Monty Python’s Dark Side

On Friday I’m going to the BFI Southbank to watch Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which I produced in 1974. I had to buy my own tickets because the BFI never bothered to inform me of the screening. I assume the reason they have left me in the cold is that the Pythons asked them not to invite me. This is quite a long story, but the short version is that after Spamalot came out, the Pythons decided that the royalties they had been paying me for 30 years was wrong and they slashed my royalties by 50%. I tried to negotiate and mediate my way out of this white collar theft but they were adamant that I had been cheating them for 30 years. After 7 years of haggling and getting nowhere I had no alternative but to take them to court, and I won the case, but at a terrible cost to my health and finances. The trial cost the Pythons £ 1.3m and they put on their 02 reunion to recoup that loss. Ever since then, they have done their best to erase me from their history. If you want to read more about the dark side of Python read my book The 7th Python which tells the sorry tale (www.the7thpython.com). The worst part of the experience for me was the fact that neither Terry Gilliam, a fellow film student when we shared a flat in NYC or National Treasure Michael Palin were willing to say to Eric Idle – let’s not do this. Why do I single out Eric? He revealed his hatred of me at the trial and called me ungrateful for trying to defend myself. Eric once put on a one man show called The Greedy Bastard Tour – this really says it all. In the book I include parts of Eric and Michael’s cross examination which is revealing of another side to them. I’m going to the screening because I’d like to view the film on a big screen again and to see Neil Innes, who is a friend. What bothers me the most is how petty this is of the Pythons, and how the BFI, our guardians of film culture, went along with this insult. After the trial I received this anonymous poem:

With a little grudge, with a little grudge
Open your purse ‘cause you’ve been defeated
With a little nudge from the trial judge
You’re worth’s slightly worse but not depleted

Sorry if it’s dumb to say
You’ve done all right in your lives
Really, is the sum you’ll pay
Worth such a fight in your lives

And though you feel rotten that he has won
Still I say don’t appeal, say that the deal is done
Is it just a grudge, just a little grudge
Hope the little nudge from the judge
Helps erase the grudge

With a little grudge, with a little grudge
Open your purse ‘cause you’ve been defeated
With a little nudge from the trial judge
You’re worth’s slightly worse but not depleted

Sorry if it’s dumb to say
You’ve done all right in your lives
Really, is the sum you’ll pay
Worth such a fight in your lives

And though you feel rotten that he has won
Still I say don’t appeal, say that the deal is done
Is it just a grudge, just a little grudge
Hope the little nudge from the judge
Helps erase the grudge

September 17, 2019 at 1:35 pm Leave a comment

History Explains Why The UK Was Not Prepared for Covid-19

Mark Forstater's Blog

In the last 100 years, Britain has faced 3 existential crises. The first was 1914 at the start of the 1st world war, the second 1939 at the beginning of the 2nd and the latest one – Brexit/ Covid-19 is not even a war at all (but has the potential to turn into one- a civil war). Each of these crises shows a persistent pattern to British decision making, and it’s worth remembering what they are.

In 1914 when the 1st WW started, Britain had only 4 months’ supply of acetone. Acetone is needed to make cordite, which is a missile propellant, and without a supply the war would have been over in 6 months. None could be bought because the Germans had monopolised the supply. The government turned to a chemistry lecturer in Manchester named Dr Chaim Weizmann who had synthesized acetone from grain in 1912 and asked him…

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April 29, 2020 at 9:55 am Leave a comment

A Cultivator’s Diary Pt 6 (from my journals 2007)

Mark Forstater's Blog

February 11, 2007

I read an article by Melanie McFadyean about her grandfather, Herbert Guttman from Berlin, whose father started the Dresdner Bank. Guttman went from an 80 room villa in Berlin to homelessness in London in 1939, but his attitude was “Money lost, nothing lost. Sense of humour lost, everything lost“. This is the right attitude to have in your current situation, where you are starting to worry about how you can fund everything. But this will all work out. Have faith.

