Monday, May 28, 2012
Thursday, May 24, 2012
Guest Post: Mark Perryman on Race and the Olympics
Race to the Line
There has been much written from the Left about the Olympics - see for example the latest Socialist Review which has articles by Brian Richardson and Dave Renton - author of a new book lives; running. With John Carlos, one of the Mexico ‘68 podium protesters, on a speaking tour of Britain, author of a forthcoming book on the Olympics MARK PERRYMAN describes the continuing clash of race and the Games
United on the Mexico podium by their fierce opposition to racism Tommie Smith, Peter Norman and John Carlos used the medal ceremony for what has become an iconic moment of public protest. Its durability as an image of anti-racism in sport and beyond is testament to the global platform the Olympics provided. Even before satellite TV and digital media, the dignified audacity of the three medal-winners became an overnight world-wide news story.
The Sydney Olympics in 2000 offered another iconic Olympic memory of sport and race. As the twenty-first century began Eric Hobsbawm’s description of the role of sport in providing a popular expression of national identity amongst the debris of globalisation became increasingly relevant: “The imagined community of millions seems more real as a team of named people.” As part of this process a sporting contest can sometimes crystallise social or political changes within a nation. When Cathy Freeman, the Australian Aboriginal sprinter, streaked around the track to win the 400 meters gold medal, kitted out in an all-in-one skin-tight green and gold Lycra suit complete with hood, she was chased every inch of the way by the light of thousands of camera flashes capturing her moment of glory. This was more than an instant of supreme sporting achievement. For Australia’s Aboriginal community it represented recognition and inclusion from the majority white population - however temporary it ultimately proved to be. Inequality, discrimination, racism, and disputes over land rights didn’t disappear just because Cathy was a national heroine. Her success was the exception, not the rule, but for a moment it pointed to a different version of Australia.
These moments of opportunity provided by sport are vital in constructing any kind of progressive conversation around issues of race and nationality. Especially in the wake of London’s 7/7, one day after the city was selected to host the 2012 Games, a caricature of multiculturalism has been used as cover to break with the kind of celebratory diversity that the Olympics bid had seemed, at least for one of those moments, to represent. In Singapore, as the London bid presentation approached its climactic ending, Seb Coe welcomed on stage thirty youngsters, “Each from East London, from the communities who will be touched most directly by our Games. Thanks to London’s multicultural mix of 200 nations, they also represent the youth of the world...” And what a mix too. “Their families have come from every continent. They practice every religion and every faith.” Was there any box in the table of diversity these kids didn’t tick? It was a compelling image of London as a global city. But this was a flimsy populism, a kind of corporate multiculturalism, a presentation of a cosy team picture of unity through diversity which obscured the realities of representation.
As he paraded the youngsters ‘representing’ London across the Singapore stage it might have been useful to ask Coe, or even the kids themselves, a few questions: What was it like living in and growing up in Tower Hamlets, Newham and Hackney, among the poorest boroughs in the city? What jobs did their parents have, if they had jobs at all? What opportunities in terms of health, education and housing could they look forward to? How confident were any of them that they and their families would be able to afford the tickets to watch the Games they were on the stage to promote?
The forces of integration and difference reflect a set of power relations and consequential resistance which, like the national identities they help to define, are always in motion. These help to portray the ways in which all national identities are never entirely fixed but a process in motion. Sport plays its part, a very important part, in this process, but its role is partial and over-hyped at the expense of examining why the black athletes who represent Britain on the pitch, in the ring, or on the running track are not replicated in anything resembling equal numbers on Trade Union executives, or on the front benches, or on the committees that run sport’s governing bodies. Writer on race and sport Dan Burdsey provides a poignant and powerful observation of how the racialisation of sport is often experienced. Apart from the athletes on the track, “You will often see a significant presence of minority ethnic people in the stadium: they will be directing you to your seat or serving your refreshments. The racialised historical antecedents, and continuing legacy, of these roles - entertaining or serving the white folk - should not be lost within the contemporary clamour of positivity.” An Olympic Park built at the epicentre of three of Britain’s most multicultural boroughs which is experienced in this way will expose much of the inclusion and exclusion which persist in our society, or at least it should if anybody cares to notice.
