ethnic cleansing, UK style

windrush

A series of recent stories in the Guardian researched by the indefatigable Amelia Gentleman have highlighted an “immigration anomaly” in which people who came to Britain as children in the 1950s and ’60s (when they were still “British subjects”) and as such have an absolute right to remain in the UK are being subjected to loss of employment, housing, health care and other benefits unless they can retrospectively provide documentation proving their continual presence in the UK.

In the words of the Home Office, “Recent changes to the law mean that if you wish to work, rent property or have access to benefits and services in the UK then you will need documents to demonstrate your right to be in the UK. The government believes this is a proportionate measure to maintain effective immigration control.”  The burden of proof lies with the immigrant, and the documentation requirements (four separate pieces of documentary evidence of every single year spent in the UK) are truly Kafkaesque.

Here are the stories of two of the people whose lives have been turned upside-down.

paulette wilson

61-year-old Paulette Wilson “moved to the UK in 1968 when she was 10 and has never left. Because she had never applied for a British passport and had no papers proving she had a right to be in the UK, she was classified as an illegal immigrant. Last October, she was sent to the immigration removal centre at Yarl’s Wood in Bedford for a week, and then taken to Heathrow before deportation to Jamaica, a country she had not visited for 50 years and where she has no surviving relatives.

The former cook, who used to serve food to MPs in the House of Commons and has 34 years of national insurance contributions, was horrified at the prospect of being separated from her daughter and granddaughter. A last-minute intervention from her MP and a local charity prevented her removal. After Guardian publicity she has since been given a biometric card, proving she is in the UK legally, but she will have to reapply in 2024 and is already worried about the process. She has had no apology from the Home Office.”

renford mcintyre

64-year-old Renford McIntyre “is homeless and sleeping on a sofa in an industrial unit in Dudley. He has lived in the UK for almost 50 years since arriving from Jamaica in 1968 at 14, to join his mother who had moved here to work as a nurse. He has worked and paid taxes here for 48 years, as an NHS driver and a delivery man, but in 2014 a request for updated paperwork from his employers revealed he did not have documents showing he had a right to be in the UK. He was sacked; the local council told him he was not eligible for housing support or any benefits, so he became homeless.

He gathered together paperwork showing 35 years of national insurance contributions but the Home Office returned the application requesting further information. ‘I can’t tell you how angry and bitter it makes me feel. I’ve worked hard all my life, I’ve paid into the system. I’ve sent them details of my NHS pension, and HMRC records going back 40 years. They’ve got all my documents. What more do they want?’ he said. ‘How do they expect me to live? How am I expected to eat or dress myself?'”

Downing Street has now rejected a formal diplomatic request from representatives of 12 Caribbean countries for a meeting with the prime minister to discuss the situation.

This is not an “immigration anomaly.”  It is a deliberate policy.   It is called ethnic cleansing.


 

come back Enoch, all is forgiven

powell

Meantime in what looks suspiciously like a fiftieth anniversary commemoration, the BBC chose this week to broadcast in full Enoch Powell’s 1968 “rivers of blood” speech, in which the then Conservative cabinet minister warned true Brits that “in 15 or 20 years’ time, the black man will have the whip hand over the white man” and foresaw a future in which “They found their wives unable to obtain hospital beds in childbirth, their children unable to obtain school places, their homes and neighborhoods changed beyond recognition.”

The BBC media editor, Amol Rajan, who presented the program, proudly tweeted on Thursday: “On Saturday, for 1st time EVER, Enoch Powell’s Rivers of Blood speech will be read in full on UK radio.”  The Trumpian capitals were Rajan’s.

The actor the Beeb chose to read Powell’s text, Ian McDiarmid, who plays Powell in the play What Shadows?, told the Daily Telegraph that Powell was “not a racist” and was right “in terms of the numbers.”  These days, McDiarmid went on, everyone accepts that “[immigration] can’t go on in an unlimited way because the results, as he said, would be catastrophic”.


 

family values

laura + Biniyam

“Clarke and Tesfaye first got together when she was teaching English at a primary school in Addis Ababa; he was one of her colleagues: ‘We met on my first day. We were friends for about a month, and then after that, things started to develop,’ she says …

Elijah is one of an estimated 15,000 children living without a parent because of restrictions on family visas. Tesfaye would like to live with his family in the UK, but in order to apply to bring over a foreign partner, you must earn at least £18,600 a year. Clarke’s work as a college teacher and PR for a charity brings in an income that is usually “a few hundred a month” short …

The Home Office explanation is short and sharp. ‘Those who wish to make a life in the UK with their family must work hard and make a contribution,’ a spokesperson says. ‘Family life must not be established here at the taxpayer’s expense.'”

Nice to know Mrs May is keeping the bloodlines pure.  Obviously that should trump UK citizens’ rights to marry who they want and expect to live with their spouse.


 

mens sana in corpore sano

legal aid

Best not be disabled in Brexitland either.  “The extent to which savage government cuts have deprived disabled people of legal aid in disputes over their benefit payments is revealed today by new official figures that show a 99% decline since 2011,” reports the Guardian.

“The total number of disabled people granted legal aid in welfare cases has plummeted from 29,801 in 2011-12 to just 308 in 2016-17, cutting some of the most vulnerable people in society adrift without expert advice in often highly complex and distressing cases …

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson denied the government was depriving the most needy of help. ‘Maintaining access to justice remains at the heart of our legal aid system, and last year we spent over £1.6bn to ensure help is available for those who need it most,’ the spokesperson said.”

