Aisha Harris, writing at Slate, is worried by the media coverage of Charles Ramsey:
“Charles Ramsey, the man who helped rescue three Cleveland women presumed dead after going missing a decade ago, has become an instant Internet meme. It’s hardly surprising—the interviews he gave yesterday provide plenty of fodder for a viral video, including memorable soundbites (“I was eatin’ my McDonald’s”) and lots of enthusiastic gestures. But as Miles Klee and Connor Simpson have noted, Ramsey’s heroism is quickly being overshadowed by the public’s desire to laugh at and autotune his story, and that’s a shame. Ramsey has become the latest in a fairly recent trend of “hilarious” black neighbors, unwitting Internet celebrities whose appeal seems rooted in a ‘colorful’ style that is always immediately recognizable as poor or working-class…
“…It’s difficult to watch these videos and not sense that their popularity has something to do with a persistent, if unconscious, desire to see black people perform. Even before the genuinely heroic Ramsey came along, some viewers had expressed concern that the laughter directed at people like Sweet Brown plays into the most basic stereotyping of blacks as simple-minded ramblers living in the ‘ghetto, socially out of step with the rest of educated America. Black or white, seeing Clark and Dodson merely as funny instances of random poor people talking nonsense is disrespectful at best. And shushing away the question of race seems like wishful thinking.”
Perhaps surprisingly, Gary Younge at the Guardian takes the opposite view:
“Millions in America talk like him. But rarely do we hear them unless they are on Maury, Jerry Springer or America’s Most Wanted, the butt of some internet joke or testifying to a shooting in their neighbourhoods. Working-class African Americans are generally wheeled on as exemplars of collective dysfunction. So when Ramsey emerges as heroic, humane, empathetic, funny, compelling, generous and smart, there is a moment of cognitive dissonance on a grand scale. Here is a man with a criminal past and a crime-fighting present…
“…Unvarnished and un-selfconscious, charming and compelling, he reminds me of none so much as Muhammad Ali in his prime, who said: I am America. I am the part you won’t recognise. But get used to me. Black, confident, cocky.
“I’m looking forward to getting used to Charles Ramsey.”
If you’re one of the few people who hasn’t yet seen the film of Mr Ramsey in full flow, you can judge for yourself:
P.S: now there’s a song as well.
Yet another attempt to suggest that the Marxist notion of class is all out of date (yawn)…
…NB: this item included purely for the purposes of entertainment:
Class examined “in a brand new way”
Mike Savage from the London School of Economics and Fiona Devine from the University of Manchester describe their findings from The Great British Class Survey. Their results identify a new model of class with seven classes ranging from the Elite at the top to a ‘Precariat’ at the bottom.
In January 2011, with the help of BBC Lab UK, we asked the BBC audience to complete a unique questionnaire on different dimensions of class.
“We now have a much more complex class system”
We devised a new way of measuring class, which doesn’t define class just by the job that you do, but by the different kinds of economic, cultural and social resources or ‘capitals’ that people possess.
We asked people about their income, the value of their home and savings, which together is known as ‘economic capital’, their cultural interests and activities, known as ‘cultural capital’ and the number and status of people they know, which is called ‘social capital’.
Amazingly, more than 160,000 of you completed the survey. We now have one of the largest ever studies of class in Great Britain.
The results to date
Our new model includes seven classes.
What class are you?
- The full class survey takes about 25 minutes and covers wealth and job type, interests and social circle
- Compare your score to the nation’s
- Receive a personalised coat-of-arms
- Elite: This is the most privileged class in Great Britain who have high levels of all three capitals. Their high amount of economic capital sets them apart from everyone else.
- Established Middle Class: Members of this class have high levels of all three capitals although not as high as the Elite. They are a gregarious and culturally engaged class.
- Technical Middle Class: This is a new, small class with high economic capital but seem less culturally engaged. They have relatively few social contacts and so are less socially engaged.
- New Affluent Workers: This class has medium levels of economic capital and higher levels of cultural and social capital. They are a young and active group.
- Emergent Service Workers: This new class has low economic capital but has high levels of ‘emerging’ cultural capital and high social capital. This group are young and often found in urban areas.
