Towards Better Democracy

Good words, well written, better the world. Good literature betters the world immeasurably.

Too soon a loss

“La cité sans nom” est le titre d’une nouvelle de HP Lovecraft, qui fait référence au monstrueux caché, à la peur indicible que suggère la mythologie de l’auteur. pourtant, de la crainte de la nouvelle de Lovecraft, l’auditeur n’en sent pas les effets dans la pièce éponyme du disque de Fausto Romitelli, la plus longue de cet ensemble de cinq morceaux. Tout baigne dans une atmosphère que j’ai trouvé douce et qui fait la part belle au beau son. Tout ceci est purement subjectif car ce qui est beau pour les uns est inécoutable pour les autres mais j’ai retrouvé avec ce disque les sensations que j’avais eues en écoutant les oeuvres de Tristan Murail et surtout Gérard Grisey, têtes de pont de la musique spectrale à laquelle Fausto Romitelli n’est pas insensible.

Difficile de parler de la musique de Romitelli lorsqu’on n’est pas musicien et que les mots techniques manquent mais j’y ai trouvé du plaisir car sa musique, aussi étrange soit-elle, décrasse les oreilles de toutes les scories que l’on peut entendre au quotidien : musique complexe qui nécessite une bonne qualité d’écoute, musique truffée de détails sonores, musique ample. Ceux qui connaissent le groupe musical “Art Zoyd” (qui a contribué à la pièce “Flowing down too slow” et dont j’ai si souvent le disque Les Espaces Inquiets:Phase VI il y a plus de vingt ans) ne seront pas déroutés par les pièces de Romitelli.

Une occasion de découvrir un musicien trop tôt disparu à l’âge de 41 ans.

“The nameless city” is the title of a short story by HP Lovecraft, which refers to the hidden monstrous, the unspeakable fear suggested by the mythology of the author. However, from the fear of Lovecraft’s news, the listener does not feel the effects in the eponymous play of Fausto Romitelli’s disc, the longest of this five-piece set. Everything is bathed in an atmosphere that I found sweet and which makes the good part to the beautiful sound. All this is purely subjective because what is beautiful for some is unavoidable for others but I found with this record the sensations I had had while listening to the works of Tristan Murail and especially Gérard Grisey, bridgeheads of the Spectral music to which Fausto Romitelli is not insensitive.

It’s hard to talk about Romitelli’s music when you’re not a musician and the technical words are missing, but I found pleasure in it because his music, strange as it may be, eases the ears of all the slag, You can hear every day: complex music that requires a good quality of listening, music full of sound details, ample music. Those who know the musical group “Art Zoyd” (who contributed to the play “Flowing down too slow” and of which I have so often the disc Les Espaces Inquiets: Phase VI more than twenty years ago) will not be disturbed By Romitelli’s plays.

An opportunity to discover a musician too soon disappeared at the age of 41 years.

Malcolm D B Munro
Saturday 19 August, 2017


Filed under: Arts, history, Media, Memoir, Music, poetry, songs, stories

I exist, don’t I?

Periods of great turbulence often lead to rash encounters, with the result that I’ve never felt like a legitimate son, much less an heir.

Patrick Modiano, Pedigree, a Memoir.


“Who am I, Dad?”

“Well, you’re a boy.”

“But suppose I were a girl?”

“Strictly speaking, you can’t be.”

“But suppose I were?”

“You would have to be like your sister.”

“Suppose I were neither.”

“You would likely have troubles ahead, were that true.”

“I better stay a boy, then.”

“That’s right, son. That’s best.”

The above dialogue of mine captures within a few sentences the essence of what many of the novels and short stories I have read in recent times concern themselves with. The question of identity All of them have been European. The phenomena is worth exploring in greater depths than the present essay attempts to do. In brief  there are many aspects to this question of identity and of the questioning by a speaker of their existence.

I suppose that those of us who have had troubled childhoods, like Modiano, find that the experiences from those childhoods stay with us life long and set us apart from others who do not have the knowledge of what is to be the product of an unhappy childhood. There is merit in this, though. Just as Patrick Modiano illustrates in the quotation at the head of this essay, those us with such a background have stories to tell. The book that this particular quotation comes from is, as his title states, a memoir. Nevertheless, Modiano has told mostly stories. In fact, he as spent his life writing them.

As he says of this particular book, he couldn’t write an autobiography. (It is episodic rather than a continuous narrative.) I don’t think I could either. My memory blocks both the pain of childhood and of the accompanying difficulty, or impossibility, of functioning properly as an adult since that time .

