Monthly Archives: February 2016

The EU Referendum Hokey Cokey

newsnight stillEarlier this week saw the launch of Media Diversified’s political column, White Men Dancing, co-authored by Maurice McLeod (@mowords) and me. My first post was The EU Referendum Hokey Cokey.

I also discussed the EU referendum on BBC Newsnight on 26 February 2016.

Advertisements
Tagged , , ,

Flounce to the Right

The dramatic media “Why I’m leaving..” article has really had form in the last year or so. First they were all leaving London, then it was the Labour party. Last time I checked, we all survived.

A change, then, to have it coming from somewhere other than the Guardian – this time, Tim Montgomerie in the Times: “Enough. I’m Quitting the Conservative Party” (behind a paywall).

Clearly, there are internal politics in the Tories at play. But I find his objections interesting.

First of all, he says that it’s Thatcher who got him to join the parties, not because she was right but because she was strong. She did what she said she would – on the EU rebate, the Falklands etc.

Yay…?

Anyway, Tim’s point is that Cameron hasn’t done what he said he would – on the deficit, on the debt, on immigration, and the EU deal is a farce.

I agree. Sort of.

Firstly, I think it’s interesting that he’s not so concerned with whether any of Thatcher’s or Cameron’s positions were right so much that they just did what they said they would. We’ll come back to that later.

I’m not one to come riding to Cameron’s defence but Thatcher’s world was different. The Falklands was a storm in a tea cup compared to the threat of Daesh and the like; a time when warfare was straightforward and you could see your enemy. As much as it’s part of the British nation myth, the Falklands is basically a rock off the coast of South America with less than 3,000 people on it. And some sheep. So, yay for colonialism, mostly. He credits her with ending union militancy and boosting Britain’s internal narrative of decline. OK, fine.

All realistic goals in so far as there were clear steps to achieving them, whether you agree with them or not. The things he faults Cameron for, though, are not.Like…

Reducing immigration – a stupid pledge that politicians keep making because they can’t tell the truth – that we live in the 21st Century and you can’t have the free movement of capital and not people; and Europe needs immigrants to support their ageing populations. That’s before we get onto the figures; that falling emigration affects the statistics as well. A ridiculous target (tens of thousands) was given and duly missed, because it had no foundations in reality. What they have been doing (Theresa May) is mainstreaming racism and passing legislation that punishes migrants and is tearing families – yes, British families too – apart. I assume that someone is enjoying that.

He points out that the Treasury is still borrowing £75million a year and debt is up, so Osborne has failed on his own targets too. Perhaps if the Tories had spent less time pinning a global financial crisis on Labour and hacking away at everything with a machete in the name of austerity (which the OECD and others said was not the way to growth) this wouldn’t be the case. But again, to my mind the Tories have been getting on with what they wanted to do – namely, cutting the State to the bare bones, privatising what’s left, flogging what they can to their mates in the city, and cutting welfare. It appears that ideologues have been having a field day. The fact that is isn’t working (great employment figures masking underemployment, greater inequality etc) is a failure of the ideology. Montgomerie doesn’t think Cameron is doing enough. They’ve done plenty. It’s just not the right thing.

And the EU. Thatcher got a rebate, Cameron got….well, we don’t know yet, there’s a peculiar charade underway. Suffice to say that no deal he could ever get would satisfy sceptics and those who want to stay in will want to stay in deal or not. As for the rump of people in the middle, let’s not pretend the EU debate has any roots in reality or common sense. It’s an emotional discussion and people will vote with their hearts. Because it makes sense to stay in. But like immigration and failed ideology, that’s not something people want to hear.

So maybe telling the truth and doing the right thing does matter, after all.

 

 

Tagged , , , ,

A Life Well Lived

When I was an awkward 13 year-old ill at ease in my own skin and self-conscious about my eczema scars, this poem changed my life:

Phenomenal Woman- Maya Angelou
Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.

 

Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

 

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them,
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need for my care.
’Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
Capture
Tagged , , , ,

Lovin It

So, it was the weekend of love. I had a weekend full of friendship and culture – including the movie Freeheld and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom at the National Theatre. Here are three things that gave me the warm and fuzzies:

One The reaction to Justice Scalia’s passing, in particular this response to the GOP’s rush to declare that the current, democratically elected POTUS is somehow ineligible to nominate his replacement:

Two Saturday Night Live, “The Day Beyonce Turned Black”.

Three 

“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.” Maya Angelou.

Tagged , , , , ,

Ring the Changes

A friend of mine from Kenya told me about how there is a concept of one generation intentionally handing over to the next, an ancient ceremony in which the leaders become the elders and let those coming through to take their place.

