The early years
When I was born in 1954, fresh from my warm-womb foetal purity
The white supremacists still ruled the roost, still lynching with impunity
And Senator McCarthy was still at his trade, strutting with senatorial immunity
But in Brown versus Board, the Supreme Court ruled, against a racially segregated community
And Billie Holiday released her ‘Strange Fruit’ lament, a tragically haunting ingenuity
Meanwhile, the French got a whipping from Ho Chi Minh, in a battle for Vietnamese unity
But I was in London, screaming at the top of my voice, with my new-born insecurity.
In 1955 when I was one year old and experimenting with some pre-ambulation
Rosa Parks was heroically taking her stand, against Southern racial segregation
And Martin Luther King was coming to the fore, with some serious civil rights agitation
But Uncle Sam crept into Vietnam with some typically nasty aggravation.
And Albert Einstein had reached the point in his life where he would make his very last calculation
Meanwhile I was furiously fighting tooth and nail, to get my fair share of parental adulation
In 1956 when I was two years old and feeling full of baby joviality
Britain and France were plotting and scheming, against Egyptian national sovereignty
And Khrushchev was busy writing his secret speech, challenging Stalin’s political authority
And Soviet tanks were rumbling into Hungarian streets, to assert their ideological seniority
Meanwhile Elvis was adding some hip-swinging fun with his pelvic thrusting frivolity
And as for me, I took my very first steps, albeit a tiny tad wibbly wobbly.
In 1957 when I was three years old and oscillating between joy and tear
The Soviet Union launched its Sputnik machine high up into the celestial sphere
And the Viet Cong set out on their liberation road, manoeuvring its forces to a higher gear
Whilst the European Union was cobbled together, overcoming animosities and post-war fear.
Then Buddy Holly sang Peggy Sue, to create some much needed rock and roll cheer
And I spoke my very first faltering words, though they weren’t very coherent and they weren’t very clear.
In 1958 when I was just four years old and now largely in control of my own urology
The microchip spectacularly showed up in town as a revolutionary new technology
And Bertrand Russell launched his Disarmament campaign, without even stopping to make an apology
Whilst in Lebanon the US marines came stomping along, in support of a faction with a pro-capitalist ideology
Then Man United were consumed in a deadly crash, which was a dark day in Britain’s sporting chronology
Meanwhile, I continued to slowly absorb the ways of the world with my very own jumbled up child psychology.
In 1959 when I was just five years old and full of thirst for early school education
Castro and Guevara were leading their mountain guerrillas, in an inspiring struggle for liberation
And the skull of Australopithecus was carefully unearthed, disturbing its one million year old hibernation
Whilst the chromosome associated with the Down Syndrome, came under some very close examination
Meanwhile the US was flexing its muscles again, in yet another provocative South East Asian escalation
But I was too busy with my toys and my teddies, from which I derived great childlike exhilaration.
In 1960 I reached an impressive six years of age and was learning the art of simple deduction
And to celebrate, President Nasser began to build the Aswan High Dam, an audacious and complex construction
Then a fresh faced Kennedy stepped up to the podium and won a very close American election
And he immediately sent his troops to Vietnam, citing South Vietnamese political protection
Meanwhile 100,000 people joined the London CND march, inspiring a global anti-nuclear objection
And The Pill was legalised in he USA, giving women some control over their own reproduction
But I was still far too young at the time to understand the concept of social or political insurrection
In 1961 when I turned seven years old, I was developing an interest in space and cosmology
Yuri Gagarin had completed the first orbit of Earth, which was declared a triumph for Soviet technology
Then the Germans in the East built a high wall in Berlin, for the protection of their socialist ideology
And the CIA got a drubbing in their Bay of Pigs invasion, another example of their imperialist pathology
Whilst Freedom Riders in the US challenged segregated buses, and its accompanying sickening psychology
But I was still oblivious to the political world and its mystifying philosophical methodology
In 1962 when I turned eight years old, I was hooked into the Saturday afternoon kick-off
Whilst the world nearly slipped into a nuclear Armageddon, in the cold war Cuban stand-off
A deal was finally struck whereby both superpowers withdrew, in a dramatically negotiated trade-off
Then the US began spraying Agent Orange in Vietnam in a criminal chemical kill-off
Meanwhile Dylan sang ‘Blowing in the Wind’ in New York, which gave his career a musical lift-off
As for me, I started to flex my fidgety young wings with bucket loads of energy to burn-off.
When it was 1963 and I was nine years old, I could play on my go-cart unsupervised
Whilst the civil rights movement was gathering pace, and the March on Washington soon organized
Martin Luther King Jr announced ‘I Have A Dream’, for African-Americans to be fully enfranchised
And the Soviets put the first woman in space, leaving the misogynistic world much hypnotized
Whilst ‘The Feminine Mystique’ decried suburban domesticity; women’s potential must be now recognised
Then Kennedy was shot dead by some mafia types, and peace and love was now instantly vaporized
Meanwhile, Beatle-mania was becoming a global phenomenon, and the Liverpudlians were instantly canonised
And I watched it all unfold on my black and white TV and I was totally and mind-bogglingly mesmerized.
!964 had arrived and I celebrated reaching ten years of age and went about my days with some playful intention
Whilst the Americans manufactured the Gulf of Tonkin event, prelude to a new South East Asian intervention
And Kenya won its independence from a most brutal British colonialism via a magnificent Mau Mau guerrilla mobilisation
And Nelson Mandela was sentenced to imprisonment for life, which was a blatant UN Human Rights contravention
Then American cities were set alight by civil rights activists, adding a bold new insurrectionary dimension
And Cassius Clay changed his slave name to Mohammed Ali and refused to accept his US military induction
And Jean Paul Sartre was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, for his intriguing existentialist instruction
But at ten years of age all these earth shattering events were really quite beyond my ego-centric comprehension
!965 rolled into town and at eleven years old, I was always wanting to get my own way
Meanwhile the civil rights marches lead to the Voting Rights Act in the racially divided USA
Whilst the US military stepped up its genocidal campaign, bombing Vietnamese villages back into clay
But the anti-war demonstrations grew in the United States cities, exposing imperialism’s duplicitous play
Then the US intervened in the Dominican Civil War, with the Yankees demanding to have the last say
And the charismatic Malcolm X was gunned down in New York, causing oceans of utter dismay
And Winston Churchill was buried an unrepentant eugenicist, an imperialist to his very last day
But when you’re eleven years old, it’s either fun at the weekend or just another routinely predictable school day.
I was 12 years old when it was 1966 and was rebellious enough to get myself my first school detention
Whilst the race to the moon was picking up pace, with the superpowers in manic contention
And the Black Panthers issued a ten point manifesto for a comprehensive Afro-American liberation
Then the US ramped up it military involvement in Vietnam, spawning misery and social deprivation
Meanwhile Dylan was called a ‘Judas’ out loud, as his band rocked to a whole new electric vibration
And England won the World Cup and the mini skirt ruled, in a mid-sixties social revolution
Then Mao’s Cultural Revolution came marching along, which caused a great deal of political consternation
But I’m just a kid stuck in a dull suburban estate, unaware of a forthcoming family relocation
The teenage years
It was 1967 and at thirteen years old, my life was quite simple with few shades of grey.
Meanwhile half a million US troops were raping Vietnam, singing along merrily with Lyndon BJ
Then Israel launched its colonial land grabbing war, with an occupation that continues today
And Mohammed Ali was imprisoned and stripped of his title, for refusing to enter the military fray
But The Abortion Act was passed which legalised abortion, almost universally throughout the UK
Then the first cryonically preserved human went into cold storage, with the hope of halting our natural decay.
Meanwhile I was transported, with my family Down Under, with only ten pounds per person to pay
We were part of Australia’s policy of White Only immigration, and we accepted without any delay
And on that six week long journey I played my first game of ping, with absolutely no idea how to play
I swung the bat wildly and the ball went over the net, though it held no significance on that bright sunny day.
