Tag Archives: Liberalism

#Europe, my country

#Europe, my country

When I was nineteen, Paula and I went inter-railing around Europe. The Berlin Wall had come down just the year before.

We splashed in the fountains in front of the Eiffel tower, then took a train East, chatting all day in English with a young man from Iceland. We stayed in the Ruhr and then in a small castle in Bavaria that was full of Yorkshire Terrier puppies. But we had to carry on East because Prague was the place to go, the recently uncovered jewel.

Being vegetarians then, all we could eat in Prague were white bread rolls, plain yellow cheese and the sweetest, most pungent tomatoes I’ve ever tasted. In the old town the statues of heroes on horseback, and the shutters and curtains decorated with hearts, recalled to us our own childhood fairytales of gingerbread cottages and earnest princes.

We wandered in grand nineteenth-century cemeteries, peered into dynastic shrines where brown and white photos showed familiar old-fashioned costumes – fluffy beards, cravats, monocles.

A history teacher and his wife and teenage son had us to dinner and spoke to us in broken English and broad smiles of delight that we could all be there together. After dinner the couple withdrew to the sofa to watch TV and cuddle unashamedly. We kept in touch with their son Jan by post-card for some years.

Paula and I took our picnics of white rolls, cheese and tomatoes to benches in the wide squares. Around us the middle-aged and the old walked slowly, almost gingerly, out from their apartments to sit on benches and talk, softly, casually, about this and that, the pigeons, the children.

We were told this was a great new pleasure for them, that they hadn’t been able to do for forty years.

The women were stout, with knotted nets of varicose veins around their calves.

Taking the train back we passed leafless forests, where smoke from soft coal had burned away the leaves.

We saw the wound and we saw it starting to heal.

#Mohammed Ali

Guest Post on Mohammed Ali by Herbie, St Albans

If the Bay of Pigs can be seen as a straight right hand to the psychological jaw of White America, then the Las Vegas defeat of the {black Christian} Floyd Patterson by {the black Muslim}  Ali was a perfect left hook to the gut”.——-

The heavyweight champion is a symbol of masculinity to the American male. And a Black champion, as long as he is firmly fettered in his private life, is a fallen lion at every white man’s feet. Through a curious psychic mechanism, the puniest white man experiences himself as a giant killer, as a superman, a great white hunter leading a gigantic ape, the black champion tamed by the white man, around on a leash. But when the ape breaks away from the leash, beats his deadly fists on his massive chest and starts talking to boot, proclaiming himself to be the greatest , spouting poetry and , and annihilating every gun bearer the white hunter puts on him { the white hunter  not being disposed to crawl in the ring himself } a very serious slippage takes place in the white mans self-image – “that by which he defined himself  no longer has a recognisable identity. “IF THAT BLACK APE IS A MAN,” the white hunter asks himself,

“THEN WHAT AM I”.

ELDRIDGE CLEAVER  : ‘SOUL ON ICE’.

MUHAMMED ALI:

UNFORGIVABLY BLACK

Muhammed Ali understood the psychopathology of boxing, its racist metaphor and  tapestry in the  American cultural quilt. he exploited it to the hilt. Right now that Black Power activism may not fit neatly into the outpouring of grief, respect and reflection in the coming days and weeks after his death only two Fridays ago at age 74. but it is one of the most crucial and enduring parts of a legacy that shaped the world.

By the late 1960s, Ali’s unforgiveable blackness  helped him emerge as a transcendent and global figure of black liberation, in doing so became more “black” than James Brown – the godfather of soul. He possessed more charisma than his friends Stokely Carmichael [ Kwame Ture} and Hubert Rap Brown {later Jamil al-Amin} who both tutored the heavyweight champion on the nuances of his own groundbreaking anti-war activism. He proved more accessible than Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad, who gave Ali his name as part of a successful effort to pry the young champion from the grips of his most important mentor, Malcolm X.

Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X were, like the title of the recent electrifying history of their friendship, Blood Brothers, whose shared reputations as trouble-makers hid profound intellectual energies and supple understanding of America’s racial politics.

Malcolm’s own star power helped shape Ali’s introduction to the world following his ascension to heavyweight champion in 1964. The two men conducted a public media tour of sorts, grabbing lunch in Harlem, touring the United Nations and verbally sparring with the large media contingent that trailed their every move.


