Tag Archives: Politics

Liberal England: How can a #Liberal talk to a #Hate Addict?

The wonderful Jonathan Calder has published my piece on what Europe’s oldest poem, the Iliad, can tell us about hate addiction.

How can Liberals argue with people who are getting a kick out of hate?

The Iliad on Jonathan Calder’s Liberal England Blog

 

#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

#UKIP Myth: Toy Story

When Leo sits down with his Toy Story jigsaw puzzles a cold hand grips my heart. Sunday evening, I want to feel cosy, and he brings out those garish, creepy figures.

But there’s no escape. ‘Come, Mummy,’ says my two and a half year old, extending the beckoning hand that can’t be refused.

toy story jigsaw

Added to the first horror of sorting out four jisaws that have been jumbled together, I then have to pore over every limb of these gruesome zombie like objects: the corpse with the drooping eyelid (Leo calls it ‘baby’); the giant locust crossed with the Incredible Hulk (Leo calls it ‘green man with yellow pants’); the sickly pink fluffy monster (‘teddy bear’ to Leo), the leathery octopus, the eight-eyed monster…. I want to hide these four jigsaws (once we start we have to do them all) in a cupboard, but his favourite babysitter gave them to him for Christmas, so it wouldn’t be diplomatic.

I wonder if this is how Ukippers feel about the European Union: weird alien creatures they don’t want to understand. And I sympathise.

But I have to learn from Leo who assumes that everything around him is animate, and in some way connected to the world he already knows, and so he can relate to anything. The doll is a baby, the eight-eyed monster is a different kind of frog.

Maybe even Farage is just a different kind of frog.

Maybe we can relate to the Other without losing ourselves.

World v Britain

Market Bulletin from St James Place Wealth Management shows clearly that investors think a stand-alone UK is pants. Read here:

SJP Market Bulletin 20 June 2016

#OscarsSoWhite

 

Inclusion is Hollywood’s Second-Favourite Activity

Guest Post by Herbert Agyemang-Duah, St Albans.

The Oscars have, for the second straight year, failed to nominate any actors of color. It’s not that they’re trying to be racist. It’s just that they can’t help it.

For the second year in a row, the Academy has handed out a whopping total of zero nominations to non-white performers in the four acting categories.

After accusations of racism from the mainstream media and Twitter’s “OscarsSoWhite” hashtag sullied last year’s awards, it’s hard to understand how the eternally progressive Hollywood community behind the Oscars couldn’t correct last year’s error and offer a measly one of those 16 nominations to an actor of color. How did this happen? How did this group of racial-diversity-embracing liberals offer up the exact same offense this year?

To answer that question, imagine you’re a person who really values religious inclusivity. In fact, you value it so much that your second favorite activity in the world is inviting Muslim and Jewish folks over to your house for dinner.

The problem, however, is that your favorite activity in the world is serving your dinner guests a piping hot plate of barbecued pork. In fact, you love doing this so much that you can’t stop yourself from offering the aforementioned porcine cuisine to dinner guests you know have religious objections to eating it.

So even though you really want to practice religious inclusion, and even though you don’t want to get yelled at for offering your Muslim and Jewish guests unclean food again, you fall into the same pit because you just can’t bring yourself to change the dinner menu. It’s not that you’re trying to exclude your Muslim and Jewish dinner guests. It’s just that exclusion happens when you won’t sacrifice the thing you love if that’s what it takes to embrace your guests.

This is precisely why the Oscars have, for the second straight year, failed to nominate any actors of color. It’s not that they’retrying to be racist. It’s just that they can’t help it. Of course the Academy wants to give statues to non-white actors and actresses. Of course it would love to have another Hattie McDaniel moment or hear another Halle Berry style acceptance speech.

Hollywood’s favorite thing is giving awards for performances in movies about upper-class 1940s lesbian college professors who bravely battled both unjust banking practices and homophobia.

But giving awards to people of color is currently the Academy’s second-favorite thing in the world. Its favorite thing is giving awards for performances in movies about upper-class 1940s lesbian college professors who bravely battled both unjust banking practices and homophobia—bonus points if they were persecuted by political or religious conservatives, double bonus points if they worked in Hollywood, and triple bonus points if they existed in real life.