Ethnic cleansing and eugenics always did go nicely together.  What next, euthanasia for those whose defective genes endanger the national stock?


 

a landmark republished

cunard negro

One Englishwoman who would not have appreciated Theresa May’s attempts to turn Little Britain into a sotto voce Third Reich is Nancy Cunard, whose anthology Negro was published in an edition of 1000 copies in 1934 has never been reprinted in full since.

In a timely counterpart to the BBC’s resuscitation of the racist bile of Enoch Powell, the Paris-based publisher jeanmichelplace has just reissued Cunard’s landmark anthology in full in facsimile form.

“This highly illustrated book of eight hundred and seventy-two pages dedicated to the history of Africa, Madagascar and the black Americas brings together two hundred and fifty articles by one hundred and fifty-five authors,” writes Sarah Frioux-Salgas, archivist at Musée du Quai Branly in Paris, introducing the volume.  “The contributors were activists, intellectuals, journalists, artists, poets, academics, anthropologists, African-Americans, West Indians, Africans, Malagasy, Latin Americans, Americans, Europeans, men and women; some were colonized, discriminated against, segregated.  The book melds popular culture, sociology, politics, history, ethnology, art history, and includes articles, archives, photographs, drawings, portraits, excerpts from the press, poems, musical scores, testimonies as well as statistics.”

“At no other time in the history of America,” Nancy Cunard noted in her Foreword, “have there been so many lynchings as in the past two years, so many ‘legal’ murders, police killings and persecutions of coloured people.  The Scottsboro frame-up is more than an attempt to electrocute 9 innocent black Alabamians—it is part of the effort to force into the dumbest and most terrorised form of subjection all Negro workers who dare aspire to live otherwise than as virtual slaves” (emphasis added).  Her words have unfortunately lost none of their currency.

Highly recommended.


 

The English surrealist and documentary filmmaker Humphrey Jennings explained the intellectual project of his book Pandaemonium as to “present, not describe or analyse” the “imaginative history of the Industrial Revolution … by means of what I call Images.  These are quotations from writings of the period in question … which either in the writing or in the nature of the matter itself or both have revolutionary and symbolic and illuminatory quality.  I mean that they contain in little a whole world—they are the knots in a great net of tangled time and space—the moments at which the situation of humanity is clear—even if only for the flash time of the photographer or the lighting.”  

These fragments are intended to function in the same way.  Click on the headings to go to the original articles, which are mostly from the mainstream aka fake news media.

signs of passage

Geoffrey James, End of the Fence, looking West, Otay Mesa, from the series Running Fence, 1997, gelatin silver print, 76.3 x 84 cm; image: 46.1 x 57.9 cm, CMCP Collection, National Gallery of Canada  Ottawa. © Geoffrey James. Photo : NGC

“Frontera: Views of the U.S.-Mexico Border brings together a roster of national and international artists, whose works question the very notion of borders, attempt to define their edges, and explore their representation. The exhibition, organized by Luce Lebart in collaboration with the FotoMexico festival, is on view in the Canadian Photography Institute Galleries of the National Gallery of Canada.

The exhibition takes its title from Frontera, a series of photographs by Mexican photographer Pablo López Luz. Shot from a helicopter in 2014 and 2015, these aerial images reveal the meandering course of the dividing line between the two neighbouring countries. The border, easily identifiable in many of the images, is invisible in others. Along the base of mountain ranges the frontier seems a trail of lacerations in the landscape, while in desolate terrains it merges and finally disappears into a network of lines. In places the border takes the form of different kinds of fencing, while elsewhere it is embodied in architectural structures that are both imposing and dissuasive. Along its entire length, the border is one of harsh landscape that deters crossings.

‘Is this Mexico, or is it the United States?” comments Lebart. “It is often impossible to distinguish one side from the other. But Pablo López Luz’s images systematically reveal a key identifying feature: the presence of a road running along the border, used by the US Border Patrol for surveillance.'”

 


 

an embarrassment at Oxford

 

oxford woman cleaner

The Daily Telegraph reports that “The University of Oxford has apologised after an image of a female cleaner being made to clear a message reading “Happy International Women’s Day” was shared on Twitter by a professor.

Oxford Associate Professor of Political theory, Dr Sophie Smith, tweeted the photograph, writing: “Oxford security makes a woman cleaner scrub out ‘Happy International Women’s Day’ on the Clarendon steps. What an image for #IWD, @UniofOxford.”

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words …


 

South London comes to the Big Apple

nubya-1024x613

New York was recently invaded by South London, mostly not white.  “The concert – a showcase of British jazz held at downtown club Le Poisson Rouge – was America’s introduction to a small but mighty group of young musicians who during the past three years have helped turned South London into a new jazz epicenter,” reports Rolling Stone.  “There was tenor saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings, at 33 the scene’s elder statesman … Also on tenor was Nubya Garcia, whose quartet embraced classic postbop, but with a fiery group interplay that transcended rote chorus-solos-chorus structures …

“It’s a strange word, ‘jazz,'” Hutchings tells Rolling Stone two days after the showcase, when asked if he’d describe his own music that way. Born in London but raised in his parents’ native Barbados, Hutchings picked up the clarinet at nine, practicing it by mimicking the flows of Nas, Biggie and Tupac verses he was hearing on American radio, and the hyper rhythms of the local Carnival, before returning to England to receive a classical-music degree on the instrument … “The people I revere as master jazz musicians have said they don’t want the word,” he continues. “It’s limiting. It tells them more what they can’t be than what they can. So – do I consider myself a musician who is limited?”

