Archive for the ‘Architecture’ Category

Kojo Moe: Factories as Tourist Spots in Japan

November 15, 2021

I found this interesting snippet in the ‘Funny Old World’ column in Private Eye’s issue for 18-31 March 2011, ultimately taken from a CNN item for 26th January of that year. It’s about a recent development or fad in the Japanese tourist industry: visiting factories. I know they do this in Britain, where people tour historic factories looking at things being made, or learning how they were made in the past. A good example is Ironbridge. But this is something different. It’s about appreciating factories as objects of beauty in themselves. This is radically different to previous ideas of beauty, which are centred on the living landscape, either natural or that of the rural village. And from reading the article, it seems to have its origins partly in the beginning of the film Blade Runner, where Deckard’s car flies past a refinery belching fire. The article runs

‘”Kojo moe is an infatuation with factories,” Daigo Yokoto told reporters outside a power plant in the industrial city of Kawasaki, near Tokyo, “and it’s becoming an alternative form of tourism in Japan. The geometric patterns of metal pipes and frames, the eerie smoke and sudden eruptions of flames – it is a completely different world, and it’s less than an hour away from Tokyo, where and my friends live. It’s not what goes on inside the factories that interests us, it’s the moment where the cylindrical smoke stack sends up steam, or a furnace starts belching smoke. That’s what makes us happy.”

Over the past year, kojo moe has grown from a tiny Japanese subculture into a major form of tourism, with 4,000 yen cruises to industrial zones booked out months in advance. “I love taking photos and I love factories,” added photographer Masaki Ishitani from Osaka, “and combining the two gives me an innocent sense of enjoyment. Kawasaki factories are the biggest, the most beautiful, and most wonderful in Japan. Standing here watching a giant power plant billowing out smoke is just like being in the movie Blade Runner.”

There is a similar aesthetic over here as well, albeit to a far lesser extent. I can remember passing a refinery near Cardiff with friends on the way to a re-enactment event in the ’90s, and we were struck by its awesome beauty. It was floodlit and really did resemble the refinery from Blade Runner. Ridley Scott, the film’s director, based that sequence on a factory or refinery he used to pass when he was a schoolboy or arts student. One night as was passing he said to himself, ‘God, this is beautiful’.

I find this particularly fascinating because it’s precisely the kind of aesthetic that the Futurists were trying to promote. They were a reaction to Symbolism and hated traditional, especially neo-classical art. They celebrated instead the new, modern, urban Italy, of youth, speed, violence and the new machine age. The Futurist architect Sant’Elia designed huge modernist buildings representing the new aesthetic, designs which even now, after the horrors of mid-20th century Brutalist architecture, still look futuristic. Kojo moe also interests me because it does seem to be an instance where Science Fiction has altered or set up a different ideal of beauty. I really don’t believe that the Conceptualism that was all rage as the official art of the ’90s really has done much to push the boundaries of art. I think that’s being done elsewhere, and particularly within Science Fiction and Fantasy, in media such as computer games, films, TV, book illustration and comics. And I’d like to see it appreciated by the art establishment.

Cartoon Against the Islamophobic and Anti-Semitic Violence of the Community Security Trust

September 12, 2021

The Community Security Trust, which sounds to me to be a name taken from Monopoly’s ‘Community Trust’, are a volunteer police force originally set up to defend Jewish buildings and monuments, like synagogues and cemeteries, from attack. If that was what they only did, I’d have absolutely no problem with them. Every now and then real anti-Semites and Nazis do attack and vandalise Jewish areas. There have been incidents in the past few years where the stormtroopers have painted swastikas on Jewish homes and desecrated graves. However, there’s also a problem of precedent. If Jews are allowed to have their own police force, than other religious or ethnic groups should be allowed to have them too. But imagine the outrage if Muslims got their own! There’d soon be loud cries about the islamisation of Britain. I’m also critical of them because they joined in the anti-Semitism smears against Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters.

The problem comes when they’ve been used as stewards for pro-Israel demonstrations. They’re rumoured to have been trained in self-defence by Mossad. If that’s so, then either Mossad haven’t done a good job at teaching them about restraint and necessary force, or else they’ve trained them to treat counterdemonstrators over here the same way they would in Israel. Although possibly not as brutally, considering the real thuggery that gets meted out to the Palestinians. There have been reports of assaults on counterdemonstrators. In one incident, an elderly rabbi was punched in the face, and Jews and Muslims forcibly separated. Because God forbid that Jews and Muslims should mix and find friendship and common ground against a persecutory state.

I’ve shown the CST as skinhead thugs punching the rabbi, and calling him a traitor. This is a bit of artistic license, as I don’t think they did this. However, anti-Zionist Jews like Tony Greenstein have been assaulted and called traitors by militantly pro-Israel Jews. I’ve shown the CST thugs throwing away placards carried by a Jewish and Muslim women saying ‘Jews 4 Palestine’ and ‘End Israeli Occupation’, because women have also been attacked by them. It all seems to me less like the behaviour of any kind of responsible, respectable outfit and more like that of the violence carried out by the British Union of Fascists’ stewards at the notorious Olympia rally in the 1930s. The violence there was started by the Communists, but the BUF’s reaction was so brutal that it woke many people up to the reality of the BUF and helped to destroy their rising popularity. Perhaps if more people knew about the thuggery of the CST that would similarly help to discredit this ultra-Zionist organisation.

