How many times do you have to write to your MP to get an answer? Other than some auto-response via email.

But perhaps I’m asking too much. Why on earth should the representative of my local contituency bother with what I have to say? I probably need to re-read the meaning of ‘representative democracy’. No doubt, Google and Wikipedia will put me right.

My MP is not only my MP. He is Robert Buckland, Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor. So I’d like to think that justice would be his bag. Darn, maybe I need to check with Wiki about that one too.

The lack of justice in the case of Julian Assange – it’s hard to call it anything other than persecution – is something that vexes me deeply. And I want my MP to acknowledge that, at the very least.

So I emailed. Twice. But no reply. I even tried a proper letter, actually shoved through his office letterbox in Old Town, Swindon. Nothing, nada – not a squeak. Buckland’s email auto-respond finishes “Please be patient with us over other matters at this time.”

Well, my first email was sent in October 2019 – that was already six months after Julian had been forcebly removed from the Ecuadorian Embassy and bundled into a black maria, Belmarsh bound; the start of another phase in his ordeal. So I don’t think I’m being impatient.

So I’m sharing my latest letter, below. As you’ll see from the update from Stella Morris – Assange’s partner – at the bottom of this crowdfunding page, the US has no intention of letting UK justice get in the way of extradition and further torture of this splendid journalist.

So, if you’re minded, please take the time to write or take your own action to raise awareness and get some action and this innocent man released. Thank you.

Dear Robert

I am writing to you as my Member of Parliament on a matter of great importance.

I know that mental health is a subject close to your own heart, and I hope you read this letter with an open heart and mind.

You know that Julian Assange is still being held in solitary confinement in Belmarsh high security prison, despite not having been charged with - let alone found guilty of - a single crime (excepting a single bail violation).

You know, too, that the Central Criminal Court in January ruled that Assange cannot be extradited to the US - his mental health, the judge ruled, is too vulnerable.

How then can you justify Assange’s continued incarceration in these harsh, damaging and - for a non-violent extradition case - completely inappropriate conditions? 

Over 100 British doctors have published in the Lancet a letter entitled End torture and medical neglect of Julian Assange. Their letter, enclosed, references other expert testimony - including that of UN Special Rapporteur on Torture - that supports the call for fair and human treatment of this political prisoner.

Do you not support these calls for humanity and fairness, Robert - particularly for someone whose mental health is on a knife edge?

The High Court is currently considering the US application for leave to appeal the extradition ruling - but bail during this process has been denied. 

There is no end in sight. And each day you keep Assange in these inhumane and unjust conditions is another day of solitary psychological attack that Assange faces in a British jail under your watch as Justice Secretary.

If his health was too vulnerable to be extradited to the US, how do you think he is fairing under these conditions? 

Reading the enclosed open letter and related reports, you can only conclude that Assange’s continued incarceration in these conditions represents a direct and deliberate attempt to further debilitate him, both mentally and physically. 

His death, whether by his own hand or from other health causes, gets ever more likely due to the treatment you are overseeing.

Robert, please get back to me with your responses to these questions as a matter of urgency. Many thanks.

Yours sincerely

Find out more, stay in touch, get involved:

Check out my last blog post about Julian, with a bit more background and the song, We are the dead, dedicated to the man.

Words spoken by Winston, the protagonist in George Orwell’s 1984. He’s with Julia, his lover and partner-in-thoughtcrime, staring out over the courtyard below their rented room, their hideaway.

In an age where every room in every building has a telescreen – a two-way communication device that watches, that listens, and that drip-feeds a steady stream of propaganda, they think they’ve found some respite – a musty room above a junk shop in the proletariate side of town. Free from prying eyes of the Party, perhaps.

But he knows, they both know, there is no escape. The system is too pervasive, too complete in its myriad of spies, informers, cameras, microphones. Party officials and Thought Police and neighbours and children, all waiting for a sign to turn them in. And then …

We are the dead.

It was Julian Assange I had in my mind when I wrote my song, We are the dead, which you’ll find on the latest album, Welcome to Zombieland. (If the lyrics aren’t clear enough, the live version has a little homemade video that kinda pushes the point too.)

The parallels are there.

As Winston knew would happen, they are arrested (turns out that the room was rented to them by a member of the Thought Police – all along there was a telescreen hidden behind a picture in their room).

As with Julian Assange, they are kept in solitary confinement. We follow Winston as he is tortured. And whilst Winston’s torture still feels in the realms of sci-fi, with buttons, machines and intangible but excruciating pain, that of Julian Assange is the banal drip, drip of isolation, psychological attack, insecurity and debasement. Torture tried and true, nonetheless.

Assange’s extradition trial, a sure-footed mockery of justice, due process and any concept of fairness, was completed with scarce a comment from the mainstream: big business, corporate media, the security state and captured politicians – the perfect recipe for public apathy as British justice and values are swept, with little ado, over a still and silent cliff edge.

