UK Elections: Nobody’s Talking Climate Change.

One thing is fairly predictable no matter which party or coalition of parties comes out on top of the forthcoming UK voting circus; in five years’ time when the next election bandwagon rolls into town Britain will be still be faced with a chronic housing crisis, private corporations will still be trying to get their greedy claws into the National Health Service,  Britain’s foreign policy will still be in hock to the US military-industrial complex, and the widening gap between the one per cent and the rest of us will continue apace. And the Tory press will still be blaming immigrants and benefit claimants for all the nation’s ills. This much is almost certain. And we’ll still be in denial about climate change.

Read more...

 

Ode to the NHS

We are told that Churchill was our greatest all-time leader

Inspiring the nation to combat the marauding Nazi hoards

But the post war British voters soon sent Churchill packing

And put the Labour Party in charge of the Westminster board.

 

The pre-war years in Britain were a living nightmare

Of unemployment and hunger and despair

So having seen off Hitler’s fascist armies

The British workers demanded something profoundly more fair.

Read more...

 

That Damned Dialectic

From the humblest sub-atomic particle

To the entirety of the Universe itself

A remorseless struggle of opposites

Creating unity by infinite stealth.

Centripetal and centrifugal forces

Struggling through the eons of time

Stability just a momentary illusion

Perfection just an illusionary crime.

The attraction and repulsion of opposites

In both the physical and philosophical world

Creating an awful yet awesome predicament

A universe of opposites unfurled.

Quantitative and qualitative changes

interacting and intermingling like twine

As relentless as the heartbeat of any living creature

As beautiful as a well-constructed rhyme

Read more...

 

In The Light Of What We Know-Zia H Rahman

 

A serious polemic, with class as one of its central themes but also a fascinating deliberation on the issue of belonging in a globalised world. Did I enjoy this book? I’m still not sure. The two central characters are the two narrators who offer over five hundred pages of polemical wisdom. The trouble is, there is only so much wisdom a reader can genuinely absorb in any one novel without starting to switch off. Rahman offers philosophical insights by the bucket load with the danger of placing his readers in overload mode. The plot, such as it is, is rather light, and when the novel does get involved in real stuff towards the end, it becomes all rather fanciful. Without rooting his two narrators into something more solid it is difficult to warm to either of them. And being a little old fashioned in this respect, if I don’t warm to the characters I find it difficult to ultimately warm to the novel. I’m not a particularly fast reader at the best of times – I like to savour a good novel- but this one seemed to take forever to get through.

Read more...

 

The NHS: Labour and Tories both get it wrong.

Nearly everything the Tories say and do is, in the final instance, a reflection of the needs of global capital. They are the mouth piece of the corporate world and have been since the arrival of the Thatcherite neoliberal revolution. Even national capital now plays second fiddle to global capital. And of course we should expect nothing different. Labour in government however has proved to be equally compliant and even in opposition we struggle to find a radical edge to their policies. No more so than in respect to the NHS. So the big Labour ideas around the NHS is all about protecting budgets, getting more staff in and merging health provision and social care. Fair enough in itself, but on further refection these  policies go nowhere near addressing the real issues concerning health care in the 21st century in a post industrial age. With a dramatically aging population relative to the working population, and the demand for treatments that will supposedly provide an ever increasing life expectancy, the status quo simply will not suffice. Something far more radical will be required.

Read more...

 

Amnesia, Peter Carey, Faber and Faber, London, 2014

 In too many places this one reads like something from the much loved childhood classic Famous Five series, but it does contain, for all that, much of interest, both historical and current. It is certainly not the novel I had hoped it would be. The illegal sacking of the left leaning Australian Labor Government in 1975, which forms the backdrop to the novel, is close to home for me. This was precisely the subject of my degree dissertation way back in the day. Of course there was nothing startlingly original in what I served up, just a reasonable summation of what was already in the public sphere at the time. But what did I get for my troubles? Scribbled all over the thing by my straight laced supervisor were the words, ‘circumstantial evidence’. Fair enough, but if anyone today genuinely believes that the sacking of the Whitlam Government was anything but a carefully orchestrated CIA coup is clearly in ideological denial. Anyway, I had hoped that Carey’s book was going to throw new light on all of this. It didn’t. In fact, all it really did was to state, and in a rather clumsy way at that, the bare and basic facts as they are already known. I felt rather disappointed, almost cheated by the end of the story.

Read more...

 

This Bleeding City, Alex Preston, Faber & Faber, London 2010

 

Something of a book of two halves, with the first half an absolute cracker – tense, gripping and relevant. The second half I’m afraid is something of a damp squid, except for a clever twist at the end, which I must confess I should have seen coming but didn’t. The first half of Preston’s story, I assume largely autobiographical, tells the exhilarating story of an ordinary sort of bloke making it good in the City of London until, you guessed it, the big crash of 2008. After the crash come the bankruptcies, the suicides and the disillusionment. The second half of the story gets bogged down in relationship stuff which is not, to be honest, Mr Preston’s literary forte. But the twist at the end makes it all worthwhile and leaves the reader with much to ponder. There is no Hollywood ending here unless you consider the mathematical algorithms swirling around the financial institutions in the City as a beautiful end in itself. I don’t but I can see how some might.

Read more...

 

Table Tennis: A Love Letter

Tennis on a nine by five table

Ping pong by its colloquial name

The second most played sport in the world

The Victorians would be amazed by its fame.

 

It began as an aristocratic English pastime

Now the Chinese totally dominate the game.

It is as physically demanding as tennis

But cerebral like chess all the same.

Read more...