When it was 1968 and at fourteen years of age I was starting to wander and stay out quite late
But in Paris there were riots and a General Strike too, and many new ideas to explore and debate
And at Dagenham Ford the women demanded equality; they went on strike for an equal pay rate
Then King Jr was gunned down in another bigoted attack, one more murder to add to the slate
And the Prague Spring called for more Czechoslovakian freedoms, which the Soviet ideologues were quick to berate
And it wasn’t very long before the tanks started rolling, rolling right through the Warsaw Pact gate
Meanwhile, the Black Power salute was made at the Mexico Olympics, a symbol that carried much weight
Then US soldiers massacred the villagers of My Lai, barbarism conducted by an imperialist state
But the Tet Offensive showed that the people of Vietnam would shortly be deciding their own national fate
Meanwhile the older brothers of my friends who were sent to Vietnam, were taught how to maim and to kill and to hate
!969 came around and at fifteen years old, I was happily gyrating to the rock and roll stars
As we Earth-bound humans sent men to the Moon, and the Mariner 6 rocket way up to Mars
And in Washington they marched against the ongoing war, and some protesters were beaten with bars
Then half a million descended on the festival at Woodstock, by foot and by bus and in cars
And the vibes were of peace and love and good will, as they danced to the howling guitars
There was Janis and Jimmy and Joe Cocker too, but not Ziggy and the Spiders from Mars
And The Beatles called it a day so they could step out on their own, a chance to reflect on their future memoirs
And it was also the year that Monty Python was born, scathing satires that would leave a few scars
But I was still busy with my studies that year, learning of Lenin and those horrible Tsars.
!970 arrived and I had just turned sixteen and I was slowly learning to fit the pieces together
Whilst the US secretly bombed Cambodia and Laos, which was a criminal and sneaky endeavour
And the Chicago Seven were imprisoned for five years, which was unjust and not very clever
But the anti-war protests continued through wind, rain and hail, they kept marching whatever the weather
And the Female Eunuch was published that year, those chains to patriarchy it was now time to sever
And they jailed Angela Davis for her articulate defiance, but this particular Black Panther would fight on for ever
Then the Apollo13 crew had a problem for Huston, but the crew were determined to never say never
Meanwhile Aussies were returning from the war in Vietnam, in body-bags made of cheap leather
It was 1971 and at seventeen years old, I declared I would not register for the Vietnamese war
And the first batch of Pentagon Papers were published in the press, the deception had finally come to the fore
Then in a sign of the times Thatcher ended free milk, a blow for the children who were desperately poor
Meanwhile the Soviets launched their first Salyut space station, a feat that had never been attempted before
And Ping Pong Diplomacy was now the top game in town, pinging loud on the locked Chinese door
And A Clockwork Orange controversially arrived on our screens, with gratuitous violence, said the critics, to deplore
Then John Lennon released ‘Imagine’ with his wife Yoko Ono, which shook the establishment right down to its core
And I got in trouble at school for going on anti-war demo’s, and subsequently expelled for ‘breaking the law’.
Now it was 1972 and as I turned eighteen, the Australian Labor Party * swept into government and abolished conscription
Then the Palestinian Black September Group stepped onto the stage and wiped out the Israeli team with such deadly conviction
Whilst the British Army shot dead fourteen Irish protesters, in the British Occupied Six County jurisdiction
And the US Republicans were caught in the Watergate offices, in a blatant act of political dereliction
Then the first Missile Treaty was signed by the two major powers, but it didn’t end their nuclear addiction
Meanwhile London held its first Gay Pride celebration, heralding an era of a sexual complexion
And I finished my schooling and was doing odd jobs, whilst trying out some amateur philosophical reflection
It was now 1973 and at 19 years old, I was celebrating the imminent removal of US troops from Vietnam
It was a spectacular victory for the Vietnamese people who had been determined to defeat Uncle Sam
Meanwhile in Chile the CIA were orchestrating a military coup, part of their imperialist South American plan
Whilst the Arab nations attempted to regain their occupied territories, from the Israeli government and its land grabbing scam
And OPEC responded by putting up their prices, which hit the Western economies with one hell of a bang
But I’m in Australia smoking some illicit marijuana, pleasantly stoned and not giving a damn.
The Maoist years
It’s 1974 and at 20 years old I’m studying at college, but with a bucket load of fun loving distraction
Meanwhile in Ethiopia, “Lucy” was discovered in an archaeological dig, it was a four million year old humanoid extraction
And the Watergate hearings forced Nixon to resign, with a national TV address and a full scale retraction
And the Irish Republicans extended their bombing campaign, in a powerfully new military transaction
Then a Rumble in the Jungle saw Ali regain his world title, it was a defiant and spectacular attraction
But for me, ideas were still flowing backwards and forwards, though I still had no coherent plan of action
Along came 1975 and I celebrated my 21st birthday, but commiserated the end of Australia’s socialist experiment
It was a carefully orchestrated coup by the United States of America, backed up by the local reactionary element
After three years of fake news by the Murdoch owned press, spewing virulent vilification and vicious disparagement
The Australian electorate succumbed to three years of propaganda, and you could hear the cheers of corporate led merriment
And it was perfectly clear that this was just one more example, of the CIA establishing a compliant US corporate environment
And it left the left-leaning sections of the Australian population, including my good self, in a very difficult political predicament
Then the Vietnamese liberation forces marched on to Saigon, in a wonderfully inspiring geo-political development.
Then Angola claimed her independence from its erstwhile oppressors, giving the US imperialists a sense of encirclement
Meanwhile along came the Sex Pistols with ‘God Save The Queen’, a punkish provocation which was delightfully impertinent
And now it is 1976 and at 22 years of age I’m in my final year of my teacher-college studies
I’m becoming increasingly politicized by some radical ideas, from a collection of bohemians and my left-leaning buddies.
I was writing a dissertation on the sacking of the Australian Labor Government and reading Chomsky and other such goodies
And before very long I’d unravelled the conundrum, of where the Central Intelligence Agency had buried the bodies
And I’m starting to realise how the real world was controlled, by western military elites with their goons and their squaddies
And my thoughts are increasingly turning to radical Marxist ideas, and everything that that school of thinking embodies.
Meanwhile the black youth of England bravely fought back, against the daily discrimination of the racist police
And in the ‘Notting Hill Riots’ British history was made, when Black Britons proclaimed: ‘No Justice, No Rights then No Peace’
Meanwhile Mao Zedong marched off to meet his ancestral comrades, but the struggle to replace him would explosively increase
Whilst The Clash stepped up on stage to blow away pop, their head banging shows were the perfect release
And a Reclaim the Night march was held over in Europe, male violence against women must decease..
It’s 1977 and at 23 years and passport in hand, it was time to get going with that travelling thing
I travelled across Europe working odd jobs as I went, living life on the proverbial shoestring
I watched Marley at the Rainbow Theatre in London, unaware of the demise of Elvis the King
But the glorious age of punk rock had arrived, with its irreverent anarchistic anti-establishment sting
Meanwhile Spain held its first election since Franco, a belated development with a democratic swing
Then Steve Biko was beaten to death by his jailers, a daily occurrence by Apartheid’s right wing
And as I witnessed the deep-seated European poverty first hand, I became more coherently and determinedly left-wing.
But amidst the gloom of a world still blighted by poverty, I had the thirst for a cycling fling
We jumped onto our bikes and headed for Greece, and pretty soon we were into the swing
France, Germany and Switzerland then over the Alps, then we gave Yugoslavia and Albania a spin
And finally to Athens with the weariest of limbs, where we spontaneously started to sing.
Back in Australia in ‘78 and at 24 years of age, I got myself involved in my first working class action
But the government was cracking down on the militant left, so my amateurish efforts didn’t gain that much traction
I was sacked on the night-shift for demanding more pay, but I got no sympathetic daytime reaction
So I met up with my mates and we discussed my mistakes, and I ended up joining the Maoist Red faction
The Maoists had become to western youth like myself, a beacon of hope and a major attraction.