Articles on Bristol’s Jewish Community

September 11, 2021

I found a couple of very interesting articles on Bristol’s Jewish community in Max Barnes’ Bristol A-Z: Fascinating Stories of Bristol through the ages, published by the Bristol Evening Post c. 1970. Bristol has had a Jewish community for centuries. There was a Jewish quarter in the city in the Middle Ages. Way back in the 90s a miqveh, a Jewish ritual bath, with the Hebrew inscription, ‘Zacklim’, ‘flowing’, was found on Jacob’s Wells’ Road. They were expelled by Edward I along with the rest of England’s Jews, but returned after Oliver Cromwell once again opened the doors to Jewish immigrants. They were certainly present in the 18th century, when one Bristolian, looking for a doctor, said that he had no objection to a Jewish doctor, provided he claimed to believe in Christianity. In the 1820s one outraged commenter complained that the city’s corporation included not just Anglicans, but also Protestant non-Conformists and even Jews! There was also a very imposing synagogue in Park Row. This had giant Hebrew characters over its entrance and seemed to be cut into the very rock of St. Michael’s Hill. I haven’t seen it recently, so I wonder whether it’s still around, or if it’s simply the case that more recent building work has covered up the Hebrew inscription.

The article ‘Jews’ in the book runs

The first Jews settled in a confined area between St John’s Gate and St. Gile’s Gate. As Jews they were banned from living inside the walled town itself.

Their sole business was money lending. Like Jews down through the ages they suffered a lot of persecution. Once their houses were pillaged and burned by a mob led by William Giffard, a man who had had many financial dealings with the Jews and in 1275 took this brutal course to destroy the records and clear his debts.

Another Jew who refused to pay heavy ransom money to King John was hauled off to Bristol castle.

The king’s torturers pulled out one of his molar teeth each day. He had lost seven teeth before he paid up.

I think it was the poor man’s daughter who persuaded him to pay the money before he lost all his teeth. I think money lending was the only trade Jews in this country could legally pursue. Giffard’s pogrom against them was, I think, part of a number of anti-Semitic attacks and riots led by members of the aristocracy. The real reason behind them was that aristocracy at the time was in debt to Jewish moneylenders, and this was their way of getting out of it.

There’s another article on the Jewish author, Israel Zangwill, who also apparently was educated in Bristol. I doubt many people have heard of him today except experts in modern Jewish literature, but from reading the article he seems to have been a powerful force in the development of modern Jewish literature. The article says

Novelist and playwright (1864-1926) went to school in Bristol.

He was the son of a Russian Jewish refugee who escaped from Russia in 1848 from a death sentence for a military offence. Zangwill was known as a richly gifted but outspoken humanist. He was a champion of unpopular causes. His novel “Children of the Ghetto” was dramatised in 1899 and played in Yiddish and English in New York.

Imperial Russia had a policy of conscripting Jews into the army. It was used as a method of forced conversion, with Jewish troopers singled out for bullying and beating. I suspect that Zangwill’s father may have not taken the abuse, hence the death sentence for some kind of military offence. More recent victims of such maltreatment in the Russian army included Seventh Day Adventists and Pentecostalist Christians under Communism. I can’t remember which one, but one of these sects was persecuted because they’re pacifists who reject military service. And the Pentecostalists were subjected to the persecution under the guise of all kinds of stupid conspiracy theories. They’re abstainers, refusing to touch tobacco and alcohol, and as a result tended to be wealthier than ordinary Russians. As a result, there was a story propagated that accused them of receiving money from the CIA through a ship that landed annually at a secret location. It’s the same kind of stupid, murderous rumour about treachery as the source of secret wealth that has been used against our Jewish brothers and sisters.

Bristol’s Jewish community seems to have had a fascinating history, and its monuments are part of the city’s rich architectural heritage.

And real persecution and conspiracy theories are wrong and dangerous, whether levelled against Jews, Christians, Muslims or anyone. They are not things to be cynically used to expel left-wing peeps and non-Zionist Jews from Labour.

Ash Sarkar Destroys Sun Hack over Climate Change on Jeremy Vine

August 13, 2021

This week the UN issued a report stating that climate change was now ‘Code Red’ for humanity, and that irreversible damage had been done to the environment. So the right-wing press immediately got their best and brightest to dispute this. Thus Jeremy Vine had on his show Mike Parry, who I believe is one of Murdoch’s minions. He’s a former hack on the Scum, the Depress and now a host on TalkRadio. Which is owned by Dirty Rupe, that walking affront to responsible, civilised journalism. And it ain’t just me that says this. When he took over one of the leading Ozzie newspapers in the 1970s, its journos went on strike complaining that they didn’t want to see the paper they worked for and loved turned into a laughing stock. And when Murdoch took over an American paper later in the decade, the hacks did the same there. The subplot of Superman 4, in which the staff at the Daily Planet protest at being taken over by a right-wing publisher of yellow journalism, seems to have been inspired by these real events. Facing him was the awesome Ash Sarkar, the main woman in Novara Media. And she handed Parry his ample rear end.

