Friday, 11 October 2013

Relaying the Commonwealth baton - Queen and media on-message

Message in a baton:
Commonwealth is royal wealth
With much media fanfare, the Commonwealth Games baton has now been sent on its royal-approved way from Buckingham Palace to Glasgow and onwards around the globe. As the BBC dutifully reported: 
"The baton contains the Queen's hand-written message to the Commonwealth and will visit all 70 competing nations and territories over the next 288 days. It will travel to Scotland on Thursday before heading to India for its first international stopover on 11 October. The baton's journey will end at the opening ceremony on 23 July 2014, when the Queen will read the message inside."
The royal 'message', we might assume, will entail some standard reiteration of the Commonwealth's 'mutual benefits', sealed with a dedication of continued service to this 'enduring community'.

With the baton being carried to and from the Palace by royal-honoured sports figures, it's a message and imagery that will be grovellingly amplified in the coming months.

Reporters are already investing the baton with some mystical quality, anticipating the many who will now 'touch the baton' and 'live its experience'.     

Kudos, at least, to 'spoilsport' journalist Stuart Cosgrove who, while sincerely wishing a great Games event for Glasgow, spoke on Radio Scotland about the Commonwealth baton as an "exhausted" neo-imperialist promotion. Watching it leave:
"...Buckingham Palace, the heart and soul of Scotland, as you can imagine[...]I cannot lie and sit here and say I have the same level of enthusiasm for the post-colonial institution called the Commonwealth, I really can't."
The Queen's Baton Relay will be covered as a travelling blog by the BBC's Mark Beaumont. Again, the kind of sketches likely to be relayed from Commonwealth lands and other post-colonial outposts will be about the 'happy bonds' rather than brutal bondage of empire. What chance here of honest reflection on Britain's violent conduct in countries like Kenya, Malaya (now Malaysia), Nigeria and Jamaica?

As the baton travels around that notional 'family' of two billion people, starting in Delhi, it would be great to have a country-by-country account of Britain's conquests, wars and plundering, past and present.

We could even have the historian Mark Curtis, author of Unpeople and Secret Affairs: Britain's Collusion with Radical Islam, on-hand to help chart the ten million deaths that Britain is complicit in since 1945 alone.

But that, again, wouldn't be very 'sporting', 'on-message' or 'illuminating' for Games-watchers, would it? We just can't have the baton being defiled like that, can we?

The Games will, I'm sure, bring a nice buzz of excitement to Glasgow, and a chance to show our welcoming side as hospitable Glaswegians.

In that same spirit, it could even be a timely occasion on which to acknowledge and apologise for Glasgow's own considerable part in the slave trade and all the other imperialist enterprises which helped found its Merchant City.

And, as a wider educational exercise, it might encourage the question: precisely whose wealth is currently held 'in common' across the Commonwealth?

Hopefully, in some optimistic post-2014 state, we might be fanfaring a more radical baton for the emergings of a real wealth-sharing community, motivated by a people-centred Common Weal, rather than the neo-colonial fabrications of a royal-coveted Commonwealth and the neoliberal forces that drive it all.

Friday, 4 October 2013

The Mail, Ed Miliband and other 'moral' parties - not much to value

As the tussle between Ed Miliband and the Daily Mail intensifies, what a 'task' it's been trying to  'choose sides' and pinpoint one's 'British values'.

Ralph Miliband "hated Britain", the Mail alleges, a headline intended to register a typical Mail hatred and revel in its controversy, even while riding the considerable public backlash.   

While the claims against him are, of course, spurious in their very terms of reference, it's fitting that the Mail chose the verb "hated", thus revealing not just its desperate distortions but its core mindset.

And yet, while trying to avoid that same net of hateful invective, it's hard to decide which parties here are the more reprehensible.

Including the seemingly obvious, here's some further 'valued' choices to reflect on:

~ The poisonous Mail, maligning a learned Marxist and principled man in naked pursuit of his son.

~ 'Red Ed's' own declared rejection of his father's socialist ideals in preference to continuous neoliberal ones, all in standard Labourite service to leading class interests, capitalist order and safe political office.

~ The hypocrite, opportunist and war criminal Alastair Campbell, coming to his leader's defence in savaging the odious Mail's Deputy Editor John Steafal on Newsnight.

~ Newsnight, the rest of the BBC and other liberal media lauding Campbell's intervention, thus giving him even more hiding space for his war crimes.

~ Cameron and Clegg empathisisng with Miliband in the name of media and public 'decency', after their own rightist pandering to Daily Mail prejudice and efforts to take the country into another murderous, indecent war.

~ Liberal oulets like the Guardian gloating over the Mail's public discomfort and withdrawal of large corporate advertisers, while it protects villains like Blair and Campbell, rationalises Western wars in Iraq, Libya and Syria, and continues to take multiple advertising cheques from planet-destroying corporations.

~ The oligarch-owned Independent preaching to the Lord-owned Daily Mail.   

Hard to decide, eh? There's just so many noble media institutions, moral political figures and great 'British values' to choose from here.

It's just a pity Ralph Miliband himself isn't here to help shed more light on them all.

More Tory stripping of the welfare tree

Autumn can be so lovely. The turn to crisp, sunny mornings, goldening leaves and wrap-up nights. One gets used to the familiarity of seasonal sights and sounds, pleasing and not so, like the autumnfest of party conferences with their turgid speeches and ritual pledges. And no October would be complete without another Tory rallying call to purge the poor.

