dispossessed. ( It is ironic that it took this long for the Lords to remove the common rights of men, so long after the Normans removed such rights for women.)

No more of the ecstatic individualism of the syncretic catholic religion of the common people and the old aristocracy, with its roots in the land and the seasons; God reflected in nature. Now the iron princes of the new city states, with their soft hands and hard hearts would put the people to work. They would work to expiate their sinful natures, so they were working for God; but the product of their labour would go to the Man. The Man would pay a preacher to frighten them with hellfire, but would not find the money to pay for the sort of holy architecture built by the peoples of previous times. These palaces of light would be derided as pagan temples; and the people would now be herded into a plain little barn. This would have none of those old distractions of beautiful wierdness, or natural mystery such as the gargoyles or brightly painted iconography woven over centuries into the communal church by the people's forefathers. People who are made to forget how they came into existence are like sleepwalkers in this world, and can be led by gentle whispers to their own destruction.

And so by capturing the spirit of the people, and yoking its energy to the great carriage which bears the Golden Calf, these grey men began to become possessed by the dull glow of the beast, and set up their own priesthood based on the worship of money. Caste became class almost imperceptibly, except for the odd war in which thousand upon thousand died who had never stood to benefit, and the rulers shuffled around in the top drawer every so often.

Only natural disaster seems to have no respect for class; except that in the present world, the rich have greater access to the technology which can provide warning of forthcoming calamities. Their wealth also affords them greater means to escape, or relocate.Even conquerors often choose to leave class structures intact; often employing the previous social masters as Overseers. Desperate to maintain their old status, they willingly co-operate with the new masters. Often the excuse is trotted out that by so doing, they are preserving something of the old traditions. These are probably the very traditions which led to the conquest of their land in the first place.

The truly wealthy belong to a class with little or no loyalty to any society. Their financial power is secreted away, in offshore banks and property held far away from the source of its original production. Although afforded all the benefits of society, such as their protection from the envy of the poor, these people often contribute less than the average worker to the commonwealth of that society which they claim as their own. Through the power of their economic protection rackets, known as multi-national corporations, they corrupt government, and attempt to subvert the popular will by a combination of deception and economic pressure. Government policy , for instance,towards the legal toxin known as tobacco, and other harmful poisons forced onto the farming community has been shrouded in a secrecy justified for commercial reasons. Only when the sheer number of deaths resulting from this collusion, between the people's servants and their real, secret masters becomes too great to shroud in statistical obfustication do we see the ball of thread begin to unravel. Perhaps the greatest collusion of all in the present world, is between the Western inter and extra - governmental agencies and the vast corporations invoved in the petrol combustion industry. Despite the mass slaughter on the highways and byways of the world, as well as the environmental cost of both oil burning, and its extraction from the ground, very few serious attempts have been made to resist the ever-increasing demands of the international roads lobbies. Alternatives to the petrol driven combustion engine are quietly suppressed. In fact, the corporations should be forced to pay for their development as an alternative to being sued in lawsuits which could have greater punitive value than those brought by smokers against tobacco companies. Even suggestions to limit the speed of cars to the legal maximum are derided, for the simple reason that this smoke- belching cart has now been transformed into the symbol of the freewheeling individualism of Western society. In Britain the purchaser of a new car is probably paying at least 10% of the price straight into the pockets of advertisers, whose only part in its creation has been some over-inflated claims that this piece of disposable chrome - trimmed junk is any better than the next piece of scrap on four wheels. The advertisments rarely deal with any of the really pertinent points, such as the vehicle's safety, or reliability, in transporting its passengers from point A to Point B. Some fantasy world will instead be constructed around the vehicle, projecting it into our consciousness as something essential to possess for the sake of our self-esteem. Either as a petite curvaceous female, ready to respond at the touch of a gearstick; or some gleaming phallus, as indispensable to the poor frustrated and impotent modern man as a bottle of viagra.