Mark Perryman is the author of the forthcoming Why The Olympics Aren’t Good For Us, And How They Can Be available at a pre-publication 15% discount now from here
Friday, May 18, 2012
1. Toni Negri to speak at Marxism 2012 in July
2. The TUC has called a national demonstration against austerity in London on 20 October
3. A Greek striker is speaking at the Unite the Resistance conference on 'austerity, resistance and the pensions fight' 23 June, London
4. John Carlos - who along with Tommie Smith gave the Black Power salute at the 1968 Mexico Olympics will be speaking about the Olympics at Friends Meeting House, London, on 21 May at 6pm
5. Former England test cricket captain Mike Brearley to speak on CLR James's classic history of West Indian cricket Beyond a Boundary on the 50th anniversary of its publication in May 2013.
6. Danny Glover interviewed in today's Guardian about his dreams of making a film about the Haitian Revolution
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
On crime and punishment in Cameron's Britain
How long do we think Cameron and Murdoch's cronies Rebekah and Charlie Brooks (who have been charged with perverting the course of justice - with the removal of material, documents and computers from News International to hide them from police officers investigating phone hacking etc) - might go down for if found guilty? The charge carries a maximum penalty of life, although the average term served in prison is 10 months. Lets have a brief reminder of the state of play with respect to crime and punishment so far in Cameron's Britain:
'I obviously have done something wrong. And I've paid the price for it by going to prison. A big price.'
Lord Hanningfield, a Tory politician who in May 2011 was found guilty of claiming £13,000 in false expenses and sentenced to nine months in prison. After serving nine weeks, he was released on home detention curfew and he is now back sitting in the House of Lords.
'I am not the first and I certainly won’t be the last person to do something without rhyme or reason’
The celebrity Anthony Worrall Thompson - another Tory - apologising in January 2012 after being caught shoplifting cheese from Tesco five times. He was let off with a caution.
'It was a foolish action which I completely regret. I will bear the consequences of my actions long into the future'
City banker who stole £1.4 million and was just fined and so avoided prison in February 2012.
Spot the difference:
6 months - the prison sentence for Nicholas Robinson, 23, who stole a £3.50 bottle of water from an already looted Lidl during last August's riots.
9 months - the prison sentence for Ikea worker Colin Kenny, 20, for allowing friends and relatives to leave the company’s Belfast store without paying for £10,000-worth of goods.
Four years - the sentences handed down to Jordan Blackshaw, 20, and Perry Sutcliffe, 22, for inciting a riot that didn't happen on facebook in August 2011 during the riots.
Friday, May 11, 2012
Some starters for now:
'This little northern bit - I think it is called ''Scotland'' - is mostly owned by my mother - nice to see its sunny there'
'I don't understand why some people think they can just move up to live in this little bit called ''Scotland''- don't they know it belongs to ma - as ma always likes to say ''Get off my land!'''
'This is where we always go deer stalking in June - I managed to bag myself a moose last year - we have its head above our bedroom at Balmoral - simply wonderful sport, deer stalking don't you know'
Thursday, May 10, 2012
Guernica 75th Anniversary film
On the subject of fighting the menace of a resurgent tide of fascism in Europe, this film may be educational...
Tuesday, May 08, 2012
May 10 Strikes - Now lets bring the British Tories down
The British Tory government really just don't get it do they? The defeat of Sarkozy sounds the death knell for Cameron - (the death knell for Clegg has been ringing for so long now it has gradually faded away without anybody noticing), and yet now Cameron and Clegg are still blustering on in all their public school arrogance as if the local elections never happened and nothing has changed and there is to be no alternative to their austerity 'strategy' of cuts cuts and more cuts, which they believe will in the long term work wonderfully to somehow revive the British economy. Yet as Charlie Brooker notes after the recent elections,
The further Cameron's stock slides, the less unelectable Ed Miliband appears. Miliband, unfortunately, looks and sounds like a dork. And not just any dork either, but the dorkiest dork in Dorking; someone you wouldn't cast as a dork in a drama-documentary for fear of looking implausible. But in a fight between the school dork and a dim, angry prefect with a warped sense of entitlement, only an absolute sodpot wouldn't root for the dork.