February 24

I hope my energy improves soon. It’s now almost two weeks since I got ill and I hate the feeling of low energy, low enthusiasm and tiredness. It’s no good for work or life.

February 25

When you get ill, you realise how dying will feel, and you sense how old you are. What if you never recovered from this tiredness? Illness leads…

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April 5, 2020 at 11:57 am Leave a comment

After The Plague

Here’s the little I know about The Black Death in the 14th Century – it changed everything. After it had killed 30-50% of the population of Europe, the Peasants decided that life could not resume as it was before. So they revolted. Later, the Renaissance blossomed in a surge of creativity. I’m sure historians can elucidate on my ignorance.

It’s very likely that we will have the same experience: Deaths, revolution and creativity. After the Virus has died out, the Establishment will try to reinstate social and economic life as it was before. It may be broken, but it’s all they know. But we, the peasants, will want to see a drastic change. Life will have to be different.

Given that we were already under serious threat from climate disruption, and our environment was being degraded at an alarming rate, this change would have been forced on us in the very near future. But the virus is a really smart virus. It came along just in time to force us to stop, and take account of where we are going and how we live.

The loss of species, the degradation of animals and their environment is the background to this virus being able to jump from bats to pangolins and into humans. If we don’t want to replay this Viral lockdown scenario in another few years, it’s time now to think about the future.

Remember that Pharaoh had to contend with 7 plagues. We have so far had 5: HIV, Ebola, Sars, Mers and Covid-19. Do we really want to have to endure another 2? There are 5000 viruses available in the world. The odds are against us not having another outbreak. Look at Bill Gates’ Ted Talk warning in 2015. He predicted all this, as did others. We were not ready for it but can we ever really be ready for an invisible and smart killer ?

If I was Keir Starmer I would put together a virtual group of eminent experts and scientists who could begin to track for him the social, psychological, economic, technical and scientific changes that are already happening to us and which will continue to evolve through this plague year. When it all ends that should give him the information he needs to craft a new policy for Labour, one that chimes with the peasants. It will have to be green, it will have to reduce inequality, and it will have to bring more joy and satisfaction into our lives.

WH Auden’s line “We must love one another or die” was prescient. He later renounced it, but history has proven him a prophet. If we don’t care for each other and create a society that has compassion and concern for all of us, then we are likely to perish from the earth. And Gaia will just breathe a sigh of relief and say Good Riddance.

March 31, 2020 at 9:22 am Leave a comment

History Explains Why The UK Was Not Prepared for Covid-19

In the last 100 years, Britain has faced 3 existential crises. The first was 1914 at the start of the 1st world war, the second 1939 at the beginning of the 2nd and the latest one – Brexit/ Covid-19 is not even a war at all (but has the potential to turn into one- a civil war). Each of these crises shows a persistent pattern to British decision making, and it’s worth remembering what they are.

In 1914 when the 1st WW started, Britain had only 4 months’ supply of acetone. Acetone is needed to make cordite, which is a missile propellant, and without a supply the war would have been over in 6 months. None could be bought because the Germans had monopolised the supply. The government turned to a chemistry lecturer in Manchester named Dr Chaim Weizmann who had synthesized acetone from grain in 1912 and asked him if could create it on an industrial scale. He did it in a matter of weeks and factories were quickly set up. Because of this Britain managed to fight the war but only won because the Americans finally joined in.

In WW2 we had a different fiasco. Then the government tried to appease Hitler by making deals with him and did not prepare for war. Hitler had been re-arming for six years and was ready to fight. He had even bought airplanes from the British. How could they have thought they could appease this dictator, who was gobbling up Europe one country at a time? That so-called ‘warmonger’ Churchill was right all along that we would have to confront Hitler at some time and the sooner the better. In the end Britain won the war again but only because America joined.

2016 will go down in history as the year of Brexit, when a prosperous country, without an obvious enemy, decided to voluntarily make itself poorer, weaker and less stable. In that year we decided to cut ourselves loose from our largest trading partners and instead seek to be saved once again by America. But this America is not the same as the one who selflessly aided us in 1914 and 1939. This America won’t care what happens to us if we decide to cut our own throats. In fact, there will be people there (and in the rest of the world) who will find British decline quite an amusing spectacle.