Parry had tried to counter her by stating that as the majority’s of today’s carbon dioxide emissions come from China, who were also about to open several more coal power stations, it was absolutely useless Britain trying to do anything to stop greenhouse gas production. Sarkar responded by stating that we could pass laws banning British corporations from investing in fossil fuel and polluting industries in China. She also pointed out that historically, Britain was responsible for a vast amount of carbon dioxide emissions. Her co-host, Michael Walker, produces the stats to support her case. Historically, Britain is responsible for 22 per cent of the carbon dioxide produced. America and China both are responsible for 29 per cent, but India, despite its growing economy and vast population, only 3 per cent. Walker acknowledges that Parry is correct about the Chinese opening new fossil fuel power stations and that it’s a problem that needs to be tackled. But he also makes the excellent point that industrialising nations are right to be outraged at western demands to cut their carbon emissions, when the west has benefited so much from its own industrialisation that produced much of it.

Here’s the video. I’m afraid it’s a bit long, at over 21 minutes, and I haven’t watch more than a few minutes of it, but it is very informative and does expose the poverty of the right’s arguments.

Mind you, at least Parry was able to marshal some good, intelligent arguments, unlike Sky News Australia. I found a video from them which was so stupid I actually felt less intelligent after watching it. And I only watched it for a few minutes. The host, another right-wing blowhard, got their pet climate expert on to poor scorn on the left’s desire to cut carbon emissions. Because carbon dioxide is plant food, and if we cut carbon emissions, they’ll all die off. How stupid, they sneered.

Er, no. No-one is talking about totally removing carbon dioxide from the planet’s atmosphere. What they are talking about is getting rid of the excess carbon dioxide, or halting its production, which is responsible for rising temperatures across the globe and the consequent damage to the environment. But Murdoch and the right doesn’t want people knowing about this. It’s why the Koch brothers, who own a vast amount of the American oil industry, spent much of their money buying up and closing down independent climate and environmental research laboratories, which were then replaced by their own pet scientists and astroturf organisations. It’s why Donald Trump passed a tranche of legislation preventing the Environmental Protection Agency from publishing anything actually showing the damage being done to the environment. This is all being done for corporate profit, not for the benefit of ordinary folks, who will be left with the legacy of horrendously polluted countryside. Thanks to the oil industry, much of the Louisiana swamplands, for example, is seriously contaminated.

My guess is that the right will only start taking climate change seriously when their parts of the world, like the Cotswolds in Britain and Jacob Rees-Mogg’s part of BANES, becoming howling dustbowls and the dunes start advancing on Westminster, Kensington, Chelsea and Knightsbridge. Douglas Murphy in his book, Last Futures, a history of brutalist architecture, states that in the 1970s the scientists behind the report Limits to Growth ran computer models to predict the future. And with only two exception, they all predicted that if current trends continued, civilisation would collapse and humanity be all but extinct by the end of this century. The report’s been criticised for the simplicity of its models and the technology used, but its seems that much of it still stands up. He also states that when the environment eventually breaks down, the rich will retreat into specially engineered artificial biodomes, leaving everyone else to fend for themselves in the wilderness outside.

Great. The rest of the world becomes a Mad Max battleground while the rich retire inside something like the Eden Project, hoping that nobody like Sean Connery comes inside to wreck their utopia like the plot of Zardoz.

I’ve blogged about this before, but for those seeking genuine information on the climate crisis, books are available. I came across one in one of the secondhand bookshops in Cheltenham. It covered the whole world, and I think it was one of the set texts by the Open University. For younger readers, last month’s Postscript catalogue contained one published by Dorling Kindersly, Dan Hooke’s Climate Emergency Atlas. The blurb for this stated that Hooke

offers a clear explanation of the science behind climate change, with concise text supported by numerous diagrams. World maps show the environmental impact of different countries, detailing issues such as their population growth, consumption and deforestation, as well as how they have been affected by the rise in global temperatures. A final section describes the actions being taken in response to the crisis, and the part individuals can play.

The catalogue says it’s suitable for ages 10+. It’s normal price was £12.99, but they were offering at £6.99. I don’t know if it’s still available.

Ignore Murdoch, the Koch brothers and right-wing politicians like Trump, Blair. and as it looks like now, Starmer. It’s people like Hooke, the Open University, Ash Sarkar and the other peeps at Novara Media and, indeed, just about every respectable climate and environmental scientist on the planet, who are actually an unashamedly telling the truth.

