Wednesday 30 June 2010

There's more to Iran than a Marti Pellow lookalike!

The Iranian regime seems to engender much polarised viewpoints throughout the world. If you take the US Imperialist stance then the Iranian government is evil personified. If you are a Muslim you possibly see the US stance as yet another western attack on Islam. There is another viewpoint that rarely gets reported and some very brave people risk their liberty and their lives because of their passion and commitment to a secular socialist movement in Iran.

I was very moved by this ‘Message from workers in Iran to 2nd ITUC World Congress, Vancouver, Canada’ on the Worker-communist Party of Iran blog. Please take some time to read it and to visit Maryam Namazie’s blog.

I’m not suggesting that I totally support the Worker-communist Party of Iran but I think they deserve the right to exist and operate in a free and democratic environment.

n.b. the title of this post was inspired by this older post of mine. 

Did you listen to John Peel?

Ken Garner, who put together the, quite frankly anal, tome known as The Peel Sessions is soliciting information from listeners to John Peel’s shows; my thanks to John Osborne for bringing this to my attention. If you were a listener to John’s programmes why not help Ken with his survey – click here.

Monday 28 June 2010

Workers Playtime

It is my belief that education should exist for the enlightenment, enrichment and stimulation of all. It should not be confused with training and it should not be considered the domain solely of the young. Education should be a life-long experience. That doesn’t mean that you have to permanently on a course or always studying for exams. Education is much broader than that. It can be studying for a degree but equally it can just be reading a book. Education should be for education’s sake and not be about producing candidates for jobs.

The Workers Education Association has always struck me as a laudable organisation. An organisation whose raison d’être is to bring knowledge and inspiration to the working masses. Recently and for the first time in my life I was fortunate enough to attend one of their day classes. The day school was about place names in Norwich, and it was both interesting and informative. The class was well subscribed. I would guess there would have been at least fifty of us there. Ironically, despite it being run by the Workers Education Association, I would suggest that at most half a dozen of us would have been in some kind of paid employment. The rest of the class was made up of people over retiring age, the majority women, and most well into their retirement. It was like a convention of aged ex-schoolma’ams. All Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail readers to a man and many apparent groupies of the short, rotund, balding, slightly camp pedant* running what was essentially a lecture. Strangely a large proportion of the assembled masses present seemed to know a hefty bit about the subject matter before they went. That’s the middle classes for you; swots! I went knowing nothing at all, but came away knowing a whole lot more about my new home. I also came away slightly saddened by the news that there is no longer a Gropekunte Lane in this fine city.

* Not a term of abuse. Absolutely nothing wrong with pedantry!

Friday 25 June 2010


A certain amount of snobbery goes with the territory of owning a railway season ticket. As much as you try you just can’t help it. You have a tendency to look down on the occasional traveller. Those hapless individuals that are never quite sure of the rules of train travel. Those hapless individuals who get on the wrong trains and who when they get on the right train can’t understand the concept of sitting in the seat that has been reserved for them. The occasional traveller will stand out a mile. They are the ones with unruly baggage, unruly children or will have purchased a take-away coffee and or pastry from a station kiosk. Whilst I dislike all of them I find the last category pompous (I realise that there is an irony in that statement) and worthy of much ridicule. They think that getting on the train with a take-away coffee is ‘what you do’ no doubt they are trying to look cool, to fit in. Take-away coffee, I suspect, is seen by the uninitiated as a form of traveller chic. A must have accessory to facilitate blending in. A badge to say, “hey, look at me, I do this every day”. When in reality it says the opposite. Do you get the picture?

Today, part way on the journey from Norwich to Thetford, a twerp a few seats ahead of me chucked take-way coffee everywhere. The gormless one had clearly just taken the coffee out the brown paper carrier bag that reinforces the take-away status and had either squeezed it too hard or lifted it by the lid. The murky brown liquid went all over the table top in front of him soaking everything on it including the papers of a poor unsuspecting woman opposite him who was busy working away and minding her own business. He stood up, and as is usual with twerps, he just stood there not really knowing what to do. Finally his victim, the unfortunate woman with the coffee coloured work papers got up, went to the loo, and returned with some paper to mop it up. This then ‘inspired’ him to try and mimic the behaviour of someone with some common sense. Eventual the mess was cleared up and they settled back into their seats. Unfortunately my concentration had been broken and I found it impossible to go back to reading my book.

