Saturday, 19 February 2011

In defence of the Spirit of Shankly Supporters' Union (Liverpool Football Club)

As far as I'm concerned, without the work of SOS and other similar groups, we'd still be sitting on our hands with regards the ownership issue.  It's abundantly clear that Hicks and Gillett would have hung on for their outrageous asking price whatever the cost to the club in terms of the footballing performance.  At best, SOS and other groups have mobilized a section of the fanbase that was until that point happy to be passive and the owners left as a result of direct pressure applied to them, and this didn't just happen in the city.  This happened around the world.  At worst, at least somebody tried to do something effective themselves instead of waiting for a white knight.  

The sooner working people realize that nothing will change without their direct and decisive action, the better off we'll all be.  Grouping together, working democratically, taking direct action.  These are the core of what will change things for the better for working people, regardless of sex, race or whatever.  Groups like SOS are where ideas form, they're a forum for real change.  Sitting on your hands is not an option and nobody who really identifies themselves with this fanbase can afford to be isolated from such a group.  People who really identify with the club will also identify with the culture that surrounds it. 

It's understandable that people from outside the city can find it harder to identify with that culture, but it's inevitable that people from within the city will be a product of it.  Their ideas will reflect the environment of that city and that culture, a culture that has grown and morphed with the decades.  It's a culture that, as the decades wound on from the 60s onwards, has grown in an environment of deprivation, of decisions taken by moneymen and politicians from further afield devastating lives and communities in the name of money and the ideology that privilege and power breeds. 
It's an environment where, when working men and women have stood up for their jobs, their lives, their city and each other, politicians and the media in the south have demonized them, beaten them down and at one stage sacked their entire democratically elected city council.  It was in the environment of 70s and 80s football hooliganism and years of neglect of the game from politicians, the police and the footballing authorities culminated in a disaster where seemingly the blame for two decades of violence and disorder, and a subsequent European ban on all English clubs was laid at the door of the fans of one club.  It's against this background that, with the city opposing the Tory government at every stage as they sent it to the wall, the needless deaths of 96 fans of the club were paraded across the front pages of the right-wing gutter press as something these people brought on themselves, as something they deserved even though these papers (there were more than one) knew full well that what they were printing were nothing but lies. 

It's no wonder then that a siege mentality of sorts has built up and that people realize that if you want something badly enough, you have to struggle together to achieve the goal.  It's how the club has built its most successful teams, it's how the lies of those newspapers and police and politicians have been challenged and at least partly overturned in the wider public consciousness (although there is obviously still much work to do).  And it's how the departure of Hicks and Gillett was accelerated.  And it will be how the future of working people everywhere will eventually be determined.  Because the people in power will not give up that power willingly.  

The SOS movement grew out of this environment in Liverpool and was initially mostly made up of people from the city.  It should be no great surprise that the group initially viewed things from a Liverpool-centric viewpoint.  But the group has wilfully broadened its horizons.  People are free to join from wherever they are in the world, and are then free to set up a regional group, or to join an already existing one.  And the more people from outside of the city do this, the more they will be represented, the more the whole group will reflect the ideas and requirements of those people.  It's self-evident that when people are exposed to ideas, these ideas influence the person exposed to them.  When different people come together and get to know each other, and see each other's struggles, a new appreciation of them will build up.  But I'm not denying that this is a two-way street. To quote Tony Cliff:-

"To achieve unity between white and black workers the white workers must move toward the black workers and go a mile further. To achieve unity between male and female workers, the male worker must go out of his way to prove that he is not part of the oppressors. Lenin put it very simply in 1902. He wrote that when workers go on strike for higher wages they are simply trade unionists. Only when they go on strike against the beating of Jews or of students are they really socialists.

A strike involving black and white workers helps to undermine racism. A strike strengthens solidarity, and therefore has an impact beyond the immediate issue. The spiritual changes in workers is the most precious result of the strike.

But solidarity can start from an anti-racist demonstration that leads to a feeling of unity with black workers that has an impact on future industrial disputes. The meetings in London in solidarity with the Lawrences are very large, composed of black and white people, and no doubt will have a big impact not only on the attitude of millions to the police but also will inspire increasing solidarity among workers on a whole number of other issues.

A strike in which men and women stand shoulder to shoulder helps to overcome sexism. One should remember the Paris Commune where the women fought brilliantly, causing one British reporter to say that if all the Communards were women they would have won."

