Ramblings: My review of George Monbiot’s “Captive State: the Corporate Takeover of Britain”

In the past few years I find that I am reading more and more non-fiction books, along with the fiction and graphic novels that I enjoy. Typically these books have been written by commentators working at the newspapers and magazines that I read and I am currently enjoying Laurie Penny’s ‘Unspeakable Things’ and Peter Oborne’s ‘The Rise of the Political Class’, both of which are excellent. I shall be reviewing these books in due course and doubtless saying nice things about them both. I have also purchased Owen Jones ‘The Establishment’ and Johann Hari’s ‘Chasing the Scream’, both of which I am looking forward to reading when I can find the time. Anyway, onto my review of ‘Captive State: the corporate takeover of Britain’, written by George Monbiot.

Mr. Monbiot is a writer for the Guardian and it is through this newspaper that I came across him. He is also, to my mind, one of the finest commentators working in the media today. I have been reading his columns for several years and I find myself constantly impressed by his eloquence and the topics which he chooses to cover from the degradation of our environment to the way in which animals for slaughter are now raised in this country. He covered the publication of Cameron’s letter to his local council with aplomb and I think it is fair to say that Mr. Monbiot’s articles have changed my worldview and my day-to-day habits. For instance I have reduced my consumption of meat since reading his column and I intend to reduce it further. Luckily, having enjoyed his columns, I found his book at my local library.

Monbiot

Quite simply put, Captive State is an astonishing read. Told with Monbiot’s typical eloquence, it explains how a significant part of Britain, from the government to our universities, from our hospitals with their PFI deals which pour public money into private hands, to our schools have been taken over by corporate interests and how the public good no longer factors into the decision making by our governments, at both the local and national level. He explains how, for instance, the arrival of a major supermarket chain Superstore at a town is a disaster that will destroy local jobs and remove money from the area and that the supermarket chains buy permission to build wherever they want to regardless of local feeling. And governments have no interest in stopping them, instead actively helping them.

The book also details many scandals of which I was unaware and I suspect these matters did not receive as much public attention at they should have. The chapter that really stuck with me details how Monsanto, the American Corporation, injected cows with the growth hormone, rBST, to increase milk production regardless of the effects that it would have on the humans who consume this milk. Ingestion of this hormone by humans leads to increased risk of cancer but Monsanto forbade labelling that would allow customers to make an informed decision. And the US government allowed them to do this! Then the US government began to pressure European countries to do the same. The chapter on the development of genetically modified crops (so that nasty pesticides can be used on them at dangerously high concentrations) is equally terrifying!

I read a significant percentage of the book completely stunned that I was unaware of so much of this information and I now think that it is essential reading for anyone with an interest in how our country got to the state that it currently is in and why, for instance, corporation tax now sits at 18%. Because the corporations want it that way! That seems to me to be the real message of the book, that a significant part of why the world is currently in such a mess can be attributed to the will of corporations that governments are now only too happy to accede to. And I can only assume that matters have gotten significantly worse since this book was published fifteen years ago.

Now, I realise I may sound a little paranoid having read this book, along with Peter Oborne’s which validates many positions about collusion between our governments and the media that I had already slowly been coming around to, but Mr. Monbiot’s book is a brilliant and essential read and it really needs to find as wide an audience as possible. I cannot recommend it highly enough. The message that the book also leaves you with is that we need to begin to fight against what is happening to our world and to ourselves. Since the book’s publication this has clearly not happened and I can only hope this changes in the near future. Because this fight is not yet over but the Corporations have been winning for far too long. And we really need to change that and soon…

 

Check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on comics, politics, self-publishing and my novel, ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’ which is out now at all electronic retailers! Also follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!

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Ramblings : the unique relationship between self-published authors and their readers…

In this week’s blog post I’m ‘rambling’ about the relationship between indie authors like myself and those who choose to read and review their works. So my novel, ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’ has now been live at all electronic retailers for a few months and in that time I have managed to sell a few copies, expand my twitter following to more than a thousand and, most importantly, garner a small handful of very positive reviews from my readers, which I then use to promote my novel. Most of these can be found here (http://tinyurl.com/pgjd68z) and the latest review I received was prefaced with a tweet that simply said “brilliant! loved it.” in reply to one of my tweets advertising my book. Since beginning this process, I am slowly realising how unique the relationship between indie authors and their readers really is.

What strikes me about the relationship is how personal it is and how, in the case of these (rather lovely!) reviews, I know who wrote each of them. Well, I know which Twitter account is attached to each review anyway. Some of my readers even kept me updated with their progress through the book as they read it and when they reached the end, each of them has contacted me to let me know how much they enjoyed the novel. I find that this is a very nice thing indeed! Now, as I’m not an author published via the traditional route of finding an agent who then finds you a publisher and thus your book is released into the world, I can’t comment on that relationship. I tried that route and didn’t get anywhere, mostly because (I think) my novel is so hard to categorise, and I’m also sure that these authors get positive feedback from their fans when they meet them in person. But something about this relationship feels unique and I doubt I am the only indie author to think this.

The first time someone (my wife) read through my novel I was very nervous. Gradually, I learned to manage that feeling and since then the novel has had many read-through’s and edits so it is far more polished than the version that she first read. Friends and family have also read my book and given me feedback, but there is only so far that you can trust the words of those who love you and are likely to be nice about your work, even if it is not working. I trust those reviews to an extent, which was why I self-published, but having done so I waited to hear what other, unbiased people thought of it. Obviously hearing from strangers who have read it can go a variety of ways. They might love it, they might not. And a bad review can leave a very sour taste. My worst review (so far) is this: “didn’t work for me” which left me more than a little amused. First, I wish it had worked for them. But, given that it didn’t, they still gave the book 3 stars, suggesting that is wasn’t THAT bad. Unfortunately, I don’t know who it was and so I cannot ask.

Now, I am still hopeful that my novel will take-off and reach a much wider audience than has happened so far but, even if it does, I will still treasure those first few, rather lovely reviews that I received. And if you are one of those reviewers (and you all know who you are) then I thank you for taking the plunge with an unknown author and for taking the time to let me know what you thought of the work. It is a truly wonderful thing to hear back from those who have read and enjoyed your book and, should I become the world-wide smash-hit author that I am surely destined to become (hah!) then I will thank each of you in person when I meet you on my world-wide tour. Until then I shall enjoy the reviews as they come and continue to be immensely grateful for my readers and reviewers! Cheers!

 

Check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on comics, politics, self-publishing and my novel, ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’ which is out now at all electronic retailers! Also follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!

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