But Deng Xiaoping was now in political charge, and that was to be an altogether different transaction
It was now to be ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’, which was a very challenging political abstraction
And his slogan: ‘black cat, white cat, as long as it catches mice’ was a major ideological distraction.
Meanwhile the first IVF test tube baby was born, which brought childless parents much personal satisfaction
And the European Court found the UK guilty of mistreating Irish prisoners, but there was no British Government retraction.
Along came 1979, and at 25 years of age, I got myself a porter’s job in a state-run government hospital
A camaraderie developed and I learnt how to organise, with patience, tenacity and skill most methodical
And before you could shout out Karl Marx is the boss, a class war was now raging astronomical
Meanwhile Linton Kwesi Johnson burst onto the musical scene, with his dub rhymes so pleasingly economical
Then the Soviets intervened in Afghanistan’s civil war, where the Mujahideen were a democratic obstacle
And the exiled Khomeini returned to Iran, and the attack on democratic forces became just unstoppable
But the Sandinistas led a revolution against the US backed dictator, which had previously seemed highly improbable
Then hey presto, Voyager 1 made observations of Jupiter and the pictures were undeniably phenomenal
Then a fire on Three Mile Island spread some radioactive material, which was rather scary and un-ecological
And the IRA blew Lord Louis Mountbatten sky high, which was described by the tabloids as an act most diabolical
As for me, my political ideology became rather didactic, somewhat mechanical and unquestionably un-dialectical
1980 arrived and at 26 years of age I was embedded in the Australian Maoist Party and was feeling quite good
We rhetorically attacked the US and Soviet Imperialists, just like the Chinese Government said that we would
And we busied ourselves making an Aussie revolution, just like Uncle Stalin and Mao said that we should
And we boldly raised the Eureka flag of Aussie Independence, in every city and surrounding neighbourhood.
Meanwhile John Lennon was gratuitously murdered in New York, and the world shed a collective sad tear
Then the Iranians and Iraqis started their deadly sectarian war, whilst their respective citizens huddled in fear
It was a war within Islam, Shia versus Sunni, both seeking to consolidate their ideological sphere
But in Zimbabwe they gained their post-colonial independence, which raised a heart-felt pan-Africanist cheer
Meanwhile in dark and de-industrialized and polarised Great Britain, life became harsh and increasingly austere
But Thatcher said ‘The Lady is not for turning’ which was delivered with a smirk and a class ridden sneer.
And China’s population reached a staggering one billion citizens, a sobering end to a sobering year.
It’s 1981 and at 27 years the hospital management tried to sack me, but I was learning to stand my own ground
I’d learnt some lessons from the older shop stewards, and with some newer tactics more recently found
This time I kept the workforce tightly around me, and kept the management pinned hard to the ground
And I sold my Maoist newspapers and political pamphlets, with their uncompromising messages so sharply profound
But my trade union struggles were really quite insignificant, compared to the events that were about to go down
A hunger strike by the Irish Republican prisoners, against the intransigence of the British government and Crown
And their sacrifice was traumatic and so very heart-breaking, but their resistance did so loudly resound
Meanwhile the Solidarnosc movement exploded all around Poland, where Lech Walesa was establishing renown
And the deadly AIDS virus was dramatically identified, to a cacophony of homophobic and dark ugly sound
Then the UK nationalised industries were privately sold off, with corporate profiteering and greed all around
The trans-Atlantic neo-liberal counter revolution was now in full flow, it was the only economic programme in town
Now it’s 1982 and at 28 years of age, I’m entrenched in the Australian-wide trade union struggle
I’m working sixteen long hours each and every day, but the political and personal are increasingly difficult to juggle
And the ever changing diktats from our masters in Beijing, were creating no end of ideological befuddle.
Then Argentina tried to liberate the Malvinas archipelago, from a long-standing British colonial occupation
But Thatcher sent the Gun Boats to settle the matter, and there was bloodshed and much counter-accusation
Then the Royal Navy sank the ‘retreating’ General Belgrano, which if true, was a cheap and cowardly aggravation
So the Argentine Generals threw in the towel, which brought an end to that nasty South Atlantic altercation.
Meanwhile pro-Israeli Phalangist were attacking the Palestinian camps, which led to a barbaric one-sided conflagration
Then three quarters of a million people demonstrated in New York, against the ongoing thermo-nuclear proliferation.
As for me, I was having some serious reservations, concerning Beijing’s unpredictable ideological capitulations.
It’s 1983 and at 29 years old, the tensions within the Australian Maoist Party were increasing in magnitude
I was still manically going about my trade union activities, but I was accused of not showing the correct Party attitude
I wrote a theoretical statement to outline my reservations, but it certainly didn’t get me any gratitude
It was now obvious that it was time to call it a day, and create some space for a much needed political interlude.
So I busied myself with some extra university studies, in order to further develop my political confidence and aptitude
There were some grim statistics emerging that year, including twelve million workers unemployed in the States
And the Ethiopian famine saw four million face starvation and death, the very worst outcome of all human fates
And the US was installing more nuclear missiles, but there were protesters at all of the gates
Meanwhile Reagan threatened to unleash his Star Wars agenda, another provocation and more profits for his mates
But I was heading to Darwin in Australia’s Northern Territory, where my very first teaching post did unassumingly await.
The communist years
It’s 1984 and at 30 years of age, I have a personal story I am quite keen to narrate
I’m now the Teachers Rep to the Territory’s Trades Council, something completely new on my trade union plate
And as Teachers Rep I was appointed to the Trades Council Executive, the minutes of meetings I was expected to take
And to vote with the right-wing on every single question, without the slightest hesitation or pretence of debate
But they were unaware of my political leanings, so they were making an uncalculated political mistake
Because I voted consistently with the left leaning delegates, which suddenly shattered the prevailing stale-mate
The left-wing militants were now in control of the Council, stretching throughout Australia’s most northerly State
And we submitted a pay claim and threatened to strike, to significantly enhance the established pay rate
And victory was swift and utterly decisive; it was my most substantial and enjoyable victory to date.
Meanwhile, far bigger things were happening on the planet, new actors were strutting upon the big worldly stage
Indira Ghandi was assassinated by put-upon Sikhs, who were now in a rightfully righteous big rage
And the IRA bombed the Grand Hotel in Brighton, because the British Government still refused to engage
And the British miners began their heroic two year long strike, though their overall chances were quite difficult to gauge
Because Thatcher declared she would never concede, she’d starve them back to the pre-industrial age
Then Bob Geldof and his mates set up Band Aid that year, appearing on stage like a biblical sage.
And The Terminators were travelling backwards in time, lethally armed for a future war to be waged.
By the end of that year I got accepted to a British University, so I was heading back to the freezing UK
I’m going to try my hand at a Philosophy doctorate, in order to develop my political say
I’m studying the concept of ‘Liberation Theology’, it’s the brand new radical South American way
But The Vatican is vehemently opposed to the concept, because the radicalised priests were now breaking away
And the peasants were developing their own independence, and the South American Bishops were losing their sway
By chance there was an Aussie delegation heading to Nicaragua, and it was leaving promptly at the end of the day
So before I could think or shout Sandinista, I was packing my bags for a quick getaway
I said my farewells to my friends and my family, but I’m not remotely religious so I didn’t bother to pray
I’d had seventeen good years in the sunny land down-under, it had allowed my to study and to work and to play
But my political world had turned somewhat toxic, so it was time to travel and explore a new way
But Nicaragua was not an easy place to arrive at; you have go into and out of LA
And in Los Angeles there were so many homeless young people, all bedded down outside every shop door
And to see those desperately neglected young people, sleeping out on the hard concrete floor
If this was the beacon of the democratic world, it was a beacon to defiantly deplore
And when we arrived in Central America, to the tropical capital of El Salvador
We had a shock that rocked us severely, right down to our privileged white core
There were piles of corpses burning and rotting, laying prone outside every front door
And the fear on the faces of the Salvadoran locals, was like nothing we had encountered before
And I too felt that crippling fear in my stomach, until I thought I could take it no more
The death squads had been very busy that evening, and they would be returning to add to their score
So this was the front line of US imperialism, a system of brutality we should utterly abhor.
