CATEGORY: Global POLEMICS
I’m proud to say I never lost a game of ping for a full three months. That’s definitely a record for me. Of course, I must reluctantly add, that due to lockdown restrictions, I didn’t actually play for those three months. Not inside, not outside, not nowhere. Schools were shut, clubs were shut and even the outdoor tables were generally no go areas. But all that changed in the summer. There were a couple of great sessions up at the London Academy where I was duly beaten by a high flying eleven year old. And there was a wonderful birthday party where two mini tables were in constant use by children and parents alike. I even managed to get myself back into action in three West London schools. Tournaments were out of the question of course, but coaching and after school clubs with the ever popular ‘top table’ were given the green light. West London Ping was back in business. But the real highlight of the lockdown era has been outdoor ping. And don’t let anyone tell you that the weather is an impediment. As our friends from the North would say, ‘there’s no such thing as bad weather – only inappropriate clothing.’
Jon’s new book
Alphabet Soup for Christmas.
Alphabet Soup, by Jon Kaufman, is a collection of sharp polemical poems covering a range of personal, philosophical, historical and contemporary material. It would make an ideal thought-provoking Christmas/New Year gift, and one that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.
Alphabet Soup is now available from a range of outlets including Waterstones, WHS, Foyles Book
Shop, Amazon and eBay. Alternatively, you can contact the author directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org
for bulk orders at cost price. Make this Christmas a polemical one. Jk
Burst your filter bubble
Psst? Wanna know a secret? The Internet is indoctrinating you with your own ideas and there’s not a thing you can do about it.
Where do you get your news? Who do you follow on social media? Be honest, does your feed provide you a steady stream of information that is culturally and ideologically similar to your own?
Change the narrative and you can change the world
I recently joined the volunteering team at the Stop Funding Hate campaign, which was launched in August 2016 in the wake of the EU referendum result – originally a response to the surge of hate crimes following the Brexit vote. Since then, what has followed is a near 95,000 following on Twitter and a campaign flourishing into a grass roots phenomenon.
Aussie Ball Tampering – Symbolic of a larger malaise?
Australia, like every nation, has enmeshed itself in an intricate web of self-deceits, half-truths and outright lies. And that is no surprise given that modern ‘European’ society in Australia was founded on one gigantic lie – that the Australian landmass was empty of human settlement when the first European invaders arrived. The very contrary was in fact true. Australia was, prior to the European invasion, the home to some one hundred Aboriginal nations, each with their own language, culture and administrative systems. In fact, taken collectively, the indigenous peoples of Australia represented humanity’s longest continuous civilisation, dating back thirty thousand years or more.
Facebook and Cambridge Analytica – Business as Usual
There is a bit of a hoo-ha going on at the moment concerning dark forces harvesting and manipulating personal data for political and commercial purposes. But it would be a much bigger story if we discovered that no such manipulations were taking place. The clever and the cunning and the outright disreputable have always sought to mould and manipulate the general populace. It started some ten thousand years ago with the start of so-called human civilisation but probably kicked in many millennia earlier – way back into our hunter-gatherer past. In fact, wherever you find religion and high priests, you will find manipulation. And wherever you find economic elites, you will uncover underhandedness and outright deception.
Anti-Semitism claims against Corbyn – It’s got MI5’s grubby fingerprints all over it
Unravelling claims of anti-semitism in the Labour Party is tricky. Perhaps pockets of anti-semitism do still exist in the Labour Party in the way that they still exist in all institutions in this country. Except for a deeply ingrained misogyny, anti-semitism is probably one of the oldest irrational prejudices of European society. General European racism, based on the colour of one’s skin, is a relatively recent prejudice in comparison. A construct of the modern colonial era. But history suggests that all human prejudices, whether ancient or relatively modern, when stripped of their emotive cultural narratives, are ultimately based on territory, power and economic control.
Corbyn’s Response to the latest British anti-Russian hysteria
Jeremy Corbyn may well go down in history as the best Prime Minister Britain never had. I sincerely hope not, but given his propensity for honesty and courage in the face of Establishment hostility, his chances of making No 10 are always going to be slim. All nations spin their own fantasy narrative and Britain is one of the experts in this field. Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t like to play that game. He never has.
Table Tennis is good for the brain
There is a lot going on in table tennis, says Wendy Suzuki, a tenured professor of neuroscience at New York University and author of Healthy Brain, Happy Life, a new book exploring how sport generally and table tennis specifically can affect the human brain. Attention is increasing, memory is increasing, you have a better mood. And you are building motor circuits in your brain. A bigger part of your brain is being activated.
March4Women – Sunday 4th March 2018
I Joined the March4Women after reading an inspiring issue of the free Stylist magazine. The entire issue No 402 was devoted to celebrating the 100-year anniversary of Britain’s women securing voting rights, and a very fine anniversary edition it was. If you can still get a copy, I heartily recommend you do so. It’s worth it for the graphics alone. It was the first time I had ever actually read the mag, believing it to be aimed primarily at white middle-class women with plenty of disposable income at their command. In fact, at first glance The Stylist comes across as little more than an advertising medium for the fashion and beauty industry rather than an attempt at serious journalism.
Human Flow, a Documentary by Ai Weiwei
One sign of a modern society might be its ability to generate its own thoughtful critics. North America has them by the bucket loads; it used to be Malcolm X, Angela Davis, Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan. Now it’s Naomi Klein, Michael Moore, Oliver Stone and of course the irrepressible Noam Chomsky. The Indian subcontinent has the equally irrepressible Arundhati Roy and the Anglo-Indian author, Salman Rushdie. Australasia, still something of a colonial outpost in both politics and cultural attitudes, has its highly combatant John Pilger.
Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine
I know a person of Irish descent who tells me they have experienced varying levels of petty prejudice throughout their life but that it comes and goes. That person is white. I know a person of Jewish descent who tells me they have experienced petty prejudices at varying time in their life but that it comes and goes. They are white. Reading Claudia Rankine’s Citizen, I get the distinct impression that for Black people living in predominantly European societies, the prejudice never really stops because they are always, first and foremost, in the eyes of the European, Black.
Oxfam Report – How the neo-liberal, corporate elite hate it
The statistics are damning enough. But of course, they are damning every year. It never seems to get better. Nearly a billion of our fellow citizens are without clean and safe drinking water. The stuff they are forced to drink is contaminated with every conceivable parasite and life-threatening bacteria. Two billion of our fellow citizens must make do without proper sanitation. Disease is rife. lives are cut short. One in five girls don’t get a primary school education. They are condemned to a lifetime of grinding poverty and ignorance. To top it off, the extremes of wealth and poverty just get larger. A mere 42 people hold the same wealth as the poorest 3.7 billion. 82% of the wealth created in 2017 went to the obscenely rich 1%.
Brexit, Brexit from May to December
Brexit scheming is all I remember
Productivity rising, trade flat-lining
A time for cheering a time for crying.
Brexit, Brexit from Monday to Sunday
Brexit plotting for a pumped-up payday
Opportunities opening, trade door slamming
The predictions are rosy, the forecasts are damning.
The Crown: Series 2
‘The golden age of TV continues. Not that there isn’t mountains of dross out there. Of course there is. But amongst the dross there seems to be a slow but steady stream of gems. The latest, in my ever so umble opinion, has to be The Crown. Not since the BBC’s I Claudius in the mid 1970’s has a TV series set out with so much ambition. The BBC’s Our Friends From The North and This Life certainly had ambition as did HBO’s The Wire and The Sopranos. Black Mirror is absolutely sublime as are the three series of In Treatment. The House of Cards and Homeland are both likely to be on many people’s best of the best list.
Of course, Russian sport is corrupt, but then so are the Olympics, Simon Jenkins, The Guardian
A welcome and overdue return to sporting polemics but predictably it’s the same old story; corruption, doping and unaccountable oligarchy. Simon Jenkins does an excellent job in outlining the corrupt relationship between the Russian authorities and the IOC and FIFA. But more than that, he goes on to make the point that it is not only Russian sport that is mired in corruption and cheating. All nations are at it, not least the British, although they like to play the very British game of being holier than thou.
Brexit and the Irish Question: Don’t mention the ongoing Occupation
In a half decent article by Polly Toynbee, The Irish Question May Yet Save Britain From Brexit (The Guardian 28/11/17) she gives a hint at the Imperial rule that has so humiliated this small nation for so long. Toynbee writes; They (the Brexiteers) pretended it was nothing. Reviving that deep-dyed, centuries-old contempt for the Irish, they have dismissed it with an imperial fly-whisk as a minor irritation. Beautiful written and historically accurate. But it is not enough. Neither Toynbee, or Andrew Marr or Jeremy Paxman before them, nor the whole gamut of liberal journalists currently plying their trade in Britain, can bring themselves to openly admit that the remnants of the British Empire still occupy six counties of the thirty-two counties of Ireland.
Let’s Turn the Tide on Plastic, Daily Mail
Notwithstanding my unflinching revulsion of all that is the Daily Mail, complete with its non-stop xenophobia, its petty little England mentality and its outright racist bile, I am forced once again to congratulate its editors for their front-page campaign against the tsunami of plastic currently devastating our planet. I say, once again because they ran a similar inspiring front-page campaign not so long ago declaring sugar as the new tobacco. They were correct on that one and they are equally correct on their attitude towards discarded plastics. Just as The Sun, that vile tabloid rag, once came out defiantly against the murderers of Stephen Lawrence, so The Daily Mail occasionally demonstrates its better nature. It is rare but welcome nevertheless. But there is a glaring contradiction at the heart of their campaigning journalism; the not insignificant question of government regulation.
I Am Not Your Negro, Film Review, Raoul Peck
Based on an unfinished James Baldwin manuscript, this is an important piece in the jigsaw of America’s Civil Rights Movement. But it is so much more. Baldwin was attempting, in his final work, to link together the lives, criminally cut short, of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King and the lesser known civil rights activist, Medgar Evers into a coherent whole. And Raoul Peck does full justice to that unfinished work. He does so by allowing plenty of space for Baldwin to speak his own wonderfully eloquent words rather than allowing others to speak for him.
Brick Lane by Monica Ali
This one is important, and perhaps more important than its author might have originally imagined. In an age where religion and other assorted superstitions are making something of a comeback, here is a novel that tenaciously works, on every front, to deconstruct all the nonsense about gods, fate and the god-given, subordinate role of women. That the novelist achieves this with much humour and empathy for her characters, whilst maintaining throughout a growing level of tension, is an achievement in itself. That the novel stands out, fifteen years on, as a searing indictment of all things patriarchal and metaphysical, is its real achievement.
Another Country by James Baldwin
The title of this powerful novel is somewhat ambiguous and probably deliberately so. It might refer to the very different experiences that Black and White people experience in the USA. It might equally refer to the different worlds and experiences of gay and straight people, not to mention the many shifting shades in between. It might actually refer to the dreams and aspirations that we all have, contrasted with the hum-drum reality that most of us inevitably lead.