Both Wars showed a woeful lack of planning and insight into the nature of the crisis. Both wars could have easily been lost. Plucky Britain was lucky Britain. But maybe it’s not three times lucky. Our history tells us that we are not very good at planning and management in a crisis. Covid -19 shows how this is a pattern of behaviour and not an anomaly. Can we please elect a government next which is at least competent. ?

August 12, 2019 at 9:07 am 1 comment

The Unknown Jewish Prophet

I am planning a museum installation called Yellow Star. It will show the history of German Jewry during the period 1930-1941. During my research I read the book The Pity of it All: A Portrait of the Jews in Germany 1743-1933 by Amos Elon. I was struck by this passage in the book:

“Another obscure publication of this kind was Before the Storm: A Serious Word of Warning to the Jews of Germany, which came out in Berlin in 1896. The author was a physician named Bernhard Cohn who minced no words advising German Jews to “expect the worst”: another St Bartholomew’s Day was in the making, he said, referring to the sixteenth-century massacre of Huguenots in France. German anti-Semitism had “method” and was therefore “more dangerous” even than Russian anti-Semitism: “Between Jews and non-Jews in Germany there exists, in effect, a state of war. It is no longer a legal question. The demand is not for our defeat or submission – this they have already achieved – but for destruction.”

I was amazed that Dr. Cohn, writing in 1896, could be so prescient about the future fate of German Jews. 37 years before Hitler came to power, Cohn was warning German Jews that the Shoah was on its way. I located Cohn’s pamphlet in the Wiener Library and asked my friend Mirco Keilflug to translate pages 8,12, and 46 which were the pages Elon cited as his source. The following is our translation of what Cohn wrote on those pages:
“It is very sad that the hatred of Jews has soared to such large-scale dimensions. The respectable classes of society listen with pleasure to the lying and vicious rants of anti-Semites. They see it as the patriotic duty of every German to view Judaism as a public enemy and to free the motherland from them.

My pamphlet doesn’t intend to investigate the causes of those strange manifestations, or to prove its inability to create any effect on the non-Jewish population or to prompt them to give up their repellant attitude towards the Jews. We would be blind if we don’t come to the conclusion that the latter is impossible. Citizens, parties or government don’t want to be taught that. We Jews take it as it is and are only interested to answer the questions: What do we have to be afraid of? What do we have to do to protect ourselves from events that might happen?

In answering the first question about the systematic inciting of all classes against the existence of Judaism and their attack on Jews, it is a mistake to remain optimistic. Lessons from the past and current observations warn us to expect the worst. To get straight to the point, we acknowledge that between Jews and non-Jews in Germany there has developed a state of war. It is no longer a question for the law. There is no place for illusions. We will not be able to persuade our enemy with any peaceful actions such as scientific deductions, essays, religious, philosophical, political, historical, socialistic, or ethnological discussions. It is not our inferiority that is the problem, but the assumed superiority that is an eyesore for them. Evidently, the superiority of Judaism is based on our economic success in Germany. This is a blessing for the country. But for us this is a problem because of the unfortunate separation of the Jewish and Christian populations. Or should we say the Aryan and Semitic parts of the population, which is a conceptual distinction invented by the anti-Semitic press.

Hence there is war between Jews and Christians, the black heads and the blonds! What should we do? Our advantage is that it is not us who caused the war. Generally we are like patient lambs lead to the slaughter. Sadly, it doesn’t matter what is legally right in the case of war. That is what had set an end to Carthage in the Third Punic War. We are in a similar situation. They do not expect our surrender or submission, because that has been given already. They expect our destruction and extermination.
Our situation is indeed extraordinarily endangered. As long there are quiet times and peace, our enemies will not risk an attack. The authorities are obliged to react to any unlawful actions towards us. Peace and order are the foundations for the existence and durability of any state. If those foundations are missing, it would expose the weakness of the regime. That is why the government has to protect its declared and most hated enemy.

