Thursday, 29 October 2009
Having procured a copy from Wing Commander Bone at the bookfair I have been reading Hartmann The Anarchist a Victorian ripping yarn available again after being out of print for the past hundred years (not in itself a great recommendation it must be said). I was interested to learn that the author was the brother of Colonel Percy Fawcett the famous explorer who disappeared in the Amazon Basin in 1925. In the 50s Fawcett's son published his father's papers as Exploration Fawcett. Now that really was a ripping yarn and is also well overdue for a reprint.
Wednesday, 28 October 2009
As if last Saturday's Anarchist Bookfair was not enough excitement for one month this Saturday London plays host to a mass rally calling for the establishment of sharia law in UK. Islam4uk are the bunch of space cadets behind this latest addition to the capital's live entertainment scene and their website is well worth a visit. Here they reveal their plans for pubs and football grounds as well as for Trafalgar Square (not a lot of people getting their kit off on the fourth plinth I imagine). There is a very helpful section called "ask the Iman" and a whole heap of information on how to spot the early indications of , and it's always a worry, "becoming kafaar without realising it". I hate to say it, but Islam4uk make the EDL look quite rational.
Tuesday, 27 October 2009
Last nights Channel4 offering, Race and Intelligence... Sciences Last Taboo, was certainly interesting and in it's way a challenging piece but I felt that it stopped short of dealing fully with the issue not just of race and intelligence but of privilege and attainment. Coming as he does from a family of wealthy Somali traders, educated at Cheltenham College and Oxford and having married into the Baronetcy of Corsehill, privilege is something that Rageh Omaar is singularly well equipped to deal with, and he did try, but the programme seemed unable to get seriously to grips with the issue of class. It also failed to address what to my mind is a pretty important issue and that is the reality that given enough privilege it doesn't matter how intelligent you are.
Friday, 23 October 2009
It must be over forty years ago that I first came across Freedom. During that time the old rag has had a few ups and downs but at the moment seems to be very much on an "up". John Griffin's series on the financial crisis has been interesting and accessible, even to someone like me who tends to start nodding off at the first mention of economics and would rather draw their own teeth than read the FT. A Sideways Look is always full of good sense and there are usually at least two or three other very good articles. It's a pleasure to open the paper these days. Nice one Freedom.
Tuesday, 20 October 2009
I knew of course that as a religion Islam is more than simply divided between Sunni and Shia and that the faith encompasses a number of different sects. What I had not known until I listened to Radio 4s Analysis was that Iran's President Ahmadinejad and his inner circle are members of a Shia sub-sect that are awaiting the imminent return of the Hidden Imam or Mahdi. He is expected to emerge from a well in Southern Iran and notes are dropped down this well to keep the great man abreast of cabinet decisions. A place is set for him at meals. He is expected to return at any time. And we used to worry about Bush's grip on reality.
Saturday, 17 October 2009
When Carl Froch climbs through the ropes tonight to defend his WBC super-middleweight title against unbeaten Andre Dirrell it will be an event sadly ignored by the overwhelming majority of the British public. It's a shame, but boxing just does not have the mass appeal of the past. However, one small consolation for the reduced attention given the fight game is that we don't have to suffer so many ill-informed calls for the sport to be banned.
As a kid the first two women Labour MPs that I became aware of were Bessie Braddock and Edith Summerskill. They both had strong views on boxing, Braddock being a fan and Summerskill a fervent abolitionist. When I grew up and started to hang out with progressive, leftie bohemians I found that my love of boxing was rather looked down on. I'm talking about middle-class revolutionaries here; solid working class militants usually took a keen interest in the game. All this was brought home to me a few years later when I attended the first ever Men Against Sexism conference. What an experience. Now bear in mind that I had spent much of my working life around tough dockers and seamen but these 'new men' provided one of the most aggressive, testosterone fueled gatherings I had ever come across. It really was pretty heavy. Anyway at one stage myself and a few like minded comrades decided to investigate the pub opposite the conference venue. As it turned out this pub was the HQ of the London branch of the Ex Professional Boxers Association and the bar was more or less wall to wall scar tissue. A warm and generous spirited welcome was extended from a bunch of genuine hard men with nothing left to prove. A stark contrast to the 'progressives' across the road. Anyway, good luck tonight Carl.
Friday, 16 October 2009
I've always had a soft spot for posties. Not only do they do a useful job but over the years have come to be considered as being an indispensable part of our communities. This is not just romantic wishful thinking as I know that many posties, perhaps the majority, feel the same way and see themselves as providing a vital social service. I don't suppose for a moment that postal workers are looking forward to next weeks planned two day strike but feel that management are pushing them further and further onto the back foot. For a bit of background info straight from the horses mouth, there's a very good letter from a postman over on the libcon site.