Like Hutchings, his younger colleagues – first- and second-generation Afro-Caribbean immigrants, multi-hyphenated in their cultural backgrounds and in their music – uniformly reject a narrow definition of their chosen style. London’s sound is less a riff on classic African-American jazz than a polyglot party music of the city’s minorities – with calypso and dub, grime and Afrobeat as much its building blocks as Coltrane’s ‘Giant Steps.'”  Long live multiculturalism.


 

an embarrassment at Cambridge

Oxford’s faux pas brought to mind slightly older news from Cambridge, which I didn’t post here at the time because other things crowded it out that week.

Commenting on the Oxfam Haiti scandal, Cambridge Professor of Classics and well-known media personality about town Mary Beard caused uproar when she tweeted:  “I do wonder how hard it must be to sustain ‘civilised’ values in a disaster zone.”  She made things worse on a follow-up post on her regular TLS blog “A Don’s Life,” where she drew an unfortunate analogy between aid workers in Haiti and the boys abandoned on a desert island in William Golding’s Lord of the Flies.  She later tweeted an image of herself in tears, saying “I am really not the nasty colonialist you say I am” …

In a public response, Cambridge English lecturer Priyamvada Gopal urged Beard “to rethink the problematic concept of a ‘disaster zone’ (Trump was more upfront — he called them ‘shitholes’) and what that really means in geopolitical terms in terms of who does what and who is responsible for their appearance as spaces of catastrophe. Still more troubling,” she continued, “is your notion that moral bearings (‘civilised values’!) understandably disappear in spaces where people struggle with the worst things that can happen to human beings.”   She described Beard’s tweet as symptomatic of the culture at Cambridge “where there is little direct abuse but plenty of genteel and patrician casual racism passing as frank and well-meaning observations …”

Gopal got a lot of flak for daring to call out “a national treasure,” including a dressing-down from Times columnist David Aaronovitch, who accused her of being “a privileged Oxbridge academic shivving a colleague.”

 


 

sign the brexit papers!

nottingham trent
Photograph: Fabio de Paolo/Fabio De Paola

Rufaro Chisango, a student at Nottingham Trent University, posted a video on Wednesday in which a group of men can be heard chanting outside her student dorm room “we hate the blacks” and “sign the Brexit papers,” reports the Guardian.

“Words cannot describe how sad this makes me feel, in this, 2018, people think this is still acceptable,” she wrote on Twitter …

In the footage, a group of men can be heard chanting “ooh-aah, fuck the blacks”, “we hate the blacks” and “sign the Brexit papers”.  Chisango said the video did not catch other phrases the men shouted, such as “blacks would go back to picking cotton”. She wrote on Twitter: “I’m the only black person on my floor and they were chanting this outside my door, so don’t be surprised to why I didn’t leave my room.”

Nottingham Trent was named University of the Year in the 2017 Times Higher Education awards, and Modern University of the Year in the 2018 Times and Sunday Times awards.


 

The English surrealist and documentary filmmaker Humphrey Jennings explained the intellectual project of his book Pandaemonium as to “present, not describe or analyse” the “imaginative history of the Industrial Revolution … by means of what I call Images.  These are quotations from writings of the period in question … which either in the writing or in the nature of the matter itself or both have revolutionary and symbolic and illuminatory quality.  I mean that they contain in little a whole world—they are the knots in a great net of tangled time and space—the moments at which the situation of humanity is clear—even if only for the flash time of the photographer or the lighting.”  

These “snippets” are intended to function in the same way.  Click on the headings to go to the original articles, which are mostly from the mainstream aka fake news media.

Roads to nowhere

Lower Manhattan Expwy

 

The postwar passion for highway construction saw cities around the world carved up in the name of progress. But as communities fought back many schemes were abandoned – their half-built traces showing what might have been.

Among others: the Lower Manhattan Expressway, New York; Spadina Expressway, Toronto; Marina Freeway, L.A.; Glasgow Inner Ring Road (Charing Cross); Plan Pompidou, Paris; Olympyka highway, Poland; Borovsko Bridge, Czech Republic.


 

Modern cruelty 1 (Making America Great Again)

saalvadorans expelled

 

 

Nearly 200,000 people from El Salvador who have been allowed to live in the United States for more than a decade must leave the country, government officials announced Monday. It is the Trump administration’s latest reversal of years of immigration policies and one of the most consequential to date.

Homeland security officials said that they were ending a humanitarian program, known as Temporary Protected Status, for Salvadorans who have been allowed to live and work legally in the United States since a pair of devastating earthquakes struck their country in 2001.


 

Concerto Al Quds

adonis-450x250

A man who loves his shackles,
a wife fully veiled,
a girl wearing a headscarf,
and halal meat.
A hotel, a restaurant, a coffee shop, a graveyard.

Donald Trump recently and controversially announced that the United States would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the seemingly endless debate over the city and the possibility of a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine flared up again in the headlines. Coincidentally, recent weeks have also seen the publication of Concerto al-Quds, a book-length poem meditating on the history and fate of Jerusalem, from the renowned poet Adonis.


 

Modern cruelty 2 (England for the English aka Taking Back Control)

icilda williams

‘I cry most days.’

An 83-year-old widowed nurse who worked for the NHS for 30 years before retiring to Jamaica has had multiple requests to visit her family in the UK refused, despite drawing an NHS pension and a full British state pension.

