Precedent for the President.

A few things about Trump and his state visit to Britain, which has been put off ‘indefinitely’.

Following the lunacy of the current President of the United States retweeting not one, but three videos from the Twitter account of extreme British right-wing party Britain First, the calls for Trump to be banned from entering the UK grow louder every day. Now, if he was plain old Donald Trump, loudmouth billionaire extraordinaire, I’m sure it would be easy for the powers that be (namely, one Theresa May) to ban him from our shores because he would be deemed as not a very important person. An insignificant blustering billionaire aiming to build yet another golf course.

But- whether you like it or not -Trump is the President of the United States. Things have changed. His status has changed. His power and reach have changed (and have far-reaching consequences). If he were to be banned from Britain, the precedent set for the President would not bode well for the future.

Also, we cannot pick and choose democracy as and when we feel like it. I disagree with pretty much everything he has said and done since his inauguration, but I feel like banning him from the country would defeat the object and purpose of democracy. He is not some random reality TV wannabe anymore, he is the supposed President of the Free World (whatever that means). He also has some support in this country from those who like his bullish approach and the values he claims to stand for. So banning him is not as simple as it sounds.

It is also a major headache for our Prime Minister Theresa May, because the Brexit deadline is fast approaching (March 2019 will come round sooner than you think) and the government are keen to seal those trade deals with America once we commit hari-kari and separate from the European Union.

I believe Trump should come to Britain for his state visit. He should step off Air Force One and be greeted at Heathrow airport or some unidentified airfield somewhere in the shires. He should be chauffeured through the streets in London. But we should not close all the roads for him and literally give him an easy ride, oh no. If he deigns to grace us with his presence, Trump should be given a first-hand experience of exactly what the majority of the British public really think of him, protests and all. Let him see how most of the British public are not hoodwinked by his bullshit, bluster and bravado. Let him see how vexed and angry we are at his actions and his terrible hair. Stick him on Question Time and put him up against some of the big guns in politics and beyond on the panel. I’ll bring the popcorn as we watch him be bombarded with questions.

There is a possibility that he will love all the attention- after all, there is no such thing as bad publicity in his eyes, and him being heckled and hollered at by members of the British public would be seized upon by his people as a sign of how badly he had been treated or demonised. But no matter- let the state visit go ahead (whenever that will be) and let the games begin.

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Bolt Gone In A Flash.

Well, that was awkward.

Usain Bolt lost the 100 metres final at the World Championships to the one man everybody did not want to beat him: Justin Gatlin.

The American and two-time drug cheat won the race in 9.94 seconds, while Bolt came third behind Christian Coleman. Bolt settling for bronze- when was the last time that happened?

And of course, the world was shooketh.

The atmosphere was like a morgue at London's Olympic Stadium, a marked contrast to the hype and noise beforehand, with pyrotechnics accompanying each athlete as they stepped out onto the main stage. Bolt was cheered to the rafters, Gatlin booed like George Osborne hilariously was at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

I was so busy paying attention to Bolt and Coleman that I did not notice Gatlin storming through to win. I can't say I'm surprised Bolt lost because he's looked rusty in the run-up to the final. He came second to Coleman in his semi-final and had a shocking start in the final, almost lumbering out of the blocks. Normally he has sluggish starts but makes up the pace and eats up the track, but not tonight. Plus, announcing that this would be his last individual race ever must have heaped a shedload of pressure on his shoulders. He wasn't the world beater we know and love. Everyone saw him as immortal and unbeatable (or as close as). He is a Legend of the track- yes, with a capital L -so to see him lose was a deflating way to end his incredible career.

If Bolt lost to Coleman I would not have minded because Coleman is a talent, but Gatlin is always looked at with suspicion because of his past misdemeanours. He had to be Scar to Bolt's Mufasa, didn't he.

But even as Gatlin wallowed in his victory and commentators openly seethed over his win, who was the man on everyone's lips? Bolt. The man was on the mic immediately after the race discussing what happened, what went wrong and what is next after he retires. He was the only one anyone gave a damn about, which was unfair to Gatlin because he ran a brilliant race but nobody was checking for him in the aftermath.