- Traditional Working Class: This class scores low on all forms of the three capitals although they are not the poorest group. The average age of this class is older than the others.
- Precariat: This is the most deprived class of all with low levels of economic, cultural and social capital. The everyday lives of members of this class are precarious.
Other unique findings
- Twentieth-century middle-class and working-class stereotypes are out of date. Only 39% of participants fit into the Established Middle Class and Traditional Working Class categories.
“The very rich and very poor are still with us in the 21st Century”
- The traditional working class is changing. It’s smaller than it was in the past. The new generation are more likely to be Affluent Workers or Emergent Service Workers.
- People consume culture in a complicated way. The Technical Middle Class are less culturally engaged while emergent service workers participate in various activities.
- The extremes of our class system are very important. The Elite and Precariat often get forgotten with more focus on the middle and working classes. We’ve discovered detailed findings about them.
What did we measure?
People tend to think they belong to a particular class on the basis of their job and income. These are aspects of economic capital. Sociologists think that your class is indicated by your cultural capital and social capital. Our analysis looked at the relationship between economic, cultural and social capital.
The findings have been published in the journal Sociology and were presented at a conference of the British Sociological Association.
Above: it’s about them – or at least it should be
Ballot papers for the Unite general secretary election are going out now. If any member hasn’t received one by Wednesday 5 April, they should contact the Unite ballot enquiry service.
The first thing that will strike many members is that in their election addresses, both candidates make personal attacks on each other – something that has hitherto been considered very bad form in Unite elections. The challenger Jerry Hicks accuses the incumbent Len McCluskey of holding an unnecessary election in order to hang on to power, and of being a bureaucrat who’s never led a real fight. McCluskey describes Hicks as someone who’s played no role in the union in recent years, as a “political opportunist” without a clear agenda and who is backed by “the discredited Socialist Workers Party.”
None of this is very seemly, but is probably inevitable when there are just two candidates, both claiming to be on the left and with no major policy differences between them. It should also be noted that Hicks and his supporters have been making highly personal attacks on McCluskey both verbally and in print, ever since the election was announced.
As regular readers will have already worked out, I’ll be voting for McCluskey. That’s despite the fact that on two questions (whether this election is really necessary and the Gen Sec being on the average wage of the members) I agree with Hicks.
So why vote for McCluskey? Firstly, in my opinion, he’s been an effective General Secretary who has developed and begun to implement a serious strategy for reversing the decline of the union. He has supported members in struggle (no dispute has been repudiated under his leadership), is radically restructuring the union with an emphasis upon workplace branches where possible (something Hicks seems to oppose – but more on that shortly) and has begun to implement a new political strategy that involves fighting for the union’s policies within the Labour Party rather than writing out a blank cheque (and again, Hicks is completely unclear on the Labour link).
In my view, questions like branch re-organisation and (re)building a functioning industrial and political structure for the union, are far more important than the General Secretary’s salary, or indeed, the election of officials (accountability of officials is the real issue in Unite at the moment, it seems to me).
In fact, if you examine Hick’s election address, it’s little more than a not very coherent wish-list of often quite vague demands and aspirations, together with whinging about things like “Emails/letters go(ing) unanswered“(!)
Let’s take some specifics. In his address, Hicks says this about the branch reorganisation: “Workplace branches are logical, but member will agree changes not be told.” What exactly does that mean? Is Hicks actually in favour of the branch reorganisation, or not? I ask this question because not so very long ago, Hicks was saying something slightly different, viz: “ No member will be re-allocated to a Branch without their prior agreement.” If taken literally, that can only mean that an individual member would have the right and ability to veto branch re-organisation – an extraordinary position to take in a democratic, collective organisation!
Or take this, from Hicks’ address: “Confront the anti union laws and support unofficial action where necessary.” EITHER that wording really means campaigning for the repeal of the laws and from time to time, taking a decision to push them to the limit… OR it means a commitment to confront the law on every occasion. If it’s the former, then it’s no different to McCluskey’s position (eg during the London bus dispute last year). If the latter, it’s a recipe for bankrupting the union.
But underlying these specifics is a fundamental misjudgement on the part of Hicks and his supporters, about the present state of the class struggle and about what’s happening in Unite.