Looking at events in the US and the UK – not just Corbyn and Sanders but also the reaction to “no platforming” in universities and the #RhodesMustFall and other decolonising movements (not so much in SA but definitely the UK arm) I can’t help thinking that we’re in the midst of an upheaval.

The overriding response, in particular from the media, is derision – a bit like Madeleine Albright’s admonition of younger women who vote for Sanders (echoed by Gloria Steinem, who said these young women just wanted to be near “boys”). Over here, the ridicule of movements like #RhodesMustFall and the (often ham-fisted) efforts of student bodies to explore issues around censorship and safe spaces has been deafening. I don’t agree with all the incidents or stances taken by the students in all the different cases but the scorn has a hysterical edge to it. There’s no discussion, no exploration. It’s almost as if they are stupid for questioning, even if sometimes some students get it wrong. They are supposed to shut up and do what they’re told.

Millenials are sick of being told. As the Guardian discovered when they asked Sanders voters (not all of whom are millenials) why they support him, there’s a lot of rage and a lot of yearning for change.* There’s a bleak realisation that the status quo isn’t working. Well, it isn’t.

I keep saying this but post-2008, we’re looking another financial crisis in the eye but this morning it was reported that Osborne is trying to sweep away even those meagre post-2008 reforms to the banking industry. Oh, and HSBC has decided to stay in the UK. Again. They really need to space these ultimatums out. I’m sure they’ll be speculating again as we approach the Europe vote. The fact is, they don’t need to do this public tantrum. They clearly have more of a hold over Treasury than any citizen in this country so it’s rather amusing that they bother with the political theatre.

If no one has been held to account for the crash, the group that has had their future mortgaged to pay for it are the young. Education, employment, housing – basically every rite of passage is blocked or marred. The guarantees are broken. You can get your degree but we can’t guarantee the job, the house, or even – if you don’t get a degree – a decent wage with human-friendly hours. The safety net is shredded and the NHS is threadbare. In the face of all this, when young people reach for change they are ridiculed. I would argue that the system has worked fine for those doing the ridiculing – they have their houses, jobs and pensions – pensions that the rest of us will be paying for. So would it not be a little charitable to give young people space to have discussions, to think about changing the world, to try to craft something new out of the mess you’ve left them? (even if it’s a work in progress?)

*I have to give credit to the Guardian – though they have been among the sneering when reporting on Corbyn voters, they did, as with Sanders voters, actually stop to actually ask people why they vote for them. Quite why they report the results with such deep surprise and wonder, given the state of the world, is beyond me.

Tagged , , , , , ,

In Formation

Beyonce-Knowles-Pepsi-Super-Bowl-50-Halftime-backup-dancers-zana-bayne

So…I don’t have a dog in this fight. I’m not a member of the Bey-hive but I’m not archly against Beyonce. I find her music fun but I’m not expecting her to be everything for me as a Black woman and a feminist.

Nevertheless I found it bewildering that without exception, the British press reported on her Superbowl performance as “race baiting” or “stoking a race row”. I would hazard a guess that they all subscribe to the same news agencies. But…even so, to reflexively take that editorial line without question in their news pieces (there have been a range of comment pieces) shows how such overt Blackness is seen as a negatively provocative and threatening, even by the liberal media (looking at you, Guardian).

Of course, the performance was political and made reference to the Black Panthers and more than a passing nod to current movements such as Black Lives Matter. This was done even more explicitly after the show when her dancers gave the Black Power salute and held up a sign in protest about the death of Mario Woods at the hands of the police. Taken together with her new video dropped the day before, Formation, it was all political. The fact that was instantly read as inherently threatening a race war and prompted hyperbolic comment from people such as Rudy Guiliani, who interpreted it as an attack on the police, shows that the politics are still salient.

It’s something I’ve been turning over in my mind as I look at the rise of Bernie Sanders in the US and Corbyn over here. These old Socialists, derided as dinosaurs and dreamers by their own parties and most of the media, have captured the imagination of a great many young voters. It’s galling for Clinton that younger women are more likely to support Sanders. Of course, they shouldn’t plump for Clinton just because she’s a woman, but it’s interesting that her historical run (as a woman who actually stands a chance) hasn’t lit a fire.

And as with Corbyn, I’m with Gary Younge in that I expect the reaction to Sanders’ rise to be dismay, hysteria and ridiculing his supporters. In the UK, no one has stopped to ask why Corbyn’s ideas and some of his ideals have traction. Could it be that the problems he’s identified – with capitalim, privatisation, austerity etc- are still crying out for a solution? As with Sanders. And….the Black Panthers. The conventional wisdom goes, well, capitalism won, it’s awesome and we’re all doing fine. Oh, and we’re post-racial now, too, so why the Black Panthers thowback?