When our delegation eventually arrived in the capital of Nicaragua, shaken but alive and thankfully still kicking
We were promptly taken to one of the front line bases; it’s coffee beans that we volunteers would be picking
We were woken early at 4am every morning, it’s time to start work, those coffee bushes need clipping
And by evening we had done our international duty, so back to base for some cold water dipping
But the Contra were waiting just over the hill, so there was to be no frolicking or trivial day-tripping
Stay close to base where we can try to protect you, otherwise you might just get a quick Contra whipping.
But two German girls did not heed the warning, and to the nearest village they did merrily go skipping
And when the Contra caught up with them during their dreaming, their tender flesh they did quickly start stripping
They raped them first as we did belatedly learn, then they set about their gratuitous killing
And for we brigadistas, from our comfortable worlds, it was a lesson so bleak and so chilling.
But amidst the poverty and hopelessness in Central America, from decades of US imperial plunder
What the Sandinistas had achieved in a few short years, was truly impressive and a modern day wonder
There were schools and clinics in every Nicaraguan village and an end to the scourge of debilitating hunger
And a revolutionary spirit spread across the whole land, that spectacularly blew the old dictatorship asunder.
And Reagan’s attempt to re-arm the Contra, was exposed as a criminal endeavour and political blunder.
In 1985 at 31 years of age, I finally arrived from Nicaragua to my UK destination
I immediately arranged to meet my dissertation supervisor, who was quick to make a nasty accusation
She said my reading list was far too one-sided, it would inevitably skew my thesis formulation
But what she really meant to say on that very first encounter, was that she opposed my Soviet inclination.
I had argued that in the ongoing civil war in Afghanistan, the Soviet Union had made a legitimate intervention
But she argued back most vociferously, that the Russians were in fact crushing the Afghan liberation
And I was too headstrong and didactic at that time, to give her arguments any due consideration
So we argued some more then parted company for good, without further word or the slightest hesitation.
Meanwhile in the technological world, the first dotcom company was registered on-line
And the first version of Microsoft Windows was duly released, with many fine plaudits for its clever design
Then the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior was illegally sunk, by a French foreign intelligence dirty mine
And the Live Aid concerts were organised to highlight the Ethiopian famine, which were well patronised and a positive sign
And Mikhail Gorbachev popped up in the stagnating Soviet Union, with glasnost and perestroika on his revisionist mind
Then I got a job in a big London hospital, employed once again as a hospital porter
And I got myself elected as trade union representative, to be the workers’ loyal and tireless supporter
And the battle raged fiercely throughout every day, neither side prepared to give any quarter
We militants dug in for a decisive campaign, refusing to go like lambs to slaughter.
And soon I was elected shop stewards’ convenor, with my own office in the union headquarters
And the stewards were an eclectic and wonderful mix, of youthful utopian socialist supporters
But some were the older more battle hardened types, like a bunch of frontline war-time reporters
And we prepared to take on the evil Thatcherites, with metaphorical guns and military mortars.
It was now 1986 and at 32 years of age, the world was exploding in every conceivably way
There was a nasty explosion at the Chernobyl reactor, spewing out radioactivity in a cancerous spray
Then the Space Shuttle exploded as it started its mission, with no time prepare or even to pray
And the Palestinian Intifada exploded into action, to win back their land and win back their say
And the Apartheid system began to implode, under the dead weight of its moral decay.
Then Mad Cow exploded the British meat industry, a toxic business at the end of its day.
And the world said goodbye to Simone de Beauvoir, but her feminist philosophies were still holding much sway
In 1987 and at 33, the world’s population was rapidly expanding, it now topped five billion souls
Whilst Gorbachev began his political reforms, but they created a thousand ideological holes
And Ronald Reagan stirred up the international political pot, the Berlin Wall being one of his goals
Then the Intifada gathered up pace once again, whilst the Israelis stepped up their murderous patrols
Meanwhile my shop stewards committee was in action-packed mode, implementing a host of militant union controls
In 1988 at the age of 34, Australia marked its Bi-Centenary year, but the indigenous peoples were far from celebrating
Two hundred years of white colonial rule proved highly oppressive and utterly devastating
The genocide that was consciously and cruelly committed, is what White Australians should have been carefully contemplating
And how that genocide wiped out the indigenous nations, by policies of greed that were most calculating
And the denial of that genocide on that Bi-Centenary day was a national denial that was most nauseating
Meanwhile the Soviets were forced to withdraw from Afghanistan in something of a military humiliation
And the Iran-Iraq war ground to an inconclusive halt, with much Shia and Sunni mutual denigration
Then Stephen Hawkins published his ‘A Brief History of Time’, a timely text for some cognitive stimulation
As for me, I was in my union office, when a call came from some union reps in Manchester
Their night nurses had had their night allowances cut, and could we become a sympathetic supporter
The stewards met and decided unanimously, that we would take a stand against that Maggie molester
And by the end of the month a national NHS strike had been called, a national strike that would defiantly test her
And 200,000 NHS staff and supporters gathered in London, they had travelled from Darlington, Dover and Leicester
And together we challenged the Thatcherite regime and its Tory anti-union sequester
And I’m proud to say we bloodied her nose, it was a decisive wound that started to fester.
And now it was 1989 and at 35, we had tasted a victory and we were clearly hungry for more.
Meanwhile Thatcher sent out her taxation inspectors, with a poll tax demand at every front door
So a national campaign was quickly established, we aimed it squarely at the Thatcherite core
Don’t Register, Don’t Pay, Don’t Collect this tax, it’s a tax aimed at the suffering poor
And as the Anti Poll Tax Federation gathered up speed, we happy band of stewards were preparing for war.
The shop stewards committee was primed and ready, it immediately sprung into political action
The poll tax demos were ubiquitous now, they even transcended petty ideological faction
And soon the demonstrations went nation-wide, they were gaining great political traction
And it did for Thatcher in a terminal way, setting off an internal Tory Party chain reaction
The wicked witch was soon sacked from her job, and her sacking brought so much public satisfaction.
Despite our petty ideological differences, the union shop stewards were temporarily united
We travelled together to the Soviet Union, where we all thought Perestroika to be short sighted
We saw the very best of their national health service, though some infrastructure aspects were clearly blighted
But the social advances were plain to see; one couldn’t help but feel optimistically excited.
And then we travelled to Derry City, to witness first-hand the British occupation
To see how Ireland had been cynically divided, by this century long colonial British annexation
And how the republican community had stood resolute, against this ongoing British desecration
Then we returned home to London Town, with a renewed sense of political anticipation
And beyond Britain the world was still on fire, both in the Soviet East and in the capitalist West
The Berlin Wall came crumbling right down, which put the faltering Soviets to a mighty big test
Then a Velvet Revolution swept socialist Czechoslovakia, they claimed it was part of a democratic quest
And in socialist Poland Solidarity came into power, with pledges of freedom from the Soviet nest
And in Tiananmen Square there were protests too, where democracy was now being openly addressed
Meanwhile the Galileo Spacecraft headed straight to Jupiter: was this humanity at its technological best
And when the Berlin Wall came crashing down, my life long ideology came crashing to the ground
I paced the streets so drab and grey, with a pounding pain and a permanent frown
I had seen socialism as a shining light for all of humanity, black and white and for all shades of brown
And the Soviets had been the guiding star, but they had clearly lost their glittering crown
My political foundations had been blown wide apart, my political world had been bulldozed right down
And I was fearful that in the political void, I might flounder or perhaps even drown.
The ping pong years
It’s 1990 and at 36 years of age, I needed a break from the never ending trade union struggle
I felt the pangs of personal burnout with the constant call of toil and trouble
And once again I faced the fact, that the personal and political are difficult things to juggle
So after twelve long years of trade union action, I decided to step out from under the rubble
And take a stab at teaching history in school, which would be a whole new weird and wonderful bubble
Of course I joined the National Union of Teachers, quick step now and at the double.