Murdoch is publishing disinformation and lies. It’s now more than ever important to listen to the Left and mainstream science, and stop the profiteering from trashing the planet.

Bristol’s Labour Mayor Marvin Rees on What His Party Has Done for the City

August 3, 2021

As a member of the local Labour party, I got this general email from Bristol’s elected mayor, Marvin Rees, explaining what his administration has done to improve conditions in Bristol. I’ve mixed feelings about Rees. He can be stubborn and obstinate, insisting on what he wants against the wishes of local people. He did this in the case of the housing development now being built in Hengrove park. His plans for the development were opposed by local people, who wanted fewer houses and more amenities, like shops, to be built on the site. But despite the fact that Rees’ own plans for the area were also criticised by the planning authorities for exactly the same reasons, Rees overruled the suggestions of the locals and went ahead with his own plans. There has also been a similar controversy over his scheme for a new arena for the city. Common sense would say that it should be built nearer to the city’s centre, where communications are excellent and visitors from outside the city could easily get to it via the motorway. However, for some reason best known to himself, Mayor Marv has decided instead that he wants it built in Filton, a suburb some distance away from the centre in the north of the city. Which is far more difficult to get to.

On the other hand, I was very impressed by his handling of the pulling down of Colston’s statue by Black Lives Matter. There have been demands from Bristol’s Black community for the statue to be taken down for decades, and so the assault on it probably shouldn’t have been surprising. After all, it followed similar attacks on Confederate statues across the Pond in America. Despite loud criticism from people of the right, like Alex Belfield, I think Bristol’s police did exactly the right thing in not trying to defend it when it was attacked. It was the only monument affected. The other statues nearby, such as one to Bristol’s sailors, and of the 18th century politician, Edmund Burke, and Queen Victoria (Gawd bless ‘er) weren’t touched. Neither were the surrounding shops and offices. But I think there would have been a full scale riot if the cops had tried to defend it. And I think it’s extremely likely that some in the mob that attacked the statue were hoping for a chance to fight the police as symbols of racist authority. The police didn’t give them the opportunity, and saved the people and property in the area from harm. As for Marvin himself, while he has made it very plain that, as a man of colour, he personally loathes the statue, he has been extremely diplomatic and careful in his handling of the controversy.

Here’s what he says in his email:

“Dear member,

I am writing to you to thank you for your support in the recent elections and to let you know how your Labour administration is repaying your trust in us. 

I want to start by reiterating how grateful I am; for everyone that voted for me and for the activists who knocked on doors, called voters, and spread our message of hope on social media. It’s been an enormously difficult year – which makes me even more appreciative for the support – but we still managed to adapt to the circumstances and get Labour’s message out to the voters. Our activists are the cornerstone of our movement – we wouldn’t have won the mayoral elections if it weren’t for the strength of our members. 

However, despite winning the Mayoralty and gaining a Labour Metromayor in the West of England Combined Authority, we lost a number of excellent councillors and had hard-working, dedicated candidates miss out on their seats. I know how talented our candidates were and how much they cared about their communities, so these results were hard to take. 

Despite the disappointment, we’ve regrouped and have been working to put Labour values into action and to continue delivering on your priorities. I want the next three years to be defined by inclusivity, sustainability, and delivery – everything we do will be defined by those three principles. 

At the first Full Council since the election, we put forward a motion that forbids the Council or its partners from following Home Office guidance that uses rough sleeping as a reason to cancel someone’s leave to remain, resulting in their eventual deportation from the UK. It should go without saying that we found this guidance deplorable – it shows how out-of-step Priti Patel and the Home Office is with Bristol’s collective conscience. Read more on Cllr Tom Renhard’s Blog. 

This announcement follows a recent further £4m investment to help tackle rough sleeping and the setting up of Bristol Street Outreach, a new service to support rough sleepers. Since 2019, we’ve reduced the levels of people rough-sleeping by 80% – this new service will focus on on-street engagements, particularly with those who have been sleeping rough for a long time, to help enable them to move off the streets and live independently.

As well as this we’ve:

Won Gold Food Sustainable City Status – only the second city in the UK to do so – for excellence in tackling food waste, urban food growing, and action to address food inequality. Awarded by the independent, Sustainable Food Places Board, the accolade recognises the work of Bristol’s good food movement and the city’s work to tackle the impacts of food on public health, nature, and climate change. More information here. 

• Offered residency to a number of Afghan interpreters who worked with the British Army, as they were at risk of persecution by the Taliban. 

• Moved forward building a 17,000 seater arena and its surrounding district – which now includes a 15 acre public park, £3.1m for transport infrastructure, 2,600 news homes, employment space, up to three new schools, a health centre and retail and leisure facilities – with it now set to open by the end of 2023.

• Allocated £34m in funding to help businesses in the city centre upgrade to cleaner vehicles, so they can avoid fines when the Clean Air Zone is implemented.  Despite pushing back the implementation date for the Clean Air Zone, by giving people and businesses time to adapt we will still have cleaner air by 2023 – the same time as we would if it had been implemented this October. 