But times may come when it will be very difficult for the authorities to protect our lives and property. For example, war could all of a sudden be declared because the political constellation has changed (may G-d protect us from it!) or a deciding battle is lost. Or any other unpredictable events that might happen where the states’ authority cannot defend us. Who knows if our adversaries are already waiting for such an event. Maybe they have already issued an edict to act against us in an organized way like a second St. Batholomew’s Night? Without doubt, the magnitude of rage against us is the same as it was three centuries ago against the Huguenots in France. Considering all the reports of anti-Semitism from Vienna, it needs only a little drop of water to make the barrel overflow. We are then facing the same danger as the Huguenots in France. Why should this not be possible and our concern justifiable?”

I have not been able to find any information about Dr. Cohn. Elon says that few people would have read his pamphlet yet he was in a long line of Jewish prophets, warning of a terrible future. He got it right that World War 1 would help to de-stabilise the country and that financial crises like hyperinflation and the great depression would cause the Weimar Republic to lose its authority. That power vacuum gave the Nazis a chance to seize power, Their hatred destroyed not only the Jews but Germany as well. This is the poison of Anti-Semitism.

May 9, 2019 at 6:35 pm Leave a comment

Brexit – a typical British mess

There is something radically ramshackle about the politics of England whenever an existential threat arises. The government of the day appears to be both unprepared for the threat and in need of outside help to avert disaster.

On a recent Question Time Gina Miller called the government’s actions on Brexit ‘shambolic’. This word I believe applies to every existential crisis that this country has lived through in the past 100 years. For example, look at the preparations for WW1 and WW2. When war started in 1914, the War Office had only 4 months supply of Acetone, which was essential for coating the heads of missiles. They used to buy it from Germany and for some reason that source was no longer available. Now there was none to be had. Unless something could be done, the war would be lost in 6 months.

The government asked a senior lecturer in biochemistry at the University of Manchester named Dr. Chaim Weizmann to try to develop a synthesised version of Acetone. He soon invented a fermentation process that came to be called “the Weizmann Process.” This enabled Britain to fight the war, which was eventually decided by the US adding their men and materiel to the fight.

WW 2 had a different but similar situation. The government of the day was so anxious to avoid a war that it both appeased Hitler and made no preparation for a possible conflict, leaving the country without planes, tanks, guns and bombs to fight against a Germany that had been re-arming itself for 6 years. Churchill spent his wilderness years trying to convince the government that Hitler was a real threat and that appeasement would not work. In the end the US again had to step into the conflict to give the Allies a decisive victory. Both of these potential disasters were averted by the US stepping in, something which will not happen this time. .

The current existential crisis, which at least is not a war, is the question of Brexit. Once again, the government is totally unprepared for the event, and doesn’t seem to understand the nature of the threat. In this crisis the USA will not step in to help, because it has actually increased the threat by starting a new trade war as the aggressor.

This trade war should make it very obvious where the country is heading via Brexit. It is obvious that Trump only respects power, and what we are doing with Brexit is voluntarily reducing our power. The hard-line Brexiteers may believe that going it alone in the world will increase our power and prosperity, but this looks increasingly like an illusion. Leaving the EU will make us weaker economically and in the eyes of the world, including Donald Trump’s. This means we are deliberately making ourselves weaker and poorer. Hard to believe that a country would do this to itself, but then why didn’t anyone stockpile acetone and who thought you could appease Hitler? There is a terrible pattern repeating itself here. Mrs May rushed to Washington when Trump was elected to solidify the special relationship and lay the ground for a great trade deal with the US. We now see how much that is worth. He said America First not the special relationship first.

Let’s do a ‘what if’ moment. What if the US trade war started before the referendum was called. Who, other than hard-line Tory and Ukip Eurosceptics, would have seen the sense of breaking away from our largest trading partners in the midst of economic turmoil. It’s time to wake up. It’s not too late. The country needs to vote again, now that it is becoming clear what an unholy mess Brexit is going to be.

June 30, 2018 at 1:53 pm 1 comment

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