My teaching post was in a most progressive school, where inclusion was the foundation stone
And the teaching schemes were quite revolutionary, cutting right through to the pedagogic bone
We taught of slavery and race today, and the grim reality behind the throne
And the students shone and their grades improved, now making history of their own.
And for reasons not entirely clear, I set up a ping pong club that was well attended
The word quickly spread that it was fun to play, it became a place to be and highly recommended
There were students that had come from across the globe, and the philosophy of inclusion was naturally extended
But what happened next I must confess, was unexpected and quite unintended.
I was walking down the school corridor one very ordinary working day
When the head of cleaning services called me over, he clearly wanted to have his say
His ping pong club had just burnt down, he was looking for a new place to play
I told him straight he was very welcome, I had no good reason to answer him nay
And he brought his squad of young superstars, I was more than happy to have them stay
And we got to chatting about our future plans, and we plotted in a most friendly way
And we decided to merge our clubs together, and London Progress was born that day
It was just one of those unexpected chance encounters, whose reverberations are still felt today.
On the world scene, Iraq invaded/ liberated Kuwait, depending on your political disposition
Then the US sent its troops right in, to thwart Saddam Hussein’s military ambition
Then the US went into murderous mode, bombing Iraqi forces into full submission
And Germany got itself politically reunited, ending decades of East-West partition
Then Mandela was finally released by the Apartheid state, though there was barely a hint of any contrition
Meanwhile Homer and his family made their TV debut, it rewired our whole cognition.
It is 1991 and at 37 years of age I’m still involved in the murky mix of communist factions
I helped produce a Marxist-Leninist journal with an eclectic mix of theoretical abstractions
We defended the legacy of the Soviet Union despite some of its more unsavoury historical actions.
And we attempted to return to the essence of things, and avoid unnecessary political distractions
And at the heart of our deliberations was the occupation of Ireland, and the corresponding Irish reactions.
Meanwhile I had completed my MA in British Social History, which gave me a pleasing sense of satisfaction.
On the world stage NATO forces intervened to force Iraqi troops out of Kuwait
And as the Soviet Union began to dissolve, a post-Soviet world would now gestate
And the Apartheid state was broken apart, something more wholesome they could now create
Then the Balkans imploded into outright war, right at the edge of Europe’s own back gate
And the Tamil Tigers assassinated Rajiv Gandhi, with so many grievances on their plate
Meanwhile Freddie Mercury died of AIDS, with millions more facing a similar fate.
!992 was also a tearful year for London Progress and its growing community of passionate ping
The club’s co-founder was ruthlessly cut down, in a pre-meditated gangster’s sting
He was a generous and a rather philosophical man, who helped each youngster to spread their wing
And he helped lay the foundations of a sporting club that would evolve into a beautiful thing
And for his humanity and his cheerful kindness, we mourned our much loved Caribbean king.
Then we huddled together amidst our grief and pain, and pledged to keep London Progress in the ring.
In 1992 and at 38 years of age I continued teaching with a genuine love of the job.
And I helped produce a student magazine, with student articles that would make one sob.
We regularly joined demonstrations and the picket lines – we were really quite a radical mob
And with an unbound spirit of camaraderie, our youthful hearts did collectively throb.
Meanwhile, the Balkan war intensified, with the UN leading a multi-national intervention
There were atrocities aplenty on every side, but what was the UN’s true intention
The debate on the left was of course intractable, ranging from involvement to total abstention
And as the bodies piled higher amidst the ugly barbed wire, there grew a mountain of political contention
Sadly I parted company with my closest comrade and friend, in the midst of our fierce ideological dissension.
The world’s self appointed policeman, was not content with its Balkan activities
US troops landed in Mogadishu , for some more of their usual imperial festivities
And under the fig-leaf of famine relief, they were soon up to their usual military proclivities.
Meanwhile, the Big Mac opened its first junk food outlet in China, riding roughshod over local sensitivities
And the US still refused to sign against global warming, still addicted to its fossil fuel stupidities.
In 1993, when I was 39 years of age, I was still teaching history and busy with my communist proselytising
Whilst the Pentium microprocessor was miraculously created, and our home computers were busy synchronising
And the World Wide Web was created at CERN which would shortly prove to be highly enterprising
But fourteen million people were infected with HIV/AIDS, which was mighty tragic and so agonising
And Steven Lawrence was cut down by racist thugs, might his murder prove to be socially catalysing.
Then the European Union signed the Maastricht Treaty, which set the European federalist bells a-ringing
And contact was lost with NASA’s Martian Observer, which put a temporary halt to their dancing and singing
Meanwhile London Progress was sweeping the local opposition away, with some advanced tactics of smashing and spinning.
In 1994, when I had reached my fortieth birthday, London Progress entered the British League after a two year delay
And genetically engineered crops were now being grown, and controversially legalised in the US of A
And Britain was reconnected with the European mainland, with the Channel Tunnel now underway
Then the ANC won the South African multi-racial elections, with Mandela strolling on his magnanimous way
But civil war broke out across much of Rwanda, as colonial era rivalries exploded into uncontrollable play
And Yasser Arafat returned home to occupied Palestine, to lead the struggle for their National Day
Now it’s 1995 and at 41 years of age I left my teaching post to earn my living from private tutoring
I needed to spend more energy on managing my club and to get involved in the basics of computering
The club won its first promotion in the prestigious British League, but still needed some further managerial suturing
Meanwhile we started to sweep all the old rivals away, with a carefully choreographed competitive manoeuvring
And the old white middle class ways of running a club, were given a radical and philosophical sharp neutering.
Also in 1995 Nasa’s Gallileo spacecraft arrived at Jupiter, marking the very first human intrusion
And after a NATO bombing campaign against Serbian targets, the Balkan war ground to a belligerent conclusion
Then there was the Million Man March by Afro-American men, to highlight their socio-economic exclusion
And eBay was established as an online auction, which created a whole new shopping institution
Then a cosmonaut set a record of 438 days in space, on the Mir space station in orbiting seclusion
And Yitzhak Rabin was murdered by Israeli settler extremists, and peace proved to be just a fleeting illusion.
It’s 1996 and at 42 years of age, I found myself drifting away from the myriad of infantile communist factions
It was becoming obvious that we socialists would need to reformulate our project, faced with automation and working class contractions
Meanwhile, Dolly the Sheep was successfully cloned, though some predicted some apocalyptic reactions
Then the Taleban declared Afghanistan to be an Islamic State, which resulted in a series of nasty misogynistic transactions
But the US eased sanctions against socialist Cuba, despite their irrational fear of Cuba’s many socialist attractions
And the hole in the Ozone layer was causing a rash of skin cancers, amidst no end of global ecological dissatisfactions.
But back in London, our ping empire continued to grow, with more promotions bringing more personal satisfactions.
Now it’s 1997 and at 43 I’ve been appointed London Development Officer for the English Table Tennis Association
Of course, it might end up being a conflict of interest, given my own passionate London Progress affiliation.
But the challenge was irresistible given my criticisms of the ETTA, with its endless middle-class accommodations
But the development team was run by some enlightened individuals, who were keen on promoting progressive collaborations
So I set myself the task of promoting club and community ping, without fear or favour or reservations.
Meanwhile NASA’s Pathfinder Explorer landed on Mars, for some most spectacular photographic amplification
And Deep Blue defeated the world’s champion of chess, the very first time in an Human /AI confrontation.
And Hong Kong was handed back to the Chinese government, ending centuries of British colonial occupation
Then Tony Blair and his New Labour swept into Number 10, and there was a great national sense political expectation.
And Tiger Woods won his first golfing Masters, which marked the beginning of his sporting canonisation
And Arundhati Roy published her ‘God of Small Things’, which was destined to receive bucket-loads of literary adoration
But I was busy with all matters ping, as I sought to establish a modus operandi with the national administration.