Jim Kelly, in his very detailed article, has made many of the points that need to be made, and I look forward to reading a serious reply from Hicks and/or his supporters. In the meanwhile, I’d like to make some further observations:
Underlying much of what Hicks and his supporters say is the assumption that McCluskey and the “bureaucracy” are afraid of militant action by the membership, or are simply so useless that they inevitably sell it out. Now I think the Kelly article deals with this, but let me pose a more general question: why would McCluskey want to sell out strikes? From his own, “bureaucratic” point of view, why would he do it? His position depends ultimately upon his industrial muscle, and he surely knows that. McCluskey has been accused of many things, but being a fool is not usually one of them.
There is a further point to be made here: when unions take industrial action there is no guarantee of winning and the reasons for defeat are not always simply betrayal by the bureaucracy. Some disputes turn out to be practically unwinnable, despite the best efforts of members and bureaucrats alike. It is often very difficult, when you’re not directly involved, to make a judgement as to whether a given dispute could have been won if different, more militant, tactics had been employed. Hicks and his people like to blame every defeat (and, indeed, some partial victories they call “defeats”) on the “bureaucracy” in general and McCluskey in particular. This criticism, if made in good faith, demonstrates an incredible ignorance of how Unite actually operates. It assumes that the General Secretary micro-manages every aspect of union activity, and industrial disputes in particular. This is a fantasy. What the Gen Sec certainly can and should do is set the political direction and overall approach of the union. McCluskey has dome this by, for instance, closing down the mechanism within the union for repudiating disputes.
Unite has some 600 officers working for 10 Regional Secretaries (not the Gen Sec). Not all those officials are in agreement with McCluskey’s “fighting-back union” strategy. Industrial disputes are controlled by the internal structures and committees of the union, not directly by the Gen Sec. Of course, on the big political disputes and campaigns the Gen Sec will have a major say, but he cannot simply close down a dispute or set the “line” or determine strategy or tactics. In Unite, disputes and campaigns really are run by officers and senior reps/stewards. A classic case in point is the public sector pensions dispute last year. Hicks, in his election address, says: “Len McCluskey talks big but failed to back the co-ordinated public sector strike last March. A big mistake!” What Hicks fails to mention is that McCluskey and the Executive of the union gave full backing to the call for strike action in March. It was the lay members and reps in health, local authorities and the MoD who voted (after UNISON and the GMB pulled out) not to strike. But to admit that wouldn’t fit in with the Hicks world-view.
The often craven end result of such a simplistic way of looking at the world was well illustrated at the last AGM of the so-called ‘Grassroots Left’, the group that Hicks formed to back his leadership ambitions. One of the platform speakers was bemoaning the fact that the factory where he works (a major Midlands car plant) had just voted to accept a very poor pay deal. He started to blame this on McCluskey’s “lack of leadership” before momentarily hesitating as a thought seemed to strike him in mid-flow: “well, actually us on the Joint Shop Stewards Committee voted to accept, but only because we felt we had no alternative.” That about sums it up, I think.
The truth is that Hicks and his supporters are not fit and proper people to be running Unite. Those of us who’ll be voting for Len McCluskey are doing so with varying degrees of criticism, but we all recognise that his leadership has been generally positive and that his strategy for reversing decline and building a “fighting-back union” is the only coherent way forward on offer in this election.
Above: Suzanne Moore
Below: the start of Woman’s Hour’s list of the 100 most powerful women in the UK today.
The Woman’s Hour list proves there is nothing soft about real power
Smug self-congratulation is not a male prerogative. This week we had the Baftas, the Fry/Ross/whoever love-in where successful people applaud themselves stupid. Such ceremonies are now where women’s frocks are then judged right or wrong by a woman who freely admits hating her own body, never mind anyone else: Liz Jones. Still, it’s only showbusiness.
I did not expect such abject smugness from Woman’s Hour, even though I had refused to go to their awards do as I thought their power list of the top 100 women was entirely pointless. Anything that celebrates women but does not include prosecco is usually as dull as dishwater. Listening to the programme, though, was worse than dull. It was dire.
