Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Way We (All) Were

Neil Lyndon on the suburban revolutionaries.

As the clock in the Queens’ College cloisters struck 12, we raised our glasses and toasted “to the revolution”. Then began a rowdy and energetic rendition of the Internationale, booming out at first over the waters of the River Cam but feebly petering out when it came to the second verse which – like the national anthem – none of us was quite sure how to continue.

After we had climbed down from the parapet of the Silver Street bridge, we 12 or 13 Cambridge undergraduates – all men, I am fairly sure – gathered again in some nearby college rooms where we earnestly agreed that our first revolutionary commitment from that moment would be to learn all the words of the Internationale so we would not disgrace ourselves in the company of other comrades when we went on demonstrations. None of us, I believe, ever bent our brows to that stern task. That would tally with the general approach that most of us took towards our studies.

It was October 25, 1967, the 50th anniversary of the Bolshevik revolution.

What became of them ?

I am still friends with a few and have followed the careers of others, such as Simon Hoggart, The Guardian’s parliamentary sketch writer and radio presenter.

A couple, including Peter Cole (once News Review editor at this paper) have become eminent professors. Gwynn Pritchard – our firebrand leader in black leather bomber jacket and black beret just like Che Guevara – joined the BBC and rose to become head of Welsh broadcasting.

Why am I not terribly surprised, any more that I'm shocked that Julie "extermination" Etchingham started out at the BBC.

Mr Cameron said: “Let me outline the action that a Conservative government would take. As we have seen, some of the increase in population size results from natural change – birth rates, death rates. Here our policy should be obvious . . . ”

At this point Ms Etchingham was heard to say “extermination”.

Sky News apologised after the gaffe and said that Ms Etchingham’s comment was regrettable.

Interesting Times interview with the actor and playwright Kwame Kwei-Armah, ne Ian Roberts.

In Statement of Regret these issues come to life as a debate between a father and his sons, and between older and younger members of the Institute of Black Policy Research, about which issues a black NGO should be airing. Reparations for slavery? Or domestic violence and low educational standards in the black community? The old-school campaigners want a united front against white oppression. But, as the new generation argues, “self-flagellating liberalism is dead . . . the money is in self-criticism”.

Is this how Kwei-Armah sees the state of racial politics? “Absolutely.” As a reaction against political correctness, he says, and specifically after the 7/7 London bombings, “society, and that includes black people, started to think: ‘We’re bored of whingeing blacks. It’s time they looked at their own problems. The time is past for blaming the white man.’ ” He pauses. “There are elements of truth in that, but it is certainly not the whole truth.” ... KweiArmah also believes that his own cultural group is in decline. “Within five years, when we discuss black Britain, it will no longer be the Windrush generation, it will no longer be pork-pie hats or young Rastafarians. It will be new African migrant stories. Because demographically, the African-Caribbean is shrinking and the West African community is growing. And that will create tensions.”