When 1998 arrived and at 44 years of age, I was developing an obsessional desire to win
And we kept on winning at every possible level, and soon we were drowning in a mountain of bling
But social inclusion was still our guiding philosophy, and grassroots participation was still the main thing
And alongside the trophies and medals and titles, more and more kids stepped into the ring
And their hoodies came down and their defences were lowered, and soon they were focused on perfecting their swing
They came from Asia, Africa and the Americas too, and with their untapped energy they were quick to enthuse
There were Hindus and Christians and Muslims and Jews, and people with all sorts of wonderful views
And together we bonded into an unbreakable army, which simply refused to surrender or lose
And whenever our opponents stepped up the challenge, we simply adjusted and tightened the screws.
And our internationalism was truly a joy to behold, and our winning ways were now making the news.
But life wasn’t all fun and games on the planet, as the dire statistics would so shockingly show
UNICEF reported a quarter of a billion child labourers, a statistic that highlighted a grim status quo
Meanwhile the Russian banks were collapsing under their capitalist regime, but that’s the way that the capitalist wind blows
But it was good news from Ireland as they signed an Agreement, now the troops had no choice but to go
Meanwhile Google was formed with its digital search engine, the old mechanical methods were becoming too slow
Then the International Space station was triumphantly launched, but best to avoid if you get vertigo.
It’s now 1999 and at 45 years old, and the entire world was predicted to have a Millennial meltdown
But I had no time for these apocalyptic fears, because my job and club kept me flying around town.
And London Progress had won promotion to the Premier Division, and now we were dreaming of capturing that crown.
But the top flight was tough and after our meteoric rise, it looked like we were destined to be heading straight down.
But fortuitously two internationals joined us from Sweden, and together we refused to surrender our ground
And to the disappointment of our detractors, of which there were many, London Progress would be sticking around.
And in 1999 there were now six billion citizens, which I’m sure you’d agree was a mighty big tally
And President Yeltsin was drunk and was forced to resign, and a former KGB officer stepped onto the galley
And the fading fortunes of Russia, now on its knees, he immediately sought to restore and to rally
He was a man on a mission, Putin by name, and he had no intentions to dilly or dally.
Meanwhile the IOC voted for the Athlete of the Century, and of course it went to the man they called Pele.
The new millennium arrived and at 46 years of age, our troublesome world was still stubbornly standing
But I was still preoccupied with all matters ping, with our club empire perpetually expanding
And we kept on winning, the British Premiership no less, with a performance so outrageously outstanding
And we were crowned the Kings of the whole British nation, but let there be no error or misunderstanding
We were still the club fresh from the street, and we were in charge now and fully commanding.
But what was happening in that millennial year that forced me to look up and take serious note?
Well the mobile phone had now moved mainstream, and the landline got a sudden demote
Then Bush beat Gore in a disputed election, causing a nail-biting recount of the vote
And the courts ruled in favour of the ruling elites, and the gleeful Republicans started to gloat
Meanwhile Vermont legalised Unions for same sex loving couples, to each other they could now legally devote
And Robert Mugabe began to expropriate the colonial expropriators, who had long held the country by the proverbial throat.
It was now 2001 and at 47 years of age I was very much on top of the managerial game
And the word was resounding in the micro-world of ping, London Progress will set you aflame
But the winning was becoming unhealthily addictive, another season another title to claim
And though there was little financial gain to be had, we were content with the intoxicating fame.
What was happening out in the wider world, I was still very interested and eager to know
And when al Qaeda hit the so invulnerable ‘Great Satan’, it was a spectacular and psychological blow
Uncle Sam had long been arming the Afghan Islamist militias, in order to provoke their old Soviet foe
And now the ‘chickens had clearly come home to roost’ in a calculating Islamist show
But now that the imperialist beast had been given a poke, it would be many more years of bloodshed and woe.
Meanwhile encyclopaedic Wikipedia was digitally launched, to ensure that our knowledge would exponentially grow.
2002 brought up my 48th year and with it came an unprecedented British Premiership Table Tennis Treble
We had won the British League for a third consecutive year, but we were still seen as the outsider and troublesome rebel
We were winning everything domestically there was to be won, uprooting every stone and every staid little pebble
And the local kids just kept flooding in to the club, and they blended right in without any trouble.
2002 saw ten more nations join the European Union and the new Euro currency made its faltering debut
And NATO expanded eastwards to the borders of Russia, another provocation, so nothing really new
Then Chechen Islamists stormed a crowded theatre in Moscow; so much destruction and so much to rue
Meanwhile President Bush talked of the ‘Axis of Evil’ but the US military was at the front of that queue
And forty million people had now been infected with AIDS, yet the pharmaceuticals claimed they still hadn’t a clue
2003 and at 49 years of age London Progress made it a stunning four British titles in a row
We had teams in every division with both our men and our women, and the club’s ambitions continued to grow
We received national recognition for our community approach, which was the only way we knew how to go
There was only one club that had our grandiose ambitions and everyone knew who was running the show.
We developed a sister relationship with a big club in Belgium, European ping was the ultimate show
And we won the right to play against the top European teams, from Donetsk right down to Bordeaux.
In the scientific world the Human Genome Project was completed,
But the Space Shuttle exploded and the crew were deleted
And Concorde was retired, after 9/11 the demand was depleted,
Then the US attacked and Saddam was defeated
But the WMD’s were quite bogus, from western leaders so conceited,
And in the ‘shock and awe’ maelstrom, Iraq was maltreated
And many millions marched and the mood was so heated,
Because all thinking people knew Blair and Bush had both cheated
And the US military moved in and their crimes were repeated,
But in the political vacuum that ensued, the Shia mullahs would shortly be seated.
It’s 2004 and I’m fifty years old, relatively healthy and fully immersed in the business of ping
We moved into our brand new three million pound centre, where the locals just kept pouring in
In the day I was back teaching history in school, but in the evening it was all about the teaching of spin
And of course we made it five wins in a row; was it now time to throw in the towel or prepare for one final fling?
Meanwhile, NASA’s Spirit Rover rumbled over Mars, its task was to map the rugged Martian terrain
Was this one of Man’s greatest achievements, or just pouring money down the proverbial drain?
Then NASA reached Saturn’s icy cold rings, but was this seven year journey in vain
When war and poverty still reigned down on Earth, in the midst of NASA’s never-ending campaign?.
And then an earthquake deep down in the Indian Ocean, created a tsunami of destruction and pain.
When 2005 arrived and at 51 years old, I found the ping pong opposition were closing right in
They too were scouring the world for top players, but their optimistic efforts ended up in the bin
Our club had been tempered in the white heat of battle, and our circling opponents kept failing to win
And we promptly made it six in a row; we really were getting right under their skin.
Then Katrina hit the southern states of America, they had little time to prepare or to pray
And many residents perished in the torrents of nature, on that apocalyptically sad watery day
Then the Kyoto Agreement was signed by the world, but the Yanks and Aussies were refusing to play
Meanwhile You Tube created a video channel, to watch all your favourites without having to pay
In 2006 and at 52 years I quit the teaching game, this time I was determined it must be for good
The paperwork was driving me totally insane, so it was time to do what I knew that I should
I signed up as a community table tennis coach, a role in which I loved and became rather good
So I was back in the schools as a ping pong instructor, and I was embracing my new livelihood
Then London Progress predictably made it seven in a row, we were still the absolute kings of the ‘hood
Meanwhile Saddam Hussain was charged with his thuggish behaviour, but Bush and Blair went totally free
They’d murdered a million Iraqis or more, with their bogus trumped-up dossier being the key
And though millions had defiantly marched against war, determined to establish an anti war plea
The US military alliance still reigned supreme, from the mountains of Iraq right down to the sea
Meanwhile the US exploited its shale oil reserves, which had the oil barons dancing with glee
And the UN sought to inspect Iran’s nuclear sites, but Israel’s weapons we still cannot see.