• Painted a trans-inclusive rainbow crossing on Wine Street to as part of our celebrations for Pride Month. As well as this, we passed a motion that will strengthen mental health provision for LGBT+ people within the Council, and to work with our partners to improve services across the city.

Built the largest water-source heat pump in the UK, bringing zero-carbon energy to 5,000 homes in central Bristol. This comes after we built the largest land wind turbine in the country in Avonmouth. We’re also pushing ahead with finding a partner for the City Leap Programme, which will see us invest £1bn in decarbonising Bristol’s energy systems. 

• Started work to transform the Bear Pit into a haven for bees and butterflies. We declared an ecological emergency last year and are working to turn make our built environment more ecology-friendly – We’re investing in green structures and bright native flowers in the bearpit to attract pollinators and make it a thoroughfare the city can be proud of. 

• Invested £4.7m to rejuvenate our high streets, including Bristol city centre, East Street, Church Road, Shirehampton, Filwood Broadway, Stapleton Road, Brislington Hill, Filton Avenue, Two Mile Hill and Stockwood. The funding will help develop a support programme for existing and new high street businesses, while funding improvements to the streets in a bid to boost footfall through them. Financial support will also be offered to new or expanding businesses, such as pop-up stores or galleries, to reduce the number of vacant premises on the streets.

This is just a small selection of the work we’ve been doing for you. As this next term is only three years rather than four, we wanted to hit the ground running, but we have much, much more in the pipeline that will be ready for announcement in the near future.

If you would like to find out more about the work we’ve been doing, have questions over specific policy, or just want a general chat, then please feel free to ask your constituency executive to invite myself or a Cabinet member to one of your party meetings. 

I hope everyone has an enjoyable summer – I look forward to seeing you all again soon.

Best wishes, 

Marvin Rees”

The various green projects Labour has introduced shows the administration is taking ecological issues seriously and shows that the Labour party in the city would be behind the Green New Deal proposed by the left, which would not only help the planet, but also create jobs and new industries. I’m also particularly impressed by the investment in local high streets and their businesses, and the offer of residency to the Afghan interpreters who worked for the British army. With the Taliban now advancing in Afghanistan, these people’s lives would very much be at risk if they remained there, and they undoubtedly deserve to be given sanctuary here in the UK, no matter what Priti Patel may think.

Despite my strong criticisms of some of Rees’ policies, I think overall he has been good for the city, and hope his administration will continue to do its best for Bristol and its great people.

History Debunked on Nigerian Statue Celebrating Black African Slave Trader

June 14, 2021

Quite honestly, I’m sick and tired of posting pieces about racial politics, especially from a perspective that could be seen as anti-Black. I’m very aware that, as a whole, the Black community in Britain is poor, marginalised and suffers from poor educational performance, a lack of job opportunities. And I’m very much aware of institutional racism. Black and Asian friends and relatives have changed their names from their exotic originals to something more White British to get job opportunities. I’m also very much aware how the Tories are exploiting the issues around Black identity politics to drive a wedge between the Black community and the White working class in order to dominate both and drive them further into poverty, starvation and despair. But these issues are important. There is a real strain of anti-White racism in what is now being presented as anti-racism post-Black Lives Matter. It’s in the shape of Critical Race Theory, which parents are challenging in American schools. It’s also in the bad, tendentious history pushed by David Olusoga. One of History Debunked’s videos is a debunking of the claim by Olusoga and Reni Eddo-Lodge about a supposed lynching in Liverpool. This was of a sailor, who was chased into the docks. But instead of the innocent victim of a violent and prejudiced mob, the Black sailor instead was a vicious thug, who was part of a gang that had started a fight with Scandinavian and Russian seamen, and who had responded to the intervention of the rozzers by shooting two policemen.

A few days ago Simon Webb, the main man of History Debunked, put up the video below commenting on a statue in Nigeria to Efunroye Tinubu. She was a merchant in the Abeokuta region in the 19th century who traded in tobacco and slaves among other commodities. Through this she became extremely wealthy, enough to acquire a private army and act as kingmaker in Nigerian tribal politics. She also has a square in Lagos named after. There is, Webb says, absolutely no shame about her and her wretched trade. Rather, I think the Nigerians are proud of her. And she had absolutely no qualms about selling Black peeps. When she was hauled before a court on a charge of slave dealing after selling a boy, she cheerfully admitted it, saying she had a large household that needed to be fed well. When we went to war against the Nigerian city states involved in the slave trade, she announced that she was prepared to do anything for Britain, except give up slaving.

Webb uses her to attack the ignorance and hypocrisy of the present anti-racist iconoclasts, the people who tore down Edward Colston’s statue and wanted Rhodes’ removed, but say nothing about African participation in slavery and its memorialisation in statues like this. He is particularly scathing about David Olusoga, who produced the documentary last week on the Beeb about the controversy surrounding the felling of Colston’s statue. I didn’t watch it, but my parents did. According to them, Bristol’s elected mayor, Marvin Rees, came out of it very well. I’ve been extremely impressed with his handling of what is a very delicate affair, and I hope he seeks election as an MP. Olusoga comes in for criticism as he was born and raised in Nigeria, but while he’s glad that Colston’s statue was torn down, he has nothing to say about Tinubu’s.