The Car's symbolism as the great technological lingam is only rivalled by that other great icon, the Bomb. This object is the yardstick by which we judge the progress towards civilization of less technologically dependent societies than our own. It is the ultimate weapon, which in its perfection of utilitarian design has surpassed the very reason for which it was originally created. It is a weapon which can never be used for territorial conquest, and its role in defence relies on playing the most outrageous bluff in each hand of poker. As the Americans discovered to their cost in Vietnam, possession of enough bombs to destroy the planet still does not ensure victory in battles for humanity and land. More recently, during the Gulf War, the dropping of Sarin Gas missiles on the State of Israel provoked the threat of instant nuclear retaliation from Tel-Aviv. The Yankees in their self-appointed role as world policemen, hastily offered the Isrealis a deal to save the whole Middle East being melted to a sheet of glass. After all, the price of petrol might go up if Bagdhad got vapourised. Far better to stick to less dramatic solutions, such as the delivery of Vx-nerve gas to a few hundred Republican Guards, Just to remind a dog that the master still carries a big stick - well, more big sticks than he ever gave the dog. For as we all know now, not only had the USA colluded in the development of Israel's nuclear stockpile, but had also turned a blind eye to the development of Islam's `Holy Bomb'. The role played for instance in financing the development of Pakistan's Bomb through the collapsed Bank of Cocaine and Corruption International has only become clear recently. The British State has imposed strict secrecy orders on any documents relating to the role of the intelligence services of this country and her allies in this massive swindle, so we can only guess at the labyrinth of deception behind this plot. So now its not just Russian gangsters and Yankee mobsters who have their finger on our button. We've also got two tribes who both believe that their God is on their side.

Of course, hardly anyone who lives in the parts of the world rich in that thick black gold ever see it being transformed into anything but thick black smoke, trailing over their parched pastures and shanty towns. And back in the West, we live under that grey cloud of gas in every town and city, sacrifices to these juggernauts of the technological religion. It is no coincidence that the Father of the Automobile was well known Nazi sympathiser, Henry T. Ford. A man whose models of corporate slavery so impressed the sociopathic little trainspotters in the Reich's own management, that his picture was the only one hanging on the corporal's office wall. Of course, they both agreed that the new industrial utopia could only be enjoyed by the racially pure and mentally malleable. . .

It is hard to forget, from a British perspective, the watershed days of the three-day week during the oil crisis, which coupled with the miners strike, could have opened the door for a new sort of ecological economic strategy. Although the unions proposed a mandatory four-day week for all workers at the time, the idea was dismissed by the ruling clique as yet another workshy skive by the organised peasantry. A clear choice was made by the Thatcher regime, which has since been exposed in detail by the M.P. Tony Benn amongst others, to use the vast resources generated by Britain's new oil exploitation to fund a massive increase in unemployment. However ludicrous this appears; that a so-called democratic government would deliberately create a society sharply divided between those clinging on to a life raft, and those slipping away into a cycle of poverty; it is a policy which has been reflected implicitly in the so-called work ethic since the birth of capitalism. Instead of reducing the work load on the backs of the workers; those who keep their jobs - the ones who are as yet irreplaceable by technology - are intimidated into ever more crushing workloads. The boss class sit around in fat leather chairs offering the chum who fagged for them at school a deal worth ten men's salary, to sit behind a big desk stripping the fat from a company built on the sweat, blood and energy of hundreds who still cannot afford a home. The workers' relationship to their source of income, the bread on their tables, is still one of powerlessness. And now, instead of the boss living in his castle, or the big house on the hill; he has become truly invisible, untraceable. A name on a letterhead, a small photo of yet another pinstriped prince of nowhere staring blankly into the great multinational, corporate future. When these men with many homes, and in each home a mistress or lover, complain that the morality of the lower orders is not what it was, we wonder whether money limits imagination or intelligence in the same way that it manages to limit empathy. Life for the majority is a stretch of uncertainty, crawling between the social vacuum of the "unemployed", without status, income or privelige, (unless unemployed by right of birth - the aristocracy and beyond); and the tentative grip on what is known in common parlance as a job. (Sometimes the coincidental connections between words in slanguage is hard to miss; and did you ever wonder why the working man's drink is a pint of bitter ? ) This commonly requires one to spend ever greater proportions of one's time performing meaningless tasks for the financial benefit of a few people who you will usually never meet. (If they do ever visit the dead site you are paid to work from, it is quite possible that they may insist on shaking your hand. However, this should give no cause for concern; because they usually insist on wearing gloves when touching people without money; which at least limits your risk of catching anything unpleasant from them.) If you somehow learnt how to get through more than two sentences without cursing, then you've only gotta learn to write, and it's then possible to get what's known by social analysts as a white - collar job. Unfortunately the price demanded by this leap in status from workers whose hands are expected to be dirty, to workers whose hands are expected to be clean, is more than just regular bathing. One is also expected to wear what is known as a tie. This hated piece of cloth is perhaps the most useless, and ridiculous item of clothing thrown up by Western Civilization. Its influence is pernicious in the extreme however, and must not be under-rated. The wearing of ties is enforced by the Establishment primarily as a reminder of the noose which awaits anyone who steps out of line. The theory being that the worker ants will never frighten the Queen, being too terrified of the soldier ants, or as her advisers put it too bloody scared. However, the System considers it worth reminding any uppity types who make it up the greasy pole, that they can only do it wearing a tie. This odd bit of clothing is also used as an indicator of status; to the extent that it's still pretty impossible to get a Guards' tie off any of the stalls down Peckham Market - where most anything else is available on demand.