I have not known of Modiano’s work previously. His books have not much over the years been translated into English. I understand, though, he has had a coterie who have read him assiduously despite that. For some reason he is now hitting the book shops, not unconnected, no doubt, with the fact that, in 2014, he won the Nobel Prize for Literature. There are four titles of his on the shelves of my local independent bookstore, from no less than three publishers. This particular title is seeing the light of day in English ten years after being published in French.

I had recently purchased a book of Guatier’s poetry, bilingual thankfully, published in a series by Yale, The Margellos World Republic of Letters, and somewhat desultorily was searching their site to find other books in this particular series and stumbled over this memoir of Modiano’s,  with its startling observation on the first page, quoted above. You can’t possibly read such a quotation without going out right away to get the book.

Modiano and I have a similar background by way of childhood experience. Only the incidentals differ from any kind of accordance. He was born, as I was, in 1945. His parents met during the war which leads him to make the observation he does. He began writing in 1968, four years after I left high school. Our backgrounds could not be more different though, quite apart from him being French and me English, or British, whatever that means.

What drives me to write is the realisation, something along the lines of what Tolstoy wrote, that all happy families have the same story to tell, and unhappy families each have a different story to relate. I think of Dirk Bogart’s memoirs (A Postillion Struck by Lightning, 1977, among others) which appears to be filled with a happy upbringing, and a largely happy life. Kenneth Clark, based on his biographies (Another Part of the Wood (1974) and The Other Half, 1977) seems to me to have also had such a life. With no disrespect to either individual, they each appear to have only one story to tell.

Writers such as Modiano have a host of stories to tell as witness his large output; some thirty works. What propels this ability to tell other people’s stories I can’t say without some reflection. Of course, these stories are fictional. But they have to be based on what the writer has observed. Perhaps the humility which comes from the very experiences they have had as children shapes their outlook on life; to see others, to see the suffering of others, from whatever perspective they choose.

In reviewing and reflecting, on the lives of the writers I have known through my reading of them, I am struck by the extraordinary number of them who have led troubled lives and, perhaps more importantly, the sheer number of them who committed suicide. This appears to be true whether one looks at US, UK or European authors. How such writers wrote from the depth of pain that they clearly felt on a daily basis quite eludes me. The psychology of the drive to express their lives through the written word and through the doings and peccadilloes of the characters they created is certainly worth studying. And driven to write the overwhelming majority of them clearly were.

This is not to say that only troubled people write, though, truth to tell, most people who are troubled don’t write.

Do we ever know the lives of others? Of those around us who patently lead distressed lives? However much we listen to such people, what comes out of their mouths or is emoted by their behaviour, does in no way lead us to have any insight to their internal selves. Those lives are remote and removed from us. We, each of us, is only aware of our own inner landscape.

I cannot report other kinds of creative artists. I can only speak of writers because it is they whom I know best.

The value to us in our modern age is reading of the inner lives of others. I guess that, among other reasons for valuing the work of writers, is their ability, unique ability, to write so authentically on the inner life the characters they create. No other medium does this. This might be termed the preoccupation of the angst that appears to be attendant to our times, at least since the end of the First World War, if not slightly before that.

Modiano’s particular preoccupation appears to be with identity. This is surely a vexed phenomena, this question of who we are in relation to the external world. Certainly, writers in previous eras have given us internal monologues. But these almost always were, or are, running commentaries on what that character observed or heard. This device was supposed to tell of the character of mostly the protagonist. Even that approach to writing has been relatively recent given the aeons over which the writing of people on the page has existed. The greatest part of the history of fiction, and one would also have to include tales such as those written by Homer and his like, have been external to the characters. One does not have access to their inner lives, other than what they say. I mean it is unlikely that, whoever the original story teller was, witnessed what he or she wrote of.

Throughout that long history the greatest concern has been with plot. Who did what to whom. And many writers continue to write in this mode.

However, the writers most venerated in our time are those whose works are all  but plotless. Those books that might have no other character than some invisible speaker, or simply a stream of consciousness reported by an omniscient observer. An interminable river of thoughts, if that is what they are. One wonders if such works would be possible were it not for Freud. It has to be said, that were we to go sit on a mountain top and to live away from what we laughingly call society in a sort of backwoodsman’s kind of life, I doubt that we would have any identity crisis at all. One does not read of such people taking their own lives. Perhaps such lives force externalisation. In cities though, especially the major cities, this existential crisis seems to be something of a common occurrence.

