Entries from March 2011
Contemporary American politics initially appears to have achieved unprecedented diversity in its representation of the present demographics of society: Barack Obama is the first African American U.S. president, while in the 111th Congress (Jan. 3, 2009-Jan. 3, 2011) Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was the first female Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Barney Frank (D-MA) was the first openly gay chair of the House Financial Services Committee. However, Obama’s ascension to the presidency in January 2009 was a moment of extreme contradictions. On the one hand, liberals and the progressives, the so-called “left”, embraced the mainstream, centrist agenda of the Obama administration. Conversely, this was also period when far right hate groups and the armed “patriot” movement dramatically increased. With the rise of the Tea Party “Movement” (TPM) to national prominence, Obama and Pelosi have been made into caricatures representative of a variety of “evil” and conspiratorial elements in society by the right’s mainstream and radical media. However, the radical right’s fear of the loss of the white demographic majority in America that is fueling the TPM is not an actual reality in the 111th Congress, which is made up of 100 Senators and 435 House representatives. There were only 17 women, 1 African American, zero Hispanic Americans, and 3 Asian Americans in the Senate, while the House was made up of 73 women, 42 African Americans, 27 Hispanic Americans and 6 Asian Americans, despite the fact that US population is (approximately) more than 50% female, 15.8% Hispanic American, 12.4% African American, and 4.4% Asian American. The issue of representation is further called into question when addressing the economic disparities between Congress and the average US population. 261 members or half of Congress are millionaires, and 55 members are worth more than $10 million. In 2009, the median wealth of a House member was $765,010, while the median wealth for a senator was nearly $2.38 million.i [Read more →]
Will true pleasure only exist after the revolution, or will it be indispensable to lead to the revolution?
Ever since the project of universal emancipation through communist revolution existed there has been a tension between two approaches – a dichotomy of views of people who ostensibly want to reach the same goal. On the one hand we find a view that could be summarized as: Only the revolution will bring about real pleasure and fulfillment, and we have to be ascetic cadres to reach it. The other side seems to declare that: Only by developing pleasures and following our desires will the revolution even become a possibility. If we look back at the two main phases of revolutionary struggles in the last century (ca. 1917-1923 and ca. 1967-77, depending in which country), we can easily see that for many revolutionaries the idea that hedonism and revolution should go together was present and central to the whole project. [Read more →]
1. Talented performers belong to the industry long before it displays them
On 16 June 2010 after sixteen years of unlicensed transmission the UK broadcasting regulator OfCom announced that Rinse FM was to be awarded a community radio FM licence. The announcement was enthusiastically reported in the UK press (Rinse FM finally gets the recognition it deserves: Guardian Newspaper UK: 18062010), and received a surprisingly positive response from contributors to the dubstep.co.uk forum.
Rinse’s press release regarding the announcement is low on concrete details but replete with a selection of quotes from gushing music industry ‘supporters’ such as Fergal Sharkey (Director of UK Music) who feels that Rinse has been ‘nurturing the next generation of inner city talent on which our industry and nation is so dependent’, and Guy Moot (President of EMI) who agrees that Rinse ‘feeds into the wider music industry bringing and generating more income’. Rinse echoes these industry comments in its own statement pointing out that they ‘provide a […] grass-roots gateway into broadcast radio and the wider music industry’, while at the same time attempting to reassure its listeners that it will remain in ‘stark contrast to the homogenous radio landscape’. What Rinse either fails to realise or refuses to accept is that it is already part of a homogenised landscape. Rinse’s press release and the accompanying supporting statements demonstrate this, but more interestingly, the texts clearly display the dependence the Culture Industry has on unregulated zones of creativity, and the continued willingness of those involved to capitulate. [Read more →]
In October 2008 Ed Balls (the UK government’s Schools Secretary) announced an initiative to encourage teachers to spy on their pupils. This was of course done under the banner of “anti-terrorism” and “opposing extremism” . For example identifying children with “radical” ideas. And presumably grassing them up. Essentially there is nothing new there (as with most New Labour initiatives). The opposition was sluggish and predictably along the lines of civil liberties.
In fact the main comment in the media was from Anthony Glees (Professor of security and intelligence studies at the University of Buckingham). Glees complained that the initiative didn’t go far enough, and that it failed to make a statement about “Big Ben British Values” thus allowing children’s identities to stem from a number of sources. Therefore, he went on, the ‘toolkit’ provided to teachers allowed religion to remain a legitimate source of identity, which “ultimately presents us with a security risk”.
This brings us back to the thorny question of national identity – something which has been problematic for most countries, but especially for the UK and Germany. “Big Ben British Values” shows us that the very concept of national identity is rooted in the language of the ruling class. Big Ben is attached to the Houses of Parliament in London. It’s like talking about “Reichstag Values” in Berlin. [Read more →]
I can’t identify with any certainty the first international drug smuggler my mother – Julia Callan-Thompson – befriended, but one she met early on was Damien Epsilon, an Irishman who’d lived in Ibiza before moving to London in the early 1960s. In 1962 my mother approached Epsilon in Henekey’s pub in Portobello Road. She wanted to go to Spain and had been told he was driving there. Epsilon agreed to take my mother and her boyfriend Geoff Thompson to Ibiza if they shared the petrol costs. After spending a few weeks in Ibiza, Epsilon returned to London and my mother travelled on to Andorra alone. Thompson, who’d proved somewhat erratic about covering petrol costs, went back to London at the same time as Epsilon, but separately. When my mother returned to London, she socialised with Epsilon until he moved back to Ibiza in 1963. She returned to Ibiza many times in the mid-sixties to hang with Epsilon’s set, and this may well have constituted the first of a number of international drug smuggling sets with which she was acquainted. [Read more →]