DAY 19

January 7th, 2013 § 0 comments

and the first of 2013 – a time for resolutions. What? I shall try, not to blog more frequently, but with more quality. As Lenin (pictured) said: ‘Better fewer but better’

‘Lenin Tribune’ by El Lissitzky

Or, as Garbo put it in Ninotchka, ‘There are going to be fewer but better Russians.’

Have I quoted from Seumas Milne before? If not, only through carelessness, as he seems to me the best commentator around – the thinking man’s Robert Fisk. Lucky for the Guardian. So here are his prediction sor 2013, shaelessly stolen from ‘Comment is Free’:

‘Some things are certain, others only likely. In Britain, the full force of public service and benefit cuts will hit the poorest hardest as living standards fall for tens of millions. The economy will sputter and could yet shrink again, partly as a result. The social unrest predicted by northern council leaders is a given – only the form and scale in question. Conflict within the coalition and Tory party, especially over Europe, will deepen.
The crisis in the eurozone will erupt again, despite the autumn’s market stabilisation, because the underlying causes are unresolved and austerity is making them worse. Political polarisation will increase across the continent, at the ballot box and on the streets. Meanwhile, whatever happens to Hugo Chávez, most of Latin America and China will carry on growing and slashing poverty – either because they’ve turned their back on a failed neoliberal model or ignored its key prescriptions in the first place.
The greatest danger – and hope of change – will be in the Middle East. Short of a diplomatic breakthrough, the threat of a US or Israeli attack on Iran is likely to be ratcheted up next summer. And unless negotiation can halt Syria’s civil war, the sectarian bloodletting will spread – regardless of Assad’s fate – and be accelerated by growing western and Gulf regime intervention. But several of those autocracies themselves face increasing unrest: so expect another Arab police state to totter or fall before long.

Very upset to hear of the death of Mary McIntosh, lesbian sociologist, one of my oldest friends (as we once calculated). Will post an obit when one comes through.

It’s the time of year when I begin to earn a pittance for teaching at King’s College London (hist of math if you want to know) and it seems a good moment to bite the hand that feeds. It is, after all, the nearest hand available for biting. In fact, I used to think KCL was a mediocre college; but it isn’t. The students are a pleasant crowd, the maths department seem good; often I see good reports of useful, even contestatory work being done by people at KCL. And of course there’s Alex Callinicos, the famous philosopher and SWP hack, who consistently attacks the government’s lackeys and carries on the class war. His presence at King’s always astonishes me – long may he continue there and long may his acolytes sell the Socialist Worker on its doorstep.

No, the side of King’s which is distasteful is, by general agreement, its self-presentation and presumably those who are responsible for it. Having pushed Rosalynd Franklyn out in the 1950s (‘Kings has neither foreigners nor Jews’ she wrote), it has gone on to put up plaques and name buildings for her; having eaten up Guy’s it has done the same for my remote ancestor. Thomas Hodgkin, similarly pushed out by Guy’s in the 1840s. If you look along the portraits of alumni etc on the Strand, (Virginia Woolf, Derek Jarman), how many have been asked for their permission to take part in a KCL marketing campaign? King’s shamelessly recruits dead graduates – its own and those of its affiliates – to promote its excellence. Perhaps the worst case is the unfortunate Keats, who (having trained as an apothecary at Guy’s) now has the college teaching webpages (King’s E-learning And Teaching Service, geddit?) named after him. My heart aches, as of hemlock I had drunk…

Well, I enjoyed getting that off my chest.  Let’s have, as a new year poem, Brecht’s ‘A Worker Reads History’. I’m afraid I don’t have the German at the moment, despite my skill in composing in columns:

 Who built the seven gates of Thebes?
 The books are filled with names of kings.
 Was it the kings who hauled the craggy blocks of stone?
 And Babylon, so many times destroyed.
 Who built the city up each time? In which of Lima's houses,
 That city glittering with gold, lived those who built it?
 In the evening when the Chinese wall was finished
 Where did the masons go? Imperial Rome
 Is full of arcs of triumph. Who reared them up? Over whom
 Did the Caesars triumph? Byzantium lives in song.
 Were all her dwellings palaces? And even in Atlantis of the legend
 The night the seas rushed in,
 The drowning men still bellowed for their slaves.

 Young Alexander conquered India.
 He alone?
 Caesar beat the Gauls.
 Was there not even a cook in his army?
 Phillip of Spain wept as his fleet
 was sunk and destroyed. Were there no other tears?
 Frederick the Greek triumphed in the Seven Years War.
 Who triumphed with him?

 Each page a victory
 At whose expense the victory ball?
 Every ten years a great man,
 Who paid the piper?

 So many particulars.
 So many questions.

If that’s a sombre note to close with, here’s Janis Joplin singing ‘Me and my Bobby McGee’. (Yes, I heard a great Bach solo cello concert last weekend, but I play what I feel like at the instant, it’s more Zen).

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