Heroes

Heroes are people we know nothing about

I should know, I’ve followed a few in my time

Heroes are substitutes for I’m not quite sure what

And we follow them without reason or rhyme.

 

The usual suspects have been up on my wall

 John Lennon, and Lenin and Mao

Up on the pedestal was Marley of course

With Karl Marx as the sacred old cow.

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After the Circus left Town, Contributed by Raan Oosha 13/5/15

 

 

After the trials and tribulations that the leaders of the three main political parties have had to endure over the last few months, there are some who are worried about their immediate future. 

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This Changes Everything, Naomi Klein, Penguin, 2015

 Still working my way through this one but thought I’d whet the appetite of potential readers by drawing out the main points in what can only be described as is a scintillating introduction. A genuine stick of dynamite. Perhaps the definitive work on climate change to date. There is hardly a single line that doesn’t deserve to be highlighted, underlined and generally broadcast across the planet. Which brings us to the key point. Klein is telling us that our planet is dying. Right in front of our eyes. Not in one hundred years’ time. Not even in twenty years’ time but right now. And we’re all complicit. At least all of us in the developed world. But most significantly it is not so much the individual that is complicit, though clearly we each must take some responsibility, but rather our insane economic model, the one that generally goes by the name of capitalism. Capitalism and its leading exponents in the boardrooms and in the parliaments are driving our beautiful planet into the ground in pursuit of a meaningless GDP and their own avaricious ambitions. Corporate profit is killing the planet and systematically undermining every attempt to reverse the process. It’s a sobering work that Klein has produced and as the title suggests, it should change everything, but bizarrely nothing seems to change. It's business as usual and to hell with the consequences.  Here are her key points.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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