So how is that writers such as Patrick Modiano can write so successfully of the internal lives of their characters? Is it a matter of projection of their own internal lives? But that can’t be. Those of us who live in maelstroms have little insight into ourselves. We simply try to survive each day. Some more successfully than others. And stay at home, lying in bed when it gets too bad. It is said that writing is a gift. That you can either write or you can’t. There is nothing in between. I suppose there are bad writers. Heaven knows I have read enough of them. Or, at least, tried to stay away from them most of the time.

Writing often speaks of a felt sense. How this can be taught to others?. Perhaps writing courses are sort of feel good communities. An Alcoholic’s Anonymous for those addicted to the vain and difficult world of trying to write. And it is difficult. Writers such as Modiano only make it appear easy. It is said to be a craft. And that may be the best that can be said of it. What drives a writer like our subject will likely remain a mystery. One thinks of Colette who knew from the age of eight that she would be a writer.

Much that fascinates us cannot be answered: the why, the how. So, the product of writers like Patrick Modiano may fascinate. Understanding how that world is created may always elude us. That doesn’t stop us trying. Whole industries of academics exist to attempt to answer such questions and churn out endlessly, year after year, turgid, impenetrable tracts read only by their fellow industrialists.

The rest of us prefer to read the real thing. The work itself rather that essays about the book, like this one. We would rather continue to be fascinated. After all, I exist, don’t I?

Malcolm D B Munro
Thursday 10 November, 2015

Filed under: Arts, Book Review, Current Events, history, Media, Memoir, Music, poetry, songs, stories



You not for sale

Malcolm D B Munro
Tuesday 15 August, 2017

Strickly Copyright the author, all Rights Reserved

Filed under: Arts, Current Events, history, Media, Music, poetry, songs, stories


currently upside down

Currently, available at Saatchi Art

Malcolm D B Munro
Tuesday 15 August, 2017

Copyright the artist, all Rights Reserved




Filed under: Arts, Current Events, history, Media, Music, poetry, songs, stories

As Nature intended

The heading of this post might be better posed as a question.

A constant preoccupation of mine, alluded to in many previous posts, is the fact that we are not responsible human beings and do not heed those responsibilities to act as we should upon the face of our home, this wondrous planet.

We are the top of the heap of Creation’s creatures. The Chain of Being as in the past put, with no better model being posited since. But we are out of kilter. I have never seen this spoken of anywhere. Should some reader know better, I would be grateful if that reader would point out such a source.

We are a disease. Some fault of us is built in. I do not know why. We have no natural enemies. Except ourselves. We gratuitously starve, main and kill others of our species and steal, rob, plunder and displace others of their settlements. And, even if we do not go so far as that, we speak and act with evil to others. We treat others whom we perceive in ignorance as not being like ourselves in ways we would not treat ourselves. We despoil our home as we would never do our own shelters.

We rush relentlessly forward, perhaps to our own destruction, as we have throughout our history doing greater and greater harm which grows greater and greater every day. We are in denial, a further symptom of our unnatural pathology. Despite the growing evidence, we live only for today and never think of tomorrow and the consequences of what destruction we wreak. We pursue only selfish goals and exterminate all in our path. Were are we going and why? To what purpose? And is any sanity about it?

No person or persons has cried out and been heard, has been listened to, has taken heed of to act in concerted action to right what we so thoughtless do wrong. We adopt a willed blindness and a child’s suspension of disbelief.

We are sentient beings, the greatest gift that could bestowed on us ,yet we squander it in endless futile, senseless ways. We seek to know everything but do nothing wise with the knowledge we gain. That knowledge stands as an ugly monument to our folly.

The only people on the earth who do not act in this way are those left who live and work within their environment and do no harm to it or others. We call them ignorant, uncivilised, as if our way are better than theirs, and justify our way with empty platitudes and seek to make such people desperately unhappy by coercing them into our midst as we google up their land. Or we simply exterminate them to usage our guilt.

We do not own the earth nor any land upon it. The land belongs to all species, ourselves included, to be shared and shared alike. Far less do we have any right to spoil in any way  what in every way belongs to every species, no matter how small or large.

In our minds, that devil’s creation, we are the sole begetters of what we see and live  upon.

Why it is that we stepped out of Natures cycle it is beyond me to know and I don’t think any other has asked.

I am no better than any other to whom I address these remarks, or than any other who may never know of these views. I am sure that how ever just they are, this call will be ignored.