Any of Craig Murray’s reports from the trial – he was virtually the only reporter to get access to the public gallery and observe the trial first-hand; video-links were denied, too, to NGOs, MEPs, and most media organisations – are worth the read: to the point, stark in their honesty. Here’s his last report, day 21, and a video interview with RT if you prefer it face to face.

Winston was broken; he came to know that two plus two equals five, and his love for Big Brother knew no bounds.

Reports from concerned people with expertise, for example a group of doctors whose letter was published in the Lancet, make it clear that Julian Assange is, in similar fashion, being destroyed; if not in front of our eyes, at least within reach of our keyboard and monitor.

If extradited, he faces the rest of his life in a US Supermax prison. We’re kept at bay. Black-out on news. Communications cut off. Gentle demonstrators trashed. Julian knows, we are the dead.

In a previous blog I quoted from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Now at the end of that book, another passage that seems more than relevant:

The Church of Reason, like all institutions of the System, is based not on individual strength but upon individual weakness. What’s really demanded in the Church of Reason is not ability, but inability. Then you are considered teachable. A truely able person is always a threat.

And as we watch our rights being put on hold, temporarily we’re told, and our movements as well as our thoughts watched, weighed and measured, as we spend our waking moments living in virtual spaces devised by algorithms and implented by blindmen, as we sleepwalk clutching to the straw that it will all be OK, as we watch our leaders grin and sign treaties and bury the starving and bomb the poor, as we learn to hate and to forget or to ignore or disdain, as dystopia becomes the new normal, how those words ring true.

The schools might be open for the time being, but minds are closed. We are the dead.

It’s taken me longer, lot longer to get to this post. A few months of whirl, I guess. Started with the first of September.

The tour was planned and mostly booked to kick off on second October and, whist we were still in June, July, August …October seemed a way off. Plenty time to finish recording and mixing the new album, not to mention getting the CD made.

But start September signalled four ferkin’ weeks to get the job done. Frantic might be overstatement, slight. I cut out the tracks that didn’t make it this time, tracked a couple of vocals for a final time, and mixed at home. Not my original plan but the wheel was spinning.

Mixing is quite fun and many will tell you it’s make or break stuff – you choose what stays and what goes, what stands out and what’s hidden, and how big a cave you want to echo around each instrument. Techie stuff.

Mastering on the other hand is a dark art and, like other dark arts, one is still not quite convinced whether it’s more brilliance or more bag’a’bull. Anyhow, it’s definitely the thing to do and I know of no other so fine a mixer as Pete Maher. In fact, I know of no other, but that’s beside the point – a quick glance at the greats and once-greats he’s mastered will suffice.

Whilst Pete was doing his magic, I diddled up the CD cover on a rather out of date Photoshop – I’d toyed with Welcome to Swindon for the debut album title, and had looked at a real sign that stands on the Aldbourne Road coming into town. So I guess that was somewhere there in the recesses, and then, of course …Welcome to Zombieland. Mask up, babies!

Album cover, Welcome to Zombieland, 2020

I got this over to the production plant who got the presses working whilst the masters were being finished – printing the cover takes longer than getting the CD made.

Pete came through with the goods, working late, sometime 9 or 10pm on the deadline day we’d agreed. Straight over to Media Plant – they did a great job for last year’s My Nebraska too – who bunged it over to their factory in the Netherlands. And we were on our way. I think I had the finished product back to my door within 10 days, well within my deadline anyhow.

Next it was time for pre-tour warm-up gig in Swindon. Some venues are gently starting putting on live music, but not many. So finding a place to host wasn’t that easy. I don’t think it was reputation preceding. You can just imagine the levels and issues and contingencies needed to put on a gig in Zombieland.

Delightfully, the wonderful Ashford Road Club came through. They deliberated, discussed and digested. And said yeahhhhh. It’s an old-school members club, just up the road from my gaff, where I’ve been a member and enjoyed the occasional beer and sandwich over the years I’ve lived in town.

There’s a skittles alley – with dart boards running along the side wall – and, neither sport being much in action, a date was agreed. Limited seated-only guests, and everyone had to become a member, but hey, a great little venue. Live from the Skittle Alley ain’t too far from Hollywood Bowl. I guess.

We had a blast. Plenty potion was consumed and no one sung along cos they ain’t allowed. Maybe they mimed. Anyhow. I don’t seem to have any pics from the night, but there’s live footage on my Jol Rose Music Facebook page. If you can hear me above the cackle.

From there it was final checks, insurance and car service, accommodation and gig confirms (still some changes and extras coming in, others going out), till very early in the morning on second October I hit the road in darkness to get the morning ferry, Harwich to the Hook. Welcome to Zombieland.

(Check back soon from thoughts on Zombieland Global and touring in the midst.)

