Unlikely 2.0

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Editors' Notes

Maria Damon and Michelle Greenblatt
Jim Leftwich and Michelle Greenblatt
Sheila E. Murphy and Michelle Greenblatt

A Visual Conversation on Michelle Greenblatt's ASHES AND SEEDS with Stephen Harrison, Monika Mori | MOO, Jonathan Penton and Michelle Greenblatt

Letters for Michelle: with work by Jukka-Pekka Kervinen, Jeffrey Side, Larry Goodell, mark hartenbach, Charles J. Butler, Alexandria Bryan and Brian Kovich

Visual Poetry by Reed Altemus
Poetry by Glen Armstrong
Poetry by Lana Bella
A Eulogic Poem by John M. Bennett
Elegic Poetry by John M. Bennett
Poetry by Wendy Taylor Carlisle
A Eulogy by Vincent A. Cellucci
Poetry by Vincent A. Cellucci
Poetry by Joel Chace
A Spoken Word Poem and Visual Art by K.R. Copeland
A Eulogy by Alan Fyfe
Poetry by Win Harms
Poetry by Carolyn Hembree
Poetry by Cindy Hochman
A Eulogy by Steffen Horstmann
A Eulogic Poem by Dylan Krieger
An Elegic Poem by Dylan Krieger
Visual Art by Donna Kuhn
Poetry by Louise Landes Levi
Poetry by Jim Lineberger
Poetry by Dennis Mahagin
Poetry by Peter Marra
A Eulogy by Frankie Metro
A Song by Alexis Moon and Jonathan Penton
Poetry by Jay Passer
A Eulogy by Jonathan Penton
Visual Poetry by Anne Elezabeth Pluto and Bryson Dean-Gauthier
Visual Art by Marthe Reed
A Eulogy by Gabriel Ricard
Poetry by Alison Ross
A Short Movie by Bernd Sauermann
Poetry by Christopher Shipman
A Spoken Word Poem by Larissa Shmailo
A Eulogic Poem by Jay Sizemore
Elegic Poetry by Jay Sizemore
Poetry by Felino A. Soriano
Visual Art by Jamie Stoneman
Poetry by Ray Succre
Poetry by Yuriy Tarnawsky
A Song by Marc Vincenz

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The People's Politician
by Martin Friel

These are dark times, for some. The politicians in particular have suffered. A week last Tuesday, the PM, his chancellor and the leaders of the opposition, that is of all the other political parties, were hung in Trafalgar Square. The crowd was big, bigger than at New Year. People hanging off the pillars of the National Gallery; on the roofs of the surrounding buildings; standing, climbing on to anything they could to get a decent look. According to the press, they were the first public executions in well over a century and judging by the crowds, they are right back in fashion.

And to think that what, two years ago, this country was an example to the world of a stable democracy that worked in both theory and practice. Now, we have no political parties, a very narrow political system, we live, to all intents and purposes, in a police state and we are a country that stands isolated on the world stage. But what we do have is rule of the people by the people through that ever present friend of the people, TV.

As I say, it was about two years ago it began with our PM looking for an electoral gimmick to arrest the slide in his popularity. Ever the populist he decided install a 'People's Politician', a representative in the House of Commons for the people. The irony that the politicians were supposed to be doing that anyway seems to have passed him by.

Anyway, he and his coterie decided that the best way to appoint this representative of the people would be to allow the people to appoint him or her and in turn, the best way to do that would be to make a reality TV show out of it. They called it 'the democratisation of democracy'.

And so we came to have a show every Saturday evening in which various 'ordinary' people would go through a series of tests and challenges to prove they truly were the People's Politician. As in any other reality TV show—people are eliminated as the show progresses until we get to the final and that year's winner is anointed. The show broke all viewing figures, regularly pulling in over 40 million viewers a night.

The first to win was a school dinner lady called Marjory. She served her year term and was popular but ultimately ineffectual—the politicians patronised her but would not let her do anything or, as one of the politicians was caught saying in a tabloid sting, "allow her the room to cause any damage".