To be a bona fide twerp a person has to meet certain criteria. The list of possible attributes is as long as your arm but as ‘the twerp’ only has to meet a few there is little point in exposing the vast array of variables here. All I will convey are those attributes that qualified the above mentioned twerp to be a twerp. He scored heavily in the following way:

• Take-away coffee in a brown carrier bag
• He was wearing shorts
• He was wearing sandals
• He had no regional accent

I don’t like prejudice, and I know I shouldn’t really think the way I do about the person mentioned above, but it’s hard to think differently when you feel vindicated for holding such views.

Wednesday 23 June 2010

Serious sport...

#world cup
" Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play. It is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence. In other words: it is war minus the shooting. "

Tuesday 22 June 2010

Something to chew over

Gristle anyone?

Et tu Cable?

I could go into great detail about the irresponsibility of the Chancellor, George Osborne, and how unfair his changes to tax and benefits are going to be, but I will leave that to more accomplished commentators. I will comment on what is probably the most unfair part of his budget. There is nothing progressive about raising VAT. VAT is an unfair tax and the higher it goes the more unfair it is. The rise from 17.5% to 20%, announced in today’s budget, will hit the population in direct correlation to their income; the lower the income the higher the impact. A credible tax policy can only ever have fairness as its basis, and fairness is derived from tax payers’ ability to pay; the more wealth/income you have the more tax you should pay. The less wealth/income the less tax you should pay. The rise in VAT goes firmly against this principle. The VAT rise will hit the poor hard whilst the wealthy will hardly notice. Why is it always the poor who suffer, when it’s never their fault?

Watching Vince Cable on the telly tonight it is evident that he is becoming distinctly uncomfortable with his and the LibDem role in the debacle that is the coalition government.

Monday 14 June 2010

Jon Richardson at Norwich

Jon Richardson is a very funny man. He doesn’t tell jokes. He doesn’t really tell that many stories. What he does is convey personal anxieties and observations. And, he does it in a very very funny way. It has been over two years since the first time that I saw him. Last time it was in a comedy club and whilst some of the audience would have known who he was I suspect the majority didn’t. Last night was different; people were there just to see Jon. Having made more of a name for himself he was able to fill the Norwich Playhouse. The tickets said that the show started at 8.00pm and as you’d expect from Jon it started dead on time. I’m not sure how much of his ‘This Guy At Night’ show he performed as a lot seemed to be ad lobbing but it didn’t matter, he was most entertaining. I think I find Jon amusing because I can identify with so much of what he says in a ‘been there done that and yes I find that irritating as well’ sort of way.

As Jon said there are only two sorts of people, putters and leavers. Putters know exactly where they have put stuff, and leavers just leave stuff anywhere and wonder why they can find stuff again. Like Jon I’m a neurotic neo-OCD sufferer, and a putter. There was no support act; Jon did an hour and forty minutes including an encore and not including the interval. Jon claims not to do many encores so I guess we were honoured. The audience loved him. The evening was packed full of laughs. Jon Richardson is still on the way up but he has the capability to go to the top. He stands apart from many comedians who tend to rely on similar formulas. Jon Richardson is different, original and extremely funny. Catch him if you can.

Thursday 10 June 2010

Double dip anyone?

Recession is a cruel and merciless beast that can even be summoned just by talking it up. That’s exactly what I’m going to do now but as I’m so insignificant I’m hardly likely to influence matters. Brace yourselves another recession is coming!