Icilda Williams moved to the UK from Jamaica with her husband in 1962. Both were Commonwealth citizens and British subjects. The couple bought a house in Bradford, had children there – all of whom are British passport holders – and Williams devoted her life to caring for mentally ill children in two local hospitals.


 

My skin is contraband

Cookie-visits-Lucious-Terrence-Howard-prison

“I pull on a long black-and-white mottled skirt, a black t-shirt, and black flats. Each of these items of clothing is carefully considered. The skirt covers my legs and tattoos. The shirt is loose, but not too loose, and covers other tattoos. The shoes are unlikely to set off the metal detector. It’s 65 degrees out and so I risk a light sweater. Here I might run into problems. It’s voluminous and has a cowl neck, both of which might raise suspicions that I’m smuggling in contraband. It also has a meshed back which, though I’m wearing a shirt under it, may still be too suggestive of the possibility of seeing flesh that it will be nixed …”

A woman dresses for a prison visit.  A remarkable essay by Tiffany D. Vann Sprecher.


 

Modern cruelty 3 (Making America the Greatest Ever, Baby)

visa denial letters

Five-year-old Gamila Almansoob has asked the same question for years: “When are we going to daddy?” Each time, the Yemeni girl’s mother gives the same reply: “When we get the paperwork.”

Gamila’s father, Ramy Almansoob, a US citizen, moved to Virginia in 2015 with the hopes that his wife and three daughters could soon follow and escape their war-torn home country. After a lengthy vetting process, the visas were approved on 4 December 2017. That same day, however, the US supreme court ruled that Donald Trump’s travel ban on six Muslim-majority countries, including Yemen, could go into effect.

 

The English surrealist and documentary filmmaker Humphrey Jennings explained the intellectual project of his book Pandaemonium as to “present, not describe or analyse” the “imaginative history of the Industrial Revolution … by means of what I call Images.  These are quotations from writings of the period in question … which either in the writing or in the nature of the matter itself or both have revolutionary and symbolic and illuminatory quality.  I mean that they contain in little a whole world—they are the knots in a great net of tangled time and space—the moments at which the situation of humanity is clear—even if only for the flash time of the photographer or the lighting.  

These “snippets” are intended to function in the same way.  Click on the headings to go to the original articles, which are mostly from the mainstream aka fake news media.

 

 

Three days after I posted my reflections on Trump’s Cabinet, Brexit voters, and Rolling Stone’s top twenty albums of all time on my blog, this appeared on Stereogum.  Another petrifying coincidence.

“The Beatles finish 2017 [sic!] with the top two selling vinyl LPs of the year: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (72,000 — powered in large part by the album’s deluxe anniversary reissue in 2017) and Abbey Road (66,000). The soundtrack Guardians Of The Galaxy: Awesome Mix Vol. 1 is the third biggest with 62,000.”

 

Sgt.Pepper.Faces_

 

trump camp david jan 2018

 

Trump defends his “I am a stable genius” tweet at Camp David, surrounded by loyal toadies.  All white, all but one male, and almost all past retirement age (Paul Ryan was just born old).  And still partying like there’s no tomorrow.

 

A New Year’s feuilleton for 2018

17-trump-meme.w710.h473.2x

 

What do Rolling Stone magazine’s top twenty albums of all time and Donald Trump’s cabinet have in common, and what does it say about the state of the world at the beginning of 2018? 

 

1  The greatest albums of all time

I saw The Who perform My Generation at Rochester Odeon, where they were jointly headlining with the Spencer Davis Group, on April 23, 1966.  Rochester is a small town in Kent in south-east England, the Odeon was our local cinema, and I was 15.  It was my first rock concert.  The Spencer Davis Group topped the British charts that week with Somebody Help Me, their second #1 single of the year.  But it was My Generation—which had peaked at #2 in the UK the previous November but never got any higher than #74 on the US Billboard Hot 100—that became legendary.  The Who never had a UK or US number 1.  Still, Rolling Stone magazine ranks Pete Townshend’s “immortal fuck-off to the elders in his way” as #11 in its “definitive list of the 500 greatest songs of all time.”

“I hope I die before I get old” screamed lead singer Roger Daltrey.  Drummer Keith Moon obliged when he succumbed to an overdose of barbiturates in 1978 at the age of 32.   Bassist John Entwistle partied on to age 57, when the stripper he had taken to bed the night before woke to find him dead of a cocaine-induced heart attack in his Las Vegas hotel room early one morning in 2002. Townshend and Daltrey continue to perform as The Who.  By the time they headlined Superbowl XLIV in 2010 both were on the verge of qualifying for their UK state pensions (Townshend was 64, Daltrey 65).  On that occasion they tactfully omitted My Generation, but it is usually a highlight of every show.

Nowadays Daltrey is a high-profile Brexit supporter. “We went into the Common Market in 1973,” he told the Daily Mirror.  “Do you know what was going on before we went in?”

It was the 1960s.

The most exciting time ever—Britain was Swinging.

Films, Theatre, Fashion, Art and Music.

We were the World leaders.

You had Harold Pinter, The Beatles, John Osborne, Mary Quant, The Stones, Queen … and The Who.

This was all before we joined the EU. We were just Kids but we were filling stadiums all round the World.

Britain was the centre of the World.

You got that because Britain was doing its own thing.

It was independent. Not sure we’ll ever get that again when we’re ruled by bureaucrats in the European Union.