In 2007 when I was 53 years old, I brought in a squad of top Chinese players
And they quickly cut a swathe through Britain’s elite, a ruthless squad of table tennis slayers
It was part of a Chinese sponsorship package, Double Happiness would now be our payers
And before you could shout eight titles in a row, our club had moved up a decisive few layers.
Meanwhile Apple launched its iPhone to resounding applause, and Steve Jobs made an inspiring speech
Then NASA launched its Phoenix Lander to Mars, it substantially extended our homo Sapien reach
And the first electric car was put out on show, the enthusiasts called it a technological peach
Then Barack Obama threw his hat in the ring, to the Democratic Party he did seek to beseech.
And the ruling junta in Burma shot dead a thousand or more, left them like bathers lying prone on the beach.
In 2008 when I was 54 years old, I instinctively knew that I had had more than enough
The relentless pressure of winning year after year, was seriously making me run out of puff
And the endless burdens of running the club at full speed, had made my daily life feel achingly tough
But we kept on winning and at nine in a row, we still had the ambition to cut it up rough
And we were duly awarded British Club of the Year, our inclusive outlook had made us hot stuff.
And CERN’s Large Hadron Collider was finally plugged in , this was the world’s largest particle accelerator
There was speculation though about the dangers involved, it might just become the world’s largest exterminator
Then the US sub prime market collapsed to the floor, the greed of the banks being the common denominator
And the global economy went into a deadly tailspin, with capitalism itself being the perennial perpetrator
The blogging years
It’s 2009 and at 55 I hung up the managerial hat, we had achieved an unprecedented ten in a row
The club was still celebrating winning Club of the Year, bathing in the accolades and the sweet afterglow
It had been a collective endeavour and after twenty long years, we had reached the pinnacle of the sporting plateau
And our philosophy of inclusion had made us the best of the best, an award winning club and a spectacular show.
2009 also saw the inauguration of the first Afro-American President, a moment to savour after centuries of racialism
But Obama’s first task was to prevent a new Great Depression, to prevent a slide into nationalism and chauvinism
So he bailed out the banks with tax-payers money, while the poor got a dose of penury and pauperism
Meanwhile NASA declared there was water on the moon, which may one day allow for human expansionism.
And in that year of ‘09 I went back to Australia, to visit my mother for the very last time
The claws of dementia were sinking in deeply, strangling her memories like a piece of tight twine
My father had already succumbed to Alzheimer’s, I had zero expectations things would turn out just fine
So I resigned myself to savouring those diminishing moments, avoiding the temptation to mourn or to pine
On that last trip to Australia I had time to reflect, on the highs and lows of my time in the sun
As a youth I had criss-crossed that huge sunburnt country, without a care in the world whilst I sought out my fun
I had witnessed the worst of the land they call Lucky, and how the indigenous Australians had been put to the gun
And as I bussed my way back up to the Central Australia, I knew those chapters of my life were now fully done
But for the Aboriginal communities that had been run off their land, they were the ongoing victims of a White hit and run.
2010 came along and at 56 years of age I was readjusting into a life rather less maniacal
London Progress was transferred to the Greenhouse Sports Charity, and I started enjoying a well earned sabbatical
The intense pressures of winning year after year, subsided into something rather more pleasingly agreeable
And I developed a new hobby in the big blogosphere, where I could air my views both personal and political
Sporting Polemics became my online world to develop, where I began to build a collection most sharply polemical
And the ramifications of the global crisis continued to echo, from the old communist east through to the capitalist west
Europe adopted the austerity road for its citizens, whilst President Obama thought the Keynesian road might be best
Either way, those with the least had to pay the real cost, as their personal finances became increasingly stressed
And though the cause of the meltdown was capitalism itself, this fact was never even remotely addressed.
And the bailouts of the banks were unleashed to the full, whilst the workers waited in vain for an official inquest.
It’s 2011 and at 57, my polemical blogging took off, quite beyond my early and wildest expectations
And I was thoroughly enjoying the change in my life, and relishing a future of polemical confrontations
The British sporting world had long proved a most staid institution, riddled with prejudice and middle-class expectations
And it was patently obvious that what was urgently required, were some socially disruptive and disorderly innovations
Innovations to cut through to the population at large, to sweep away the mountain of official regulations
And now that Sporting Polemics was running full steam, I could make some controversial and provocative declarations.
Then an earthquake and tsunami hit the Fukushima nuclear plant, causing a mountain of civilian and industrial devastation
And tons of nuclear materials were dumped into the ocean, causing widespread fear of continued contamination
The several reactors went into a meltdown that could not be controlled, causing a tsunami of deep recriminations
And the nuclear industry was forced to stop and reflect, to initiate yet another round of systemic modifications
Meanwhile the punk Pussy Riot was performing in Russia, with some outrageously confrontational artistic provocations.
Then in Norway, a white supremacist went on a murderous killing spree, slaying sixty eight youngsters who were peacefully meeting
And the Arab Spring swept across their part of the world, though the gains proved marginal and frustratingly fleeting
Then the Obama administration located Osama Bin Laden, and delivered him a contentious but terminal greeting,
Then London riots broke out when the police executed an unarmed young man, who they claim had been dealing and criminally cheating
And the Occupy Movement exploded into life, but the protesters took a prolonged and political beating
In 2012 and at the age of 58 I had time to reflect on the future of ping, and how to develop a more open opportunity
The fragments of London Progress had evolved in many wonderful ways, the elite, the club and the wider community
In the capital there was Greenhouse and the London Academy, which both captured trophies with a swashbuckling impunity
And in Brighton there was an amazing new sporting development, as the club became an official asylum and refugee sanctuary
As for me, I inadvertently built a new West London hub, where fun filled Fridays became a guaranteed certainty
And where players of every conceivable skill and ambition, created a competitive yet fully integrated community.
Then Britain hosted the Olympic Games with a solemn promise made, to get the sedentary nation active again
But after the circus left town the couch was still king, and the sporting renaissance soon started to wane
Sport still remained the preserve of the affluent classes who had the money to play and to practice and train
But for the millions of Brits caught in the trap of low wages, they were forced by circumstance to generally abstain
Then Superstorm Sandy hit New York and the whole Eastern Seaboard, with Wall Street locked down for a number of days
And the Afghan Taleban shot Malala in the head, yet one more example of their misogynist and murderous ways
Then the Curiosity Rover successfully landed on Mars, an exploratory achievement that received mountains of praise
And the Muslim Brotherhood won the Egyptian elections, would it be secular dictatorship or a Sharia Law phase?
And Facebook went public on the New York exchange, in order to monetize our social media malaise.
In 2013 and at 59 years of age, I was furiously blogging as if there was no tomorrow
My Polemics had now evolved well beyond sport, I was creating a one man masterly manifesto
The blogs now included political and economic critiques, and a socio-political and philosophical portfolio
But most rewarding of all was the reviewing of fiction, from this now aging and fading ex-Maoist politico
And in 2013 Syria was in the global spotlight, the country was slipping out of the government’s grasp
Was it a revolution, it was difficult to gauge, but so many Syrians would shortly take their last gasp
Then Mandela died with celebrity status, this brazen volte face would be difficult to surpass
Western leaders had long accused Mandela of terrorist crimes, now their moral hypocrisy was really first class
And the Black Lives Matter hashtag came into being, the Civil Rights movement was right back on task
Meanwhile Lance Armstrong was forced to admit to his cheating, our cycling hero was now on his arse.
In 2014 and now 60 years old, it seemed my urge to win had still not been sated
I was still keen to collect some shiny new medals, even though I knew winning to be much over-rated
All my efforts were now centred on the National School Championships, my thirst for the podium had not yet abated
And over that decade ten national medals came flying my way, and the kids and their parents were clearly elated.
Then a surprise birthday gathering was cunningly organised, and the effort was great and greatly appreciated
To see my old Progress pals gathered together was a joy, though some got a little too quickly inebriated
And amidst the celebrations some fine speeches were made, they were heartfelt and most beautifully articulated
And I went home most satisfied that late summer evening, my first sixty years had been collectively celebrated.