The employment / unemployment axis is hung over the necks of all but the invisible few, as a means of slowly culling the population to controllable size through poverty and disease. No matter that the blood seeps up from the base of the pyramid; constructed of flesh, not stone; or that the price of wealth is a prison of paranoia within high walls and fences. It is sometimes said that the intrusion of the long lens and the doorstepping hack into the lives of these parasites is the revenge of the common people, but in reality it is generally just a distraction. From the mundane greyness of our gruel, or the sly machinations of their social agenda. The odd sacrifice from the magic lantern show they project between our world and theirs; some shamed athlete or long past - it showman, take our minds away from any searching inquiry into the sources of wealth; its destination; and the disparities between all of us creatures with a common destiny. The derisively termed employee, or wage-slave is required to pretend that there is no obvious solution to unemployment. We are asked to believe that there is no alternative to a situation where some people work loads for very little, losing their loved ones to the resulting sleepwalk and stress; whilst others cannot work at all, and become trapped with their families and descendants in the social ghetto. We are asked to believe that the great economists have forgotten the simple art of division. Ask a child to split ten apples between five children, and that child will- perhaps naively - assume that everyone gets two apples. The economics of capitalism, however, approach the situation a little differently. We'll give Jack nine of the apples, 'cause he's a nice kid, or because he's meaner than the rest, or because he's your brother. Whatever. . . Jack's in luck. . . The other kids? Well you cut the apple up four ways, not equal mind, 'cause thats a bit like communism. But you wanna give them all a taste, even just a little, so they know what they're missing. This gives them all a bit of incentive, see. So when Jack wants one of their toys, or wants them to clean up his mess, those kids can get a little idea about supply and demand. . . As the technology develops at an increasingly faster speed, it becomes harder for the dispossessed to climb back on the track.

Already we see the worm turning, as it struggles in its death-throws, still trying to swallow the last suck of life from this small globe. Here in the West the great differentials are softened for most by the trickle of imperial wealth dribbling down from the new (invisible) Empire of International Finance. This old motor turns just enough to keep the infrastructure operating to the level needed by our masters. It also keeps the great unwashed from stirring in their sleep, in case they become Shelley's Lion, or Blake's Tyger. However, for those parts of the world who were conned into believing that capitalism is the inevitable engine of history, and who sacrificed both culture and identity, as well as life, liberty and time, the veils are falling away like the shadows of a bad dream. Many peoples have achieved independence from the direct control of empires, only to find themselves in the position of the freed slaves. Descisions are made to abandon all responsibility to those who have been so exploited; without compensation or apology. As in the USA, when technology arrived to replace men, women and children in the cane fields; their worth dropped from a few dollars to nothing at all.

The master then controls the 'free'd' communities by cutting back on his own whips and dogs, and instead compromises one or two gangsters in the desperate community with promises of bread and some access to power. At first the bossman only expects the gangsta to inform on any of his brothers or sisters who may be looking outside the ghetto for a break. It is not long before he offers the gangsta a gun and some gold, and the immunity to kill his own. Soon he will be suggesting ways that they can both exploit what little is owned by the poor people; and will eventually sell his 'friend' the guns to rob his fellows - as well as selling guns to the people downtown so as they can protect themselves from the gangstas.

Small countries are robbed blind overnight, by suits laying odds against a nation's finances. The money suddenly drains away, like lakes in an earthquake, from state coffers and institutions; following vacuums appearing in the electronic vaults of the great gambling houses, or banks. These monsters have become victims of their own achievement in the world of illusion; whereby they play with stakes many times the amount that they actually possess in real wealth, a practice considered illegal in most casinos. However, they are inreasingly undermined by cancerous cells within their own structure, encouraged to grow beyond their natural size by the ethics of greed; we see whole nations realising that they have been comprehensively swindled and left with less than nothing. The heartlands are laid bare; the mineral wealth extracted by miners paid 30p a day to breath dust and live blind, the product of their suffering shipped to Switzerland like the gold teeth of times past. And when the child finally points at the naked Emperor, and his power slips away like the ebbing tide, the people discover that the cupboard is bare. The gangster, (or Mr. President as many of these characters style themselves) will escape with his share of the loot, the rest already having been spirited away through the nebulous connectionsd of that branch of organised crime known as the international banking system.