There does indeed seem to be a concerted effort to blame the blame for the Black slave trade firmly on White Europeans and Americans. In Bristol this was shown by the motion proposed by Cleo Lake, the Green councillor for Cotham, and seconded by Asher Craig, Bristol’s deputy mayor, who is also head of equalities. This called for reparations for slavery to be paid to all ‘Afrikans’, including both Afro-Caribbean folk and Black Africans. I sent an email to both of them stating the objections to this, the foremost of which is that it was Black Africans that did the actual messy job of raiding and enslaving. So far I have received no reply. I doubt I ever will.

I think this attitude partly comes from W.E.B. Dubois, one of the pioneers of the civil rights movement. Dubois wanted equality at home for Black Americans, and freedom from European imperial domination for Africa. It was Dubois who first described the slave trade as a ‘holocaust’. In Britain, I was told when working at the Empire and Commonwealth Museum that West Indians and Ghanaians didn’t get on, because the Ghanaians looked down on Afro-Caribbean people as the slaves they sold. This was certainly what Caryl Philips, the Black British writer, found when he visited Ghana a few decades ago, even though the country was trying to encourage western Blacks to migrate there.

I think the acceptance of the Black African participation in the slave trade is changing. A little while ago I posted a piece about a Ghanaian journalist and broadcaster on their television networks, who had made documentaries about this issue. I believe the traditional chiefs in both countries are coming under increasing criticism to acknowledge and apologise for their participation in the transatlantic slave trade. There’s also been friction in Ghana between Black Americans and Ghanaians about the memorialisation of the slave trade at one of the old slave forts. The Americans would like the whole building used as a monument to the slave trade, But the fort is the locus for a number of different social functions, including the local market and so the local peeps definitely don’t want this to happen.

Black African involvement in the slave trade was the subject of a Channel 4 documentary back in the 1990s, back when the channel was still worth watching. I think Tinubu was mentioned there. I recall there being some discussion about a female Nigerian slaver, who made the trip to antebellum America to negotiate slaves of slaves over there. This aspect of the slave trade had been withheld from the Black Americans, who came to visit the slave sites in West Africa. The result was literally shock and horror. Some of them reacted with screams, wails and tears, and you can understand why. All their dreams of Black brotherhood and common victimhood at the hands of White racists were suddenly dashed. I mentioned this one day at the Museum to a Black historian with whom I was working. He told me that in the Caribbean, their mammies told them very clearly who sold them to whom.

But it seems to be completely absent from the consciousness of Black Brits. When the BLM mob was tearing down Colston’s statue, a reporter asked members of the crowd how they felt about it. One of them, a young man, said simply ‘I’m Nigerian’. Of course, the answer to that is ‘But you sold them to us!’ But the reporter didn’t say that, and the Nigerian young man clearly didn’t connect his nationality to the sale of Black slaves to people like Colston.

I’ve posted pieces by History Debunked before, and the usual caveats apply. He’s a Torygraph-reading man of the right who believes in racial differences in intelligence. Some of his facts may well be wrong, such as his claim that the government didn’t encourage Black migration to Britain. But here he cites both an article on Tinubu on the website, The Black Past, and a book on her published in Nigeria by Oladipo Yemitan, Madame Tinubu: Merchant and King-maker, (University Press, 1987). I’m reasonably confident, therefore, that he has got his facts right.

I strongly believe that we should resist the oversimplification of the history of the slave trade into virtuous, wronged Blacks, and evil, racist Whites. All racism and enslavement has to be condemned, even if it makes the self-proclaimed anti-racists uncomfortable. If we are to have racial justice, it must be founded on good history.

BBC Documentary Next Thursday on the Tearing Down of Colston’s Statue

June 2, 2021

According to the Radio Times, next Thursday, 10th June 2021, BBC 2 is showing a documentary about the tearing down last summer of the statue of the slaver and philanthropist, Edward Colston, by Black Lives Matter protesters and the ensuing controversy. The blurb for the programme, Statue Wars: One Summer in Bristol, on page 104, runs

On 7 June 2020, in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, protesters marching through Bristol to support the Black Lives Matter movement tore down the statue of slave trader Edward Colston and threw it into the harbour. This action put the city at the forefront of the culture wars of last summer. How would Bristol’s mayor, Marvin Rees, himself a descendent of enslaved people, hold the city together in the face of tensions that threatened to explode.

An additional piece on page 102 says

As an elected politician, letting a film crew follow you at work is always high-risk. And more so in the case of Bristol’s mayor, Marvin Rees, who let the cameras in just days after protesters toppled the statue of 17th-century merchant Edward Colston, known to have been involved in the slave trade, and threw it in the city’s harbour last summer.

