Friday, 10 February 2012

English Soccer---The Return of the Scourge of Racism

The clash between two titans of the English football game, Manchester United and Liverpool should provide us plenty of drama and excitement tomorrow at noon. This fixture is regarded as the fiercest, most competitive of all in the English Premier League.
The two teams both hail from major cities in the North-West, separated by a short stretch of motorway. Both clubs have fervent world-wide bodies of support.
Liverpool,the more successful of the teams from the former slave-shipment port on the edge of the River Mersey, has recently struggled to regain the supremacy which it enjoyed over 2 decades ago when it dominated the top tier of English and European competition. Recently, it has been Manchester United who have been the unquestioned premier team in England, winning trophy after trophy. Whenever these two clash, tribal tensions and jealousies are at their most manifest, the chanting seems more vehement, the tackles on the field seem more biting, players seem to acquire an extra yard of pace, of irascible intent. It is unusual for such a match to end without the referee being obliged to show several yellow (and, not infrequently red) cards.
It was against this background that the two sides met last autumn. Patrice Evra, Manchester United's stand-in captain and defender, a Black Frenchman, complained to Sir Alex Ferguson, his manager, that Luis Suarez, Liverpool's oleaginous Uruguayan striker,had been insulting him racially throughout the match.
Ferguson, the erstwhile shop steward from the tough shipyards of Glasgow, took the matter seriously enough to pass it on to the football authorities. The Football Association set up a committee to enquire into the case, with an experienced barrister in the chair. The committee did not rush to complete its task. In spite of the clamour from Press and public alike, we had to wait for nearly three months for a 125 -page report.It was detailed, professional, and impartial.
It transpired that Suarez had used the words “negrito” or “negro” something like 12 times within a
space of five minutes. He admitted this, claiming that it was done in a friendly way---no racist intent was meant, even though he told Evra that he” doesn't talk to Negroes”.
The committee, after taking all their evidence into consideration, decided that Suarez was guilty as charged of using racist language against his opponent. Having interviewed several of the other players,and having weighed up the testimony of the two protagonists, they decided that Suarez was not telling the truth.
In other words, he was found to be a liar, as well as a racist. His punishment was a suspension of eight matches.
There then ensued a truly jaw-dropping display of stupidity. The day after the sanction was made public, the Liverpool team were training in preparation for another match.There was a larger than usual contingent of Press photographers waiting and watching the team going through their paces. The whole team, led by their manager, Kenny Dalglish, bore t-shirts over their usual gear----bearing the image of Luis Suarez!
It hurts to say it, but this is when Kenny Dalglish showed himself to be a fool of quite Everestine proportions. What did he think he was doing by making his players prance about in those t-shirts? What message was he sending out to the thousands of Black and Brown fans who have supported his team through thick and thin? What effect will it have on the “Kick Racism Out of Football” and other such campaigns? Does he know? Does he care? By making his players wear that t-shirt he gave a thumbs-up to every inadequate moron who craves the anonymity of the crowd to utter the most vile racial expletives. He has stuck up a finger to the “Respect” Campaign.
It was with a touch of irony that we read that in their following match at Anfield, their home ground, an opponent (I believe he played for Oldham), a young man of mixed-race, nearly broke down in tears as a result of racial abuse from a Liverpool fan.
Dalglish must bear responsibility for this , as well as any further such acts. He is still persistent in his belief in his claim that Suarez “should never have been banned”, still obdurately sides with racism. Indeed, there are many otherwise decent White Britons who, confronted with the reality of racism, automatically assert: “Oh, he doesn't like us”!
At that moment, they identify themselves to be on the side of racism, totally indifferent to the victims thereof.

Friday, 23 September 2011

A few photos from my neighbourhood in North London.

Emirates Stadium, home of Arsenal Football Club.

