The Queen’s Speech

After blabbering on about the wonders of the King James Bible, the House of Windsor’s long serving, immaculately preserved top dog, tried her hand at something a little more common; the earthly wonders of sport. In the context of her hopelessly ahistorical understanding of the real repressive role of Christianity (and indeed all religion) and the much hyped Protestant version of the Bible, her clichéd sentiments on the role and value of sport are consistent and equally inept. No mention in our monarch’s speech about the cheating, the corruption and the national chauvinism that is the daily staple of globalised sport. No mention of the corporate greed that has totally transformed an honest working class diversion into a new global religion, a new opiate for the masses. No, for old Lizzy, it’s still all about the Victorian spirit of muscular Christianity and ‘abiding by the rules’. The dear lady, as if mimicking a headmistress from a snooty public girls school, spells it out to her plebeian subjects;

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Jonathan Franzen: The Corrections

There are three human institutions that I have long argued are holding back human development; religion, the nation and the family. On the first two it is relatively easy to make a fairly persuasive case and gain a sympathetic hearing, but when it comes to ‘the family’ far fewer people are prepared to entertain its demise. Yes, there are numerous psycho-therapeutic texts outlining the typical neuroses of the family and how best to come to grips with the life long guilt, the buried resentments, the sibling rivalries and the silent Freudian tensions, but very few conclude that the institution of family is fundamentally and irreparably flawed. Psychologists, sociologists and novelists tell us how to comprehend and eventually survive the family, but rarely suggest a model beyond.

Unlike the daring Bolshevik women in the heady days immediately following the Russian revolution, women who called into question anything and everything from the old order, from monogamy and patriarchal dominance to the very institution of marriage and the family itself, most theorists and commentators content themselves with simply trying to unravel the mess that is the modern family, accepting that for all its limitations and neuroses we are essentially stuck with it. Jonathan Franzen, the hugely successful American novelist, seems to be no exception.

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Wikileaks: A New Global Sport

What have we learnt from the latest tranche of secret documents heroically dragged into the public domain by Wikileaks this week? Simply, that the entire planet is run by a shady cabal of gangsters, both government and freelance, sometimes in loose cooperation and sometimes in fierce rivalry. Nothing really new there then.

The Russian government, we are told, are in league with and up to their necks in organised crime. Yes, we know. Some of their most celebrated gangsters have UK resident status and one owns a very well known football club.

We learn that the UK government has been complicit and therefore culpable for the use of widespread torture both in Iraq and generally in the US manufactured ‘war on terror’. It transpires that the most frightening terrorists invariably have been wearing UK and US uniforms in a war that is totally devoid of any form of international legality. Nothing new there then.


We also learn that large swathes of autocratic, Islamic, women hating, Middle Eastern regimes have a fear and loathing of another Islamic, Middle Eastern, autocratic and woman hating regime. A regime, that may already have a nuclear capability, and one that might well want to use that capability against another nearby, nuclear armed, gangster state. Same old story.

We learn that a prominent member of a certain very well known UK family, whose huge wealth and influence has very little to do with hard work and very much to do with forcible land-enclosures of common land carried out by their direct descendants some tears earlier, has been strutting about on the world stage like a royal gangster, being rude, arrogant and generally neo-colonial in his dealings with everyone he comes in contact with. Just like his old man, I hear you say. Nothing new on this front.

We learn that some rather gangster-ish goings on occurred just prior to the recent British elections by a very prominent member of the Bank of England, who just may have a case to answer for political meddling when his real job is to serve the democratically elected government of the day.

And we also learn that the US state department behaved in a most thuggish manner by instructing its diplomats to spy on UN personnel whenever and wherever they got the chance. A classic case of big power gangsterism if ever there was one.

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Naomi Campbell Speaks Out

Once again, top model Naomi Campbell has spoken of the obvious racist dimension to the western fashion industry, her latest condemnation making page three headlines in The London Evening Standard 8/12/10. Despite her high profile modelling career, Campbell stresses that it is still near impossible for models of Black and Asian origin to capture the top fashion posts. Pandering to the Eurocentric notion that blond is beautiful, the industry ensures there remain very few people of colour strutting the catwalks in London, Paris, Rome and New York, despite the fact that these cities are demographically multinational and pride themselves as being global cities.