This year's 'low-hanging fruit' is the under-25s, with Cameron, Duncan Smith and their policy boffins unveiling plans to axe the benefits of young adults who don't 'earn or learn'.

Young people now face the prospect of losing their job seeker's allowance and housing support if they don't meet rigid criteria in seeking a job, training or educational placement.

On top of the bedroom tax and multiple other new benefits sanctions, it's likely to see growing numbers in emergency situations and living on the streets.

The Daily Mail is, predictably, effusive in its detailed indulgence of Cameron's new notice to "feckless" youth. But it's an assault that, in fact, most of the political and media mainstream pass off as 'reasoned' policy for 'valid national debate' rather than wicked economics to be utterly condemned.  

It's not just the shrill 'land of opportunity', the Eton toffs castigating 'workshy wasters', the crude appeals to 'welfare-burdened taxpayers'.

It's the sheer calculating vindictiveness of the new social insecurity - a callous system where someone can typically lose a month's payment for missing an appointment or making an elementary mistake over their claim, with even more severe sanctions for 'second and third strike' offences.

As a recently-leaked DWP letter shows, beleaguered Job Centre staff are also coming under intense pressure to deliver more sanction referrals.

All these additional Con Dem cuts, purges and punitive measures are deepening the trauma for already impoverished families.   

In the poorest parts of Scotland, charities are now talking of a "humanitarian crisis" of child poverty. One in three Glasgow children now live in conditions of multiple deprivation. In the city's Springburn area, the child poverty figure is fifty-one per-cent.

This may not be the poverty and destitution that afflicts vast swathes of Africa, or the nightmarish experience of refugees fleeing war-torn places like Iraq and Syria.

But the domestic policies being deployed to hurt and punish society's poorest, while a corporate and privileged elite flourish, are akin to economic war crimes.

Ever-dutifully, the BBC and other service media pore over Cameron's welfare-swiping speech, crunching the numbers, noting the social fallout, but never seriously thinking to question its core inhumanity.

Where, amid this wicked onslaught, is the remotest discussion of economic compassion? Real compassion, that is, not the rhetorical ConDem version of 'helping' the poorest and most vulnerable with 'tough love' cuts, or the shameless Labourite acceptance of such, but true, radical attention to human well fare, rather than paltry and heavy-conditional 'welfare'. 

It may be sublime autumn. But, for a despairing many, it's the last sweet glint of warm light before more Tory winter.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Military-sectarianism - singing in tune

Awkward questions are now being asked of the MoD, Rangers FC, the police and a virtually silent Scottish media after an armed forces parade at Ibrox degenerated into a military-sectarian singalong.    

Much of the public will be both embarrassed and sickened by the spectacle. Many, of course, will be unsurprised at seeing some of 'HM's finest' revelling in their true colours.

How they 'bounced' together 'for club and country' - with even a senior uniformed figure zealously waving a red-hand of Ulster flag from the touchline - as troops and fans belted-out 'No Surrender' and other 'party tunes':    
"Three cheers for the red, white and blue. For the army and the navy and the UDA. Three cheers for the red, white and blue."
Victims' families in the North of Ireland will have little difficulty recalling the dark politics of military-paramilitary collusion behind that little ditty.

Little will such events do to help diminish long-standing hatreds. But at least it gets an ugly reality into the open.

It also undermines the oft-made claim that such parades aren't political in essence. And in this case, as understood even by an ex-serviceman, there's a darker political-ideological agenda afoot.    

The real culprits here are not the sadly-conditioned fans and soldiers, but the military brass who, grandstanding with Rangers' smart-suited directors, surely understand not only the jingoistic potency of parading troops, but their provocative presence at this still deepest of sectarian clubs.

'Win-win', they must have thought in mixing this 'our brave boys' march-on with keeping the 'faithful' nicely diverted from the club's deepening in-house crisis. A motley amalgam, indeed.

If only those 'Rule Britannia, no surrendering' fans really knew how much they were being manipulated by such tawdry stagecraft.   

Nor, in this exploitative context, should we dismiss the significance of such naked displays of Unionism in approaching the independence referendum.

How seamlessly the legitimising of imperialist wars and militarist propaganda is being used as a prop for Unionist continuity.

Yet, even here, mainstream Better Together campaigners must be troubled by such Unionist 'associations'. Is this a healthy 'promotion' of their 'best-of-both-worlds' urgings, or any inviting message for a still mass of undecided voters?   

On which note, a seemingly uneasy silence from much of the Scottish media. I suspect the standardised, cursory reportage of 'an incident now under investigation by the police and army' reflects both an editorial reticence to engage a subject that not only still scars our society, but carries sensitive ramifications for the 2014 poll.

As Bella Caledonia conclude:
"We’ll wait and see the response from the media, politicians and sporting authorities in the coming days. The response will answer the question ‘what kind of a country are we living in?’ and a subsequent question, what sort of Scotland do we aspire to?"
One can only trust that such events help stir the electorate towards a more enlightened vision of political-cultural modernity, something more inclusive and humanitarian, hastening the true detachment now from an anachronistic British state, with all its imperialist gloating and militarist pandering to sectarian division.