To an extent, their reaction to the apparent resurgence of these ideas (and I would say that Black politics has never gone away, just retreated from the spotlight perhaps – that’s not to say that many activists have not been campaigning or organising in the time before Black Lives Matter – and nor is that the only movement in town) is illuminating. If these movements are redundant are the ideas have been defeated by progress, why the panic?

Maybe the renewed fire in these movements is because the solutions advanced for the problems they identified have been found wanting –  and the cosy political consensus isn’t interested in solutions because they don’t see the problem.

Could it be that we had a financial crash in which no one was held responsible but for which everyone else but in particular the poor, disabled and the young have had to pay? Could it be that politicians have waxed lyrical about cutting welfare and gleefully shredded the social safety net while increasing corporate welfare and being pathetically grateful when the likes of Google deign to pay some tax because the mood caught them on a Friday afternoon? Could it be that the issues the civil rights movement was fighting for – voting rights, economic inequality, housing, policing, social justice – have seen progress but are still outstanding? Black Lives Matter is articulating all this for a younger generation of digital natives.

Which brings us back to Beyonce. It was a risky performance (for a very mainstream bankable performer), but the fact that it resonated (horribly for some, gloriously for others) shows that these conversations are live, right now. I also find it interesting that her Formation video roots itself in New Orleans – an article I read recently on Black Lives Matter pointed out that the backdrop to the movement isn’t just police violence but a post-Katrina political context.

I won’t go into the detail of her performance at the Superbowl and the Formation video- the visuals, the representation, the politics, the blackness – not when so many others could do and have done it so much better. Like these two women:

One: “On Jackson 5 Nostrils, Creole vs Negro and Beefing over Beyonce’s Formation” by Yaba Blay:

A work as racially and emotionally charged as “Formation” is bound to cause tension. And because Beyoncé so often evokes something very personal, we need to approach one another with more care and caution. After all, it is very possible to enjoy the “Formation” song and video and take issue with it at the same damn time. Because we’re human.- Yaba Blay

Two: “Beyonce and Forms of Blackness” by Michelle R Smith:

When Beyoncé does something like turning out the Super Bowl 50 Halftime Show, and black people start arguing about whether that was a “good” thing or a “bad” thing, we’re not really arguing about Beyoncé’s performance.

I mean, yes, some people love her singing and dancing, and others don’t, but that’s not really the root of the conversation, I don’t think.

I think what we’re really arguing about is how we want to see blackness represented in the media. And underneath that I think we’re arguing about what we really think black people need to be doing with themselves and doing about our collective “situation.” – Michelle R Smith

Tagged , , , , ,

Look!

North Korea’s Kim Jong-un has a whole tumblr dedicated to him looking at things.

David Cameron has his own (definitely more benign) tumblr dedicated to him looking at fish while on holiday.

Something that’s not so benign (though from a media perspective, somewhat clever I suppose) is David Cameron’s habit of pointing at things and making policy announcements. Lots and lots of them.

What’s missing is details on exactly how he’s going to get this all done. Case in point: This weekend he (rightly) slammed institutional racism in the UK, warning “educational institutions, the police, the military and the courts they were the focus of a new effort to tackle social inequality fuelled by “ingrained, institutional and insidious” racism.” So far, so good. And you could say that the details will come.

But what’s also missing is some joined up thinking. Today, alongside figures that showed a 23% pay gap for Black graduates, measures came into force requiring private landlords to check the immigration status of their potential tenants. Predictably, industry experts (as immigration experts have been saying since this idea was first mooted) have warned that these measures will discriminate against those with foreign names, the young and less well-off.

The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) said its members faced a difficult choice: they could “take a restrictive view with prospective tenants, potentially causing difficulties for the 12 million UK citizens without a passport” or “target certain individuals to conduct the checks, opening themselves up to accusations of racism”.

Incidentally, this is in a rental market where there is already a problem for ethnic minorities, who are routinely discriminated against.

The Guardian reports: “Dr David Smith, policy director at the RLA, said: “The government argues that its ‘right to rent’ plans form part of a package to make the UK a more hostile environment for illegal immigrants. The evidence shows that it is creating a more hostile environment for good landlords and legitimate tenants.”

These are policies that Cameron has actually implemented.

Enough looking. We should be joining the dots.

 

Tagged , , , , , ,