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Boxing is not a sport!

joshua klitschko

Why do sports fans continue to glorify the so-called sport, boxing; wallowing in its excruciating physical excesses?

Last night for the first time in well over twenty years, I sat down to view the television broadcast of the WBA “super” version of the world heavyweight championship between Britain’s own Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko of Ukraine. Here were two imposing, muscular prize-fighters intent on causing physical bodily harm to the head and torso of each other; they certainly achieved that! What was even more disgusting was that they were surrounded by 90,000 spectators packed into Wembley Stadium, all baying for a blood-fest.

The next day, sports journalists were full of superlatives for the bout: “Privilege of sharing in electric feeling unmatched in sport”, “…epic lives up to hype”, “Wembley wonder joins the elite…”. What is sporting, skilful or beautiful about an activity that involves two powerful men utilising their athletic prowess to hurt each other? I can only describe boxing as regulated fighting akin to human cockfighting. Just like two trained gamecocks, boxers are conditioned to put the opponent down with vicious blows to the head and body. This may include some skilful jabbing and fancy footwork but, ultimately, the boxer’s goal is to  pummel and smash through each other’s defences to inflictphysical damage; in some cases, (unintended) death.

640px-Microcosm_of_London_Plate_018_-_Royal_Cock_Pit_(colour)Cockfighting – usually referred to as a blood sport – was banned in England and Wales way back in 1835 (Scotland waited a further sixty years to institute the ban) with the Cruelty to Animals Act. Look at the scene above – it is not too dissimilar to the one enacted at Wembley Stadium on Saturday night; only Wembley magnified the raucous and brutal assembly considerably. We must ask ourselves, should we continue to organise, support and glorify a ‘blood sport’ which promotes cruelty to humans? How many spectators would want to partake in such an activity (sport [sic]) themselves if given the opportunity? Very few, I would guess, unlike the uptake in the vast majority of other spectator sports!

It is time to ‘ring the bell’ on boxing. In the 21st century, we should be able accept that boxing is not a sport; it is a cruel, inhumane activity that must be banned!

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The Irish Famine – An unnecessary tragedy?

Irish-Famine

One event that the Irish, and their global diaspora, were not celebrating yesterday, on the feast day of St Patrick, was the Irish Famine. One hundred and seventy years ago, Ireland was suffering from mass starvation, which had been caused primarily by successive blasts of a potato blight (the fungus, Phytophthora infestans). The resulting facts may not be totally accurate, but they are undeniable: on the doorstep of the world’s richest nation (at that time), about one million people died of starvation and epidemic disease; some two million fled to far-flung spots such as the Americas and Australia; nearly one-eighth of the entire population was killed. As Jim Donnelly has stated, the Irish Famine ‘was proportionally much more destructive of human life than the vast majority of famines in modern times’. (BBC Online)

While the Great Hunger began as a natural catastrophe of extraordinary magnitude (robbing more than a third of the population of its usual means of subsistence for four or five years in a row), the inaction and inefficiency of the ruling authorities exacerbated the perilous situation, which ultimately resulted in an artificial famine. Having just finished reading Robert Scally’s eminently scholarly and beautifully written The End of Hidden Ireland, it is clear that the catastrophic event now known as the Great Famine is a tragic tapestry of historical inequalities unique to nineteenth century Ireland: an antiquated land system with its resultant ‘rebellion’ and eviction; the agonising distress and mortality caused by the potato blight; and, ultimately, the Crowns’s preferred solution, forced repatriation to the extremities of the world.

My own interpretation of this sorry chapter in British history is a damning one: that the imperial system of government – ideologically guided by lassiez-faire market forces – reacted ineffectually, and arguably, callously to the plight of its closest imperial subjects. At the very least, the Whig government led by Lord John Russell did not respond adequately to the enormous initial food gap of 1846-7; it then compounded this inaction by failing to utilise Ireland’s own grain supplies as well as the large amounts of foreign grain (imported Indian corn or maize)that began to arrive after 1847. Unlike modern intergovernmental responses to famine, the political élite and the middle classes strongly militated against heavy and sustained relief. (BBC Online). The government’s soup-kitchen scheme should have been extended far beyond its six-month span. Another short-lived initiative of public works during the winter of 1846-7 failed to pay the necessary wages for the recipients to afford the exorbitant price of food at that time. On top of that, the poor-relief system placed so many restrictive obstacles in the way of peasants that the relief was ineffective. Again, it was ideologically guided by the belief that costs should be kept to a minimum and the Irish poor should be self-reliant and self-motivated. Robert Scally highlights the ruthlessness of Irish landowners in their policy of mass evictions – apparently supported, or at least ignored, by the British government – that was used to rid their estates of pauperized farmers and labourers.

And, the only way out? Forced emigration to lands so far away to be beyond the knowledge and imagination of the vast majority of Irish people. Scally’s book compares the transatlantic crossings to America to those of West African slaves to that same arena of exploitation. Undoubtedly, the east coast of the United States was a salvation of sorts for a large number of emigrants, but the loss of life, of family connections, of cultural identity was considerable. As Jim Donnelly implies, the British governing classes did not learn from the Irish experience of famine as Indians suffered equally from famines in 1876-9 and 1896-1902; tens of millions starved to death because the imperial government did not have the political will nor the moral aptitude to prevent it. (BBC Online)

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A Modern Paradox… and we’re all part of it.

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Here I am, with time to spare, sitting in Pret a Manger’s Waterloo Station branch sipping a passable cappuccino.

To my left, illuminated in glorious neon light are numerous, over-sized adverts for some of the trivialities of modern living: Dove men’s toiletries and Beats audio equipment.