Still, a power list of women, not people. Radical? Well Emma Goldman must be turning in her grave. The most powerful woman in Britain is the Queen. Number two is Theresa May and number three is a rich banker. Busting the stereotypes of power was clearly not the raison d’être of this list. But this really takes the biscuit – homemade, of course, by some Mumsnet guru with 18 children who runs a hedge fund in between trips to CERN.
I jest, but not much. Of course there were some noble names but they don’t need more bigging up. There are two types of women: those who make it and help other women and those who pull the ladder back up. But then power is a slippery concept. We have all read 50 Shades of Grey, after all. Hence the waffle about “soft power”, a term used by sociologist Joseph Nye. Soft power is coercive, collaborative, communicative – we girls are good at this sort of thing. Hard power – politics, war, finance – that’s tougher.
The list confirms that the best way to get power is to inherit it, like the Queen or Elisabeth Murdoch. Also try to be white, rich and go to private school. Or you can be like Theresa May – happy to sit in a cabinet with few women and sign off policies that penalise other less fortunate women.
None of this would be made better, some of the panellists said, by quotas; they were against them. Alexandra Shulman boasted of having a black girl working in her office. Amazing! The judges also considered Victoria Beckham more worthy than PJ Harvey. Caitlin Moran, who made 15-year-old girls think feminism could be cool and a bit of a laugh, did not feature either.
Powerful women, I guess, are exceptional. And behind every powerful woman are other women – cleaners, nannies. But they don’t count. Care is not power, apparently, and this list showed us again going backwards. No amount of sweet talk about networking from guest Julia Hobsbawm changes that. These are hard times for women: the proportion of women at the top of public life (media, politics, business) is stuck at 22%, and for younger women it is worse. Does networking turn into real power? Not from this evidence. With such an innately conservative and corporate list, “soft power” comes to resemble being someone’s lovely assistant.
Not represented at all were the brave women who spoke out about Jimmy Savile; those who campaign against domestic violence. No Doreen Lawrence. No Margaret Thatcher, whose ideology remains powerful. And few young women.
I don’t want to get too Foucauldian about this – well, I do – but power is a web, a culture, a discourse that always has to be challenged. To embody it in a dumb list is to reinforce the status quo absolutely. And women continue to do the media’s dirty work for them: self-compiling lists of experts so that women may appear on serious shows from time to time, as researchers seem unable to find women scientists or economists.
This power list is a sign of the times. Don’t be young, gifted and black. Try not to be working class, either. Networking cannot replace quotas. Or sexual politics. Too many of the women involved in this enterprise seem happy designing their own ceiling, brick by glass brick. They would like women to be magically more powerful, but have no way of explaining how this might happen Still, it’s Woman’s Hour: I wasn’t expecting the SCUM Manifesto read out by Mary Berry, though that would have been good. But I did expect a conversation on how power might be distributed.
Power is taken, not earned, as they kept insisting. This fiasco was a painful reminder of the weak position so many women are in. I am not polite, and I am not thankful for the small mercies of big businesswomen. Power is not given. We wrench it away. For where there is power, there is resistance. A list of resistance. Now that would be powerful.
Reblogged from Tendance Coatsey:
Chokri Belaid: Tunisian Patriot, Marxist and Secularist Killed by Islamists.
At the of January Chokri Belaïd wrote, “Official violence and that of the militias is present, with the political assassination in Tataouine, and warnings and calls for the liquidation of political competitors without the authorities responding. The situation that gave birth to December 17, 2010 is still current.” (Hat-tip Paul F)
His party the Mouvement des patriotes démocrates (حركة الوطنيون الديمقراطيون) is Marxist, pan-Arab and Secularist.
It is part of the Front Populaire, (الجبهة الشعبية) ou Front populaire pour la réalisation des objectifs de la révolution (الجبهة الشعبية لتحقيق أهداف الثورة) * which unites left parties in opposition to the Ennahdha, Islamist-led Tunisian government.
Belaid has been described as the “bête noire” of the Islamists, particularly after the lawyer defended freedom of expression, and the film Persepolis.
On Wednesday morning he was shot outside his front door.
Tunisia Live reports,
Leftist politician and leader of the Popular Front coalition Chokri Belaid was shot to death this morning outside of his home.