And in that very same year, Scotland voted to stay in the UK but the pulse for independence would surely be back
Then Hong Kong erupted into passionate demonstrations, as the ‘special administrative region’ was put to the rack
And in India the Bharatiya Janata Party swept into power, a signal that non-Hindus could be in for the sack
Then Ebola hit the impoverished West African states, which forced their struggling economies completely off track
Whilst ISIS declared an Islamic Caliphate in the Levant, seizing swathes of territory across Syria and Iraq
Meanwhile Russia annexed Crimea in ‘defence of the Russian speaking people’, and then sat back and waited for the predictable flak.
It’s 2015 and at 61 years of age, life had broadened beyond the facile addiction of winning
There was time enough now to enjoy some other things in my life, an enhanced world of art and literature was beginning
Of course I still hadn’t fully escaped the micro world of ping, with its obsessions with chopping and smashing and spinning
But a more healthy balance was now being struck, I was even observed laughing and grinning.
And in 2015 as the climate emergency picked up in pace, 195 countries signed the Paris Climate Accord
Though Extinction Rebellion claimed that if human life was to hold, more radical actions must now be explored
But the fossil fuel industries and the rest of the corporates, just shrugged their shoulders and looked rather bored.
And in Syria’s civil war where the bodies piled higher, Russia intervened to crush the dissent
It was the most complex situation with many factions involved, each faction refused to pause or relent
Whilst Saudi Arabia intervened in the civil war in Yemen, which added more fuel to the national torment
And China expanded in the South China Seas, but they did so without any neighbouring consent
Meanwhile the EU rebuffed Greece’s pleas for relief, the Euro bankers insisted not even one cent
Then ISIS hit France in a series of lethal attacks, creating terror which was their intended intent
But Merkel opened up the borders to a million refugees, an act of altruism that felt heaven sent
And now it is 2016 and at 62 years of age, it’s still a turbulent world with a mixed bag of tricks
Donald Trump unexpectedly won the presidential election, though his opponents thought it might be a Russian state fix
And the Columbian government struck a deal with its FARC Marxist rebels, a pains-taking deal that might actually stick
But the Syrian civil war dragged on for another bleak year, fluctuating fortunes thrown into the mix
Meanwhile the Trans Pacific Partnership collapsed in a heap, as the incoming Trump hit the trade deal for six
And in an electoral explosion Britain voted for Brexit, the pan European dream was looking quite sick
But I’m still preoccupied with my West London Ping, where we gave our opponents some super swift kicks.
It was 2017 and at the age of 63, it felt like the world was heading down the authoritarian drain
Trump was now ensconced in the presidential House, for the peoples of colour that could only mean pain
And Trump’s spiteful withdrawal from the Paris Accords was either inept or criminally insane
And his America First rhetoric was worryingly oppressive, was this the bleatings of a new fascist reign?
Meanwhile in Europe the forces of reaction were feeling quite bold, in Poland and Hungary and in Germany as well
And Le Pen was still hovering in the background in France, the fascists were returning from their holiday in hell
And in Britain the government created ‘a hostile environment’, for the Windrush Generation it was an ominous bell
And in India and Russia and China and Brazil, the nationalist cacophony had started to swell
But all eyes were now on the United States of America, where the stench of fascism crept from under its shell
And my comfortable life with my pinging and blogging, had come under the shadow of a menacing cartel.
In 2018 when I turned 64, I was reminded of the words of that inane Beatles song
A time to reflect on life’s little journey, the things that went right and the things that went wrong
Though such introspection was really just pure self-indulgence, it’s a game of chance whether you’re getting along
The colour of one’s skin and the place where you’re born, it’s determined by history whose ripples are strong
For most, life is just a matter of survival, while a few have the luxury of playing ping pong
And though ‘we strut this stage full of sound and fury’, it’s all rather temporary and it doesn’t last long.
So what was going down in my sixty-forth year, was it a year to rejoice or year full of fear
Well there was more civil unrest in cash strapped Venezuela, whose socialist policies they attempted to smear
And in Yemen where the US were backing the Saudis, their anti Iranian motives would shortly come clear
And Trump tweeted he would now abandon the Iran’s nuclear deal, and Mossad did a mighty big cheer
Then the Me Too movement swept over the lands, but the misogynists could only grumble and sneer.
2019 arrived and at 65 years of age, the planet was really boiling and burning
From the Americas and Europe and Australasia too, we humans just seemed to refuse to be learning
And while the nations talked of zero fossil fuel emissions, the oil companies just kept on drilling and earning
There with droughts and floods and raging fires aplenty, had we humans reached the point of no returning
And to watch those polar ice-caps melting away, it was more than just a little concerning.
On the ping pong front things were looking good, we created a series of tournaments for the community
The idea was to keep them cheap and bureaucracy free, thus creating a brand new open door opportunity
The Governing Body didn’t seem to like them much, despite their usual platitudes of inclusion and equality
But we marched on relentless under the banner of London Ping, in an exciting new era of ping pong unity
And every tournament was full to the rafters and beyond, so we proceeded with joy and total impunity.
Then in 2020 at the age of 66 years came the Big Event, as the world went under to a viral pandemic
Bigger even than perhaps than the collapse of the Soviet Union, whose internal contradictions were deeply systemic
But in the ensuing series of mandatory lockdowns, I was able to concentrate on my developing polemic
I published my poems from over the decade, I was starting to look like a real academic
And I called the collection Alphabet Soup, it was my very own antidote to the new epidemic.
The cause of the pandemic was far from certain, some say it came from some tasty boiled bats
But did it come from the wild or from a government lab, don’t both asking the big bureaucrats
The pharmaceuticals got to work on the vaccines quick smart, for that they deserve some hearty congrats
Though many were suspicious of the new chemical jab, don’t trust those scientists in their white coats and hats
But for me the pandemic was a warning of dire things to come, if we keep on destroying nature’s wild habitats.
The pandemic definitely gave the world one hell of a shake, the old ways of operating may no longer suffice
Commuting to the office five days every week, try working from home was the new government advice
And the pandemic shone a spotlight on the world’s inequalities, with the poorest making the big sacrifice
Now our governments are talking about ‘Building Back Better’, best not to fall for their talk of a new paradise.
And in 2020 George Floyd was cynically murdered, yet one more African American pays the ultimate price.
So here we all are in Twenty Twenty-One, and there is talk at the WEF of a Great Global Reset
The right wing conspiracy theorists don’t like it one bit, and the Left say it’s just words they’ll quickly forget
They talk of empowerment and the end of social inequalities, but their soaring profits give us cause to reflect
If they’re really that serious about a post-pandemic new dawn, a Universal Basic Income would be a guaranteed bet
And pass on the benefits from the next wave of automation, a four day week would be a welcome asset
And if they’re genuinely intent on a new economic world order, it’s time to cancel the developing world’s debt.
Closer to home, I’ve been coming out from under my quarantine shell, and playing ping pong on my favourite outdoor tables
This feels like the essence of community ping, it gives social inclusion a meaningful new label
Just meet up with your buddies with a bat in your hand, there are no regulations to say you’re unable
And after a couple of hours of whipping your mates, its time for some falafel or a smoked salmon bagel
And now I am just short of my three score and ten, and I’ve tracked my life from my days in the cradle
And if the gods of good fortune are smiling on me, I’ll finish the job in three years if I’m able
And though I’ve tried my very best to keep the chronology true, without deliberately departing from my official timetable
I reluctantly accept my memory may be flexible and flawed, so parts of my work may just lapse into fable
Though the spirit of my endeavour has been to tell a true story, and I now look forward to your honest appraisal.
So what can we expect in the coming three years, will we continue to retreat into our old national borders
Or will our capitalist globalisation continue apace, spreading deeper and wider and broader
Will the existing pattern of winners and losers create a patchwork of expanding global disorders
Will democratic norms still hold sway in the West, or will we succumb to a series of fascistic new orders
Perhaps civilisation will collapse under the dead weight of its own contradictions, and revert back to hunters and scavengers and hoarders
To be continued in 2024
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