Exactly which EU regulations would have prevented Harold Pinter, John Osborne, Mary Quant, and The Beatles from doing their own thing, Daltrey doesn’t say.  He neglects to mention that The Beatles debuted All You Need Is Love for the European Broadcasting Union program Our World—the first live international satellite television production—in June 1967, and that The Rolling Stones recorded their masterpiece, Exile on Main Street, at Keith Richards’s mansion Nellcôte in the south of France.  The album’s title references the fact that the band fled the UK for the Côte d’Azur in 1971 to escape the long arm of the British taxman.

Daltrey is not the only aging rocker nostalgic for a half-remembered golden past.  Despite having previously dismissed Brexit as a “romantic delusion of Victorian isolation” in which “There’ll be no industry, there’ll be no trade, there’ll be nothing—a slow, dismal, collapse,” John Lydon—better known as Johnny Rotten, the infamous lead singer of the 1970s punk band the Sex Pistols—proclaimed in March 2017 that “The working class have voted and I support them.  Let it be a nice exit.  A truly brilliant British exit.”  He went on to describe Nigel Farage as “fantastic,” adding that Donald Trump (whom he insisted was not racist) was “the political Sex Pistol.”  Everybody’s favorite Beatle Ringo Starr (who lives in Los Angeles) also thought Brexit was “a great move,” while former Smiths’ frontman Morrissey hailed the EU referendum result as “magnificent.”

It’s not quite Eric Clapton’s rant on the stage of the Birmingham Odeon on 5 August 1976, but it’s getting there:

Fucking wogs, man. Fucking Saudis taking over London. Bastard wogs. Britain is becoming overcrowded and Enoch [Powell] will stop it and send them all back. The black wogs and coons and Arabs and fucking Jamaicans don’t belong here, we don’t want them here. This is England, this is a white country, we don’t want any black wogs and coons living here … Enoch for Prime Minister! Throw the wogs out! Keep Britain white!

Clapton is ranked #2 on Rolling Stone’s list of 100 greatest guitarists.  It must have galled him to lose the #1 spot to Jimi Hendrix, a black American whose career took off after he moved to the UK in late 1966.

The Who don’t make the top twenty in Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Albums of All Time” but their 1970 effort Who’s Next checks in at a creditable #28.  The list echoes Daltrey’s assessment of the 1960s as “the most exciting time ever.”  No less than seven of the top ten albums—The Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (#1), Revolver (#3), Rubber Soul (#5), and White Album (#10), Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited (#4) and Blonde on Blonde (#9), and The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds (#2)—were released between 1965 and 1968.  This was peak sixties, understood as a cultural phenomenon rather than a chronological decade.  The sixties went together with sexual intercourse, which as Philip Larkin famously observed began “In nineteen sixty-three … Between the end of the “Chatterley” ban/And the Beatles’ first LP.”  They ended in a swirl of violence at Altamont Speedway in San Francisco on December 6, 1969 when Hell’s Angels killed a black teenager, Meredith Hunter, as The Rolling Stones were performing on stage.

The remaining three albums in Rolling Stone’s all-time top ten are Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On? (#6, 1971), the Stones’ Exile on Main Street (#7, 1972), and The Clash’s London Calling (#8, 1980).  Entries 11-20 in the list marginally expand the timeframe to include Elvis’s mid-1950s Sun Sessions (#11), Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue (#12, 1959), Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks (#16, 1975), and Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run (#18, 1975)—and give us yet more peak sixties with Jimi Hendrix’s Are You Experienced? (#15, 1967), The Velvet Underground and Nico (#13, 1967), Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks (#19, 1968), and the Beatles’ Abbey Road (#14, 1969).  Nirvana’s Nevermind (1991) at #17 and Michael Jackson’s Thriller (1982) at #20 round out the top twenty, bringing the total number of albums recorded after 1975 to three.

Acoustic recording has been with us since the turn of the twentieth century, electrical recording since the mid-1920s, and the long-playing record since 1948.  Yet 15 of Rolling Stone’s top twenty albums of all time hail from the single decade 1965-75, and 11 of these date from 1965-9.  The Beatles alone produced a quarter of the albums in this list (and three of the top five).  For those of us with long enough memories this cannot but bring back that astonishing week of April 4, 1964 when John, Paul, George, and Ringo held the #1-5 positions in the Billboard Hot 100 with “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “Twist and Shout,” “She Loves You,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “Please Please Me.”  Who could doubt that Britain was the center of the world?  I was 13.

The Rolling Stone editors compiled their “definitive list of the 500 greatest albums of all time” in 2011 on the basis of two polls, one carried out by a panel of 271 “artists, producers, industry executives and journalists” in 2003, and the other undertaken “by a similar group of 100 experts” in 2009 to pick the best albums of the 2000s.  I don’t know who these experts were, but that the most recent album to make their top twenty was recorded twenty years earlier, in 1991, speaks volumes.  So does the fact that despite the enormous indebtedness of Anglo-American popular music to Afro-American musical genres only four of the top twenty albums—and only one in the top ten—are by black artists.  The only female singer to make the top twenty is Nico, who fronted the Velvet Underground’s 1967 debut but thereafter left the band.  My generation, baby.

 

2  The highest IQ of any cabinet ever

Many Rolling Stone readers would no doubt resent the comparison, but this arrogant equation of the formative musical landmarks of a generation with the best of all time brings to mind the hyperbole of Donald Trump, for whom never in history has there been so huge an inaugural crowd, so massive a tax cut, so persecuted a president.  His cabinet, Trump claimed, had “by far the highest IQ of any Cabinet ever assembled.”  Whatever its intelligence, just like Rolling Stone’s top twenty albums that cabinet was also conspicuously old, white, and male.