Because the Academy insists on doing its favorite thing, because it insists on giving all its awards to films of this nature, it can’t help but exclude those of ethnicities that weren’t terribly prevalent in 1940s upper-class British academic circles or on McCarthy-era blacklists. So, just like the dinner host who won’t sacrifice his favorite thing (serving pork to his guests) for the sake of his second favorite thing (respecting their religious beliefs), the Oscars have no choice but to fail at racial inclusivity as long as they prefer to shower awards on cinematic stories that exclude most of the races.

For example, it’s not that the Academy was trying to exclude “Creed’s” Michael B. Jordan from the best actor race. It’s just that Eddie Redmayne played a kind-of-real-life transgender caucasian artist, and Oscar voters couldn’t possibly have taken that off the menu include someone who played a character as boring as a pretend black boxer from God knows where.

Steve Jobs’ story needed to be told again because the first time it had Ashton Kutcher in it.

Similarly, while in a down year Hollywood would gladly have nominated “Concussion’s” Will Smith for playing real-life forensic pathologist Bennet Omalu, Bryan Cranston played an ever-so-terribly-persecuted-in-real life Hollywood Communist in “Trumbo,” and there’s no way the Academy could have overlooked a performance of that historic significance just to bring more diversity to Oscar night.

Dalton Trumbo’s story, after all, needed to be told, as did Lili Elbe’s (“The Danish Girl”). Steve Jobs’ story needed to be told again because the first time it had Ashton Kutcher in it. And it’s hardly the Academy’s fault blacks were too busy not being allowed to be screenwriters in 1950s Hollywood or that Latinos failed to adequately represent themselves in 1920s Scandinavian LGBTQ circles or that no one of Middle Eastern descent would have been believable as the half-German inventor of the iMac. (Unrelated fun fact: Steve Jobs was also half Syrian! Who knew?) Donald Trump take note.

Granted, one might argue Hollywood could fix its race problem by essentially keeping the barbecue rub recipe but swapping out pork for a more inclusive meat—in other words, by casting non-white actors in the kind of roles it most desperately wants to award. In theory, there’s no reason film studios couldn’t make this happen.

There’s no reason historical details like ‘Bruce Jenner wasn’t black’ should diminish the power of a biopic called ‘Caitlyn’ with Idris Elba in the titular role. he goesw on to say

If historical inaccuracies like Steve Jobs not saying most of the stuff he said in “Steve Jobs” didn’t diminish the film’s Oscar-worthiness, there’s no reason historical details like “Bruce Jenner wasn’t black” should diminish the power of a biopic called “Caitlyn” with Idris Elba in the titular role.

As much as the Academy would love to support a project of this nature, however, filmmaking is a business, studios need to make a profit to survive, and the harsh economic reality of awards season is that audiences simply aren’t lining up to see films with Oscar-worthy performances from actors of color like they are from white actors. Or the ‘right’ audiences aren’t?

What is the numbers story? “Creed,” brought in  $106 million domestically, as opposed to “Spotlight’s” $28 million, “Steve Jobs’s” $17 million (on a $30 million budget), “The Danish Girl’s” $8 million, “Trumbo’s” $7, “Carol’s” $7, “Room’s” $5, and “45 Years’s” staggering $341,000. Okay, those might have been seven bad examples, but you get the point—Hollywood and the Oscars really want to give non-white actors an opportunity to shine. Audiences just won’t let them?

Perhaps the Oscars wouldn’t have to be so white if people of color could figure out a way to make their history a little more transgendery.

So of course the Academy wants to be more racially inclusive. Racial inclusivity is, after all, its second favorite thing in the world. It’s just that, right now, the Academy’s favorite thing is hurling golden statues at films whose settings and characters prevent them from including any blacks or Latinos or Asians or Native Americans or anyone of an integument darker than translucent ivory.