Sporting Polemics takes up this issue given that sport, fashion, film and popular music have virtually fused into one gigantic entertainment industry, the obvious and grotesque failings of the one clearly tainting the reputation of the others.

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Blitzkrieg: School Sports Partnership’s Are Abolished

Driven by an ideological hatred of all things public, Michael Gove has taken the axe to the national network of successfully functioning School Sports Partnerships. By statistical or anecdotal evidence, the SSP’s established under Labour’s watch, have been a success. More kids at school are playing more sport than we’ve seen for many a year. Some kind of genuine claim to an Olympic legacy might even be made. But Gove cannot accept that some things are better planned and delivered by the public hand. He pretends that local is always better. What he really means is that private is always better.

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Government to Measure Happiness!

There is very probably no pre-ordained purpose to human existence at all. In fact, we should only use the word, ‘probably’ out of deference to the principle of scientific scepticism. On a day to day basis we should have absolutely no truck with any manner of primitive obscurantist superstitions that pass for modern day religious belief. The word ‘probably’ does not come into the equation.

The world is round and orbits the sun and was formed some 5 billion years ago. It is part of a much, much larger universe which exploded into physical being some 13.7 billion years ago. We can actually measure the radiation from that explosion today! The Earth is not flat, neither is it at the centre of the universe, as the self-appointed high priests tried to dictate for centuries. Nor was the Earth formed twelve thousand years ago, in six days, by an omniscient creator, whereby dinosaurs and humans wandered around together in some imagined Garden of Eden; a ludicrous and childlike concept that our modern high priests are still labouring to sell us. There are no prophets from god, nor sons of god because there are no gods, other than those created by highly manipulative people to fill the minds of primitive and frightened people.

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FIFA – The Wrong Type of Globalisation.

Twenty years ago the anti-globalisation movement blasted onto the world stage with all the right motives and a whole new generation of young idealists, conservationists and trade unionists at the helm. Credit to them. Then along came 9/11 and the embryonic movement lost its bearings. Who was the main enemy now, rapacious global corporations or the feudal, obscurantist backlash? History rarely moves in a straight line.

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The Murdoch Empire Knows No Bounds

The one feature that unites all recent commentary on Rupert Murdoch’s audacious bid to completely buy out BSkyB TV is that such a move would give one man a disproportionate control over Britain’s media. In this respect they are all barking up the wrong tree. Rupert Murdoch and his international News Corporation already have a massively undemocratic control over British affairs and I’m not just talking about sport. Whether he succeeds in buying the remaining part of Sky that he does not already own is largely immaterial to his already massive, unaccountable, undemocratic influence over British politics. Yes, the proposed buyout will be a bad thing for what passes for British democracy, a wafer thin phenomena at the best of times. Yes, a Murdoch total buyout of Sky will place Murdoch in a similar position to that of Berlusconi in Italy. And yes, with total control of Sky, Murdoch will be able to further manipulate our TV viewing habits by linking his press and TV interests even more closely. But the unpalatable truth is that he can and does do all of this and much more already. Journalists are at least ten years late in their Armageddon style articles. The beast is already here.

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George Monbiot for Chancellor

If there’s one certainty in history, it’s that empires that rise are certain to fall. There has been, to my knowledge, not one exception to this rule. Britain is certainly no exception, as the British resignedly witness the inexorable waning of its star. Apparently Britain is so broke that it can’t even afford to continue the network of School Sports Partnerships carefully constructed by the Youth Sport Trust over the past decade. A mere £136 million is all it takes to fund this extremely productive extracurricular scheme, but it seems the once mighty British Empire is just too poor these days. Or is it?

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FC United: Is This The Future?

Alienation in the Marxist sense of the word and alienation in the lay sense are not a million miles apart. For Marx, the term had a specific economic content, whereby humanity under the capitalist mode of production was becoming increasing alienated from the production of life’s necessities because the capitalist owned the entire process of production and the worker was reduced to a mere cog in a machine, forced to sell his/her labour power in a heartless labour market, with little or no prospect of gaining any satisfaction from the completed product, a product that was produced for profit rather than human need. In short the worker under capitalism, was separated from the most basic of human activity; that of conscious work – the very thing that defines our humanity.

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Another Black History Month Comes and Goes.