Trump’s first cabinet contained 18 white men (as compared with Obama’s 8, George W. Bush’s 11, Clinton’s 10, and George Bush’s 12) and only 6 women and members of ethnic minorities—two of whom, Elaine Chow and Nikki Haley, did double duty as both.  None of the latter occupy major offices of state, as Condoleeza Rice did under George W. Bush and Hillary Clinton did under Obama.   While the racial and gender biases of Trump’s cabinet have been widely noted—along with its members’ unprecedented wealth, which Quartz values at $9.5 billion, more than the bottom third of all American households combined—less attention has been paid to the cabinet’s age composition.

At 70, Trump is the oldest man to begin a first term as US president, beating the record of 69 set by Ronald Reagan—whose dementia symptoms, according to his son, already manifested during his first term.  Trump likes to be surrounded by folks from my generation.  The average age of his first cabinet was 62 years, compared with 58 for Obama’s and 55 for George W. Bush’s.  This is the oldest cabinet in American history.

Of the 24 current US cabinet members and cabinet rank officials, Wilbur Ross (80), Dan Coats (74), Sonny Purdue (71), Jeff Sessions (71), and Robert Lighthizer (70) are older than any Obama or Bush appointee, while Linda McMahon (69), Jim Mathis (67), Rick Perry (67), John Kelly (67), and Ben Carson (66) are all also at or past the normal US retirement age.  If we add Rex Tillerson (65) and Elaine Chao (64), fully half of the US cabinet is over 64—the age at which, on Rolling Stone’s #1 album of all time, Paul McCartney looked forward to a quiet retirement doing the garden, digging the weeds, while his lover dandled their grandchildren on her knee.  Betsy DeVos (59), Mike Pence (58), David Schulkin (58), and Ryan Zinke (56) are in their later fifties.  Only four members of cabinet—Alex Acosta (48), Kirstjen Nielsen (45), Nikki Haley (45), and Scott Pruit (49)—are under 50.  The rest are all old enough to remember where they were when Elvis died.

The same pattern prevails across the legislative and judicial branches of US government.  In 1981, the average age of congressmen was 49 and of senators 53.  The comparable ages today are 59 and 63—on average, Congress has aged by ten years since Ronald Reagan first entered the White House.  In the current Congress 14.4% of congressmen are 65-69, 14.2% are 70-79, and 2.35% are over 80, while 20% of senators are 65-69, 17% are 70-79, and 8% are in their eighties—meaning that over 30% of congressmen and almost 45% of senators are past the normal retirement age of the rest of US society.   The gap between the average age of Americans and that of their congressional representatives is the same as that between the most recent entry in Rolling Stone’s top twenty albums and the date the list was compiled—twenty years, which is to say a full generation.

The average age of US Supreme Court justices is over 69, and the projected age when a justice will leave the Supreme Court is now 83—ten years later than it was in the 1950s.  Assuming good health, Trump’s controversial nominee Neil Gorsuch, who joined the court at age 49, can expect to still be there in 2050.  People over pension age lead both the Republican and Democratic parties: Mitch McConnell may be 75, but Chuck Schumer is 67, Elizabeth Warren 68, Hillary Clinton 70, and Nancy Pelosi 77.  Bernie Sanders, who is currently regarded by many on the left as the only candidate who can beat Trump, is a sprightly 76.  Should Sanders be elected in 2020 and survive his first year in office the US would have its first octogenarian president (Reagan was “only” 77 at the end of his second term).

While Americans seem to regard their gerontocracy as unremarkable, this pattern is strikingly out of line with other western democracies.  The average age of Theresa May’s cabinet in the UK is 56, and only one minister, 69-year-old David Davis, is over 62.  Some might think it appropriate that he is the minister in charge of Brexit.  In France the average age of ministers is 54.6, while Prime Minister Edouard Philippe is 46 and President Emanuel Macron is 39.  The average age of Angela Merkel’s cabinet is 52.  Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is the only member of his government over the age of 60, and 13 of his 22 cabinet members are under 50.  Canada’s Justin Trudeau is now 45, and presides over a gender-balanced and ethnically diverse cabinet whose average age is 50.  New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is just 37.

Most of these folks are way too young to remember the Summer of Love, Woodstock, or Altamont.  Not to mention the assassination of JFK and Martin Luther King, the marches from Selma to Montgomery, the Vietnam War, Watergate, or any of the other formative political experiences of my generation.

It is an ironic coincidence, in this context, that in 2016—the year Trump was elected—the number of millennials (those then aged 18-34) in the US population reached 75.4 million, surpassing the 74.9 million baby boomers for the first time.  Generation X (those aged 35-50) is projected to overtake the boomers by 2028.   The boomers are understood here as those who were aged 51-69 in 2015, i.e. people born between 1946 and 1964, but many scholars have argued that from a cultural standpoint the boomer generation is better understood as having begun with people born in the early 1940s.  Many of those most closely identified with the sixties, including The Beatles (b. 1940-43), Bob Dylan (b. 1941), and Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and Brian Jones of The Rolling Stones (b. 1942-3), were war babies.  So were Roger Daltrey (b. 1944), Pete Townshend (b. 1945), and Eric Clapton (b. 1945).  When The Who immortalized my generation, this was the cohort they were talkin’ ’bout.