Cannons outside Arsenal's Stadium
A cat outside Whittington Park
Former Public Baths, now the site of luxury flats for the rich.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

London Riots: The Aftermath of the Killing of A Black Gunman

The French have a saying: "Gouverner c'est prévoir" (To govern is to foresee).
I was reminded of this early last week, long after London and its suburbs had descended into an orgy of burning and looting.
This spontaneous outburst of  anti-social behaviour had been triggered by the extra-judicial execution of a Black gunman,Mark Duggan.He was in a cab when he had been followed by armed members of Operation Trident, an armed branch of the Police whose job is to combat the recent spate of Black-on-Black shootings.The details are not clear, but it seems as if they shot him on the floor of the cab without him firing at them.One officer received a bullet in his radio....According to a report in the "Guardian" newspaper, the bullet was a police-issue one.A loaded gun was found in the dead man's sock.
Two nights later--Saturday---after the news spread, the family and friends of the dead man held a vigil outside the local Police Station, Tottenham.After four hours, no senior officer had agreed to meet them to discuss the state of investigations, no attempt was made to mollify or assuage.
Pain turned to anger, and a 16- year -old girl in the group is alleged to have thrown a brick at one of the policemen.She was then said to have been rewarded by a baton strike across the face.All hell broke loose.
The news spread like wildfire.Buses, police cars, were overturned, burnt to a cinder.Residents had a feeling of deja-vu.A couple of decades previously, rioting had occured in the area as a result of another extra-judicial killing of a Black person---a Black mother of a suspect.The community began to fear a repetition of the dark nights which then ensued.Then, a policeman had been murdered by a large crowd....
The rioting soon spread, riots were sprouting up everywhere.Brixton, in the South, Enfield, a few miles up the road, Haringey, Stoke Newington, Walthamstow, all nearby, were now up in smoke.Croydon, 15 miles away, had staged its own copycat riot.It later emerged that youths had been using Blackberry's Messenger Service to inform each other of the next venue for mayhem.
The rioters/looters were by no means all Black---what is noticeable was the variety of people involved---White, Black, and all shades in-between.Most of the areas put to the torch were disadvantaged suburbs, blighted by unemployment, devoid of hope.
With each hourly news broadcast, the list grew----Islington,Haringey, Woolwich, Lewisham, in London, Manchester, Nottingham, Liverpool, and Gloucester, Bristol outside, miles away.
The Tory hierarchy had (almost) all gone away--at the same time!The Prime Minister, David Cameron, the Liberal-Democrat, Nick Clegg(his deputy), Home Secretary, Theresa May, as well as the Billy Bunteresque Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, were all on holiday.None signalled any intention of cutting short their holiday....until it became impossible to resist the clamour for firm leadership.
The mob had got the upper hand, their use of Blackberries had outfoxed the overstretched Police.It was common to see them standing by----spectators to mayhem.All this happened against a background of doctrine-inspired public-spending cuts---including  in the size of the police force!
Those on the political Right would not countenance any linking of deprivation with the destruction which took place.Indeed, for some on the Far-Right, it was a great time for Black-bashing.Black people were responsible for all the ills of society.It takes an effort of wilful stupidity to watch young people of all races---in some areas outside London, the gangs were majority White---and conclude that we were seeing a Race War.
Anomie, breakdown of norms, yes.These were certainly not Race riots.It emerged that the gunman, infamously pictured with his fingers shaped into a pistol in that dreadful hip-hop way, was of mixed-race.His White uncle, or so it has been claimed, is a big-time gang boss in Manchester.This, even if true, is no excuse for what seems like an extra-judicial killing.An enquiry is taking place, but I don't think anyone is holding his breath for justice.Policemen who kill Blacks are never punished.History tells us that a whitewash is not far away.
Fresh off the plane  from sunnier climes, the Prime Minister and his colleagues began to talk tough.Thousands more police would be drafted into London.Water, cannon, tear gas, the whole of the police's box of tricks was to be made available.Overwhelming force was deployed, the looters went home to try on their newly-acquired trainers, and to watch their new flat-screen plasma TVs.
Courts, meanwhile, have had to sit twenty-four hours a day in some parts.Those looters who were too fat to run, or too stupid in thinking they were invincible, are being serviced by overworked magistrates.Stiff sentences await.
Politicians have begun to bicker publicly with senior Police.The Tory hierarchy---those who couldn't be bothered to leave their sunloungers in Tuscany until the clamour for their return became overwhelming---are now tripping over themselves to portray the Police as weak, vacillating.No discussion of the effects of their policies is allowed.Anyone who wants to ask "why" is deemed to be on the side of Anarchy.Plans are being drawn up to curtail similar  future  events by closing down Facebook, twitter, etc.Meanwhile, the Police have been informed that the proposed cuts to their budget will go ahead anyway.
Whisper it, but there were times when I actually felt sorry for the Police last week.

