Nearly 40 years after the Sex Pistols’ first began transforming music forever, Johnny Rotten is still not ready to calm down: There's the release of his memoir Anger is an Energy, the upcoming recording of a new album with PIL and a concert at London’s O2 arena in December.
In between two book signings across the UK, the 58-year-old punk, who's given name is John Lydon, agreed to answer questions by The Guardian’s readers in a webchat today. Not surprisingly, it was not boring — if not always linear — covering everything from British politics, rival bands and bacon sandwiches, here are Rotten's best responses.
1. “Keith Larkworthy”: Hello John. Ever thought of getting into politics and shaking up Westminster?
Johnny Rotten: This is constantly suggested to me. I suggest everybody votes, everybody should try to make the best of a bad situation, and for me, I despise the entire shitstem because it is corrupt, but that corruption has only come about because of the indolence of us as a population. I'd get into Westminster if I need a new apartment.
2. “HerbGuardian”: What’s your opinion of UKIP (Britain's far-right party)?
A black hole for the ignorant to fall into. That's it. Farage? I wonder what the roots of that name are. I think he's faragical.
3. “whiteyed”: Pistols or the Clash. Whose legacy has the greater cultural value?
Nobody gives a toss about The Clash. In the beginning, there was the Sex Pistols. Then there's PIL. The Public Image Limited.
4. “WakeUpArgh”: Why do you think there’s no voice of rebellion in music anymore?
Since the demise of record stores and corner shops, the social aspect of music and in particular live venues being reduced in numbers — clubs vanishing — communication has been reduced to the all glorious failure of the international highway of truth we now know as the Internet. Impersonal. Does not solve the problems that are so deeply personal. Hello human beings.
5. “Golub2”: Youth today? Are they as clever, as angry and as talented as youth of the 70s? Your sweeping generalizations are sought and respected. Thanks.
The youth of today have every possibility as being as smart or a stupid as the youth of past. So long as you remove Russell Brand from the agenda. I think he's absolutely clarified himself as arsehole number one. It's not funny to talk nonsense. I think his words are the words of somebody else. Misconstrued.
6. “bootlegtape”: Vinyl, CDs or downloads, which do you prefer?
Vinyl firstly, CDs secondly, downloads are utterly hopeless. You are not getting the correct signal. You're not getting the full sound. It's like comparing a Polaroid to High Definition films.
7. “wed1964”: What are you spiritual beliefs? You seem to be a very devoted and loyal individual especially regarding marriage, family, and friends.
I like lime-flavored yogurt. The end. There is no religion. It's a manmade fabrication. Once you understand that, you'll be a happier individual. Atheism is as pointless as Satanism.
8. “Uncannyvalley”: Are you afraid of death?
Yes. Looking forward to it also. It's every person's ultimate condition. So I'm in no rush!!! I have no proof of the afterlife. And therefore wait and see. I had one near death experience in my life — I was in a coma for four months. I'm in no rush to repeat it. There were no “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”, there was no tunnel with the light at the end of it. There were no happy faces floating on clouds. But there was me in agony, which, in the long run, is currently preferable.
Public Image Limited in March 2013 — Photo: Sunshine/Xinhua/ZUMA
9. “Jai R. Emmett”: Are there any plans to release rare live or studio stuff in the future, especially from the “Metal box” era??
In two weeks’ time, I return to that bastion of conservative thinking called The Cotswolds to bring out a new album with PIL. It will be fun to share a field with freezing cold sheep. I will also in the very near future (Dec. 13) be performing live at the Indigo O2 London. Your question to me sounds like you are less interested in genuine music rather than from a collectors perspective, which I always find dubious. If you just seek rare, you're probably providing Ebola eventually. We hope. Not. But. Then. Again....
10. “Jay Love”: Bacon butty — tomato ketchup or brown sauce? Bread or toast?
All of the above. And a cup of tea. Brewed so thick you could trot a horse over it. No sugar, skimmed milk.
Here's the full Guardian chat.
And if that's not enough, here is an interview Rotten gave in 1978 to the British journalist Janet Street-Porter, in which he is surprisingly amiable — maybe it was the proper top hat.
Local villagers in western India have been forced to live with a mining waste site on the edge of town. What happens when you wake up one day and the giant mound of industrial waste has imploded?
BADI — Last week, when the men and women from the Bharwad community in this small village in western India stepped out for their daily work to herd livestock, they were greeted with a strange sight.
The 20-meter-high small hill that had formed at the open-cast mining dumpsite had suddenly sunk. Unsure of the reason behind the sudden caving-in, they immediately informed other villagers. In no time, word had traveled far, even drawing the attention of environment specialists and activists from outside town.
This mining dumpsite situated less than 500 meters outside of the Badi village in the coastal state of Gujarat has been a matter of serious concern ever since the Gujarat Power Corporation Limited began lignite mining work here in early 2017. The power plant is run by the Power Gujarat State Electricity Corporation Limited, which was previously known as the Bhavnagar Energy Company Ltd.