The merits or otherwise of a Black History Month have been well rehearsed over the years. In a perfect world, black history would be celebrated and debated every day of every month of every year and there would be no need for a specific black history month. When you consider that ‘people of colour’ account for four out of every five people on our planet, it seems only natural that black history should be at the very heart of the human story. That it is not, says everything about the lingering racism and colonial mentality within European society, even within the so-called respected, liberal media and academia. Until such time as the poisonous boil of racial superiority is finally lanced from the human psyche, there will still be a pressing need for events like BHM, and when one considers the marginal status of black people in the higher echelons of our sporting hierarchies, the need to highlight the social inequities surrounding questions of race and colour is as strong as ever.

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Stadiums, Stadiums, Stadiums. Olympic Notes No3

Athens got some new ones. So did Sydney. Beijing got some terrific ones. Delhi got in on the act and threw up some impressive ones albeit with just days to spare. South Africa recently built or renovated ten of them. Dubai just can’t stop building them. London got a new one at Wembley and Cardiff got one to celebrate the new millennium. Now Liverpool FC have new owners, they also want a new one. After all, Manchester City have a relatively new one, as do Arsenal. And with the 2012 Olympics on the near horizon, London is currently building itself a whole lot more of them. You would be forgiven for thinking that building new sports stadiums was the answer to humanity’s problems. Everyone is at it. You can bet your last dollar that as we speak, Brazil is up to their necks in the damn things.

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Wayne’s World – The Real World’

Both The Mail and The Independent led with pretty much the same headline, comparing Wayne Rooney’s world with that of what they described as ‘the real world’. Credit to them both. Jonathan Brown for The Independent summed the story up thus;

‘..the opulence of Wayne’s world and his historic record-breaking deal stands in stark contrast to the other news that rocked the city this week. It is now estimated that 40,000 people in the Greater Manchester area will lose their jobs as a result of chancellor George Osborne’s plan to cut £83bn from public spending to fight the deficit.

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Olympic Legacy: Going, Going, Gone

I’ve been trying to think if there are any positives to the thirteen years of Labour Party government. The negatives are all too obvious. I suppose there was Sure Start, which bravely attempted to break the cycle of deprivation and low aspiration. Then there was devolution which, as Europe becomes inevitably more of a centralised authority, was a definite step in the democratic direction. The minimum wage, paltry as it is, and feebly enforced as it, again was a tiny but significant step in the direction away from workplace exploitation.

And rarely acknowledged, but socially useful all the same, was the Labour administration’s efforts to resurrect school sport via, amongst other things, the school- sport partnerships. Along with sport colleges and community coaching programmes, Britain took a few brave steps towards its European partners in terms of school and community sports provision. Well, it’s all gone now!

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The Agnostic Mr Barnes.

In a cleverly crafted piece on the rise and fall of sporting empires, institutions and individuals, Simon Barnes, writing in The Times 22/10/10 shows why he is light years ahead of the rest of the journalistic pack, with only fellow Times correspondent, Matt Syed, able to match him for depth and dimension. True, The Guardian has excellent investigative journalists with the likes of David Conn and Owen Gibson, but neither seem to have that ability to touch on the soft human underbelly of sport in the way that Barnes regularly achieves. Yes, sport has become a big nasty industry with all that goes with it; yes it is the new opiate of the masses; and yes it is extremely extravagant in the face of local and global poverty. But sport is still more than that. It has something of the essential human condition that so many sports journalists seem to miss. Not so Mr Barnes.

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The Three Trillion Dollar War, Joseph Stiglitz, Penguin, London, 2008

Ever wondered where all the money goes? Ever wondered why even in the richest countries in the world, Americans and the Brits struggle to get their schools funded, their health care sorted and their leisure facilities up-dated? It’s been the same old story over the decades and next week we are told things in the UK are going to get a whole lot worse.

Ok, we know that a few billion are regularly siphoned off in city bonuses and quite a few more billion are sloshing around in the off shore bank accounts of a handful of obscenely rich entrepreneurs, industry barons, currency speculators and general city spivs. We will never forget that great little one-liner; ‘behind every great fortune lies a great crime.’ The truth of that little saying grows louder by the day. But, in the general scheme of things, this stuff is small change. The really big money, it seems, is tied up in the military- industrial complex, where the sums are ultimately measured in trillions rather than millions and billions. So next time you’re out trying to raise a few quid to keep your local sports centre open, just take the time to read Joseph Stiglitz’s, ‘The Three Trillion Dollar War’ and you will get a blunt reminder of where the big money, our public money, is going.

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