Rees was in the eye of the storm that followed as Bristol became the focus of culture-war salvoes over history and heritage and the council had to deal with counter-protests from biker gangs and the arrival of a new statue – of a Black woman protester – planted on the empty plinth by a London sculptor.

It all makes for a sharp and thought-provoking film and Rees emerges welll, calm and shrewd in the heat of the crossfire and amid some impossibly hard decisions. Meanwhile, we also hear from other Bristolians with conflicting, heartfelt views on its history, and realise Rees has his work cut out looking for common ground.

The documentary’s on at 9.00 pm.

My Email to the ‘I’ Recommending Putting Up Statues of African Slavers in Bristol

June 1, 2021

I’ve just sent this email to the I newspaper, noting that Colston’s statue is now rightly on display in the M Shed in Bristol. But I also go further, and suggest that in order to get a proper perspective on the city’s connection with the slave trade, it needs to put up statues to the African slavers involved. These were the chiefs who actually supplied the slaves, and the Barbary pirates who raided Europe, including Bristol and the south-west for White slaves. Here’s the email:

Dear Sir, 

I note on the local news for Bristol that Edward Colston’s statue has been lifted out of the docks and put on display at the city’s excellent M Shed museum. I think this is the proper place for it, because Colston is part of Bristol’s history, and his philanthropy – he founded charities that supported numerous schools in the city – is one reason he was defended for so long. It is, unfortunately, an uncomfortable fact that otherwise admirable people can do the most terrible things, and we distort the past and miss this vitally important point about human nature if it is omitted.

But I also strongly feel that there are other presences in Bristol’s history that are going unrecognised, if not actively and deliberately edited out. Europeans did not catch the slaves themselves. They purchased them from powerful Black African kings, who organised the raids and did the bloody business of enslaving. Chiefs like Duke Ephraim of Dahomey made £300,000 a year in the 18th and 19th centuries. But, with the exception of the excellent ‘Respectable Trade’ exhibition at the City Museum in the 1990s, there is no mention of this, and indeed I get the distinct impression that Councillors Cleo Lake and Deputy Mayor Asher Craig would very much like to place the whole blame for Black slavery on Whites. A few months ago they passed a motion calling for the payment of reparations for slavery, which included all ‘Afrikans’ as victims of the infamous trade.

Another presence is Sultan Mahomet IV of Morocco. From the 16th/17th century through to the early 19th, Barbary pirates from what is now Morocco and Algiers raided Europe for White slaves. About 2 1/2 million White Europeans were so carried off into bondage. In Britain, the south-west of England, including Bristol, was particularly vulnerable to attack and ships and their crews from the city were taken and enslaved. But there are no monuments commemorating this anywhere in the city, again presenting a cosy, distorted view that slavery is just something evil Whites did to Blacks.

Colston’s plinth is now empty, and no doubt there is a debate going on about how it should be used. Might I suggest two statues, one of King Guezo of Dahomey, against whom Britain went to war to stop his predations on other Africans, and Mahomet IV to correct the racial imbalance?

Yours faithfully,

I’ll let you know if they publish it, and if there’s any response.

Edward Colston’s Statue Needs to Be in a Museum to Educate People About Slavery

May 31, 2021

Last week, the BBC local news for the Bristol area, Points West, reported that the statue of Edward Colston had been put on display in the M Shed, one of the city’s many museums. The statue was famously pulled down last summer by Black Lives Matter protesters and thrown in the docks. It’s being put on display, along with an old tyre that was also hauled out of the docks with it and a plaque. The M Shed is asking the Bristolian public what their views about its display are.

I think it needs to go on display along with an explanatory plaque. I don’t think the statue will be particularly missed from its plinth on the city centre. It’s naturally been controversial for decades, and there have been campaign to have it pulled down since the 1990s. But it needs to be retained and displayed because of the uncomfortable facts about the slave trade and those who dealt in it.

If Colston was only a slaver out for his own profit, then there would or should be no objection to the tearing down of his statue. But he was more complex than that. He gave most of his money away to charity, so that there have been schools founded on his bequests. I remember my old secondary school celebrating Colston Day each year, in which a few selected pupils got to attend a special service and receive a free bun. This was very definitely not a racist school. We had regular sermons against racism and the colour bar in school assemblies and the regular church services at Christmas and the beginning of term. Mike told me of one incident where the headmaster gave one boy a roasting for calling one of the Black lads a ‘N***er’. The school building was already crumbling, and the headmaster was so loud telling the lad off that bits actually flaked off.

One of the problems with slavery, and indeed much history, its that the morals of the past are very different from our own. This was first noted by the 18th century Italian historian and philosopher, Vico, and then by Nietzsche and his ‘transvaluation of values’. It’s extremely difficult for us to understand how otherwise good and decent people could perpetrate the most terrible atrocities, like slavery. But they did, and this needs to be recognised and understood. If nothing else, it helps to explain why it took William Wilberforce and the abolitionists so long to have it banned, and why decent people respected and defended Colston and his statue. History needs to be understood on its own terms, even when its controversial. Especially when its controversial.