No anonymous comments will be published.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Amy Winehouse,the "Queen of Camden", and other untimely deaths.

The news, when it came, was a shock---but it was not a surprise.Like the death of Michael Jackson, news of Amy Winehouse's untimely demise was something I had been expecting to hear for quite a long time.The mad pace of her rock - star lifestyle had long made it obvious that this person was not meant to last long on this earth.

I arrived home late from an afternoon and evening spent in Brighton, Londoners' main  coastal hangout.After dinner in a fish restaurant, followed by a few drinks in a bar, my old school friends and I went our separate ways.
Earlier in the day, on my way to the coast, I had heard snippets of a news item from Norway involving an explosion in the capital.I had been in too much of a rush to pay much attention, excited as I was to meet up with old friends.
As usual, I only heard the full details once I got in bed, and switched on Dotun Adebayo's show on Radio5.
So, that was it.The hard-drinking female Keith Richard figure was gone.The details did not really matter.We all knew that in the end, whatever the post-mortem was to say, it was her lifestyle which did for her.We had been reading about her in the tabloids on a weekly basis---Amy coming out of the" Hawley Arms" and punching a young man, Amy photographed with blood over her shoes after injecting heroin in her toes, Amy this, Amy that.....the stories became more sordid, more outrageous.
A talented girl from a working-class Jewish family, she had achieved world-wide fame in a very short time.Her White-Soul voice had brought her much acclaim----there was enough money to buy a multimillion -pound house in Camden Square----only five minutes' walk from our office.
By the following day her beatification had begun.Police had to be drafted in to Camden Square as hundreds of fans  descended on her house.They set up a shrine in front of her house with offerings of vodka, poems, paintings. I walked past the house on Wednesday morning----it is a route which I take home a lot of the time.The house, as well as a couple of adjoining houses, had been cordoned off.A security guard stood at the gate.
Tragic though her passing was, at least there was a kind of logic to it---we could, if we wanted to, pin the blame somewhere. We knew the angst-laden lyrics of failed love affairs, we knew the self-loathing , the striving for an impossible idea of perfection, we knew how headstrong she was.After all, was she not the one who boasted about saying :"No, No, No" when advised to seek help for her drink and drug habits?Death was a logical step in her career, as it had been for Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, and so many other fallen heroes.
What logic though, can explain the slaughter by the vainglorious headcase  of an inadequate man , a false prophet who had sworn jihad against the whole of Mankind....? After years of meticulous planning,  the self-styled "Christian", Anders Breivik set off a bomb in the centre of the capital, and then went to an island where young members of the ruling Centre-Left Labour Party were meeting.This White-Supremacist, ostensibly angered by the "Islamisation " of Europe, set out to put the world to rights-----by killing as many of those young people as police tardiness in apprehending him would allow.His way of showing his hatred of all non-Whites(even though his only school friend was a Pakistani boy) was to massacre as many of the Labour Party's youth as he possibly could.
Like the Holy Warriors of Beslan who lay waste to those Russian schoolkids who were cowering in their gym several Septembers ago, he was too cowardly to carry out his deeds sober.He has confessed to having taken some sort of drug before starting his killing spree.
The two stories shared the front pages of all the newspapers for many days, but, I suspect most people had mixed feelings about one of them.
At least, with Amy Winehouse, the "Queen of Camden Town", as one mourner described her, one could find excuses for her behaviour. She, for all her bad-girl rock 'n roll lifestyle, had not set out to hurt anyone but herself. That dreadful Fascist, that puny excuse for a man, had the audacity to claim to be a Christian---a person who lives by the teachings of Christ. He was, in fact, a follower of Satan.Having cut short 78 or so innocent lives, he will have many years behind bars to ponder.God may forgive him, but I guess that the majority of us are not Christian enough to let bygones be bygones.
We may well forgive the brilliant songbird, Amy Winehouse, her shortcomings.Her songs may well live forever.
Death, in the end, cuts short all our vanity, whatever path we adopt in this life.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Student Resistance: The Re-Awakening of British Youth.

