“The society which has abolished every kind of adventure makes its own abolition the only possible adventure.” Paris, May 1968

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Survival International

I have been a supporter of Survival International, the group that campaigns for the rights of tribal peoples, for many years. Survival is not perfect of course, but who is and the organisation does have a policy of offering assistance to beleaguered tribes without trying to take over their struggle or manipulating tribal decisions. 
I won't go into details here of the long and depressing history of land theft and genocide that has been the fate of so many tribal peoples over the last hundred and fifty years. It's all out there in distressing detail if you are interested. Suffice to say that the remaining tribal and indigenous peoples of the world face an ongoing struggle against governments, multi-national companies, missionaries, do-gooders and lute playing ex rock stars. 
Tribal people aren't anthropological relics, nor are they noble savages. They are people like any other with all the strengths and weaknesses of the rest of us and all of the blessings and curses of the human condition. 

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Fear and Loathing in West London.

Mayor Boris Johnson's plan for a new "fantasy island airport on stilts" in the Thames Estuary seems unlikely to become reality anytime soon but you never can tell. The idea has been around for years, Grocer Heath being a previous enthusiast for an airport on the Maplin Sands. The sandbank in question was of course named after the famous leisure entrepreneur Joe Maplin who at one time wanted to establish one of his holiday camps there. Wake up at the back.
The loss of wildfowl habitat would be regrettable, but here in leafy West London we tend to be gung ho for the project. Anything to stop the expansion of Heathrow. Anything to take our minds off falling property values, school fees and the indignity of having to go on the school run (desert storm) in last years 4x4. Also we tend to view anywhere east of Bow Creek as one vast shit hole populated by tattooed neanderthals and ethnics various. This view used to extend to anywhere east of Bishopsgate until Thatcher's spawn seeped into the East End and the area became "interesting", "desirable", albeit a bit "edgy".

Friday, 28 November 2008

Plotlands Revisited

A couple of years back Five Leaves reprinted Arcadia for All, Dennis Hardy and Colin Ward's fascinating look at the plotlands of South East England and I picked up a copy at the Anarchist Book Fair.  The expression "plotlands" refers to the shanty towns that sprung up during the first half of the 20th century and especially in the inter-war period. An agricultural slump and the fall in land prices resulted in farmland being divided up into small plots and sold off for as little as a £1 down payment. The absence of any real planning legislation and the desire of working-class families from London to create weekend retreats where the kids could run around and get a bit of fresh air for a change resulted in a wonderful DIY landscape of shacks, shanties, ex-army bell tents, old railway carriages and colonial style corrugated iron bungalows. Many families moved onto to their plot during the blitz. Some stayed on after the war. Others moved down upon retirement and gradually the areas became permanent settlements.
Me and plotlands go back a bit. When I was five we moved into a wooden bungalow on Canvey Island. The unmade roads turned to a quagmire during the winter. There was no main drainage and the chemical toilet was emptied into a pit in the garden; a source of great interest to any small boy. I remember walking the sea wall that surrounded the island and we would often bump into one old gent who would sell Dad a copy of the Daily Worker and let us look through his binoculars at the Chapman Lighthouse, the coast of North Kent and the ships working up Sea Reach on the tide.
I think I liked Canvey. My mother was probably less enamoured and the 1953 floods must have been the last straw. The sea wall was breached and we were all evacuated but not before fifty eight people lost their lives. Shortly afterwards we left Canvey for good. Retreated to higher ground. Decamped to the broad sunlit uplands of Leyton.
I did return to Canvey many years later when I took my daughter there for a day trip. The roads were made up and all the old shacks replaced by modern brick buildings. I think that she was a bit disappointed really. Having been brought up on tales of how I used to live on an island below sea level I think that she was expecting something a bit more like Atlantis than the Wates type development that Canvey had become.

The usual toxic mix.

On a previous visit to Cyprus a few years back I visited the Museum of National Struggle in Nicosia. A sobering experience for any Brit holidaymaker who happens to stumble in expecting the usual collection of icons, pottery and rusty spear heads, the museum is in part dedicated to the killing of  British National Servicemen who probably had no idea why they were in Cyprus in the first place and is also a commemoration of the equally sad and pointless hanging of EOKA fighters by the authorities.
In the Cypriot inter-communal strife of the 50s and 60s the usual toxic mixture of nationalism and religion combined with British muddle and CIA meddle to create a bloody dress rehearsal for the real horror story later to unfold in Yogoslavia.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Now, where was I?

You would have to be totally insensitive not to appreciate why America's black community are so pleased about the election of Barack Obama and to be fair the man has his points. Looking for all the world like a black Mod from The Grove circa 1964, the President Elect exudes charm, cool and the gift of the gab. For myself, I'm afraid that I am reminded of 1997 and the euphoria ( in some quarters) that greeted the election of Tony Blair. That's a thought. You don't suppose do you that the Cheshire Cat Jesus Freak and master of the three chord trick might reinvent himself as Obama's new best friend?
I hope that Joe Calzaghe decides to call it a day now. A decisive win over one of the best pound for pound fighters of the post fifteen round era will be a fitting end to an outstanding career. I know that cynics will tell us that Joe fought a shop soiled and over the hill Roy Jones Jnr but no one was saying that as the fighters walked back to their stools at the end of the first round.
I have been in Cyprus. Walking the mountain trails, soaking up the rays and generally recuperating from the frantic celebrity lifestyle of today's Freedom Pass Anarchist. 

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

World on hold. Blogger on hols.

Cutting edge political comment, horticultural ramblings and a wealth of unsolicited information about the more obscure aspects of professional wrestling history are just some of the delights that you will have to forgo over the next couple of weeks. I'm off on me hols. 
When I return Barack Obama will probably have defeated John McCain (but it will be close), Joe Calzaghe will probably have failed to defeat the great Roy Jones Jnr (even closer?) and the allotment society newsletter editorial collective will probably have censored my controversial "open letter to the committee". 

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Studs Terkel Dies.

On the eve of the American presidential elections one of that countries finest social commentators and historians has died at the age of 96.
Such is the contempt that is felt for the neo-con, imperialist state of George W Bush that a whole generation of militants have grown up not knowing about the existence of another America. I'm thinking of the America of the Wobblies, of Steinbeck, "On The Road", City Lights Bookshop and Freedom Riders. An America not afraid to talk about the working class and one epitomised by Studs Terkel. RIP Studs.