 

HSBC: Beacon of Capitalist Amorality

 Let’s get one thing straight right from the start. Capitalism has no morality despite the endless grating platitudes from the likes of Will Hutton, Ed Miliband and even David Cameron. These managers and apologists for capital incessantly plead for a caring, compassionate, regulated capitalism as opposed, I presume, to a nasty, uncaring, unregulated capitalism. But capitalism is neither inherently good nor inherently evil. And it can no more be made good than it can be turned to evil.it simply does what it is hotwired to do. It follows its own logic; the accumulation and concentration of capital in fewer and fewer hands. Relentlessly breaking down old, outmoded traditions – of nationality, of religion and local culture, it is, in essence, colour blind, gender neutral and free from feudal and other prejudices. And, its most defining characteristic; it always and everywhere moves to the point of highest return, circumnavigating whatever state regulation that may be put in its way. Liberal morality, state capitalist diktat and religious dogmas are irrelevant to it. And HSBC, like all cathedrals of capital, has been performing in precisely the way we should expect it to perform; maximising the return on the capital it controls and helping concentrate that capital in ever fewer hands. That is capital’s genius and at the very same time its fatal flaw.

Read more...

 

Heathrow and Harmondsworth :

This is something of a David and Goliath story

But it’s certainly not as simple as say Labour versus Tory

This is a cross party story for every season

It’s a classic tale of corporate greed versus civic reason.

 

We start our story in the village of Harmondsworth

A pretty Doomsday parish built on medieval earth

Which has been under constant attack in the post war era

By an expanding airport that keeps getting nearer and nearer.

Read more...

 

Ode to Austerity

Most born into poverty, a few born into wealth.

Bizarrely the wealthy get wealthier through cunning and through stealth.

Rich kids flying high, backed up by daddy and mummy,

Everybody knows that money goes to money.

 The whole rotten edifice is skewed in their favour,

The servant class condemned to endless toil with just religion for their saviour.

Stultifying poverty, breaking hope and breaking health.

 A life of modern day slavery, no time to develop one’s self.

Read more...

 

Dear Ed Miliband

Despite the best efforts of the Tory tabloid press to paint you as a demonic Red Ed, try as I might, I am having great difficulty distinguishing current Labour Party policies from those of the present coalition government. Now, under Tony Blair’s New Labour, that was to be expected, because it quickly became apparent that Tony Blair was happily turning the Labour Government into the Tory second eleven. Of course, I should have known that the moment Rupert Murdoch gave his public blessing to Labour during the 1997 election campaign. But with you taking the helm eleven years later, I genuinely expected something qualitatively different. Instead I am witnessing the unedifying sight of your shadow chancellor bending over backwards to ensure the voters that he will stick to the Tory deficit reduction plans and that government induced austerity will continue for the foreseeable future. This is a particularly depressing scenario.

Read more...

 

Olympic Legacy: Going, Going, Gone-part two

They said it would inspire a generation

To run and to jump and to swim.

They promised it would motivate our youngsters

And the fight against obesity would begin.

 

But the statistics tell a very different story

Of a nation getting fatter by the day.

Gove abolished the school-sports partnerships

And now the children have nowhere to play.

Read more...

 

Charlie Hebdo massacre: Colonial blowback

 

The final death toll in the West’s illegal war against Iraq can never be accurately determined because the bloody repercussions are still ongoing. Let it suffice to say it will be in the hundreds of thousands. But if we include the stunted lives caused by that criminal intervention along with the civil war that has ensued, the numbers will certainly turn out to be in the millions. And behind these statistics are real people with real families with real hopes and aspirations for the life ahead.

Read more...

 

REVOLUTION, Russell Brand, Century, London, 2014

 

This is a damn good book. In fact a great book. Great in the sense that it is a great read, and great also in that it is of great importance. It is an intelligent book and in places touches the sublime, almost poetic level. Not bad for a recovering junkie. If you start the book and find yourself getting irritated and a tad frustrated in places, don’t give up on it. Complete the book and your efforts will be handsomely rewarded. Sure, Brand drifts in and out of incoherent, metaphysical ramblings. All that stuff about transcendental meditation changing the world and other obscurantist nonsense can definitely irritate. This is its central flaw, yet paradoxically, it is precisely because it is flawed that it is so engaging. Brand has not produced some dry political Marxist text preaching a didactic blueprint for revolution. And Brand would be the first to admit this.  On the contrary, what Brand has produced is a loveable and rambling stream of consciousness, part autobiographical, part pub philosophy and part impassioned but reasoned plea for us to collectively create something better, something more rational, something more humane. And the end result is a thousand times more persuasive than any dry academic Marxist text could ever hope to be.

Read more...

 

The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath FF Classics 1963

I suspect Sylvia Plath’s poetry anthology and her one single novel have been examined and analysed ad infinitum, and I’m damn certain I can offer nothing remotely new. But having just reread ‘The Bell Jar’ some fifty years after its publication, it seems there is still much of relevance for our contemporary times. Two central themes from ‘The Bell Jar’ still resonate today. Firstly, questions surrounding mental illness and clinical depression are far from having been resolved. Is mental illness and breakdown a social phenomenon or simply the result of a chemical imbalance? Or more likely, is it a complex combination of the two?  Secondly, and I would suggest of equal relevance to our times, is the role of monogamy, marriage and patriarchy in contemporary society, both east and west. To Plath’s credit, I found absolutely nothing dated about this novel; it felt as fresh and as engaging as the day it was published.  And I should add, the tragedy of Plath’s suicide is as poignant today as it was half a century ago.

Read more...

 

<< Start < Prev 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Next > End >>

Page 8 of 28