Vasudev Gohil, a 43-year-old resident of Badi village says that though the dumping site is technically situated outside the village, locals must pass the area on a daily basis.
"We are constantly on tenterhooks and looking for danger signs," he says. Indeed, their state of alert is how the sudden change in the shape of the dumpsite was noticed in the first place.
Can you trust environmental officials?
For someone visiting the place for the first time, the changes may not stand out. "But we have lived all our lives here, we know every little detail of this village. And when a 150-meter-long stretch cave-in by over 25-30 feet, the change can't be overlooked," Gohil adds.
This is not the first time that the dumpsite has worried local residents. Last November, a large part of the flattened part of the dumpsite had developed deep cracks and several flat areas had suddenly got elevated. While the officials had attributed this significant elevation to the high pressure of water in the upper strata of soil in the region, environment experts had pointed to seismic activities. The change is evident even today, nearly a year since it happened.
It could have sunk because of the rain.
After the recent incident, when the villagers raised an alarm and sent a written complaint to the regional Gujarat Pollution Control Board, an official visit to the site was arranged, along with the district administration and the mining department.
The regional pollution board officer Bhavnagar, A.G. Oza, insists the changes "aren't worrisome" and attributes it to the weather.
"The area received heavy rain this time. It is possible that the soil could have sunk in because of the rain," he tells The Wire. The Board, he says, along with the mining department, is now trying to assess if the caving-in had any impact on the ground surface.
"We visited the site as soon as a complaint was made. Samples have already been sent to the laboratory and we will have a clear idea only once the reports are made available," Oza adds.
Women from the Surkha village have to travel several kilometers to find potable water
A questionable claim
That the dumpsite had sunk in was noticeable for at least three days between October 1 and 3, but Rohit Prajapati of an environmental watchdog group Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, noted that it was not the first time.
"This is the third time in four years that something so strange is happening. It is a disaster in the making and the authorities ought to examine the root cause of the problem," Prajapati says, adding that the department has repeatedly failed to properly address the issue.
He also contests the GPCB's claim that excess rain could lead to something so drastic. "Then why was similar impact not seen on other dumping sites in the region? One cannot arrive at conclusions for geological changes without a deeper study of them," he says. "It can have deadly implications."
Living in pollution
The villagers have also accused the GPCB of overlooking their complaint of water pollution which has rendered a large part of the land, most importantly, the gauchar or grazing land, useless.
"In the absence of a wall or a barrier, the pollutant has freely mixed with the water bodies here and has slowly started polluting both our soil and water," complains 23- year-old Nikul Kantharia.
He says ever since the mining project took off in the region, he, like most other villagers has been forced to take his livestock farther away to graze. "Nothing grows on the grazing land anymore and the grass closer to the dumpsite makes our cattle ill," Kantharia claims.
The mining work should have been stopped long ago
Prajapati and Bharat Jambucha, a well-known environmental activist and proponent of organic farming from the region, both point to blatant violations of environmental laws in the execution of mining work, with at least 12 violations cited by local officials. "But nothing happened after that. Mining work has continued without any hassles," Jambucha says. Among some glaring violations include the absence of a boundary wall around the dumping site and proper disposal of mining effluents.
The mining work has also continued without a most basic requirement – effluent treatment plant and sewage treatment plant at the mining site, Prajapati points out. "The mining work should have been stopped long ago. And the company should have been levied a heavy fine. But no such thing happened," he adds.
In some villages, the groundwater level has depleted over the past few years and villagers attribute it to the mining project. Women from Surkha village travel several kilometers outside for potable water. "This is new. Until five years ago, we had some water in the village and did not have to lug water every day," says Shilaben Kantharia.
The mine has affected the landscape around the villages
Resisting lignite mining
The lignite mining project has a long history of resistance. Agricultural land, along with grazing land were acquired from the cluster of 12 adjoining villages in the coastal Ghogha taluka between 1994 and 1997. The locals estimate that villagers here lost anything between 40-100% of their land to the project. "We were paid a standard Rs 40,000 per bigha," Narendra, a local photographer, says.
The money, Narendra says, felt decent in 1994 but for those who had been dependent on this land, the years to come proved very challenging. "Several villagers have now taken a small patch of land in the neighboring villages on lease and are cultivating cotton and groundnut there," Narendra says.
They were dependent on others' land for work.
Bharat Jambucha says things get further complicated for the communities which were historically landless. "Most families belonging to the Dalit or other marginalized populations in the region never owned any land. They were dependent on others' land for work. Once villagers lost their land to the project, the landless were pushed out of the village," he adds. His organization, Prakrutik Kheti Juth, has been at the forefront, fighting for the rights of the villages affected in the lignite mining project.
In 2017, when the mining project finally took off, villagers from across 12 villages protested. The demonstration was disrupted after police used force and beat many protesters. More than 350 of them were booked for rioting.
The villagers, however, did not give up. Protests and hunger strikes have continued from time to time. A few villagers even sent a letter to the President of India threatening that they would commit suicide if the government did not return their land.
"We let them have our land for over 20 years," says Gohil.