The events of the past few days have shown how politically-aware sections of British youth have become.Seven months of Tory austerity measures, culminating in last Thursday's vote in Parliament to triple the cost of university tuition, have managed to galvanize thousands of youths into mass protest action.
It has been a long time since the centre of London has borne witness to such frenzied anti-government protest.
Last Thursday's demonstration, the latest in a series which is bound to continue well into the New Year, was attended by students from all over the country.Young people as young as 14 (some skiving - off  school) turned out to lobby Members of Parliament belonging to the Conservative/Liberal Democrat Coalition which has been governing the country since the May Elections.
It comes as no surprise to me that much of the students' ire ( as well as that of their their teachers and lecturers) has been aimed at the treacherous Lib-Dems.
Prior to the Elections,they made a great show of their opposition to the raising of tuition fees. Their MPs were falling over themselves  to portray the Tories as evil tax-hikers who were hell-bent on raising VAT, cutting social programmes--and raising tuition fees.
They signed, publicly and ostentatiously--in front of cheering students --a pledge not to raise tuition fees. This made for good TV, and helped to garner votes, as well as Ministerial seats, after the Tories failed to get them vertiginous majority for which they had been yearning.
Labour lost their majority---but the Tories did not win.They became the largest party, without the ability to rule, as they were short of a majority.Consequently, they had to compromise with their erstwhile leftist foes.
As predicted, this cobbled-together  marriage -of-convenience is now showing signs of strain.LibDem Members of Parliament are finding it hard to back Tory policies which go against their political grain.Some senior members even went as far as to abstain in Thursday's vote on tuition fees!
Students have formed the vanguard of popular resistance to the enforced budget cuts which the Coalition has imposed on all areas of Government spending.
 An astonishing 80% cut in Government's support for university teaching has been put in place, the deficit being imposed on individual students---after they graduate.In addition, the EMA (Education Maintenance Allowance), the subsidy to poorer students before they enter university, is to be cut.Hence the anger.
The privileged cabal of  Old-Etonian-Oxbridge aristocrats who are disproportionally- represented in the present Cabinet, will not be personally affected . Their children will never have to worry about how to pay for college fees!
The overwhelmingly-Right-wing Press here have chosen to focus on the fighting and crowd trouble which took place during the demonstration.In doing so, they aimed to delegitimize the real grievances of the youths.Public opinion, it hopes, will thus turn against the students.It now becomes easier for the brightest and the best of the young generation to be labelled as "yobs" and "mindless hooligans". The ill-discipline of the few is thereby used to portray the majority.Little mention is made of the police-state tactics now being employed in quelling dissent.
In a week in which the whole of the Press and mass-media celegrated the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to an imprisoned Chinese citizen  who wants to overthrow his government, the Metropolitan Police are allowed to impose imprisonment without trial of up to 10 hours on ordinary citizens who choose to avail themselves of their constitutional right to protest.
 The majority of our Conservative-supporting Press have chosen to overlook the use of "kettling" as  a means of dissuading people from coming out to protest.
This tactic involves cordoning off a small area of the demonstration, forcing everyone to stay in that area---( for up to 10 hours!). Any attempt to escape from the "kettled" area is met with beatings and charges by mounted police.There are no provisions for food or toilets.FOR TEN HOURS!
 The Right-Wing then wonder why the thus-imprisoned demonstrators choose to resist! While they wag their finger at the Chinese authorities, they condone such tactics in the centre of London! Sadly, such commentators always lack a sense of history.
  Not so long ago, groups of women engaged the authorities in similar clashes. Some chained themselves to the railings outside Parliament, they went on demonstrations, rallies, protests. Some succumbed to brutal beatings, some, indeed, died for their cause.
What were these terrible women so fired up about? Why were they disturbing the peace, rattling the status quo? What great cause mede them risk their freedom, their very lives?
 They were the pioneers who were campaigning for votes for women.
 The whole population now views this as an unalloyed  good. Indeed , most modern people in Britain think this right is "natural", and very few people can imagine a Britain in which women do not have this right.
   The lesson for today's students?  Every "right" has to be fought for.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

The Mayor's bikes,the Maze, George Bush and WMDs.