There was a little shop at the boarding school I was sent to where you could get your pens and paper and ink refills and stuff like that. They had a few secondhand books too and, on one visit to stock up on stationary I most likely didn’t need, my eye was caught by an interesting title: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I bought it – or, rather, my parents did, added to the end of term bill – and put it on the bookshelf to gather dust.

A year or two later – I must have been 18 or 19 and with time on my hands – I pulled that old book off the shelf and started to read. I loved it – philosophy, psychology, madness and bikes. What’s not to love? A couple of the bits in the book I’ve never forgotten. During a mountain hike, a break from the oppressive, pensive road trip, the author talks about the minute changes of view with each step, as leaves, stones and twigs appear, mutate and vanish. I thought that was kinda cool. And I remember long pages about quality.

Front cover of my edition of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
This is how my edition looks

A couple of years ago I bought another copy of the book; I can’t remember if I came across it in a charity shop or ordered it from an online bookseller which I no longer wish to frequent. It was owned by one Dianne Doubtfire, her name inscribed in the flyleaf. Anyway. That copy, too, sat another couple of years or more – squashed on shelves between more mind-improving matter, too seldom disturbed. But, as is the way with books and reading (am I the only one?), these things have their time and their calling.

And so a few days ago I pulled Zen and the Art off the bookshelf and 35 years later started reading it again. The book is as great as ever – probably more so since, with the intervening years, I kinda hope I’ve got a better capacity to understand and relate to what are often quite complex themes. Or maybe I just like to think that, whilst the reality is that my atrophying mind is struggling gleefully to deal with stuff that my 19 year-old brain digested like minestrone as appetiser.

Almost a third of the way through now and, more and more, the relevance to our lives today is becoming clear. Talking about how the scientific method takes us further from truth, he quotes:

In the temple of science are many mansions, and various indeed are they that dwell therein and the motives that have led them there.

Many take to science out of a joyful sense of superior intellectual power; science is their own special sport to which they look for vivid experience and the satisfaction of ambition; many others are to be found in the temple who have offered the products of their brains on this altar for purely utilitarian purposes.

Were an angel of the Lord to drive all the people belonging to these two categories out of the temple, the assemblage would be seriously depleted, but there would still be some men, of both present and past times, left inside…

If the types we have just expelled were the only types there were, the temple would never have come to be, any more than a forest can grow which consists of nothing but creepers … those who have found favour with the angel … are somewhat odd, uncommunicative, solitary fellows, really less like each other, in spite of these common characteristics, than the hosts of the rejected.

What has brought them to the temple … no single answer will cover … escape from everyday life with its painful crudity and hopeless dreariness, from the fetters of one’s own ever shifting desires. A finely tempered nature longs to escape from … his noisy, cramped surroundings into the silence of high mountains, where the eye ranges freely through the still, pure air and fondly traces out the restful contours apparently built for eternity.

Albert Einstein 1918

Would Einstein have foreseen the takeover of science by huge, profit-driven corporations and their cronies and jokers? How his odd, solitary fellows would be marginalised and packed away in trunks whilst those more easily bought, directed, promoted and lauded.

It remains somewhat remarkable to me that, even with so much evidence ready and waiting, most of us are blind to it. Hidden in plain-sight perhaps, but truth is obscured or hidden or distorted, a daily sacrifice on the alter of profit. (Well – profit and power, but those two are cosy bedfellows in any case.)

So researchers are paid to come up with the answers that business wants and to hide those that might hinder sales. And policy-makers and watchdogs are schmoozed and financed and bamboozled into compliance. And mass manufacture of vaccines goes ahead on the back of big, juicy contracts even though they’ve not been tested. And woe betide the scientist or analyst who breaks from the all-pervading narrative – you don’t have to look far or particularly deeply to see censorship and exclusion in action, both in scientific debate as well as the public conversation.

Yes folks, it does take an enquiring mind – plus time and energy – PLUS the readiness to accept that official and mainstream might be peddling BS as ‘facts’, and manipulation as analysis. (A not-too-distant conversation with someone I know demonstrated it clearly – a suggestion that our beloved BBC might present falsehoods and fail to challenge homegrown propaganda met with fury. How the hell could I suggest such a thing?!)

So, dear reader, we are where we are. These things around me, in the books I read, often show up in my songs, so you can expect oblique references and the occasional call to arms! In fact, the latest song is called Wake Up (though it might change to What Next?) and you can hear a very early version at 36 minutes into last night’s Facebook live broadcast. (Please do ‘like’ my FB page too. Thanks.)

And if you’ve got this far, and not quite sure what I’m on about but wanting to know more, you could do worse that reading a bit from the Off-Guardian website, definitely follow the wonderful Craig Murray, and I often enjoy an occasional broadcast from the UK Column (although I do take some of their views with quite a pinch of salt!).

Thanks for reading. Cheers.