Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Holding the centre

Obeying our government's urging to spur liquidity, Amy and I spent most of Monday Christmas shopping - in Hockley around the Jewellery Quarter, then on to the teeming centre of Birmingham amid the milling crowds of New Street enjoying the Frankfurt Christmas Market, in the Bullring at Selfridges, and down tothe rag market, then back to Amy's car, out to the big-box CostCo Warehouse in dual carriageway-land near the gasometers at Saltley, piling our trolley with wine and gifts.Meantime Lin was out at the new 'big' Tesco's at Witton getting a turkey and more wine. She will collect Dorothy and Arthur from Cannock this evening and bring them here. My mother has gone to London to be with my sister and her family. Adamos and Malvina are off to Paris to spend Christmas with her parents. Today I'll tidy the house with Lin and get our tree up and decorated, presents wrapped and placed around it. * * * * Discussing with Cllr Mahmood Hussain, who lives just down the road, over the phone, the silence from Alan Orr at Planning in the city on the Victoria Jubilee Allotments, and our concerns about job losses at Persimmon Homes who own Charles Church - the VJA developer who's supposed to implement the S106A on the VJA, Mahmood said we - he and fellow ward councillors, Kim Brom and Don Brown - will "write to Alan again" ("will you draft a letter, Simon?") after the holiday with the possibility "after all avenues have been explored" of using the new power of a 'Community Call for Action' directed to the City Council leadership. [News constantly intrudes about recession's impact - in this case its differential toll on jobs in America] * * * Yeats - rational turning oracular eschewing prediction - keeps reminding me to question not predict. I've been wondering less whether the centre can hold in Greece than where that centre lies. How will Greeks spend Christmas? * * * E-mail from an academic acquaintance:
The riots are the least important thing about the situation there. The strikes and recent general strike are far more important and utterly ignored by the British media for obvious reasons. I think there is a powerful, if somewhat institutionalized/ritualized, counter-hegemonic bloc there based on the trade unions. I visit the country regularly and attended the European Social Forum in Athens in 2006 - my first experience of car bombs and tear gas!
From me:
Sorry to sound naïve - is the British media ignoring the strike because strikes don't make as good pictures as riots? Where can I learn more?
Reply:
Perhaps I'm cynical rather than you being naive! I reckon it's partly good media, partly because riots can easily be depicted as irresponsible and futile and in the end trivial, and partly because the dominant political narrative in this country is that class is dead. Hence, any sign that class is not dead, here or anywhere else, must be studiously ignored if at all possible. Anyway on that note I have to go and do some Xmas shopping. Have a great break.
On the subject of trade union politics - an incident of real violence - acid thrown in the face of a woman trade unionist, Kostadinka Kuneva, as she entered her home in central Athens on 22 December. She is a train cleaner and organiser of a cleaners' union, a Bulgarian legally working in Greece. * * * See the multi-authored pan-european webzine A fistful of euros - a piece by Douglas Muir plus comment, groping for meaning, wondering whether PASOK can lead: "Greece - what if nothing happens?"

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