Sunday 30 December 2012

Three cheers for Danny Boyle

Every year at about this time I usually find that some celeb I have had a degree of admiration for has eroded their credibility  by accepting an archaic gong or title in the New Year's honours list.

My biggest disappointment this year was that 'people's champion' and all round working class hero Bradley Wiggins has picked up a knighthood. 

Some will say that it is a small thing and that I should just lighten up. But the honours system is just another prop in the edifice of deference and elitism that bears down on our society. 

So let's hear it for Danny Boyle. In many ways the architect of our 'feel good Summer', you can be sure that the powers-to-be were beating a path to his door to offer him a knighthood. And he no doubt would be more deserving than many of the faceless apparatchiks of government who every year collect a gong for just turning up.

But it seems he turned it down. This shouldn't be a surprise - he's on the record as saying that in the Olympic opening ceremony he wanted  to celebrate being  British from the point of being 'an equal citizen'.

Perhaps one day when we've finally  scrapped all the fore-lock tugging and  royal bollocks that makes up the honour's system, we can put Danny Boyle in charge of a peoples' awards ceremony.

Saturday 22 December 2012

NRA fuckwits

Like an alcoholic who tells you that what he really needs to sort himself out is just one more drink - you can only shake your head in despair when you hear that the NRA's response to the Newtown school shooting and the murder of twenty young children and six of their teachers is a call for armed guards at schools.

What the fuck is with Americans and their guns ? 

I'm as much a willing victim of American cultural imperialism as the next man. I have two American motorcycles, I'm told that I dress like a redneck trucker.  I listen to alt-country. If I could afford a pick-up truck I'd have one of those too. But still I can't understand the idea that gun ownership is somehow the soul of the nation. I've even studied American history: I get the obsession was the constitution as a sacred text. I get the need to define the nation in terms of a frontier - either real or metaphorical.

Even so.  We can contextualize as much as me like - it's time to just say for fuck's sake grow up and end this bollocks - and  join the rest of the modern world in the sanity of gun control.

Monday 17 December 2012

Class in the classroom

In the world of education bollock-speak will go to convoluted lengths to avoid any mission-creep into the dangerous waters of politics - and  the elephant in the corner is class. Labour's recent dubious dablings  on the subject do not help in this.

At schools we will talk at length about the issues facing 'EAL' (that's English-as-an-alternative-language) pupils. But we all know that we aren't really talking about the offspring of diplomatic personnel or multinational managerial staff  posted in this country for a few years. We mean the children of immigrants living in inner cities.  Or we talk of 'targeted micro-populations' of underachievers - at the top of which list is 'White British. But we all know that we are not talking about the offspring of Guardian reading Merlot-sipping media types in Hampstead. We mean the white working class.

Ironically those stereotypical characteristics of the demonized chav: low aspirations; lack of respect for educational achievement; a deeply ingrained suspicion of both authority and middle-class do-gooders -  perhaps just reflect a slightly longer experience of British capitalism than the still optimistic hopes of immigrant communities. But as the present economic crisis deepens so does this experience  - and so the attitudes converge. Because that's how class trumps everything else.

Sunday 9 December 2012

A requiem for a generation of sorts

I am not by nature the most gregarious of people, which is perhaps why I am careful to maintain my oldest friendships. And I have been lucky enough that the friends of my teenage years also  still some of my closest. Over something like thirty years, despite the inevitable twists and turns of life we have all remained in touch, albeit rarely managing to all be in the same place at the same time. 

However Friday was one of those occasions. We met for the funeral of a man who played a bigger part in those formative years than any of us realised at the time, the headmaster of our school. The school was a Catholic one, and the man was a priest  - but that is in many ways irrelevant - he was quite simply a good man with some genuine wisdom,  and one of those rare self-effacing people who exert a greater influence on people than they ever know. 

It is said that there are two types of atheists - Catholic atheists and Protestant atheists. And I know that I fall into the first category. Despite the fact that none of us have stayed with the hocus-pocus to which we were subjected in our youth,  we did  honour  the occasion  the man, and perhaps the passing of our own youth,  in authentic Catholic fashion by following the funeral with a piss-up of truly epic proportions. 

It was a bitter-sweet melancholic evening  that perhaps only we can understand, but which I felt it only right to share here.

Monday 3 December 2012

Workers' control is the only press regulation

It's easy to lose your way in the wake of the Leveson inquiry - and many sensible people have. Whilst all right-thinking people delight at the prospect of putting the boot in on the Murdochs and Desmonds of the media world, any sort of press regulation that curtails genuine investigative journalism is less appealing.

However as with many of these knotty issues that stray into the murky area of censorship I am inclined to give the devil the benefit of the doubt - for the sake of the rest of us. As with pornography and racism - or any of those other things that make us liberals reach for the statute book - there are enough laws already. Tapping phones is already illegal, paying bent coppers for stories is already illegal - and politicians manipulating press barons is a fact of life that no amount of laws short of revolution will stop.

On Facebook I came across this wonderful blank page from the Sun when in the midst of the miner's strike, NGA members refused to handle a picture that depicted Arthur Scargill as a Nazi.  And I remembered that it was a similar action by print workers that was a pivotal point in the escalation of the 1926 General Strike.

I can't help but thinking that declining press standards might just have something to do with the breaking of the media unions.