Privately, Malcolm had attempted to school the young Ali on the nuances of the Islamic faith, the contradictions of the Nation of Islam and the burdens of public fame and celebrity. Malcolm taught Ali how to speak truth to power by any means necessary.

This lesson proved fatal in Malcolm’s case, when former colleagues, including Ali himself, shunned him after he left the Nation of Islam. on individual trips to Ghana both meet at the Ambassador Hotel. the one time obsequious gofer chastised his supreme captain{ as was one of Malcolm’s titles} for “betraying Elijah Muhammad”. ——

Talking of Ghana,In  Kumasi, its second largest city Muhammad Ali, was feted. My late iliiterate Grandmother, I am told, joined the kerbside throng and swooned over Muhammed Ali.  My late dad wh was in Britain at that time was so fond of Ali he  had a compendium of his memorabilla, bibliographies’ and I in turn autodidact developed an autodidact love of unnecessary trivia. continued to update this library and I grew up being fed ncyclopaedic facts and figures of  this ballet dancing batterer and his political career, like grain down a foie gras

but I digress.

 

Ali would publicly regret not having stood by his mentor’s side in later years. Tutored by the Black Power Movement’s most revolutionary symbol, however, Ali would find himself unwittingly taking Malcolm’s place as America’s most well-known black Muslim.

Ali’s religious beliefs and Nation of Islam membership sparked a national controversy. White promoters and business interests, who controlled much of the boxing establishment, threatened to cancel future fights. Many journalists defiantly referred to the heavy-weight champ by what he labeled “my slave name” of Cassius Clay. Ali insisted that reporters and boxers “say my name” — including former Cleveland Williams and Ernie Terrell both whom he defeated in humiliating fashion for failing to do so.

In the process, Ali paved the way for a generation of black athletes — most notably Basketball Hall of Famer, Lew Alcindor— to unapologetically embrace their political and religious beliefs and adopt a proud new racial identity and a new name: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Black Power radicalism framed Ali’s decision to refuse the draft. Stokely Carmichael, who was then chairman of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, and friend of Ali, popularized chants of “Hell no, we won’t go!” in explosive speeches around the nation. Martin Luther King Jr. soon followed Ali and Carmichael, lending gravitas to the burgeoning anti-war movement through his Riverside Church speech on April 4, 1967 in New York City.

Ali’s refusal to be inducted into the military shortly after turned resistance against the Vietnam War into a movement that transcended boundaries between sports and politics.

In the aftermath of defeating Sonny Liston in 1964, when Ali became heavyweight champion of the world, he famously remarked, “I shook up the world!” Ali’s words anticipated the global response to his anti-war stance, actions that were shaped by his growing participation in the Black Power Movement.

Stripped of his livelihood as a boxer and denied legal protection of being a conscientious objector, Ali went on the offensive. He defiantly confronted the U.S. foreign policy establishment. He outraged U.S. public officials by declaring that the Vietnamese people never “called me a nigger.”

Ali echoed Black Power activists’ critique of American hegemony. He challenged the usefulness of the Cold War as an organizing international principle, and stood in solidarity with the “Third World” against foreign intervention.

Ali became the most visible symbol of Black Power’s radical critique of American imperialism, structural racism and white supremacy. Like the early Malcolm X, he used the Nation of Islam’s belief in racial separatism as a shield against the political violence associated with efforts at racial integration. He wielded black history as a sword against white claims of racial inferiority.

Ali embraced the rough edges and the plainer surfaces of black identity in a manner that was unapologetically, at times unforgivably, black. Captivating the student body at Howard University, Ali ridiculed the oppressive breadth of white supremacy in popular culture, noting how “even the King of the Jungle, Tarzan in black Africa is white!” He then quipped that in heaven, black people were in the kitchen fixing the “milk and honey” for their white counterparts to eat.

Black Power shaped Ali’s global political imagination, offering him a framework to link his religious beliefs, athletic gifts, and outspoken personality. His odyssey helped fuel campus protests, emboldened medal-winning black athletes to raise defiant black-gloved fists at the Mexico City Olympics of 1968, brought anti-war sentiment into American living rooms and contoured wider debates over race and democracy that endure to this day.