And this is the environment we must continue to foster, in order to be able to effectively face any challenges the future might present us.  And if possible, this attitude and environment must go beyond football, to fight the inequities of a system that has allowed banks to take £1 trillion out of our pockets while our libraries, schools, leisure centres, benefits and infrastructure all creak under the weight of 30 or 40 years of neglect.  To fight a system that has allowed men, women and children to be herded into pens like animals, to die and to then be slandered by a press that already despised them because their city tried to stand up for itself.  To fight a tax system that hits the poorest proportionally hardest.  To fight a system that sees jobs and livelihoods as expendable to suit its ideology.  And to fight any future owners of football clubs who want to tear that club away from the community and its fans to make some quick money.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

To the most special person in my life

I’ve made so many mistakes in my life.  Letting myself get so scared of something that is at worst uncomfortable.  Being so stupid and bored that I did something that got me arrested.  Not pushing myself forward at school, with schoolwork, sports or socially.  Wasting my time studying subjects I shouldn’t have started.  Wasting my time at university. 

All of these things have led up to something that I would never, ever call a mistake.  That was meeting you.  There’s a line going from the first mistakes right through all the ones in the middle to the last and I’ve regretted them all in some way in the past, until I realized that if it wasn’t for them I might never have met you, and that would have been the real tragedy because I never knew I could feel this way about anybody until I felt this way about you.  If just one thing had been different before this, then it might never have happened. 

It’s the mistakes I’ve made since then that I regret now.  I’ve messed everything up by thinking I could live on lots of different fronts and balance them all at the same time instead of setting priorities.  I took a lot of things for granted that I probably shouldn’t have and it affected both of us badly.  This is the bit now where words start to fall badly short.  I don’t really know how to say it so it means what I want it to.  I really am sorry if I hurt you in any way.  I’d never mean to hurt you.  I gave my heart and soul to you and now they belong to you, and I’m only half a person without you in my life. 

You’ve always been the most important thing in my life but I didn’t know what that really meant.  Now I do.  I’ve never known anyone like you and I never will again.  I was never as happy as when I was talking to you.  No matter what had happened, everything was better as soon as we talked.  I know that I can be that for you too.  I know that I was wrong and that I was an arsehole.  I wish I could have seen it then so I could have done something about it.  I know I’m a better person than I showed.  I wish I could prove that I’m the person you need me to be.  I love you so much and I want you back.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

On the "Political Correctness Gone Mad" reponse to the Richard Keys and Andy Gray sexism scandal (first posted 25th January 2011)

Right, I can feel a rant coming on here. This might or might not be a slight departure from the subject, eventually. Unfortunately we’ll all too often find that the general public’s reaction to something like this Andy Gray and Richard Keys ballbaggery will be “It’s political correctness gone mad”.

But the response is the most natural in the world. It’s exactly what we should expect really. It’s the reaction that most people will be conditioned for. People will always like to think they’re independent, autonomous and rational.

But the fact is that a combination of factors in modern life has turned them into easily programmable mobile ignorance units. It probably only takes half a generation or so to turn the majority of a society into insular, reactionary mechanoids. We’ve witnessed a gradual dumbing down of news media alongside the introduction of 24-hour rolling news.

Celebrities are constantly pressed for an opinion like they’ve got a fucking clue and now the people who are supposed to be watching the news to be informed end up informing it by being asked to deliver the news themselves, be it in the form of a short vox-pop opinion, a video, a photograph, a comment on a website or whatever.

This has run in parallel to the entrenchment of the individualism Margaret Thatcher introduced into our society during the 80s. The kind of pull-up-the-ladder I’m-alright-Jack fuck-you-mate attitude of the laissez-faire neo-liberal market circle-jerk for billionaires that might just have been the single biggest fraud inflicted on the British people.

It could be said that the newspaper is dying out, but the shitrag that is the Daily Mail still has a circulation in excess of 2 million. The S*n has a circulation in excess of 3 million, The Mirror just over 1 million and The Daily Star almost 800,000. This is pretty formidable power. Sky TV has 10 million subscribers. In this climate of readers and viewers being bombarded with opinion disguised as news, it’s no suprise that those who shout loudest pretty much control the agenda.