It is I think here valid to make comparisons between Ed Miliband and Francois Hollande here - though if Hollande played up being 'Mr Normal' to beat Sarkozy, Ed Miliband has been trying to do 'Mr. Normal' for a while and well, he is having a slight problem pulling it off convincingly. Brooker offers some advice to Miliband:
Jarvis Cocker recognised that the best way to turn your weaknesses into strengths is to magnify them: rather than trying to disguise his inherent gawky perviness, he accentuated it at every opportunity until he became a star. Maybe if Miliband overly emphasised his slightly peculiar and nerdish persona it would pay dividends. If he started collecting Magic: The Gathering trading cards and riding to the Commons on a little blue tricycle, with his knees all sticking out like a doofus.
However, even if Miliband makes such a turn to 'uber-geek' and electoral glory, the rest of us are left with no strategy for confronting the Tories' class war from above on workers and the poor from Miliband except er, 'wait three years and vote Labour'. Which is no strategy at all when the cuts are hitting now and hurting now. The time has come - to keep with a new 'uber-geek strategy' and quote er, Robert de Niro from Meet the Parents - to bring Cameron down - and to bring him down to Chinatown.
There is only one language that Cameron and the British Tories understand - class war - and it is time our side began fighting this war seriously. Everyone should get therefore behind the mass public sector strike over pensions this Thursday - an escalation of such struggles can begin - as has happened in Greece where they have had over 17 general strikes over the past two years - to slowly move British society and politics towards the left in a way in which we can start to really talk about making those most to blame for the capitalist crisis begin to pay for their recent blunders and crimes.
Edited to add: Utterly irrelevant really - but I made the mistake of googling the disgraced journalist Johann Hari today to see what he was up to - which took me to this page, dated 11 April 2012 where Hari tells me that 'Glenn Greenwald of Salon.com is part of a tradition of American writers – from Thomas Paine to Mark Twain to Noam Chomsky – who embody the best values of America'. One slight problem perhaps here, Johann - is it correct to claim Thomas Paine as an 'American writer' when he was at best only partly American, having been born in Thetford in England and famously once declaring himself a 'citizen of the world'?
Monday, May 07, 2012
On the Hans Gruber / Golden Dawn controversy
Richard Seymour has a fine analysis of the Greek elections, which together with the defeat of Sarkozy signify a large scale popular rejection of the politics of austerity across Europe (whether the electorates of France and Greece will now actually get any kind of end to such politics is another matter), but while I am here I may as well clear up one controversy that has emerged as a result of the class polarisation across Europe in the context of the crisis - the rise of the far right in France and Greece - and in particular the rise of the neo-Nazi group Golden Dawn in Greece. Namely didn't Alan Rickman's character Hans Gruber mention the Golden Dawn group in the classic action film Die Hard?
John McClane: [listening on the radio] What the fuck?
Karl: [mouthing silently] Golden Dawn?
Hans: [covers the radio] I read about them in Time magazine...
In fact, despite rumours to the contrary and the imagined dialogue above, in fact Hans Gruber refers to a Sri Lankan group 'Asian Dawn' in Die Hard. It is important to clear stuff like this up. The more important question of course is how can the radical left in Greece and France now build on their recent successes to ensure that the politics of hope triumph over the Nazis' politics of despair. Here perhaps the anti-racist and anti-fascist campaigning taken in Britain by groups like Unite Against Fascism might serve as some sort of inspiration...
Thursday, May 03, 2012
Give the Tories a Kicking
Edited to add: Looking good so far - esp with Michael Lavalette winning in Preston, Respect taking five seats in Bradford (including Labour's council leader - as Galloway put it 'We took the head off the rotten fish that is Bradford City Council'), fascist BNP losing councillors...
Edited to also add the Nick Clegg looking sad blog
Tuesday, May 01, 2012
May Day greetings
By small way of paying tribute to both the spirit of international solidarity on May Day and also to the song-writing talents of David Rovics I have uploaded this song about the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. The fight against racism and fascism goes on - those in Britain might think about rallying to protest against Nazi terrorist Anders Breivik's mates in Luton this Saturday - see Unite Against Fascism for