We all know athletics will be poorer without Bolt- the man who single-handedly transformed and saved the sport after it was (and still is) tarnished by endless drug cheats and doping allegations. He may run for Jamaica but let's be honest, every West Indian claimed him as their own whenever he competed. It was as if he represented the entire West Indies because he is such a huge name, a one-man walking billboard, a phenomenon. Everyone was willing him on.

Whatever he does next, I wish him well. It's a shame he did not get the fairytale ending we all hoped for, but at least he didn't have a false start. And we will be waiting and watching for his next move.

© 5th August 2017

Grenfell Tower and the Dignity Debate.

It is almost two weeks since the Grenfell Tower tragedy occurred, a horrific incident that shocked the nation and dominated the news headlines. But ever since this disaster happened, a weird kind of narrative has begun to rear its ugly head. The narrative of ‘respectability politics.’

Some people started commenting on the behaviour of the survivors and the families of those affected, saying that they were not showing enough ‘dignity’. Oh, where do I begin with this…

This is not a time for people to engage in the social and political football of respectability politics. These people are angry, in shock and devastated beyond belief. They have lost their families (entire generations in some cases), their friends, neighbours, everything that they worked for, everything they own including their identities because their passports or ID were destroyed in the blaze. I heard people say that the people affected should ‘think logically’. I have never heard such nonsense in my life. All these people judging the survivors and demanding that they show dignity and be rational while they watch sitting on their sofas is downright insulting. 

Not everything in life requires a dignified response

People use the word ‘dignity’ as a way to patronise and guilt-trip others so that they tone down their reaction, as if they are less worthy of notice if they shout. Dignity is a good thing in certain circumstances, but who are these armchair commentators to tell those who have lost loved ones and everything they know and care about how to exercise self-control? 

The desire to be dignified causes people to react in different ways. It often hinders their natural response because they feel like they have to show that they calm and collected, almost professional. There seems to be a shift over recent years where you cannot show anger about something (even when that reaction is more than justified) as it demonstrates a lack of self-control. Since when did we become robots? 

Furthermore, people from certain backgrounds or demographics have to be careful as anger might get them killed- look at what happened to Eric Garner or Philando Castile. 

I’m tired of the opinion that, in order to be heard or taken seriously, you have to look and behave a certain way. Sometimes, people approach situations with dignity and respect and still get patronised and ignored in equal measure. When the community around Grenfell Tower marched down to Kensington Town Hall the Friday after the fire, some commentators muttered disapprovingly at their actions. Those people need their heads checked to see where their empathy disappeared to (up their backsides, maybe?).

Imagine seeing your whole life reduced to a smoking shell. All your family and friends gone. All you own are the clothes on your back. You look at what used to be your home and are haunted by the events that preceded it. You’re suffering from ‘survivor’s guilt’, traumatised and weary and wanting to burst into tears at any moment but you can’t because you need to keep hoping that all is not lost. And in the aftermath, not one council member came to visit or provide assistance until much, much later. Everything is being done through voluntary and community outlets, not the actual council that hoovers up their council tax every month without fail. Communication is key. Talk to those directly affected face-to-face, not via a carefully-worded statement on BBC News. Don’t do what Theresa May did. 


Yes, they could have been sorting accommodation- but then these are the same people who still have not put together a list of residents who lived in Grenfell Tower. Nearly a fortnight after the fire and the official word is that 79 people died- but there is still no definitive residents list. Despite being told there are no more survivors, people are still desperately hoping to find their loved ones alive. But it is highly unlikely and what’s worse, it is like they never existed. Ironically, they are given no dignity in death because the powers that be are not acknowledging their existence. But some armchair commentators will continue to carry on telling people how to grieve and how to behave. It needs to stop. 

Black Lives Matter.

Sunday. Oxford Circus. London. 9:30am. 

I stood waiting outside the station with a group of friends and a large crowd of strangers. Not much gets me out of bed that early on a Sunday morning- especially in central London -but there I was. Everybody was there for one reason: the Black Lives Matter march. The one held last Friday was a resounding success and now it was our turn. Forty minutes later, we set off down Oxford Street towards the American embassy, back down Oxford Street then onto Marble Arch and Hyde Park.

As the day went on the crowd grew bigger and bigger, almost like people dumped their shopping to join us. It was amazing to see. We were loud, we were proud, we held up traffic on Oxford Street (not something I thought I’d ever say) and we were peaceful. People of all backgrounds, ages, races and cultures- people who might not speak to each other at any other time were marching side by side on that rainy Sunday.