Shortly after news of his assassination consumed the airwaves and social media, protesters took to the streets to express their indignation over Belaid’s assassination.
Over the course of the day, demonstrators made their way to the Interior Ministry in Tunis’ main thoroughfare, Habib Bourguiba avenue, where they showed solidarity with Belaid and chanted slogans against the ruling Ennahdha party.
The situation turned violent at around 2:30 p.m. with police resorting to tear gas and batons to empty out and lockdown Habib Bourguiba avenue.
Protests have spread across the country, and some of Ennahdha’s regional headquarters have been attacked.
As today’s General Strike is underway this is what people are saying,
They are also crying anti-Ennahdha slogans, such as “Ghannouchi (Ennahdha founder), you are a predator,” “dégage (get out, in
French),” “This will be the last day for this government,” and “Bring down the oppressor of the people, bring down the Brotherhood party.”
Belaïd’s family openly accuse that government of responsibility.
Le Monde reports,
L’assassinat de Chokri Belaïd n’a pas été revendiqué. Mais partisans et sympathisants de l’opposition dénoncent déjà à l’unisson le “premier assassinat politique“ en Tunisie depuis la chute de l’ancien dirigeant Zine El-AbidineBen Ali en janvier 2011 et affirment : “On a assassiné un démocrate”. Tous les regards se portent en particulier contre Ennahda, ouvertement accusé par la famille d’être responsable du meurtre de l’opposant.
Nobody has claimed responsibility for the assassination of Chokri Belaïd. But opposition supporters and sympathisers have already denounced, in chorus, the “first political assignation in Tunisia since the fall of the former leader, Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011. “They have killed a democrat”, they have declared. All eyes have turned towards Ennahda, openly accused by the deceased’s family of being responsible for the murder.
Le frère du défunt, Abdelmajid Belaïd, a ainsi lancé: “J’accuse (le chef d’Ennhada) ached Ghannouchi d’avoir fait assassiner mon frère”, sans plus d’explication pour étayer cette accusation.
The brother of the deceased, Abdelmajid Belaïd, has launched this charge, ‘I accuse Rached Ghannouchi of the assassination of my bother”, he said, without giving details to back up this accusation.
The Islamist Government has denied that this is the case, deeply regretting the murder.
But as, Nadia Chaaban, (left Tunisian deputy) says,
Tout le monde savait que Chokri Belaïd était menacé. Aucune mesure de protection n’a été prise. En laissant se propager des discours violents dans des espaces tels que les mosquées, ce gouvernement laisse faire et cautionne.
Everybody knew that Chokri Belaïd was under threat. There were no measures taken to protect him. In letting violent speeches (Note, by the Salafists) flourish in such places as mosques, the government has let this happen and endorsed it
Others point to Ennahdha’s ”ambiguous” relations with violent Salafists (Here)
Nor is Ennahdha completely above suspicion.
Their persecution under the Ben Ali regime should not make us forget that even this ‘moderate’ Islamist party has a past acquaintance with violence, for example, in the bombing of tourist hotels in the 1980s.
Last year opposition trade unionist protester, Lotfi Naguedh, was killed fighting with Ennahdha thugs.
The most that one say with certainty, on the present evidence, is that this murder did not happen in a political vacuum and that the ruling Islamists did not protect its opponent.
In 2011 George Galloway said of this party and of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood,
I welcome the imminent victory of the Islamic movements in Egypt and Tunisia, which I think will provide very good governments on the Turkish model.
The once savagely repressed progressive Islamist party An-Nahda (Ennahdha) won the Tunisian elections this week on a platform of pluralist democracy, social justice and national independence.
His paper has frequently offered space to Ennahdha supporters.
The governing coalition of secularist and Islamist parties is now in its second year. Despite their differences, these parties have clearly demonstrated the possibility of reconciliation, co-operation and partnership between moderate Islamists and moderate secularists, an important model for the Arab world.
Others who claim to be on (Western) the left, have, with varying degrees of hostility, judged the Tunisian secular opposition, and left, harshly.
The latest news is that a “technocratic” government of national unity it being formed around Ennahdha.
Many Tunisians seem not to share Milne or Galloway’s assessment of the party.