Just when it appeared that we had come through the worst of the recession the blessed Tories go and get in. Unemployment and economic downturn are never far away when the Tories are in power. They have a forte for economic mismanagement which is driven by a desire to please their paymasters. And, guess what? They are at it again. This time its slightly different as the fat Conservative bully has got the snivelling little Lib-Dem spotty Herbert to hold their blazer for them while they duff up the country. Cuts, cuts, cuts, cuts, cuts. So what’s that going to do to the economy then? Cuts in the public sector are going to put people out of work. You don’t make the sort of cuts that the Tories are talking about just by relying on natural wastage. There’s talk of unemployment hitting 3 million (and it won’t stop there) but many more than that will suffer. As unemployment rises and as a consequence wages for those still in employment stagnate so the tax take will go down. At the same time social security costs will increase. The population will have less money to spend in the retail sector thus creating even more unemployment. It will be a downward spiral that will no doubt mirror the Thatcher years. The couple of years prior to the election will seem like a boom time compared to the slash and burn financial devastation that the Con-Dems have planned for us.

I hate to sound like Private Frazer in Dad’s Army but it would appear that “we’re all doomed!”

Monday 7 June 2010

The Promised Land

I watched a documentary about Dunkirk at the weekend. The programme was built around interviews with soldiers who were there at the time, interspersed with film footage from the time. Having thankfully never experienced it, I can’t hope to imagine what the horrors of war are really like, but the way these chaps were describing their experiences left me in no doubt just how grotesque war is. Several old soldiers said things that I’m sure will stick in my mind, but one thing in particular seemed very relevant to events now. He was describing how, nearing Dunkirk, he was injured by enemy fire. He went on to say that despite his injuries he behaved like a cornered animal; he wasn’t sure how but he scrambled and fought his way to the coast driven by the desire to survive. Desperate people will do desperate things to survive.

“One man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist” is a familiar saying. As a pacifist I could never condone or excuse acts of war or terror, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t want to try and understand why these things happen. Why individuals or states turn to fighting rather than politics to solve their differences. One thing is for sure; the more oppressed either financially, physically or politically a group of people are, the more likely they are to react against that oppression. No matter how subservient those oppressed appear on the surface there will be elements that will see their only means of freeing themselves from the clutches of their despotic masters to be violent means. When you have nothing to lose life ceases to be sacred. Rarely do you get revolution or terrorism when the populace are relatively affluent. Shit on people and eventually they will throw some of that shit back. The higher up the Maslow scale that people are the less prone to violence they will be. How can Israel expect the people of Gaza and their legitimately elected Hamas government to reject violence when they are denied the basics?

I continue to hope that pretty soon the ‘western world’ will come to recognise and desire to do something about the plight of the Palestinians. The incidents over the last week or so have indeed been condemned in some western quarters but it is still not enough. Whilst Israel continues to have the unquestionable support of the USA it will continue with its oppression of the Palestinian people.

A perpetual frustration for me are those societies who think of themselves as civilised yet continue to support pariah states, like Israel. If the majority of these countries upped their moral game the world would become a fairer and slightly more just place. The trouble is that all countries put trade above everything else save the occasional bit of national political self-interest. Just imagine the international condemnation, general hoo-ha and sabre rattling that would have taken place had it been Iran rather than Israel acting in such an illegal manner over the Gaza blockade.

What is needed is for a power block, the EU is the obvious example, to start taking a unilaterally more ethical stance on its trade and relations with other countries. It wouldn’t even have to be an instant change. The EU could declare what it considered to be a set of minimum standards that it expected from its trading partners. If those standards were not met then sanctions could be applied to countries and their supporters who continue to operate in an unethical way. These sanctions could range from mere classification as a country with unacceptable behaviour, to higher import duties, to the banning of trade on certain commodities right through to complete embargoes. There would of course be retaliation which would really test the mettle of many governments but if the EU could show that there is an alternative way of doing things others would follow suit. None of this would be done without diplomatic initiatives running in parallel, and the EU would have to ensure that it practised what it preached, but this course of action if performed right could change the world quite significantly. Once started any action like this would then snowball. There will be critics that will prophesy world recession at such action because of tit-for-tat economic reprisals. They will have a point which is why any action would need to be explained and phase in. This is no reason not to do it. The EU could lead the way in ethical trading and in establishing a new world order. An order built on peaceful, sustainable and equitable behaviour. Fanciful?

Today’s ‘pie in the sky’ is tomorrow’s ‘normality’.