It is early in August, so the usual signs of summer are in evidence all over the centre of town. Large groups of  foreign students laden down with large rucksacks take up the whole of the pavement without paying any heed to the needs of others.Some behave as if the pavement belongs to them---ill-mannered youths exporting their uncouth ways.Bad tourists who, one hopes, will mature into good, well-mannered guests with the passage of time.
  On every corner  there is a pretty tourista grappling with a map, looking helpless. I am constantly amazed at the number of single young women who travel to London.White, Black, Yellow, Brown , and all shades in-between!
  One novelty which caught my eye in the centre of town is the recently-introduced bicycle-for-hire scheme.
  The Mayor, Tory Boris Johnson, has decided that what London needs is a bike-hire scheme----just like the one in Paris, and, long before it, Amsterdam.As a result, London has teamed up with one of the big banks, and installed a few thousand sturdy unisex bicycles which are on loan for a few hours, or a  few days at a time.
   On the face of it, the scheme seems to be an excellent idea, but I have one major reservation----there is no supply of  helmets to accompany the shiny new bikes!
   These are essential in a bicycle-unfriendly city like London. More thought should have gone into safety considerations before the scheme  was rolled out.
There was a similar scheme in Amsterdam years ago.As I recall, it was instigated by the Provos, a sort of idealistic anarchist group of the late 60's-early 70's.A whole load of white-painted bicycles were made available---only to be stolen!
I hope, for London's sake, that the same fate does not befall Mayor Boris' scheme.Furthermore, I do hope that he will provide helmets to accompany the bicycles. After all, a tourist who may not have ridden a bike for a long time, on a short vacation to London, can not be expected to spend a large amount of money on a bicycle helmet which he/ she will only  use for a few hours or days...
Down in Trafalgar Square, I came across this artificial maze which was erected for a few days. It seems to have been a crowd-pleaser, but, by the time you read this, it would have been removed.Shame.
Further up the road (well, about 2 miles  away, actually), I visited an exhibition called "After the Bombs Dropped".
This is an exhibition about the massive destruction and devastation caused by the atom bombs which were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki  by the Americans at the end of WW2.
Everyone should see this. Once you do, I am sure you will not be able to think of weapons of mass-destruction in the same way.Ever.
George Bush & co. knew this, that is why they did not allow the American public---and the rest of the gullible world to see pictures of the dead and wounded in  the ill-fated adventure in Iraq.Once you see the gruesome after-effects of war, it becomes so much harder to wish such suffering on your fellow human.
The exhibition is on at :Friends House,173,Euston Rd.,London,NW1 2BJ., until 12th August 2010.