Ali never rejected his political radicalism; he merely refined it. He incorporated many themes of his youthful activism into his career as a human-rights activist, philanthropist and global ambassador.

In old age, Ali became a universal icon — one whose legend at times stubbornly resisted the facts of his complicated legacy.

HERBERT AYEMANG

FREE-LANCE WRITER

Guest blog: Herbie Agyemang-Duah

From Herbie, St Albans:

 Donald Trump is getting angry white men very excited. Unfortunately, they won’t decide the election.

In 2016, race trumps class in America.

The most important American political act of this year by some degree was Beyoncé’s performance at the Super bowl.  

Her homage to the 1960’s Black Panthers and her Black Power salute brought the Black Lives Matter -– the protests about the disproportionate number of African American men who die at police hands – campaign to the mainstream. And she foregrounded the fact that the Presidential primaries are – in reality – about whether race matters more than class.

In all of the agonised analysis of what Donald Trump means for the Republican Party,  apart from the fact that the GOP grandees have lost control, one fact is repeated again and again – this has been a long time coming. The Trump Supremacy is not an aberration in Republican history, it is the culmination of a strategy that started with Richard Nixon’s Southern Strategy; his 1968 law and order { rein in the black trouble-makers platform } which won the  white working-class Southern voters back from the Democrats with a strong populist appeal rooted in values. And again repeated in 1972  his “Acid, Abortion, and Amnesty” assault on George McGovern saying that Democrats were hippies, un-Christian and pacifists who wanted Vietnam deserters pardoned to Reagan’s “Morning in America” optimistic patriotism (plus Guns, God and Abortion) that populism won over working class white voters. Again race was not off the menu: His “welfare queen” rhetoric referred to single-parent black mothers on social security.

Newt Gingrich even labelled Black President  Barack Obama the “food stamp president” during the 2012 presidential election.

Trump taps into that same strand of patriotic populism – “let’s make America great again” – but he roots his appeal in the anger of white working-class voters dislocated economically by jobs sent overseas. Free trade, off-shoring, immigration – all aspects and impacts of globalisation – have left them bewildered by change and often worse off too. Their rage against the elites is the fuel that has supercharged Trump’s campaign. But as I said the “values” politics has always had a racial inflection. Mainly a dog-whistle, though in Republican strategist Lee Atwater’s infamous Willie Horton attack ad on Michael Dukakis – highlighting a Massachusetts furlough policy that released a black murderer to escape and rape a white woman – it was more like a bugle call. Trump’s wall between the US and Mexico (paid for by the Mexican government) and the ban on Muslims coming to the country are firmly in an ignoble Republican tradition.

The problem for Republicans is that America is changing and is becoming a country where ethnic minorites are the majority. Already the four most populous states that sways elections – California, Florida, New York, and Texas – have Spanish as their de facto second language. That makes being an anti-Hispanic politician – as the Bush family know – setting your face against the future, and therefore electability. The performance of Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio in the primaries shows that the activist base of their party doesn’t care. Come the presidential election they will reap the whirlwind.

In the Democrat primaries a similar battle between class and race is being fought out. Sanders seeks to harness the same economic rage against globalisation – and he has had some success. Michigan,washinton state and close call in rust-belt Ohio shows that he can bring together a coalition of blue collar and middle-class voters who support his demands for economic reform. The problem, as votes who cast their votes in Missouri and and the South show,  that majority of African-Americans have a completely different take on what matters. For them race trumps class and it has to be addressed directly.

Clay Shirky, in a fascinating Twitter “essay” notes  that Sanders’ early response on Black Lives Matter was:

“Black lives matter, White lives matter, Hispanic lives matter”

The equalization of those lives in that statement eradicates race as a factor. African American voters listening get the message – Sanders doesn’t get it.

Contrast that with Hillary in Harlem:

“We still need to face the painful reality that African-Americans are nearly three times as likely as whites to be denied a mortgage.

“Something’s wrong when the median wealth for black families is just a tiny fraction of the median wealth of white families.

“Something is wrong when African-American men are far more likely to be stopped and searched by police, charged with crimes, and sentenced to longer prison terms than white men convicted of the same offenses.

“Black kids get arrested for petty crimes, but white CEOs get away with fleecing our entire country — there is something wrong.

