Jim has given me five words to say something about. Anti-fascism, Brockley, secularism, immigration and iconoclast
Anti-fascism is at the core of my political being. The first political activism I was involved in, as a 15 year old, was action against the NF. Almost everything else about my politics has changed, but that has remained constant. What has changed, of course, is fascism. The classic Nazi-style fascism of the NF is no longer much of an issue (although extreme right violence remains a threat in the US and UK, and classic neo-Nazis are a major issue in parts of Central and Eastern Europe). The two mutations of fascism that are most important to combat now are, first, the rising forms of Euro-nationalist populism that are predicated on a generalised anti-immigrant racism as well as anti-Muslim racism, a movement that has been growing electorally across Western Europe, and, second, the rising forms of Islamist fascism which have had such a destructive effect on so many parts of the world.
Contrary to the “from” in my blogonym, I am not native to London SE4. I came here first to visit a friend when the Breakspears Arms was still open, and still reportedly the hub of drug-related crimes that gave the area a less than safe reputation. However, I immediately liked the laid-back, unpretentious, live-and-let-live bohemian feel. I moved here a year or so after that, and have lived in a few different parts of the manor. I think of Brockley as a microcosm of London itself in that it is made up of a series of micro-villages (Brockley Cross, the conservation area, Honor Oak, Crofton Park, and so on), each shading almost imperceptibly into the townships that surround it (Nunhead, St Johns, Ladywell, and so on). That is, I have a conception of a Greater Brockley, rather than the narrow Hillyfields-centric view of the posh types. But an inclusive confederalist Greater Brockley, in the tradition of the Austro-Marxists or Tito, rather than an irredentist Milosevic style Greater Brockley. Good things in Greater Brockley: the wealth of parks and green spaces, the Brockley leyline (ask Transpontine), the standing stones, the paint shop, the Babur, the open studio day every summer...
I am very much a secularist, in that I believe in a public sphere in which no one faith has privileged access, in which all faiths and none are tolerated. The cleresy, in its various forms, has been the primary enemy of freedom in most of the eras of history, because fundamental to freedom in general is the freedom to imagine, to think and above all to doubt, secular values I hold dear. At the same time, I do not have time for the fossilised nineteenth century forms of secularism which have been so fashionable again of late as a backlash against the apparent halt of our society’s modern secular drift, forms of secularism particularly popular amongst the bloggers to whom I am in most ways the closest. This sort of secularism – secularism as anti-religion – misses, it seems to me, what faith has to offer our world. This offering is exemplified by language of the King James Bible which permeates the speeches of Martin Luther King and the writings of WEB Du Bois. It is exemplified by the music of Mehdi Hassan and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Sam Cooke. It is exemplified in the sanctuary movement in the US and by the Strangers into Citizens and Living Wage movements in the UK. I could go on... Or maybe, as Will puts it, I’m soft on god.
I come from immigrant stock. On my father’s side, Irish labour migrants to the UK (according to my non-Irish grandmother, I have her mother-in-law’s blue Irish eyes). On my mother’s side, Jewish immigrants to the US, occupying that blurry line between “economic migrant” and “refugee” that makes the two terms unstable, as “economic migrant” does not do justice to the need to escape an unbearable life, while “refugee” has not generally been recognised as including the likes of them by the states who shape its meaning. This may be partly why I am so passionately part of the pro-immigration lobby, but then all humans are ultimately of migrant stock and I think to be truly a humanist is to be pro-immigration.
I can’t remember if it was in an interview, or told to me by a friend who used to hang out in the Sniffing Glue/Bromley Contingent scene, but apparently when Elvis died in 1977, Danny Baker got very upset at his fellow punks’ wilful delight in this tragedy. I think I have something of Danny Baker’s (probably unhealthy) aversion to iconoclasm. As well as being soft on god, I am soft on places of worship and soft on those considered (by me) to be “great”, like Elvis, or BB King, say, or Hank Williams.
I didn’t mean to write as much as that. Don’t feel you have to if you want to play this game. The rules (at least as Jim and Stroppy played) is that you just ask in the comments below, and I’ll give you five words of your own. If you’re not a blogger, feel free to ask and put your paras in the comments. If you’re one of my regular blog acquaintances, I’ve already thought up some of your words.