All those endless lives down the mine, or in the sweatshops; all those people who disappeared in one purge after another, the revolutionaries, followed by the radicals, the reformers, and after the liberals anyone who dared to open their damn mouth other than to say yessir; once the veil starts to slip, the memories return. The greatest irony awaits, when the people slowly realise that all the whips, guns and electric batons sold to the Overseer over time, to keep them beaten and bowed, have not been paid for yet. It's back down the mine, or face more guns; less food than famine. . . . .Sombre men in suits appear on the screens to announce that all the money is lost, or has gone; as though we are so impressed with this amazing sleight of hand that no-one suggests looking up the conjuror's sleeve. Of course, like most cheap tricks, this one has only got a bit of time to run before it begins to look a bit stale. This con is becoming overstretched due to the worldwide spread of the capitalist cult of Competition , a method of introducing the philosophy of gambling to everyday life. This philosophy as well reaches its apothesis in the Bomb , an idol of immense symbolic importance, and real frightening power.

A trick was affected through the Magic Circle in the early 80's, whereby a whole bank was made to disappear, along with the wealth of many poor and honest people, and the one or two rich ones who were not warned because they had offended someone, sometime. We now learn that BCCI paid for Pakistan's Bomb, which must make all those people surviving in the slums around Karachi, as proud as the inhabitants of New Delhi are with their new Bomb. Or the people of Glasgow with 300 new Trident warheads.

The alternative to supplication at the checkout, and daily abasement to the magic lantern show is a resentment bred by the mass media's constant reinforcement of uniformity; of all art laid out to be serviced by the commercial ideal; the abnegation to wealth, the source of status; the superficial glorified and the mysteries distorted. We are living in a world in which people are judged purely by their economic worth. For the poor the mysterious is everything, because it is intangible, abstract, and cannot be bought or sold. It is mystery which will melt the fools' gold of the Sacred Calf.

The greed to milk the Holy Cow is now so desperate that man has begun to destroy the most sacred places of his ancestors. Not just draining the black lakes that lie beneath the barren desert sands, or burning the great stretches of forest within his own domain; but those places preserved and guarded from the dawn of human history are now being ripped, stripped and shipped off to feed the fat West.

Deep heartlands kept sacred and untouched, nurtured and protected, by peoples whose material wealth compared to our own is nothing; possessing just a few uniquely beautiful objects, which reflect the mystery of transformation effected by their creators. Yet our contempt for these people, whose memories stretch far beyond our own poor truncated histories, presents them as painted savages who risk being crushed in the Great Wheel. We have become unable to see that they offend us because they still have a unity of consciousness within themselves. Not having learnt the fragmentation of deception so necessary to the modern way of life; the need to project something artificial to prevent the natural leaving us vulnerable. They make us aware of the emptiness at the heart of this shining city, the vacuum echoed endlessly inside every beaten man and desperate woman.

There is stupified shock at the idea that anyone would rather live in a hut deep within a forest than in some rat- infested shanty town. Even more suprise that those same people imagine that they have any rights over land they have lived on for thousands of years, and would die defending it from being raked and torn. How dare these indolent natives stand in the way of all those jobs, all that money which can be ripped from the earth in the blink of an eye, in less time than it takes to live a life. In this world, of course, Might has all Right, and we have all become bond-slaves to the Golden Calf. Whether our hands are bound with chains of iron or chains of velvet, silver or gold, we are all waiting in a line leading to the altar. Transfixed by the idea of sacrifice for things without meaning, obsessed with dreams of owning and controlling the gaudy golden shine of that neon wrapped icon. Lottery tickets clutched in every shackled hand; dreams of possession by the shining beast coursing through our souls. Possession guaranteeing a power to those whose charge was stifled at birth, or so long back that memory can't even give a taste of what was lost along the way. A cult that defines progress by how much rubbish you collect, carry on your back, bent double till your brow brushes the dust of the road . . .

- of life without those chains; a dream of owning power, to control others because the self has slipped so far away.