But never mind. I say them, these thoughts, these remarks. and think them to be true. I make a clarion call from among our midst for others to see what I see. I cannot act alone. To go live on a mountain top or its like, would be to deny my responsibilities. And turn my back on what I despair of. My call is to others, for even a few, we can say to others what it means to mend our ways.

But I never lose sight of the fact that I am as destructive in my way as any other of our species. But I do wish, and even hope, for us to do better than we have so far.

Malcolm D B Munro
Monday 14 August, 2017



Filed under: Arts, Current Events, history, Media, Memoir, Music, poetry, songs, stories

Who’s a thinker?

When I set up this blog, Towards Better Democracy, in 2006, I fervently wished for the people of the Middle East to know freedom. Perhaps not in the sense that we know it, necessarily. But in a form that at the very least allowed those people who have only known oppression for, in some cases, thousands of years, an ability to lead their lives such that they were untrammelled by the mad actions and ideas of some tin pot thrusting himself bloodily on the stage of life, dripping with blood as his panoply of power.

But, despite the success of the blog, its fevered discussions in the comments column – you can dig down to the lower levels to see for yourself – and despite the fact that the students of Egypt, having the life of them torn out like so much litter on a sidewalk surely in need of being broadcast to the world – if read by only a few, I quit. In an instant.

One of my followers, a highly intelligent individual who had contributed significantly to the discussions, called me a “Thinker.”

That was it. I turned off the light and stopped writing. There was a long silence until I revived it with my poetry not long ago.

No, I am not a thinker nor ever sought to be. What I wish for I do not have a word for. Modest I am then and am still. I would like to see others take up the torch I hold aloft still. To have people take charge of their lives and not allow others, whoever they are and whatever means they use to take over the minds of their populace, willingly or not, and proletize and spread what I so earnest speak of. Whether I seek to be a spark for that I cannot say. Those who read those columns, posts, where this vital life enhancing need is spoken may think, “Yes, the man has something,” or they may not, the points being made may pass over their heads, or sthey may feel that life is complex enough without taking on something abstract, impossible ideal, however vaunted, perhaps to ever put into effect in real life, or too utopian to ever think that such an idea is achievable given how we are, all are. But this not near true. When the French in 1789, and the Americans before them in 1766, held aloft a spirit, a spirit of the idea that human life, the way that humanity might live, in dimensions hitherto not previously thought of, with the exception perhaps of the Polis of the Ancient Greeks. Have we not always sought, wherever we are on the planet, to be free, truly free in an unadulterated, undiluted way.

What role I seek to play in all this I cannot possibly say. I am driven by a fierce, fierce belief that it is possible, that it takes simply a decision on the part of a sufficient number of people, critical mass if you like, or a group of intellectual, to posit a way that points to how we might achieve this aim, and for it to be sustainable, even over the centuries to come.

The United Nations, a concept itself breathtaking at the time and not much respected in oura, formulated a document which is magnificent in its vision and scope, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Only the Constitution of the United States, even if this is effected more in the breach than on a daily basis. Still it does exist, that proud American document, and the Statue of Liberty, a gift of the French, holds aloft the torch of freedom. This is not mockery but sincerely felt. The vast majority of Americans will tell you so.

Even if the Declaration of Human Rights is barely respected, not even read, maybe not even be known of by people at large, is seen as something impossible to achieve, and even if it is flouted in word and spirit by the members of the United Nations, still it was written, does exist, and, as such sets up the words of what we all, in our billions, might strive to achieve.

I never thought for a moment when I started some nine months ago to post music links, heartened by the response to them, surprised even, that I would be posting a nakedly political musical post. I felt such crosscurrents of irony, of breathlessness, at what I was doing, in this most recent of posts, As Zizek says in the following post in an accent so thick I don’t think I have ever heard its like – I have never heard him before and have not been much drawn to his books – says so rightly, so accurately, Laibach’s visit to North Korea (I was looking for post rock bands in Noth Korea – fat chance), which might have as its power mongers, the most reviled political bunch on the planet, was no regular visit of a Western band visiting the single most closed country in existence, at least at present, nominally Communist. This is no Michel Jarre Concerts in China, the first Western musician to be invited to visit and play in Communist China – one doesn’t quite know what political hue it hews to now – and Jarre was not the first, Isaac Stern was decades before as recorded in From Moa to Mozart, the most inspiring film I have ever seen, that’s more than likely.

I have no wish  to be controversial. The aims espoused by this blog can be voiced in far more moderate terms and thus achieve, one hopes, a far greater effect as a result. Should it never make a difference, I suppose I could say I would like it to. One does not resign but better to fight until death. One at least feels at its end that one has done something worth while.