Thursday, 15 October 2009
If like me you have tended to dismiss Madeleine Bunting as the Guardian's hag god-botherer you will understand the misgivings that I had about turning up at the RSA for her talk (to coincide with the publication of her book of the same name) on 'Place, Identity and Community'. Regardless of any disagreements I might have with her about a lot of other things I think that she is pretty much on the money when it comes to the importance of 'place'. If we run away from talking about this we leave the field wide open to all those loony nationalists who are only to happy too talk about it. Never thought I'd say it but, "nice one Madeleine".
Wednesday, 14 October 2009
This is turning out to be a very good week for those of us who view the Palace of Westminster primarily as a source of entertainment, as well as being the place where our worst fears about politicians are confirmed in spades. A new star is born in Sir Thomas Legg (any relation to dear old Dr Legg of Eastenders fame?) and this whole expenses thing has not even started yet. Just wait until we get to the bit about mortgage interest repayment and profits shown on property deals. Meanwhile a firm of dodgy briefs in the pay of the oil trading mafia have attempted to gag the reporting of parliamentary questions regarding the toxic waste dumping activities of these scum-bags. Corruption in parliament? Sure, but you need to take a stroll into The City to find the real corruption. And the real power as well.
Sunday, 11 October 2009
With centuries old pollarded trees, rough grazing British White cattle and over 500 acres of woodland, Burnham Beeches is a wonderful place to visit at any time of year but particularly so in autumn. We used to go there quite a bit but yesterday was our first visit in three years. It has to be admitted that in the main the City of London Corporation do a pretty good job of looking after Burnham Beeches and the many other open spaces that they maintain in and around London. They tend to manage with a light touch, not fixing what's not broken and allowing places to keep their individuality. So I was surprised to find that they have removed the old cafe that used nestle in a glade on the Southern edge of Burnham Beeches. It was a bit run down, perhaps old fashioned would be a better term, but was run by a cheerful, friendly girl and you could get a decent cup of tea and bacon sarni and browse the veritable library of local information. It also seemed to be a meeting place for local OAP's. This charming little place would of course be beyond the comprehension of corporate thinking and office bound consultants who are no doubt responsible for the soulless, clone cafe and information point that has replaced it.
Wednesday, 7 October 2009
Speaking on the phone yesterday to an old comrade about meeting up at the Anarchist Bookfair he said that he would have to blow me out. Prior commitment at Camberwell College of Art he said. Something to do with the Peckham Experiment. 'The what?' I said. He was amazed that I hadn't heard of it, and now having found out a bit about it, so am I.
Established in the 1930's, the Peckham Experiment was a groundbreaking health centre founded on the principles of self-management and the belief that left to themselves people would spontaneously begin to organise in a creative way. The project was a huge success but eventually closed in 1950, it's philosophy of autonomy and prevention rather than cure being at odds with the new NHS. Colin Ward wrote at length on the subject and there is a very interesting piece by David Goodway on the History and Policy website.
I feel like the subject of one of those HM Bateman cartoons - 'The Anarchist Who Had Never Heard Of The Peckham Experiment'.
Monday, 5 October 2009
So the future Tory government is going to be tough on the unemployed and no doubt tough on the cause of this regrettable malaise on the part of the idle masses as well. Are New Tories just pinching tired old New Labour policies that in turn fell off the back of an Old Tory lorry? I expect so but that has got to be the least important part of this whole spiteful, narrow minded and seemingly perennial part of British politics. The Tories are seriously suggesting that half a million people on incapacity benefit will be medically reassessed. Who do they think will do this reassessment, an already overburdened NHS? No of course not. All kinds of 'medical services" companies will be coming out of the woodwork and no doubt recruiting doctors from all over the world to do the front line work. The disabled, the long term unemployed, and the chronically unemployable will jump through a few more hoops to no real advantage other than providing Daily Mail readers with a top up of self-satisfaction. The other people of course who will benefit from all this will be the shareholders of dodgy 'medical' and 'employment' companies.
Sunday, 4 October 2009
Once again Queen Mary College in the Mile End Road is playing host to the Anarchist Bookfair.
It's a chance to get hold of that obscure book you have always meant to read, bump into comrades that you haven't seen for years, listen to interesting and (sometimes) amusing speakers and generally reaffirm that age old suspicion that a better world is possible. Insurrectionists, feminists, pacifists, situationists, autonomists, permaculturists, special brew and dog on stringists, freedom pass anarchists; they will all be there. We could have a pint after. You know it makes sense.
Thursday, 1 October 2009
There's no doubt about it, some stones are best left unturned. Some things best left unsaid. Just leave it.There are things that even I would not admit to. None the less, right here and now I'm going to fess up to having just read The Oldie for the first time. Now in my defence I would say that (a) I didn't pay for it and (b) that it is not an experience that I intend to repeat. I wish that I could get more angry about middle class Middle England but I just find it depressing. The Oldie. Fucks sake! Were these people ever young?