The second promised more hope. Ben—he was an accountant but he left after only eight months baffled at the way Government kept its accounts. The third was a former footballer called Paul. He was voted in on a wave of jingoistic fervour but everyone agreed that his year long stint was a disaster. In fact some commentators even suggested that he had placed the whole project in jeopardy.

And then He came. On his first appearance he told the judges and the nation his name was Seth, had worked in media, was single and dedicated to his country. He was handsome, articulate and as the series progressed and he passed through the relevant stages, he showed himself to be caring, funny, thoughtful and determined. He was like us—he had the same fears, hopes and insecurities and when he spoke, you could just feel that it came from the heart. He won the fourth season of the People's Politician easily. He won 95% of the public vote.

On his first day in office as the deputy PM, he got straight to work and in doing so, caught the politicians by surprise. He insisted that in order for the People's Politician to execute his duties to the greatest effect, he would need three years rather than the one that he had been elected to. Long story short, it was put to the vote and the house agreed that the deputy PM's role should be a three year position. However, rather than accept this, Seth surprised the House again by insisting that he could not accept the House's vote and that the issue must go the public.

The following Saturday, a special edition of the People's Politician was hastily arranged and the issue of the length of term was put to the public vote. Seth, still riding a wave of popularity, got 97% approval for his suggestion.

He always had a knack for judging the public mood perfectly—he was a populist and unashamedly so. Many of his proposals—increased funding for the health service and police, greater accountability for politicians, stricter control over sex offenders and immigration—were all enthusiastically embraced by the public. Although all were put to the vote in Parliament, Seth insisted on a separate vote on the People's Politician show before he would accept any changes.

The more opportunist politicians began to draw themselves closer to Seth and align their policies with his populist ones. They were wise enough to see that it was Seth who really had the backing of the people.

Although his influence in Parliament increased as the months and years went by, Seth was always humble when addressing the people. He understood them and understood how to talk to them. After all, as he constantly reminded us, he was one of them. He wasn't one of the politicians, those who purported to represent the interests of the people yet were entirely self serving. He told us what we already knew—that he alone in Parliament was on the side of the people. The rest were taking us for a ride. He was our man on the inside.

It just over two years into his three-year term that Seth made his first really daring move. He waited until the PM was particularly weak politically and confronted him at PM's Questions. He demanded to know why politicians were in charge of the police and not the police themselves. As the police were in charge of the people and made up of the people, then they should be run by the people.

Seth suggested that policing should be administered by a board of the country's most senior police officers with little or, preferably, no input from the politicians. If there had to be some political representative on that board, Seth reasoned with the House, then he as the People's Politician, would reluctantly agree to take that role.

Not surprisingly, when it went to the vote, the House voted with a majority to reject Seth's proposal. However, true to form, Seth did not accept this vote and took it to the Saturday night vote—he took it to the people. Predictably, Seth won the vote by a significant majority. Armed with this popular approval for his plan, Seth challenged Parliament to resist and discard the will of the people. "The people have spoken and once again you refuse to listen to them," he said in an epic and historic three hour speech to the House.

He wore the politicians down: he backed them into a corner. They couldn't say what they wanted to. Namely that they weren't listening to the will of the people, that the people weren't competent enough to know what they were voting for. But at the same time they knew that passing legislation and transferring political power could not be conducted through a reality TV programme. Such was the moral weakness of the politicians in the eyes of the people, they didn't dare to contradict them and their representative, the increasingly powerful Seth. They had to accept the people's vote.

And so it came to pass that the police ran themselves with Seth as the only political presence on their governing board. Seth's stock with the police couldn't have been any higher: he had finally freed them from the shackles of opportunistic politicians who were more concerned with headlines and straw polls than they were about the daily vagaries of policing. Gradually, but unmistakably, Seth exerted his influence over the police—eventually, he became the de facto head of policing in the UK. They were, if he so desired, his private little army.

