Thursday, 13 December 2012

The Solution

Bertolt Brecht in an open missive to the Central Committee (East Germany) when the workers and students were crushed by Soviet tanks when celebrating Stalin's death and demanding democratic rights for all -

After the uprising of the 17th June
The Secretary of the Writers' Union
Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee
Stating that the people
Had forfeited the confidence of the Government
And could win it back only
By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier
In that case for the Government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?
(Tariq Ali - Streetfighting Years)

(Picture: Brecht and Weigel on the roof of the Berliner Ensemble during the International Workers' Day demonstrations in 1954). (Wikipedia)


Friday, 31 August 2012

The Fall of Black States.

In his book, The Soccer War,
the Polish foreign correspondent, Ryszard Kapuscinski,
writes about "the same drama that every Third World
politician lives through if he is honest, if he is a patriot."
- the essence of the drama lies in the terrible material resistance that
each one encounters, on taking his first, second and third steps up to
the summit of power. Each one wants to do something good and
begins to do it and then sees after a month, after a year, after three years,
that it just isn't happening, that it is slipping away, that it is bogged down
in the sand. Everything is in the way: the centuries of backwardness,
the primitive economy, the illiteracy, the religious fanaticism, the
tribal blindness, the chronic hunger, the colonial past with its practice
of debasing and dulling the conquered, the blackmail by the imperialists,
the greed of the corrupt, the unemployment, the red ink.
Progress comes with great difficulty along such a road.
The politician begins to push too hard.
He looks for a way out through dictatorship.
The dictatorship then fathers an opposition.
The opposition organises a coup.
And the cycle begins anew.
But maybe this is too charitable. Maybe the main thing about power is that it's addictive.
(quoted by Alex Shoumatoff in his article The Fall of the Black States, Vanity Fair Nov. 1991.)

Monday, 24 October 2011


One day, in ancient India, the Buddha was giving a teaching to his followers. On this day however, instead of a verbal teaching, he simply held up a flower. One of his disciples, Mahakasyapa, amiled. The Buddha said: "Today, I gave a silent teaching and Mahakasyapa alone understood it."

Tuesday, 21 June 2011


This is a poem by my friend, Bart Wolffe. I met him in Zimbabwe many years ago and his poems bring back the memories of my homeland more than other words I have read.

I bought his book, Waking Dreams, from Lulu: here

It had lizards crawling across it.
A lilac and blue flannel
Long-sleeve African design.
That was eight years ago.
I still wear it like a skin.
It may not be in fashion,
Now worn a little thin
But I wear Africa a bit
When I put my T-shirt on.
Animals know their own kind,
Birds recognise their kin.
This is my icon, my talisman,
My identity without, within...

Thursday, 16 June 2011


One of my Sunday joys is reading AA Gill's column in the Sunday Times. This week he was at his beasty-best. I share with you his first few sentences in Table Talk on Sunday 12.6.11, because, if you don't read this paper, you won't have seen it - and why should I be the only one to enjoy his wordly ways?

I am plagued, palsied and agued with unnews, outformation, stuff that we don't need, ought not to know. I don't mean prurient or boring, irrelevant or secret, but factidotes. Mental bellybutton lint. the insidious information version of clothes moths that chew holes in the cashmere of joy. For instance, I've just read in a newspaper that Alan Titchmarsh doesn't need Viagra. That is a factidote. Pointless, anodyne, but somehow horrible, grit in the Vaseline of a smooth existence.  I know that my life is ever so slightly lessened, sullied and smeared by knowing that Alan Titchmarsh doesn't need Viagra. This world is a minutely shabbier and more compromised place. I will never be able to unknow that Gardener Gets Wood. So I'm passing it on to you, because why should I be the only one to suffer?

Monday, 30 May 2011


I am a lover of truth, a worshipper of freedom, a celebrant at the
altar of language and purity and tolerance.
Stephen Fry.