“Just imagine with me for a minute if white kids were 500 percent more likely to die from asthma than black kids — 500 percent. Imagine if a white baby in South Carolina were twice as likely to die before her first birthday as an African-American baby. Imagine the outcry. Imagine the resources that would flood in.

“Now, these inequities are wrong, but they’re also immoral. And it’ll be the mission of my presidency to bring them to an end. We have to begin by facing up to the reality of systemic racism.”

That, in a nutshell, is why Hillary is beating Sanders in the black and Latino sections of town, especially in the southern united states  and why probably because of race, she will beat Donald Trump in a presidential election. In America in 2016 race trumps class.

#LibDems: Death of a Class

In 1997 I had the honour of being a journalist at the Financial Times. One afternoon we were summoned by our chief exec to the large lecture hall to hear a presentation he’d entitled ‘The Cascade’.

Long-standing foreign correspondents, eminent leader writers and small fry such as myself, a sub editor somewhere towards the middle of the second section, sat in the half dark while flow-charts flashed across a screen. It was in the days when Management was still on honeymoon with PowerPoint.

On the CE’s screen, boxes were arranged in pyramid formations, with vertical lines joining them up. These pyramid shapes appeared to be what had given rise to the CE’s title ‘The Cascade’.

The presentation centred around who was now reporting to whom in some new structure, of little interest to the journalists who ethically kept away from the commercial departments and simply reported to their Managing Editor of the day who operated like a ship’s captain, making instant decisions that commanded instant respect.

Now and again the CE mentioned his new word: ‘Delight’. Then he would click on a box, which would magically open up to reveal an inner core of bullet points – how that department was going to ‘delight’ its ‘stakeholders’. When we got finally to the Editorial box and the click was made there was just one item: Free Giveaways.

‘How are we to delight our readers?’ asked the CE. This was a rhetorical question. He didn’t await the journalists’ views. Instead, he reminded us that recently the FT had offered free gold-plated pens to readers.

We should have walked out then.

It was business doing the two fingers to the professional classes, on whose expertise that business depended.

I had already encountered management bullying and disrespect in smaller financial magazines: well-educated apprentices working all hours in the hopes of being kept on, only to be fired and replaced by a new eager apprentice; long-standing reporters constructively dismissed over tiny errors. Coming from a private school and Oxford, I had already by age 25 seen the necessity of joining my union.

But this, in front all the journalists at the Financial Times, when that paper was probably at the height of its prestige (the year it told the City to vote Labour), was an insult on a new scale.

It should have been a call to arms for the entire intelligentsia. But the intelligentsia has stayed mute about its own interests as a class, its members by long British tradition ashamed to be middle class, instead joining in others’ narratives, either sycophantically identifying with the toffs or sentimentally identifying with the remnants of the working classes whom they are now rapidly joining, to nobody’s benefit. It is this unwillingness to identify with the middle classes, in both Liberal Democrat politicians and their natural voters, the educated middle classes, that has led to the demise of the Party and, with it, a class, a way of life, a way to make a living.

Since 1997 I have seen more restructuring flow charts than I’ve had hot dinners. I moved into teaching but it made no difference. Skilled labour is replaced with unskilled labour. Inspections and targets are used to bully teachers, but doing well by those measures is no protection against sacking. Teachers at every level of the education system including university lecturers are forced to re-apply for their jobs. In my sector, Further Education, most colleges have a cull every summer. The result of all this is that the hirers and firers, the managers, practise bullying and favouritism on a grand scale. End-users suffer from the instability and the lack of motivation and skill in staff and the amount of sick leave.

Anything that can call itself a profession has been attacked: the civil services, the social services, the police, the military, the creative industries, academia, librarians, medical practitioners. Professionals have lost job security, pension and prestige. Doctors are well paid, but we don’t train enough doctors, so opportunities within the NHS are limited if you are British. Lawyers can survive because they have private clients, but the underlying justice and prestige of the legal system is eroded by the lack of Legal Aid and thus also the lack of test cases involving poorer people feeding into Common Law. Scientists and engineers can get jobs in industry, but who will educate the next generation of scientists?