Bus drivers beeped their horns in solidarity (though I’m sure some of them wanted us to just get out of the way). An old woman gave everybody two thumbs-up while sitting upstairs on the bus. Some people we walked past gave us approving nods- very British.

Eventually we left after four hours with the several-thousand strong crowd still chanting and protesting as they walked down Park Lane, past The Dorchester hotel- again, not something I thought I would ever see! Instead of heading home, I had a little wander around London for an hour or two and saw that the protesters had made it to the Houses of Parliament. No rain or terrible British summer (because this is definitely the worst summer this country has ever had) could put them off as they stood there, while bewildered tourists wondered what was going on. 

The next day I discussed the march with a couple of friends. They wanted to attend but could not make it, then one of them declared, ‘I don’t see the point of protesting. What’s the point? Nothing is gonna change anyway.’ I was disappointed by his reaction but also unsurprised. If he had that attitude throughout life, I argued, then what’s the point of getting out of bed in the morning? What’s the point of going to work to pay for your car? You might as well give up. The point of the protest was to show solidarity in the aftermath of the terrible deaths/unlawful killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile in America, as well as highlight the injustices towards black people in this country and worldwide. It was to show that any injustices perpetrated in future will not be taken lying down. It was also to (literally) demonstrate that we are here and we are as important as everyone else. 

There is a long-standing debate concerning the tagline ‘All Lives Matter’. Some people feel that by having the Black Lives Matter movement, it is encouraging a new kind of segregation and racism, to which I reply: No. As one placard said at Sunday’s march: ‘Pro-Black does NOT mean anti-White’. I wish some people would realise this because it’s not that hard to understand. I have friends and family of various races and religions and I am very proud of that fact. Of course all lives matter- that is obvious. Everybody matters on this planet. But I am also proud of my colour and my heritage and there is nothing wrong with showing that. 

The problem is sometimes, underneath the banner of All Lives Matter, black people can tend to be forgotten, unheard or even misrepresented. This may be due to certain people being pushed forward as the voice of our community who, let’s face it, have nothing to do with us. People who think they know everything about us and our culture because they’ve been around us for longer than 10 minutes. Too many times we have seen people represent us who are not of the same colour or, even worse, those who describe themselves as ‘politically black’. Where on earth did this nonsense come from? You CANNOT (and never can be) politically black- you either are or you are not. Being black is not a piece of clothing that you can throw on or off whenever you feel like it. 

It was fantastic to see so many people come together in London and across other cities in Britain (Birmingham and Manchester respectively) to show solidarity, love, peace and positivity while also shining a light on the issues that black people have to face here and around the world. 

The Election Section.

Just a quick note on tomorrow’s general election. The day is nearly upon us where Britain decides who they are voting for. Most people I have spoken to are still undecided and won’t make up their mind until they get in the polling booth. I think I know who I am voting for but, much like this election, anything can happen.

Here are my thoughts on a few things that are important to me and will influence who I vote for. 

1. The NHS. It needs sorting. Get rid of some of the Chief Executives of certain hospital trusts who seem to do nothing of note. Take their massive six-figure salaries and spend it on the essentials. Wards! Beds! Staff! Training of doctors and nurses! The NHS saved my life many times and there is not one person in this country who has not been indebted to this great big creaking system. It is a vital part of the tapestry of British life. It does not need endless budget cuts, nor does it need to be privatised, it needs to (in the words of Dizzee Rascal) fix up, look sharp. An overhaul of some sort but for the love of God, no privatisation because if it is, we are all fucked. There is no other way of putting it. 

2. Housing. We need more affordable housing; places big enough for people to live in and to swing a cat in (figuratively, of course). It’s all well and good building houses but not everyone can afford to get on the property ladder, particularly in London and if you read the load of cobblers known as the Evening Standard newspaper, you’ll understand why. All they do is talk about the ultra-expensive properties owned by oligarchs and the like, which are just like a really fit man: great to look at and fantasise, but (in my case) out of reach. Speaking of London…

3. London. Gentrification is rife and I understand the need to turn certain parts of the capital into more well-kept areas…but this is not always a positive. I hate the way it appears to be turning into a rich man’s playground, with oligarchs and sheikhs helping prices to hike up and go through the roof. I hate how certain establishments are closing down; places where people gathered to feel at home and find a sense of belonging. The number of pubs are dwindling and I find that to be a shame. Many are turning into fancy gastropubs and places where they serve food on manky wooden chopping boards. If we are not careful, London will become more…minimalist. Stripped down, homogenous, lifeless and bland- everything that it is not. 