To my right, below on the station concourse, three police officers encircle a faceless vagrant – well that is my first impression – who minutes earlier had been dozing in the same café as me. That was his ‘crime’: he was an undesirable, disturbing the meaningless chatter of Pret a Manger clientele along with the tinny music coming out of its speakers. I presume that the manager had contacted British Transport Police to remove the nuisance from his pleasant slumber.

I could not tell if he had purchased a drink and/or some food earlier, but he was certainly not being noisy or threatening; he was not particularly dirty or smelly; he was not sprawled across seats or being an obstruction. It would appear he just wanted to rest in the safety, warmth and comfort of a public place. Now, he is being questioned and his bag searched by the police as he struggles to maintain his balance. Are the questions related to his welfare and health or do the officers just want to ascertain if they can transfer the problem to someone else? For now, he is being led away to…. Where? A welcoming, comfortable home? A hot, nutritious meal? A fresh set of decent clothing? Or, better still, a caring, sympathetic, productive chat with a well-meaning individual? Unfortunately, I do not think so!

This sort of situation truly emphasises  why capitalism and socialism are diametrically opposed and, apparently, cannot collaborate to achieve the same goal – Human Happiness! Cosmetic and technology companies can finance expensive advertising in rail stations; paying for the services of already wealthy international rugby players to promote their products. Governments (national or local) cannot – or will not make it a priority to – find the money, let alone the heart, to help a fellow human being who has lost his way in the world, for whatever reason.

What is more important: making sure that we buy ‘trivial’ but relatively expensive products to enrich the coffers of multinational, highly profitable companies; products that do not improve humanity? Or, should Governments be channelling resources – through increased taxation of those same companies – to turn around the life of a person who needs comfort, care and compassion? Fundamentally, is the purpose of life the pursuit of ever-increasing amounts of capital or, is it the pursuit of worthwhile happiness for everyone (true equality)?

My First (possibly last) dose of Jane Austen!

Do you agree with my ‘review’?

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s-and-s

I’m sorry literary lovers, but what is the big deal about Jane Austen? Ok, I’ve only read one of her novels, ‘Sense and Sensibility’, but I was literally bored to tears as I ploughed my way through this ….. so-called romance. The blurb on the fly jacket is thoroughly misleading; it certainly exaggerates its own self-importance! I can certainly live without her and I will not be reading ‘S & S’ again and again.

All of the novel’s characters remained faceless to me; I could not warm to any of them as they all came across as spoilt, irksome individuals who live in a bubble of bland high society. The only character who brought a dash of colour to the proceedings was the partially effervescent, Mrs Jennings who was only comical because she was apparently blind to the selfish desires of the other individuals. Take the principal family in the piece, the Dashwoods; all…

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Slavery – Paying for the Guilt!

Cannot be forgotten; the legacy has continuing repercussions!

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Stephen McLaren’s article in The Guardian last week (Friday, 13 January ‘The slave trade made Scotland rich. Now we must pay our blood-soaked debts‘) is a timely reminder of the enduring legacy of the transatlantic slave trade that made Britain ‘great’. Two hundred and ten years (25 March 1817) ago the mother of all democratic parliaments passed the  Abolition of the Slave Trade Act, although it did not abolish slavery itself. It remained legal in most of the British Empire until the Slavery Abolition Act 1833.

McLaren cites a more potent event that took place 235 years ago last month, reminding us of the insidious evil that was inflicted upon black Africans within the British Empire. The captain of the slave ship Zong, Luke Collingwood decided to “jettison” 132 sick and dying slaves into the mid-Atlantic waters so that he could make a insurance claim on their loss.

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Extra NHS Cash=More Tax!

Please support this call whatever way you can!

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When is the British public – let alone the Government – going to wake up to the underfunding that is fuelling our national health and care crisis? We do not need the British Red Cross to pass judgement on the NHS; just walk into any A & E Department right now, and you will witness our cherished national institution creaking at the seams.

Government ministers may claim that billions of pounds of extra cash have been made available; they will point out that every winter sees an ‘unprecedented’ surge in demand for all forms of healthcare. What they will not admit is that allocating numbers – whether it is for funding, efficiency cuts, doctors and nurses, hospital beds, hours before being treated or MRI/CAT scanners – is a waste of time. You cannot put a figure to measure the quality of care needed to sustain a health service that needs to…

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My First (possibly last) dose of Jane Austen!

s-and-s

I’m sorry literary lovers, but what is the big deal about Jane Austen? Ok, I’ve only read one of her novels, ‘Sense and Sensibility’, but I was literally bored to tears as I ploughed my way through this ….. so-called romance. The blurb on the fly jacket is thoroughly misleading; it certainly exaggerates its own self-importance! I can certainly live without her and I will not be reading ‘S & S’ again and again.

All of the novel’s characters remained faceless to me; I could not warm to any of them as they all came across as spoilt, irksome individuals who live in a bubble of bland high society. The only character who brought a dash of colour to the proceedings was the partially effervescent, Mrs Jennings who was only comical because she was apparently blind to the selfish desires of the other individuals. Take the principal family in the piece, the Dashwoods; all of them – even the relatively engaging Elinor – are primarily concerned about the social, familial and financial connections of their milieu. Their lives revolve around extended visits to country estates and London’s town houses. Then, the main plot-line is nothing more exciting than Marianne’s disastrous engagement to the dastardly Willoughby. It was obvious that the ever-loyal Colonel Brandon would come to her rescue and, finally, Elinor would be united with dear Edward Ferrars, the love of her life.

All-in-all, I was totally unmoved by the storyline and Jane Austen’s prose. Maybe I should wait until I delve into her world of ‘Pride and Prejudice’, Mr Darcey and all, but….. maybe not!