So perhaps those inclined to once again fill Twitter with the “OscarsSoWhite” hashtag should show a little compassion towards the poor members of the Academy who, bless their hearts, just can’t let religious inclusion trump serving pork for dinner.

If we want to fix this problem, perhaps it’s time to look to the other side of the table. Perhaps it’s time to ask those Jewish and Muslim dinner guests to try a bite of the unclean cuisine. Perhaps the Oscars wouldn’t have to be so white if people of color could figure out a way to make their history a little more transgendery or Hollywoody or English-accented, or, at the very least, a little more staring-at-walls-and-coming-to-terms-with-things. – – – –

MEMO TO SPIKE LEE:  enough of the black angst, cultural clichés. enough of the the uncle toms, coons, mammies  and bucks images of your people. it might make you moolahs  but it reinforces and reinscribes  negative sterotypes. those age old racist caricatures are passé even as  parodies or political statements. a new script that transcends the tribe might score you brownie points.  {pun intended} and give your Black actors Oscars.A

Another note: Audiences, black or white or Hispanic don’t want to be preached at; or forcibly streamed through your kaleidoscope of Black consciousness. . Anyway Agit-prop doesn’t make money and that is why Hollywood doesn’t promote them.

HERBERT CHARLES AGYEMANG-DUAH

FREELANCE WRITER /  EDUCATOR / SOCIAL ACTIVIST / MUSICOLOGIST

#Pilgrimage in Terror: Day 1

September 2002. Disillusioned with protesting against the ‘war on terror’, Katie went on a 13-day pilgrimage in Northern Spain.

Day 1: Invasion

File:From Citadelle, Saint-Jean-pied-de-port 01 HDR (1873202026).jpgOn the railway platform at Bayonne we were all waiting in our different ways for the train that would take us to St. Jean Pied de Port (‘St John at the foot of the pass’) and the start of the pilgrimage route. One man was smoking a pipe and his wife, a cigarette. They wore chic red rain gear. I wondered how they would make it, with smokers’ lungs, over the Port de Cize, the mountain pass that had brought the Romans and Napoleon into Spain, and now pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago.

We strung ourselves out along the platform. We were all clearly walkers, with our backpacks and boots. We couldn’t hide from each other that we were all starting off on the same rather zany commitment of time and energy: a pilgrimage. Even today, even when lots of the walkers on the route are atheists or agnostics, it isn’t quite like just setting off on a hike. The modern tradition of the route says it will change you, it will give you some kind of experience of truth or happiness or peace. Paolo Coelho and Shirley MacLaine are but two of the more famous writers who have talked of mystic experiences on the way to Compostela. And that made us all a little sheepish standing there, made it difficult to strike up a conversation, as if we were all sitting in a therapist’s waiting room.

Our train crawled into the station. It hadn’t been painted for years. It made me think of the Harry Potter train, taking us into the time-warp of walking, into a world where the rules are different. Very soon the land began to rise around us as the train rattled on, winding tighter and tighter into the Pyrenees. Grassy banks sloped up at forty-five degree angles from our window, waving bunches of trees at the top. A light misty rain blurred the distances.

Opposite me in my compartment sat a young Englishman, just out of his teens. He was well built, with close-cropped hair. I could tell he was English because, apart from pale skin and shyness, he was studying a copy of the bright green laminated guidebook produced by The Confraternity of Saint James, a British outfit headquartered in Lambeth.

Chugging round tight valleys in the Pyrenees, I wondered if the young man opposite me had met the same lady in mauve that I had met in the Confraternity’s Lambeth office. He certainly had great respect for the guide, which he was poring over. Would he like a conversation or would he think talking to fellow English spoilt the atmosphere?

The ticket inspector entered our compartment. This created more awkwardness: the embarrassment of making those strange French sounds in front of a fellow Englishman. So we both of us confined ourselves to the relatively uncontroversial ‘Merci’, with just a glimmer of the vomit sound of the French ‘r’. The inspector didn’t bother looking us in the face, but examined our tickets disapprovingly from above a bulbous nose.