However we date the start of my generation, in Donald Trump’s cabinet and other US institutions of government not only is power heavily concentrated in its hands, but this concentration has increased even as the proportion of over 50s in the population has declined.  We are hangin’ in there for dear life, baby, and gatecrashing all tomorrow’s parties.

In the 2016 American presidential election boomers formed the single largest age cohort of Donald Trump’s voters.   Clinton emphatically outperformed Trump among 18-24 year olds (56%-34%), 25-29 year olds (53%-39%) and 30-39 year olds (51%-40%), but Trump took 53% of the vote of those aged 50 and over.  Indeed, 62% of his voters were over 45.

Much like Rolling Stone’s top twenty albums of all time, Trump’s supporters reflect America’s divisions of race and gender as well as age.  Whites voted 58% for Trump and 37% for Clinton, while Hispanics voted 65% for Clinton and 29% for Trump and African-Americans voted 88% for Clinton and 8% for Trump.  Overall, Trump won the votes of 53% of men and only 41% of women.  But 63% of white men voted for Trump—and so did 53% of white women despite his advocacy of “grabbing them by the pussy.”  While white non-Hispanic Americans made up 61.3% of the US population in July 2016, 87% of Trump’s supporters were white.  Only 4% of Afro-American women voted for Trump as against 96% for Clinton.

As I mentioned earlier, the political institutions of the UK are not as gerontocratic as those of the US.  The average age of UK Members of Parliament is 51, only two years higher than it was in 1979, and Britain’s youngest MP Mhairi Black was just 20 when she was first elected in 2015.   But age did play a crucial role in the Brexit referendum.  The slender majority (52%-48%) in favor of leaving the European Union was delivered by a similar Trumpian combination of mostly older, predominantly white voters.

As in the US presidential election race, class, locality, and educational level also played a part in shaping people’s choices (though gender was not as significant an axis of division).   But on average, the older the voters the more likely they were to vote leave.  While 73% of those aged 18-24 and 62% of those aged 25-34 voted to remain in the EU, a majority of my generation—and 65% of over-65s—chose to leave.  Twenty-seven of the 30 areas with the highest proportion of elderly people in the UK voted leave, while London, whose proportion of inhabitants aged 65 and over is well below the national average, voted decisively (60%) to remain.

None of this is to say that age is the only factor in shaping these votes.  Nor is it to deny that large numbers of older people are as appalled by Trump and as devastated by Brexit as I am.   Many of them—including some old-time rockers like Bruce Springsteen, Bob Geldof, and Neil Young—have been prominent in resisting the sharp right turn in Anglo-American politics.  But the fact remains that it was the votes of my generation (or more accurately, the white part of it) that took Britain out of the European Union and put Donald Trump in the White House.

We are the elders now, and it is us that are standing in the way of the young.

 

3  Why don’t you all f-fade away?

As we enter 2018 I am not enthused by the prospect of a future in which classic rock radio stations have Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Pet Sounds on endless repeat while the refugee and migrant hordes are kept at bay by Trumpian walls.

Instead, I despair at the breathtaking selfishness of my generation—the healthiest, wealthiest, and longest-lived generation the planet has ever known, in part because of the seventy years of peace safeguarded by the framework of international institutions, including the UN and the EU, that the Brexiteers and Trumpers are busy demolishing.  Yes, I know Europe and the US offshored their wars after 1945, but this too was part of my generation’s extraordinary—and entirely unearned—good fortune.

Certainly these privileges have not been shared equally.   But it is fair to say that more baby boomers—especially white baby boomers—have enjoyed security of employment, home ownership, decent pensions, rising living standards, and affordable healthcare and education than in any generation before or since.   They seem determined to keep these privileges for themselves, at whatever cost to their grandchildren.

The young are meantime trying to make their way in a world in which job security and guaranteed pensions have become a thing of the past, home ownership is beyond most pockets, post-secondary education comes at the price of crippling debt, the welfare state is under siege, and politicians react to climate change by withdrawing from international agreements and making a demagogic bonfire out of environmental regulations.  In the UK Roger Daltrey-style nostalgia for a non-existent golden-age past has also robbed them of the opportunity to live, marry, and work freely across the 28 countries of the EU—an opportunity the baby boomers have enjoyed for over 40 years.

Today’s Anglo-American world is ruled by the most privileged members of an entitled and narcissistic generation that will not consider sharing its wealth or its power.  My generation played a disproportionate part in voting them into office.  The new gerontocratic order is epitomized in Donald Trump’s cabinet.  But it is also reflected in Rolling Stone magazine’s exclusionary list of the top twenty greatest albums of all time.

I cannot help thinking it would have been better if a few more of us had died before we got old.  Just enough that the young really could say fuck off to their elders, and not just through their music.

 

rs-196330-JimiHendrix_JimmyPage

 

 

 

Alexandra Burke and the trouble with reality TV and race

alexandra burke

Strictly Come Dancing is one of the most popular TV shows in the UK, in which celebrity contestants, with professional dance partners, compete in ballroom and Latin dance.  Analysis by the Guardian has “demonstrated that being black or minority ethnic increased a contestant’s chances of being in the bottom two by 71%, and being both black and female increased those odds by 83%.”  A window on Brexit Britain.


 

La longue durée in Alabamaalabama map

Frank Chi writes on Facebook: “As I stared at Doug Jones’s Alabama victory map tonight, I was struck by how much it looks like the most consequential map in American history – the one that Abraham Lincoln used to determine his political strategy before the Civil War … If you ever needed any proof, just look at these two maps side by side. The descendants of those enslaved, after migrations, KKK terrorism, marches and struggles, now vote where their ancestors were once counted as economic assets. And they voted for Doug Jones.”