And the agenda of those who shout loudest seems to be, to differing degrees of intensity, anti-Europe, anti-science, anti-immigration, anti-gay, anti-union, pro-Christian, anti-Muslim, pro-business. And it’s no surprise at all that this affects people’s ideas. For me (and quite a lot of others), this is how the world works. No newspaper or TV channel would dare to explicitly say that this is the way you should think. They’re much more subtle than that.

TV and the media present a distorted view of reality. There’s a suicide bomber round every corner. Europe is running the country from Brussels, and it’s banning curved bananas or unwrapped sweets or mushy fucking peas. Health and safety has gone mad, banning school ties or fire station poles or fucking candy floss. Or today’s topic of interest, political correctness has gone mad. Christmas is being banned. Baa Baa Black Sheep is being censored. People are having copious amounts of bullshit pumped into their eyes and ears every hour of every day, all their lives. It’s no surprise when it starts to spill out of their mouths. Karl Marx said “It is not consciousness that determines existence, but social existence that determines consciousness.” When the world is looked at like this, it does begin to make sense.

As Mark Steel has said about the Queen Mother, “Others point out that she always looks splendid in her wonderful array of hats. Well of course she does, she’s worth about a hundred million trillion quid, she’s not likely to turn up at Ascot in a bobble hat with “Derby County” on the front.” Surrounded by money and privilege, she’s not likely to turn up at an engagement dressed like that feller Dave round the corner who sells the knickers down the market. And it’s the same when people are exposed to the flood of opinions and ideas that are forced onto their retinas and eardrums 24 hours a day. It’s bound to affect anybody, and especially the people who haven’t been equipped to filter it and evaluate it. It’s all presented as fact. Except often it’s simply made up. And it drives an agenda. It keeps millionaires millionaires and leaders leaders.

And you* afraid, paranoid, hostile to outsiders and pushing their stupid fucking agenda on the telly, in letters columns and on stupid fucking comments on newspaper websites. In fact, forget all that. Just draw a circular arrow in brown crayon and write BULLSHIT along it.

*Not you, obviously. You’re here. Which isn’t out there, in the circlular arrow of bullshit.

On Patrick Barclay's refusal to engage with Liverpool fans in the Roy Hodgson debate (from early January)

Shithouses like Barclay can’t debate. They’re not used to being questioned and think because they’re paid to offer their opinion it makes their opinion more valid. Actual research is neither necessary nor desirable to these people because being right isn’t their goal. Their goal is to sell papers and provide as good a margin for their paymasters as they can manage. Research would detract from this in several ways.

Real research is expensive and time-consuming. Also, their desire not to challenge their readership’s knowledge or prejudices as this is detrimental to sales. Sales and prejudice are what seems to drive the mainstream media. The desire for profit over all. Don’t stray from the pack. Animals that stray from the pack get eaten. And it’s a cycle. These ideas drive sales/ratings/website hits. This makes money. Lets have more of the things that drive sales/ratings/website hits. It’s why every major TV channel has got the same bullshit celebrity/member of the public dances/sings/skates in front of judges while the public call in and pay a quid a minute to vote nonsense show. It’s why we have the same smug, self-satisfied little prick choosing the Christmas number one every year. It’s why the rolling news channels turned the tragedy that was the Raoul Moat affair into a strange hybrid of a circus for whooping, knuckle-dragging cavemen and a live 24-hour shit-your-keks-fest for old women. It’s why every mainstream political party has declared principle to be a thing of the past in favour of the same pressed-suited replicant leader who’s all hand gestures and earnest looks with a complete vaccuum where everything that really matters should be. It’s why every high street looks the same, with a Starbucks and a Subway and a Weatherspoons and a Body Shop and a Carphone Warehouse and a fucking Tesco Express. It’s the constant hunt for the demographic that wouldn’t exist if these people hadn’t moulded it over the past decade or so themselves.

 It must be because everybody in this country is so busy working the longest hours in Europe only to have every security they thought they were investing in pulled out from under them to cushion the fall of the wealthy and to prop up a system that so plainly doesn’t fucking work for anybody but the rich that there’s an allure to having people do things for you, including your thinking. But as most of us here will know, thinking for yourself is so much more satisfying. Thinking for yourself; questioning the status quo, what you were taught at school, what your parents taught you, what politicians and the media tell you, and to understand that most of what they tell you is wrong, or worse, lies; that is the beginning of real liberty.