Being taken inside its glittering heart, and thereby losing the fear of possession by the living anima still flickering somewhere inside us, deep and distant, a candle guttering in the hollow dankness of an empty tomb. Despite attempts to distract us from its guiding glow by surrounding us with the glitter of a million flashing movies, a confusion of light pollution; we want the taste of something beyond, reminding us in this darkness of the warmth of real Light. But if we fan these flames, they can light the torch of Spartacus in every human heart.

The Golden Calf is the idol that eats it's own children, consuming them within a circle that they draw themselves. People pray for riches, and when their prayers are answered, they throw parties where dwarfs offer guests cocaine served on silver platters. Or they begin by opposing the system, and are either killed by neglect, assassination, psychological pressure, or at worst are consumed by what they set out to destroy. What brings most pleasure to the dead eyes of that heavy yellow metal beast is the reverse alchemy employed in turning the abstract to material; witnessing the change effected in personalities compromised by riches.

Those who sell the dreams of others often die lonely and broken, on some God-forsaken rock in a faraway ocean, as did the republican emperor who gave kingdoms away to his family. They curse their own children with the weight of what they have plundered and it's counterbalance of emptiness. Their children's children are left to answer to the patiently waiting victims of their theft. Cold gold is turned to hot blood, and the Golden Calf paws the earth in delight as the soft scarlet showers rain on soil and run into the sea.

Arbeit Macht Frei is the slogan of this beast; and it's as true now as it ever was then. Grief makes you happy, work makes you free.

Living in a land where over 70% of all food is sold through a few corporate chains owned by people whose money will not touch the sides of the tube leading to an island bank or a mountain vault.Who do two-day weeks for 200 grand a year. Two days a week feeding on the fatted calf followed by a business meeting on the golf-course. Who describe as malingerers those whose great ambition in life is not to be one grade up from checkout girl - you know, the one who knows a prickly pear from a mango.

My first job was in the basement of an office block manning the shredder. Above me were hundreds of suits shuffling paper, filling forms, licking envelopes and licking arse, desperate to achieve something in that paper world. And there I was in scuffed jeans, a pair of trainers, like a termite turning trees to pulp, chewing up that never-ending avalanche of paper, with its millions of cyphers and signs being reduced to sackfuls of waste. At first the irony appealed to me, but I had enough of it after three weeks; what with the fact that there were no windows down in the basement, and Spring was arriving. I needed a lie-in occasionally as well, and my employers seemed rather over-zealous in their approach to timekeeping. They didn't seem to appreciate the fact that I had developed a method of work which allowed me to start at eleven and finish by two, claiming that it was important that I was there, when in fact, virtually no-one in the place knew that I even existed. My employment was terminated - rather abruptly I thought - after I tried to show some initiative. Having finished my allotted work due to my improved work efficiency methods, I decided to go in search of more fodder for my hungry machine. I suppose my enthusiasm for the work ethic reached a height not surpassed previously (or since), and I set out through the building with my trolley piled high with empty sacks. Out of politeness I started in the offices which were empty or near empty, with the busy bees all off in the board room, or the pub, or the golf course. I knew all the paper would eventually end up with me in the basement, ready to be turned to fine ribbons and sent off to be bleached and pulped and pressed into clean white sheets again. So I cleared all those messy desks into the sacks and trundled off with my trolley to the depths of the building. I had filled so many bin-bags with shredded letters, leases, memos, photos, forms and formulas that I had to stuff them into the lift; only then did the ants' nest above started whirring with activity. At first, of course, I thought that being so impressed with my efficiency, in clearing away the paper faster than they could work on it, I had offended some sort of propriety, or status. I had, after all, pointed out to my employers that they could reduce my hours, and pay me what they saved on both paper and the shredder, if the people upstairs just sat around and talked about things, instead of writing everything down; but they wouldn't have it. They even had the temerity to complain that I had lost them vast amounts of money, because of my over-eagerness to join in the work ethic, and laid me off - or as they put it you're sacked. I asked for a reference, and suggested that they could at least write very keen,

but they insisted on calling one of their uniformed flunkies to accompany me out of the building. Even offers to reveal my improved shredding techniques, to be passed on to the next troglodyte employed to operate their wondorous machine, were met with stares of undisguised hatred.

So I went and lay in the park, and smoked a massive spliff, watched the clouds changing shape; and dreamt of all those mornings I could wake up, and either go back to sleep; or get up and choose any of a million things that I could do instead of working. For the Man, for the Machine, for the Golden Calf.

Jesta 98