 

The Brutal Origins of Gun Rights

 

trump nra

“As the writer and historian Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz argues in her brilliant new book, Loaded: A Disarming History of the Second Amendment, America’s obsession with guns has roots in a long, bloody legacy of racist vigilantism, militarism, and white nationalism. This past, Dunbar-Ortiz persuasively argues, undergirds both the landscape of gun violence to this day and our partisan debates about guns.”


 

Prisons for profit

prison visit by skype

“Under the new system, in-person [prison] visits are no longer allowed. Instead, all visits now must be done by video, either from a smartphone, computer, or at an offsite location.

The pamphlet, published by Securus Technology, makes using a video feed to talk to your loved one seem appealing. It says:

“Do you want to see your loved one more often? Stop missing out on:

Watching your favorite TV show.

Singing Happy Birthday.

Reading a bedtime story … Never miss another moment.”

Under the new system, each video visit made from home costs $12.99 for 20 minutes. In-person visits used to be free.”  Gives a whole new meaning to Reality TV.


My Twentieth Century Evening – and Other Small Breakthroughs

 

never let me go

 

“So we come to the present. I woke up recently to the realisation I’d been living for some years in a bubble. That I’d failed to notice the frustration and anxieties of many people around me. I realised that my world – a civilised, stimulating place filled with ironic, liberal-minded people – was in fact much smaller than I’d ever imagined. 2016, a year of surprising – and for me depressing – political events in Europe and in America, and of sickening acts of terrorism all around the globe, forced me to acknowledge that the unstoppable advance of liberal-humanist values I’d taken for granted since childhood may have been an illusion.

I’m part of a generation inclined to optimism, and why not? We watched our elders successfully transform Europe from a place of totalitarian regimes, genocide and historically unprecedented carnage to a much-envied region of liberal democracies living in near-borderless friendship. We watched the old colonial empires crumble around the world together with the reprehensible assumptions that underpinned them. We saw significant progress in feminism, gay rights and the battles on several fronts against racism. We grew up against a backdrop of the great clash – ideological and military – between capitalism and communism, and witnessed what many of us believed to be a happy conclusion.

But now, looking back, the era since the fall of the Berlin Wall seems like one of complacency, of opportunities lost. Enormous inequalities – of wealth and opportunity – have been allowed to grow, between nations and within nations. In particular, the disastrous invasion of Iraq in 2003, and the long years of austerity policies imposed on ordinary people following the scandalous economic crash of 2008, have brought us to a present in which Far Right ideologies and tribal nationalisms proliferate. Racism, in its traditional forms and in its modernised, better-marketed versions, is once again on the rise, stirring beneath our civilised streets like a buried monster awakening. For the moment we seem to lack any progressive cause to unite us. Instead, even in the wealthy democracies of the West, we’re fracturing into rival camps from which to compete bitterly for resources or power.”

Kazuo Ishiguro – Nobel Lecture, 7 December 2017


 

The English surrealist and documentary filmmaker Humphrey Jennings explained the intellectual project of his book Pandaemonium as to “present, not describe or analyse” the “imaginative history of the Industrial Revolution … by means of what I call Images.  These are quotations from writings of the period in question … which either in the writing or in the nature of the matter itself or both have revolutionary and symbolic and illuminatory quality.  I mean that they contain in little a whole world—they are the knots in a great net of tangled time and space—the moments at which the situation of humanity is clear—even if only for the flash time of the photographer or the lighting.”  

These “snippets” are intended to function in the same way.  Click on the headings to go to the original articles, which are mostly from the mainstream aka fake news media.

 


 

 

Brexit is a portmanteau
word borrowed without asking
from the Greek for clusterfuck
like the Elgin Marbles

Brexit is my half-cut father
propping up the public bar
nothing against our colored cousins
so long as they stay where they are

Brexit is not hearing foreign languages on the High Street
Brexit is not hearing foreign languages on the bus
Brexit is not hearing foreign languages

again for ever and ever amen

Brexit is Morrissey
kissing Nigel Farage’s magnificent ass
Brexit is Johnny Rotten remembering he is
white working class

Brexit is the future fucked over
by a red white and blue

but mostly white

dream of the past

Keep Calm and
Carry On Up The Khyber
Pass

 

I’m sorry I have been off here for a year.  I have been retiring (from full-time employment at a university), traveling, writing, and moving continents (from UK to Canada, where I am reacquainting myself with real winter in Calgary, Alberta).

If there is anybody still reading this blog, I’ve just posted a piece on academia.edu (whose final version will be published next month in the Journal of Historical Sociology) on Brexit and Trump.  Please publicize if you like it.

Here is the abstract:

Following the victories of the “Brexit” camp in the UK’s 2016 referendum and Donald Trump in the 2016 US presidential election, a new explanatory narrative rapidly established itself. According to this view, which has been widely accepted on both the political left and right, we are witnessing a popular revolt against “elites” spearheaded by white working-class “victims of globalization.” Drawing on extensive polling and census data, this paper debunks this new consensus as an artifact of post-factual politics driven by feeling rather than evidence. These were not instances of a “misshapen class struggle” that sometimes assumed racist or xenophobic forms, but centrally a race war on the non-native Other that has successfully managed to pass itself off as a revolt of the (white) deprived and dispossessed.

Here is the link:

https://www.academia.edu/31635901/White_Riot_Brexit_Trump_and_Post-Factual_Politics