The coming days will see them out r protesting against Ennahdha in force.
With one death already this promises to be a very serious challenge.
* Front Populaire.
- Parti des travailleurs tunisiens de Hamma Hammami
- Parti du travail patriotique et démocratique, aile menée par Mohamed Jmour
- Mouvement des patriotes démocrates de Chokri Belaïd
- Patriotes démocrates (Watad) de Jamel Lazhar
- Parti de la lutte progressiste de Mohamed Lassoued
- Ligue de la gauche ouvrière de Jalel Ben Brik Zoghlami, trotskiste
- Parti populaire pour la liberté et le progrès de Jelloul Azzouna, socialiste
- Front populaire unioniste d’Amor Mejri, panarabe marxiste
- Mouvement du peuple de Mohamed Brahmi, nationaliste arabe nassérien
- Mouvement Baath d’Othmen Bel Haj Amor, nationaliste arabe baasiste
- Parti d’avant-garde arabe démocratique de Kheireddine Souabni, nationaliste arabe baasiste
- Tunisie verte d’Abdelkader Zitouni, écologiste
Written by Andrew Coates
Wodehouse’s idyllic world can never stale. He will continue to release future generations from captivity that may be more irksome than our own. He has made a world for us to live in and delight in - Evelyn Waugh
Most of the people whom Wodehouse intends as sympathetic characters are parasites and some of them plain imbeciles, but very few of them could be described as immoral - George Orwell
Wodehouse is back on TV (BBC 1, Sundays), in the form of the Blandings stories about Lord Emsworth, his fearsome sister Constance, the ambitious secretary Baxter and Emsworth’s prize sow, The Empress.
Those of you not already aux fait with the Wodehouse oeuvre will have gathered just from the above, that this is pretty lightweight stuff, completely devoid of any pretensions to social commentary or psychological insight. It’s pure entertainment and – more to the point – pure escapism.
Wodehouse’s published writings began in the very early years of the last century and continued right up to his death in 1974, when he left an unfinished manuscript that was published posthumously as Sunset at Blandings. But (as Orwell pointed out) the world of Wodehouse was outdated even by the 1920′s: Emsworth was a throwback to a bygone Edwardian age and Bertie Wooster really died in the corner of some foreign field round about 1915.
Wodehouse’s reputaton has by now just about about recovered from his appalling misjudgement when, living in France in 1941 and having been interned by advancing German forces, he agreed to broadcast some lighthearted “chats” on Nazi radio. These were apolitical in tone and content, but naturally laid him open to the charge (made most forcefully by ‘Cassandra’ of the Daily Mirror) that he’d been a willing tool of Goebbels’ and had agreed to broadcast in order to get himself released. George Orwell considered Wodehouse to have acted like a bloody idiot, but wrote an essay (In Defence of P.G. Wodehouse, February 1945) that strongly defended him against charges of treachery. It turns out that the British authorities reached the same conclusion, but decided not to tell him, and Wodehouse spent the rest of his days brooding in self-imposed exile in America.
When considering what was undoubtably a dreadful error on Wodehouse’s part, it is worth remembering that he was the creator of Sir Roderick Spode, a thoroughly unpleasant bully and demagogue who turns up in several of the Wooster stories, described as “founder and head of the Saviours of Britain, a fascist organisation better known as the Blackshorts.” Not conclusive proof perhaps, but pretty persuasive evidence that Wodehouse had no love of fascism.
But why on earth would any person of even vaguely leftist inclinations actually enjoy these farcical tales of dotty aristocrats, domineering aunts and over-privileged wastrels?
The sheer escapism has a lot to do with it: I know that I am very far from being the only leftie who’s found solace at Blandings Castle and/or the Drones Club when life’s become difficult one way or another. Then there’s the sheer craftsmanship of his plots, and -especially – his use of language.
When Bertie Wooster describes “Aunt calling aunt calling to aunt like mastodons bellowing across primeval swamps” you know you’re in the hands of a writer of comic English to rank alongside Wilde and Dickens. Which, come to think of it, may be why BBC 1′s effort on Sunday was just slightly disappointing: the irreplacable descriptive and narrative voice of Wodehouse himself was missing.