Having survived that incident together, we started to exchange bits of our lives. Alec was at ‘uni’ and seemed anxious. He only had enough money for two weeks’ walking and he wanted to get as far as Burgos, 257km according to the guidebook. I would never be able to walk that fast. Ah youth and maleness!

‘And what made you decide to do it?’ I asked.

‘Character building. That sort of thing.’ He was looking down. ‘I want to test myself. My Dad was in the army.’ So that explained the haircut. ‘He’s always told us that it’s important to have challenges in your life.’ Pause. ‘How about you?’

There I was, a recent peace demonstrator, walking against war, and in the very first moments of my pilgrimage I’m alone in a compartment with a soldier’s son. What magnetic material had they planted in those laminated bright green booklets to bring unlikely people together?

Faced with the politeness and forthright decency of this young man, my anti war arguments dissolved on my tongue. ‘I just wanted some time to reflect,’ I said, ‘Deserter!’ ringing in my ears.

I moved the conversation on to discussing the two routes over the Pyrennees into Spain: Napoleon’s conquering one over the mountain and Charlemagne’s path of retreat down in the valley. To my surprise, Alec agreed with me that the lower route would be enough of a personal challenge for the first day. Neither of us had done any training before we left, he because he was working day and night and I because I hadn’t managed to get organised.

But when we reached the tourist office in St. Jean, which was flooded out with pilgrims of all nationalities, their pilgrim staffs rolling over the floor and the shiny new rucksacks obstructing all passage, we were commanded to take the upper path, the ‘Route Napoleon’. The woman behind the desk raised an eyebrow and completely failed to comprehend when we suggested we might follow the modern lorry driver’s route. Brushing aside our qualms she told us to stay the first night at a hamlet called Huntto and attack the pass tomorrow. She pointed out the way on her map and showed us where, tomorrow, halfway along, there was a water fountain and shops. This I translated for my friend.

Alec was keen to get to a supermarket and stock up on provisions. I on the other hand was dreaming of a sit-down lunch with meat and potatoes. He was a little hesitant to abandon me in Saint Jean but I reassured him, so he shook hands with me and strode off. Over the next days of the walk I soon lost touch with him, polite and upright as he was. He rose each day with the earliest and launched off into the pre-dawn, swinging a plain baguette. I’m sure he reached Burgos and will do well.

In contrasting style I lingered in the mediaeval fortified town of St. Jean, eating a pricey meal of a whole duck with chips. It was late and I was the last person lunching, upstairs over a bar, with red and white checked paper tablecloths for company.

The town’s chief business seemed to be starting pilgrims on their journey. There was an entire market for pilgrims’ staffs. I wanted one of these, as I had read that they were a deterrent to dogs. I chose one with a spike. This was a bad mistake. The shock and ring of that spike on dry roads was to persecute me up and down dale for two weeks. But I clung to the thing in the hope that it would scare off territorial beasts who might waylay me at the gates of far-flung farms.

Before leaving St Jean, I climbed one of the stone staircases up onto the massive walls. Hills stretched away in all directions, blue and mushy with mist.

I had decided to dedicate each day of my walk to an aspect of the ‘war on terror’. I was hoping to find insights as I walked.

The theme I had picked for today, September 5th, was the plight of the Iraqis. Troops were already massing in the Gulf before I set off.

From my position on the fortifications, I gazed down on terracotta roofs, which the rain had stained dark red. Each had its own sliver of garden running towards the wall, dripping and shiny with the recent showers. Some were striped with different shades of green, the foliage of tomatoes, marrows, beans. Others had grown wild, but even those showed some sign of human providence – a walnut tree or an apple tree, a little easy nourishment in these pockets of land.

I could not think about a dry place. I could not think about suffering and fear. I could not think about hunger and the worry of parents. I could not both be here and somewhere else. How strange it was to be attacking a country so far away, none of whose people I had ever met, let alone hated. Here was full of enjoyment and there not. I chose here. I chose with an uneasy feeling of guilt.

So it was with a heavy heart and confusion, together with my usual expectant fear of dogs, that I crossed the river over the mediaeval bridge and followed signs for Huntto….