Seth lavished money and resources on the police. If they wanted the latest body armour, he saw to is that Parliament provided it. If they wanted 10,000 more policemen and women on the streets, he saw to it that Parliament gave them the means to achieve that. If they needed new laws to get the most dangerous criminals off the streets, Seth saw to it that they were passed. And how did he achieve this? He took every proposal to the Saturday night vote of course.

The politicians became terrified of defying the people—they were in thrall to the power of their weekly vote. How could they maintain the pretence that they represented the people and yet go against what the nation had voted for. They increasingly found themselves enslaved to the will of the people in the physical form of Seth.

Once he had consolidated his power over the police, Seth pulled the same trick with the army. "Why should the politicians dictate whether or not our soldiers, the people, go off to foreign lands to fight? They, who are comfortably secure and distanced from any danger, are arbitrarily deciding whether our men and women should sacrifice their lives or not," said Seth on the People's Politician show. He didn't even bother calling a vote in the House anymore. He routinely went straight to the people.

Predictably, the people saw reason in his argument. For too long, for too many centuries, politicians and kings had played with the lives of the people for their own selfish gains. Now the army would decide, in the same way as the police, if and when they would fight. Again, Seth positioned himself at their head. The army and the people not only acquiesced to this, they positively embraced it. If he could achieve the same with the army as he had with the police (crime rates were at an all time low by now) then there was no reason Seth shouldn't be in control of the army.

And it was then that he changed. With this power and security, gone was the pretence of respect for the politicians. He became openly hostile to them, constantly questioning their authority and purpose. He argued that now the people were in charge, the politicians no longer had a use. They weren't required to form laws, call for votes, represent the people. The people were doing this all by themselves now. The age of the politicians had passed, the people had grown up.

Some say it was engineered, others say it was always going to come out but what finally broke the politicians was what became known as the expenses scandal. They had been fleecing the people for years by exaggerating their expenses to the tune of thousands and thousands of pounds. Seth leapt on the opportunity and turned on his best rabble rousing rhetoric to whip the people into a frenzy.

He invited the PM, his chancellor and the opposition leaders on to the People's Politician under the pretence of explaining to the people just what had been going on with the expenses. It was their opportunity to explain themselves. But come the night, when all seven of them were on stage ready to defend themselves, Seth strode on and announced that they were to stand trial on charges of treason.

He immediately put that proposal to the vote and the people obliged—96% believed the leaders of the politicians should be tried for treason. Next up for the vote was the punishment. The people had a choice: imprisonment, exile or execution. The people came back overwhelmingly in favour of execution. A couple of the politicians began to sob and one even made a break for it but the police standing in the wings quickly brought him back to his seat, ready for his public trial.

The trial was both swift and perfunctory. The verdict on each one went to the public vote and each one came back guilty. Cue more sobbing, some pleading and some urinating from the politicians. "The people have spoken" Seth declared to a rapturous studio audience and a wholly empowered electorate.

Which, in a roundabout way, brings us back to our present situation. All the traitors were hung a week last Tuesday and the people loved it. The rest of the politicians are hunted by death squads—every now and then a couple are caught and brought before the public vote but the majority have managed to slink back into society. However, Seth assures us they will be caught. To this end, he has declared a state of emergency until all are captured, there is a nationwide 10pm curfew and all travel in and out of the country is on hold until we catch all the politicians.

It might sound draconian but this is no brutal dictatorship, nor is it mob rule. This is the will of the people made manifest every Saturday night on our TV screens. It's not pretty, in fact it is downright ugly, but it is clearly and unambiguously us.

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Martin says, "By day I'm the editor of an obscure finance magazine in London. It pays the bills and I've had way, way worse jobs. This one is diginified. I've been writing short stories since I was a kid but only started collecting them in the last five years or so and have recently had a collection published." Check out his book, Sitting quietly alone in the corner (Blank Screen Publishing, 2010).