Monday 26 January 2015

A new Greek dawn?

Waking up to the news that SYRIZA have won the Greek elections and are about to form a government is a pretty good way to start the week.

And before anybody says it, I do know that Tsipras isn't the messiah and that Greece is not on the brink of constructing a workers' paradise. 

But SYRIZA's success does  represent the most  significant development in Europe since the world economic crisis began. It is not just some  re-alignment of the forces of the Far Left - it has given voice to a mass movement that rejects the politics of austerity.

Of course  lots of questions remain, and a lot of hard messy work to replicate the same kind of force elsewhere - whether it's Podemos in Spain, the Anti-Austerity Alliance in Ireland ... or TUSC at home.

Sunday 11 January 2015

Je suis ... un ouvrier du monde

Excuse my French. 

I'll admit I rushed to publish a 'Je suis Charlie' status on Facebook in outrage at the shootings last week.  Then I very nearly posted another  'Je suis Ahmed' status. Then I saw that there was even a 'Je suis policier' status doing the rounds. And that made me think - hang on, is that the same policiers who I have witnessed routinely harassing young people of North African descent on the street of Paris? Or the paramilitary thugs of the CRS? 

Maybe we should all think a bit more carefully about some of this stuff:
There are inspiring demonstrations in London and Paris today. Displaying feelings of outrage at bigotry; and feelings of unity across communities; and  fear of  an anti-Muslim  backlash. But also displaying  political opportunism on the part of leaders like Netanyahu who want to promote anything but unity.
I am hearing a lot of genuine confusion amongst the liberal-minded:
When does ridiculing religion turn into racism?
Just because you have a right to do something does it mean that you should?
Can we really talk about freedom of speech in an unequal society with a gulf between minorities and the dominant culture?

Fair enough. These things can and must be discussed - but it's also worth remembering that the only real answer to these horrors is a radical one, and it has  been around for a while: 'Workers of all lands unite  - you have a world to win.'

Thursday 8 January 2015

Charlie Hebdo - in defence of blasphemy

I have never understood the concept of blasphemy.

If you are in a position of authority - a teacher, a manager, a team captain or a parent there is no surer sign of your confidence and authority than to take the piss out of yourself or to allow others to do so. In fact it is almost an acid-test of your authority if it can survive ridicule. As a human being, the same ability is actually a test of your humanity - to fail it renders you at best pompous and at worst psychotic.

So why should the  (supposedly)  biggest boss of all any different? 

Woody Allen quipped that God may be omnipotent but he clearly has self-esteem issues. Which I guess is why all religions seem to have a supreme being who requires constant reassurance in the form of worship and who is strictly off-limits from any kind of ridicule.

Following the latest obscene attack in Paris by Islamo-fascists on those who dared to mock them and their ridiculous medieval world view, we are inevitably going to see a wave of vicious Islamo-phobia. However, the best, and only, response, is to emphasize the unity of our common humanity - and to continue fearlessly taking the piss. 

Just as the cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo did.