We falsify it and create new dangers if we try to present it simply so as to fit modern morals.

Alex Belfield on the Rejection of the Attempt to Found a Political Party

May 24, 2021

I’m sorry for posting it, but this video by the mad right-wing YouTuber and internet radio host Alex Belfield is interesting for what it says about the murky state of certain sections of Black politics and activism in the UK. The video dates from February last year, 2020, and shows Belfield celebrating the rejection by the Electoral Commission of an application by a group of anonymous individuals wishing to found a Black Lives Matter political party. This was made five months prior to the Electoral Commission’s final decision, following the death of George Floyd. The Commission turned the application down because it was likely to mislead voters. The official BLM organisation, now the Black Liberation Movement, denied that it was associated with the applicants. The manifesto did not describe the party’s structure or organisation and the party’s application left its structure and financial organisation incomplete. The application was also made by anonymous individuals, which also raises justifiable suspicions.

The application to establish a BLM party allowed Tory backbenchers to accuse Black Lives Matter of being a party political organisation with left-wing objectives. One was the destruction of the traditional family, the other was to have the police defunded.

Belfield also notes that this comes after various individuals in America have been sent down for embezzling donations to BLM across the Pond. The UK branch have also been denounced by smirking abomination Priti Patel and Sajid Javid. They also caused riots that have left hundreds of police officers injured. Belfield states, in my view absolutely correctly, that if they were White they’d be compared to the BNP, EDL or other Fascist organisation. But they are considered acceptable to the media because they are Black. Belfield says of all this that ‘there are shenanigans afoot’ that make him very afraid.

Belfield is an arch-Tory with a very toxic political bias. He wants the NHS privatised, or at least handed over wholesale to private management despite all the evidence showing that the health service’s problems are the result of privatisation and underfunding by the Tories. He believes that Colston’s statue shouldn’t have been torn down, and condemns other moves to removes or rename other monuments and institutions with connections to the slave trade or the British Empire. He hates Sadiq Khan and has instead promoted Laurence Fox and other right-wing rivals. His videos are full of sneers and invective against ‘left-wing oyster-eating, Guardian-reading, ambivalecious Naga Manchushy types’. Because he’s in some kind of very nasty dispute with the Beeb, which he’d like to defund, and obviously hates those presenters he views as left-wing, like Naga Manchetty.

But unfortunately here has a point. I think there are some very nasty shenanigans and corruption within certain parts of Black politics. And that this is not confined to the left.

The book Back from the Brink, published a decade ago, describes how the Tory party was brought back from the edge of political extinction by David ‘Dodgy Dave’ Cameron and the mass murderer of the disabled and unemployed, Iain Duncan Smith. Apparently, it describes how the Tories tried to build up a constituency within the Black community by recruiting certain ‘community leaders. Many of these turned out to be criminals, who ended up being sent to the slammer rather than parliament.

On the other side of the political spectrum, I’ve heard of members of anarchist groups leaving the movement after they noticed members of various drug gangs appearing at meetings. I also remember how there was so much corruption in Brent and Lambeth councils in the 1980s that they were hardly out of the pages of Private Eye’s ‘Rotten Boroughs’ column. The magazine even gave Brent the nickname ‘Bent’, just as it called Merseyside ‘Murkyside’ for the same reasons. And some of the organisations involved in the corruption were Black.

Now I am certainly not claiming that corruption and embezzlement is confined to the Black community, or that it is even prevalent within it.

You can see simply by opening the papers that isn’t the case. But where there is poverty, despair and marginalisation, whatever the colour or ethnicity of the community, you will also find crime. And criminals will seek an entrance into politics for legitimation and also to allow their activities to expand and continue without interference by the law. Hence the scandals way back in the ’70s or ’80 about corruption in the Met, and allegations since then that certain coppers have been taking bribes from criminal gangs to look the other way. And an organisation like Black Lives Matter, which has received considerable amounts of money from donations and has a radical antipathy towards the police, will be an attractive target for criminals.

It must, however, be noted that the group that wanted to found the Black Lives Matter political party weren’t connected to the proper, official Black Lives Matter movement. They are also not connected to Sasha Johnson’s wretched Taking the Initiative Party.

The Groan has published a piece about Sasha Johnson’s shooting. Apparently it was when she was coming back from a party at 3 AM Sunday morning. At the moment they’re working on the assumption that she may have been shot in mistake for someone else and that her political activism was not a motive. They also urge people not to speculate about the motives for her murder.

I dare say they’re right, though hanging over their request for people to refrain from speculating is the spectre of terrible race riots if someone comes to the unfounded conclusion that the attacker was racially motivated.

But it does seem to me that if her political organisations and activism is investigated, it might turn up some very unsavoury dealings or connections.

Sasha Johnson: BLM activist may have been shot by mistake (msn.com)