Thursday, January 20, 2011

Bruce Springsteen, a visit to a Tea Party, America - and what the hell that means

Two pieces on STUFF related to the meaning of the United States of America which I wrote for The National just before Christmas here. First, the online version of my review-essay on Bruce Springsteen's first six albums, heartland rock, the American dream, and how it connects to Barack Obama's presidency. Alternatively to download as a (small) PDF, which looks much nicer.
The all-too-rapid corrosion of Obama's promise fits in perfectly with Springsteen's worldview. Nothing worth fighting for comes easily, and nothing beautiful lasts forever. If Obama really is America, it should come as no surprise that he has suffered a similar fate. The question is whether he will keep going down to the river - though he knows that the river is dry.

And second, here's my reportage / column on the, ahem, Tea Party Patriots - back in late October I went to a pre-Midterms Tea Party rally in White Plains, NY (this is what I do for fun while on holiday). I heard the speakers warn of a creeping Sharia Law in America, literally make up quotes from Thomas Jefferson to support their batshit libertarian ideology, and call anyone and everyone to the left of Ronald Reagan a Stalinist. I was almost so busy being offended by everything they were saying/getting wrong about history, I barely knew where to start with contemporary politics and society. The Tea Party are not kind to history - I hope history will not be kind to them.
As the Islamophobic demagogue Pamela Geller knelt down to congratulate a dog wearing a stars-and-stripes tutu, one of her admirers, Merilyn, a middle-aged Italian-American in a royal blue "Tea Party Patriot" t-shirt, found an answer to my question from somewhere underneath her bouffant. "You wanna know who I want as President in 2012? Between Barack Obama and that dog, I'd vote for that dog."

Monday, January 17, 2011

Next Hype: EMA Protests, Wed 19 Jan

The Conservative government's abolition of the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) is an unabashed assault on the education of the British working-class. Quite simply, large numbers of students from low-income backgrounds will not be able to afford to stay on in post-16 education if it is abolished. The Tories were going to push through the abolition of EMA without even having a vote in Parliament (their contempt for democracy matching their contempt for the poor, as usual) - but thanks to the protests, and the official Save EMA campaign (website), the House of Commons will at least be voting on EMA abolition, this Wednesday 19 January.

Following my blog post on 'riot music', grime, and the EMA kids, several videos have emerged which connect one particular track to the protest movement - some of them are footage of the song playing off mobile soundsystems (as I documented in my blog on the Parliament Square kettle, above). I'd be tempted to write reams about Tempz's 'Next Hype', but after asking Tempz himself what he thought of his tune being a soundtrack to the protests, I don't think I need to. Try and find a more perfect encapsulation of grime's power than this first sentence, this tune, and these videos.
"It's not about the content, it's about the energy and aura. The persona I portray gives a voice to those who use it as a way of expression, to combat the injustices of the immense increase in student fees." - Tempz, January 2011

On #dayx3, in Parliament Square (the track drops towards the end of this video):

Finally here's a montage of footage of the Millbank protests, set to Next Hype:

Assemble 4pm on Wednesday, Piccadilly Circus (Facebook event).

Yeah yeah yeah, we're still about...