I come from a family that has done just about all the professions connected with words and reason, counting over the last few generations a lawyer, a vicar, an archaeologist, writers, editors, a Maths teacher in a secondary modern, an actor, a master of an Oxford college, a History professor (and some of those have been women). My uncle was the first to leave, setting up his own business in the 1980s, trading in books, caught by enthusiasm for Thatcher. Now I am switching to business too. I am the main carer and main provider for my son and I think I have a better chance of developing an income stream going forward, and having time with him, even having some kind of pension, if I let my spare room and self-publish my own text books. I may not have sufficient business in my background for it to work. No guarantees. No doubt the Tories will self-righteously approve of my insecurity – professionals brought down at last.

I won’t have time to write novels about the state we’re in that can’t get published because Waterstones wants to run a limited number of titles, mainly celebrity cookbooks; or to be an activist in a Party that has to work twice as hard as the main parties for every vote; or time to try and influence public opinion and society at all.

Here ends the chattering classes, the chatter and this blog.

Adventures in Tory Land: Democracy in Middle England, comic tales of the canvassing trail, is available on Amazon.com for £2 here: http://amzn.to/1GpXY1F

Or, if you want to twang your heartstrings more, listen to ‘What I Did for Love’ sung by Engelbert Humperdinck on youtube: http://bit.ly/1JBe0Wi

#UKIP Myth 2: #Race

Leo is two and eight months and still hasn’t noticed skin colour. He knows his colours, and he’s got no qualms about making personal comments, remarking loudly on beards, moustaches, moles, hats, shoes and walking sticks. Very occasionally he talks about hair colour. ‘I’ve got brown hair. Mummy’s got brown hair. Daddy’s got…. grey hair!’

On Saturday we were coming back from the big Quaker meeting in Friends House in London and Albert pulled up in his car to talk to us. Albert is from Trinidad. After the chat, Leo asked me, ‘He’s a boy?’ ‘Yes, he’s a boy. He’s a man.’ ‘He got a willy?’ ‘Yes.’ With that cleared up, Leo went back to talking about trains.

The Racist Animal Lover by Asbjorn Gundersen

The Racist Animal Lover by Asbjorn Gundersen

Adventures in Tory Land: Democracy in Middle England, by Katie Barron and Asbjorn Gundersen, is available as an ebook and paperback through Amazon and in Waterstones St Albans. Yours for £2. For a laugh, click here! http://amzn.to/1GpXY1F

Leo and #Justice

Leo has been asking me ALL DAY, ‘Why does Mr King hava go to jail?’

‘Because he took some money’ is not enough of a reason for Leo.

And because I’m a Liberal parent, I’m just not gonna say ‘because he is a BAD MAN’. I’m not going to say it, although it might reassure Leo.

So why does Mr King, the smuggler in Graham Greene’s The Little Steamroller, have to go to jail?

Is it because he was grumpy?

Mr King is grumpy (Ardizzone)

Mr King is grumpy (Ardizzone, from The Little Steamroller, by Graham Greene, 1974)

Is it because he lied?

Mr King lies to a customs official (Ardizzone)

Mr King lies to a customs official (Ardizzone)

Is it because he crashed his car and lost his hat?

The Little Steamroller deliberately crashes into Mr King's car (Ardizzone)

The Little Steamroller deliberately crashes into Mr King’s car (Ardizzone)

Leo just can’t see stealing some gold and hiding it in some toy bricks as nearly as awful as having your hands ‘tangled up’ and being locked up in a cell without Mummy and Daddy, with no one to talk to and where you can’t get out. The only way out for us, at teatime, bathtime, bedtime, was to enact a role play where one of us would be Mr King. We said sorry, we gave back the gold, and then the policemen mended our car and our hat and we went home and had tea. But the hand-cuffs were insupportable. When I tried to mime wearing hand-cuffs Leo simply shouted ‘No!’

The day has been torture, and Leo has won. Because I don’t know why a punishment should ever be more painful than the original crime.

As Gilbert & Sullivan’s Mikado says, let ‘the punishment fit the crime’. By the way that was a brilliant production by St Albans Chamber Opera in March. They’ve another opera coming in May. http://www.stalbanschamberopera.org.uk/

BabMikadoTeeth
His teeth, I’ve enacted,
Shall all be extracted
By terrified amateurs.
(Cartoon by W. S. Gilbert)