4. Travel. Stop the absolute travesty that is the high-fallutin’ HS2 railway system and the potential trampling of the great British countryside and concentrate on fixing up the current national rail service, dammit! The whole country knows how bad it is (see London Bridge and plenty of other mainline train stations nationwide), but the powers-that-be have their heads in the sand and would rather spunk money up the wall on a new toy to show off to their new friends in faraway places than focus on what is wrong at the moment. Look at what happened just last week at Clapham Junction- the train broke down andpassengers had to be led off the tracks. Engineering works are always overrunning and yet we are all paying more every year for late and terrible service. David Cameron said the Conservatives will freeze train fares if he wins this election. But Crossrail and HS2 do not come cheap, so how the hell is he going to see through this fare freeze? It is unlikely this will go to plan, Dave…

Anyway, I hope the right person and party (or parties) get into 10 Downing Street and things get better, not bleaker for us all. 

Life’s A Beach.

So 43,000 people have now complained about this beach body advert plastered all over the London Underground:

image

I have three words for the moaners:
Get over yourselves.   

I have seen this advert everyday on my commute and am baffled by the fuss- a slim woman in an itsy bitsy teeny weeny yellow non-polka-dot bikini is standing tall and supposedly ‘beach body-ready’ and some people are boohoo-ing about it. I have heard that it is ‘fat shaming and offensive to larger sized women’. In my humble opinion, that is bollocks.

I have a big wobbly stomach, bingo wings and thighs that could start a fire when they rub together, but this ad has absolutely no effect on me. I just see a woman looking nice on a poster…and that’s it. I certainly don’t feel ashamed for being curvy because everybody is different. Besides, I wouldn’t wear a bikini.

I am astonished at how such an innocuous poster could cause such a mad reaction. Plenty of ads like this have been plastered on the tube and various other places for years and nobody cried foul over them. Everyone is bleating over the smallest thing nowadays and it’s so tiresome. I thought we were better than this.

People say it makes them feel ‘physically inferior’ and even asking for it to be banned. Give me a break! I am all for women (of all shapes and sizes) feeling confident and looking their best but seriously, this moaning needs to stop. I look nothing like this woman. I’m self-conscious and had my fair share of body issues but this poster does not make me feel inferior and you should not feel that way either. In fact, the more people are kicking up a fuss, the more I want it to stay. Be more offended by the numerous posters plastered around telling you how you can get a loan with 2000% APR.

Crass Journalism.

Over the weekend, a young 15 year old girl was shot dead in East London. Her name is Shereka Marsh and I don’t know her or her family, but it’s such a shame when a young life is taken in a brutal way.

So imagine how surprised I was when my eyes locked onto a distasteful picture of the deceased girl splashed on the front page of a certain newspaper (I refuse to name it but expected better from them). Considering she was a teenager and teens take endless selfies and photos of their every move, are this publication telling me and the rest of the general public that the only ‘decent’ photo they could find was of her pouting while wearing a necklace emblazoned with a crude statement? We have been told that the young girl was a straight-A model pupil who was also a prefect at her secondary school. Good natured. Popular. Showed the Jamaican High Commissioner round her school only recently. And yet, with your sources and social media being so widely available, that was the best you could do? Really??

It’s not a flattering photo of her at all due to its content and because of what happened to her, but that’s precisely why it should never have been used. We all have photographs of ourselves that we regret taking afterwards but the picture in question is inflammatory because people judge and trust me, when commuters saw it on the train this morning, some looked at her in a very negative light even though she was the victim.

Whatever happened to using a simple picture of a girl smiling in her school uniform? Or one of her larking around with her mates? Were they not dramatic enough or not suggestive enough to paint a particular picture? I was taken aback to see such crass journalism (because that’s what it is)- who knows if they’ll print an apology to her grieving family? I doubt it.