So, yes, I am not a thinker. And Zizek, whatever one thinks of him, is a thinker. I could never match him. I did not know of him at the time, I recoiled from the label given me which I so much did not want. To have the brain and means of expression that Zizek has, no, I was not given those at birth. A brain such as that required to think in a deep and pellucid way cannot be acquired and the modes of expression, the mark of the thinker, come with the territory of such a mind.

I am simply content to be, to the fullest extent that I can, true to myself and others. I can to more than that.

Malcolm D B Munro
Sunday 13 August, 2017

Filed under: Arts, Current Events, history, Media, Memoir, Music, poetry, politics, songs, stories

Slavoj Žižek – Laibach in North Korea

Slavoj Žižek – Laibach in North Korea

Malcolm D B Munro
Sunday 13 August, 2017

Filed under: Arts, Current Events, history, Media, Memoir, Music, poetry, politics, songs, stories

Laibach in Pyongyang, North Korea 19.08.2015

Laibach in Pyongyang, North Korea 19.08.2015

Kilka klipów z koncertu słoweńskiego zespołu Laibach w stolicy Korei Północnej, Pjongjangu.

Few short clips from the first concert of a Slovenian band Laibach in Pyongyang, North Korea on August 19th 2015.

A Slovenian rock band known for performing in Nazi uniforms made an appearance in North Korea on Wednesday and is expected to play again on Thursday.

The Telegraph reported on Wednesday, The members of the group Laibach were invited to play in two concerts that are a celebration of North Korea’s 70th anniversary of liberation from Japanese colonial rule.

Laibach was the name the Nazis used to refer to Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, when it occupied the country during World War II. The band has been performing since 1980 and mixes industrial, martial and neoclassical musical styles.

1. Life is life
2. Sound of music
3. Arirang

Malcolm D B Munro
Sunday 13 August, 2017

Filed under: Arts, Current Events, history, Media, Music, poetry, politics, songs, stories

The Moranbong Band-Music of North Korea

The Moranbong Band-Music of North Korea

31 December 2012 – New Years celebration North Korea

From the You Tube posting
The socialist system of the Republic is a people-centred social system in which the masses of the working people are the masters of everything and everything in society serves them. In accordance with the nature of its socialist system, the Government of the Republic defends and protects the interests of workers, peasants and intellectuals and all other working people who have become masters of state and society, free from exploitation and oppression.
Malcolm D B Munro
Sunday 13 August, 2017

Filed under: Arts, Current Events, history, Media, Music, poetry, politics, songs, stories


I arrive late for a meeting with a client in Nelspruit as it was called then, This is a no no in business, particularly in engineering. As the client face to the company I work for at this pointing my life, arriving late is bad practice and does not impress those with whom the company is doing business. I am habitually punctual, a habit I have had all my life. The flight is 40 to 50 minutes from Johannesburg, but a long, boring drive on the flat Highvelt, some 1500 feet above sea level. This is a new client and I have not met my counterpart before. I have been expected at 7.30 am and it was now 12.30 pm. The client meets me off the plane and does not look pleased, but says nothing, and we exchange pleasantries. I am good at my job and clients like me, and get on well with me, knowing me to be competent and attentive to their needs. He proves to be no exception.

When I tell my story as to why I am so late, the client’s shoulders lower and he smiles in understanding.

I had risen at 3.30 am in good time for a shower and a drive to the airport for the first flight of the day. I arrive at the airport a little before the plane I am to catch is due to fly out. The airport I go to is close to the edge of the city to the East, and an easy drive at that time of the morning. The plane that flies to Nelspruit is a small commuter aircraft seating maybe 12 passengers. I imagine that it will fly from this airport which is small and houses small private and business aircraft. This is where logically a small commuter aircraft would take off from.

There is nothing around. The tarmac is empty. Lights blare, doleful in the still dark morning. bored with their mandated duty. I find some flight mechanics working on a single seater, and ask them about the 6.30 flight. “Oh no,” they tell me in chorus, “That flight is at Jan Smuts.” Jan Smuts, the international airport to Johannesburg, is at least an hour’s drive far to the North, and the next flight is at 11.30.

I don’t think I have ever felt so foolish in my life.

Malcolm D B Munro
Saturday 12 August, 2017

Filed under: history, Media, Memoir, stories

Blog Top Sites

Previous Posts


August 2017
« Jul    

Top Rated