Friday, 30 October 2009

Notes On A Man About To Die

Once in a while, an event occurs which makes everyone sit up and take notice, question the very basis on which reality is built. Some events are so momentous that, upon hearing of them we wonder if the person informing us is, in fact, recounting a scene from some outlandish film.
This is how I felt a few weeks ago when one of my colleagues asked me, a propos of nothing much, if I'd heard the news about Akmal.
“No, what news?”, I queried.
He told me that Akmal had been sentenced to be shot by firing squad for drug trafficking in China. The execution was imminent, barring a last-minute reprieve being granted by The Court of Appeal.
   I bent over the office computer, and typed the name Akmal Shaikh into the search engine. Straight away, Google poured out a list of pages and articles about the death sentence. I was shocked, but not entirely surprised. I had been well aware that this man was a massive risk-taker, a person who would leap without a second glance either to his left or to his right. How could he have come to this?..
   I had been a self-employed leaflet deliverer--- a sort of private postman who went from door to door shoving cards, menus, and leaflets through people's letterboxes. Because of the low fees which I charged all my clients, I was seldom without work, and I enjoyed the freedom which it gave me. The solitary nature of the job gave me a lot of time in which to think, and to organise my creative ideas. In good times, I would combine two types of leaflet from different firms, thereby doubling my wages for the same distance walked.
It was through this line of work that I came into contact with Teksi, a fairly-successful cab firm in Kentish Town, North-West London. The owner of the firm was a short, squeaky- voiced chap called Akmal Shaikh, a Pakistan-born Briton.
    He had a kind of wariness about him whenever I went into his office. Was it unfriendliness, disdain? I didn't care, since I was my own boss, a freelance who chose his own working hours. I would be in there for, at most, twenty or thirty minutes at a time. He was at his most cagey whenever his female employee was in the office.
    She was a homely young Polish woman, wholly devoted and protective of her boss. It soon became plain to me that, although he was married, he and the Polish secretary/ telephonist were more than colleagues. There were times when I would see her sitting on his lap as I entered the office. One day, right out of the blue, he announced that they were now married! Several months previously, he had begun to call her by a Muslim name which he had given her. She soon left the firm, went back to Poland after the birth of their first child---his fifth.
    She was now living full-time in Poland, while he ran his business from London. He would go over for weeks at a time to be with his now-Muslim new wife. Since she left there was a vacancy for a telephonist. He employed a succession of pretty young ladies, mostly Poles, who were glad of the chance to work here. Their country had only recently emerged from Communist rule, and membership of the-then European Economic Community (now The European Union) was several years away.
During his return trips to London, it is rumoured that he had affairs with a succession of the young girls in his employ. Some claim that he set up home with one of them. When she left to continue travelling , he sought a replacement.
    By this time, I had long since stopped working for him, having taken up a sedentary job as a controller with a rival firm. After a year or so, my new employer closed his doors, apparently because Akmal did not want a rival to be based only a hundred yards away from him; he claimed that Akmal had made numerous complaints about our drivers' noise-making to the local council, in which he had some influential friends.
I moved on, having secured a controller's post with yet another firm, this time about a mile away. I kept bumping into old colleagues from Akmal's office. None of them had a good word to say about him. There were constant rumours of unpaid wages, monies being unfairly held on to...One night he made a phone call to my employer ( a former employee of his with whom he had had a falling- out). He wanted him to know that he was selling up, quoted him a price, and demanded an answer there and then. Upon hearing this, I advised my employer not to have anything to do with it---I could smell a rat.
    A few months later, we realised what had caused his hasty departure....The local newspaper had a shocking report of a mini-cab boss who had been charged with sexual harassment of a female employee. On the third page, there was Akmal's photo for all to see. He was fined a large sum of money by an Industrial Tribunal, after he lost the case which had been brought by the young woman. His loss of face was complete. He fled to Poland.
     The next time I heard about him, it was claimed that he had split up with his wife ( the devoted Catholic who loved him so much that she had changed her religion for him), other rumours had him being arrested for I don't know what...Out of the blue, one ex-colleague had me in stitches by saying that Akmal had been sending him emails inviting him to “ do jihad “ with him! I almost fell off my chair laughing...
    The newspaper articles all talk of a trip from Warsaw to a remote part of China. Upon searching his luggage, Customs found a quantity of heroin. Some say it was four kilos, others, seven. He claimed no knowledge of the drug's existence, claiming that he went to make a pop record about world peace. It is also claimed that he was homeless at the time, and had befriended a shadowy figure who claimed to have contacts in the music industry.
    Newspaper reports say that the judges at his trial laughed openly at some of his claims, his testimony is said to have been rambling and incoherent. He bombarded the British Embassy with long letters. The rights group, Reprieve, claim that he suffers from bi-polar disease and is delusional. The Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, has been persuaded to make representations, all to no avail, it would seem.
    He may already have been shot. China, after all,  is one of the governments which is most ready to execute prisoners. Even if he were to be released tomorrow, his life is in tatters. I pity his children. They were polite and pleasant young people whose lives are forever tarnished. Their ambitious father---he once visited the Dassault factory in Toulouse saying he wanted to buy an aeroplane with which to start an airline ---he is gone from them, even if he were to be released and pardoned.
    I am not in favour of the death penalty, not even for mass – murderers. After all, did Jesus of Nazareth not tell us to spare the sinner, or cast the first stone if we have never sinned? The Chinese authorities take a different view; after all, did the British and French imperialists not seek to weaken their society by selling them hard drugs not so long ago? The memory of the opium trade may still be fresh in the minds of their officials.
I find it a pity that a man who may have been mentally-imbalanced is being made to pay the price of those past wrongs.