Posts in Thinking

Cultural Time Zones and the Global City

What is a cultural time zone? Think of tennis, says Melissa Tandiwe Myambo in a fascinating essay in New Left Review. On the international tennis circuit, all the courts and facilities must meet certain standards, with only minor local variations. “Thus, the tennis tour allows professional players to circulate globally while remaining inside a specific cultural time zone that is more or less the same everywhere.” Much the same thing is happening to our cities, Myambo argues, especially those that, like Johannesburg, are pursuing “global city” status. Shoreditch is to… Read More

Greece as Europe’s Borderland

Greece seems to be synonymous with “crisis” these days. The debt crisis, the migrant crisis, or just the “Greek crisis”, as if the whole country is in a permanent state of crisis. Interestingly, the very word “crisis” is of Greek origin, but krisis means “decision”, and those mostly get made in Brussels or Berlin these days. What I’ve never seen before is a coherent linking of the various crises afflicting this country that I love and in which I lived for a couple of years. That task was accomplished recently by Stathis… Read More

Representation Matters

Diversity in children’s books is a real problem. Here are a couple of statistics for you, courtesy of The Bookseller: 32.1% of pupils of compulsory school age in England are of minority ethnic origins. Only 4% of all the children’s books published in the UK last year featured a black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME) character. And then, the other day, I was going through this summer’s Amnesty magazine and discovered this article by poet Charlie Dark, in which he talks about his experience of growing up in London and… Read More

Occam’s Razor and the Rise of Populism

Over the past few years, people have been wringing their hands over the rise of populism, whether it’s far-right parties in Europe, Brexiteers in the UK or Trump in the US. Now, academics have found the rise in populism is correlated with a rise in economic insecurity.

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The end of TINA

Yesterday, I experienced something entirely new. I finally learnt what it felt like to celebrate an election result. To be honest, I’d given up hope of ever having this experience. I thought my politics were simply too far to the left, and I would never find a candidate to cheer. I could certainly never muster any enthusiasm for Tony Blair’s victories. The fact that he was elected again after the criminal disaster of the Iraq war is something I’ll never understand, but long before that, it was clear that he… Read More

On the violence of borders

I recently visited Ceuta, a piece of the north African coast that belongs to Spain and is hence part of “Europe”. It was a very strange and disturbing experience to cross that border so easily just by showing my British passport, when many people with different-coloured passports die trying to do the same thing. Here’s a photo I took of the border fence. The houses to the left are in Spain; the hillside to the right is in Morocco. There’s also a small village on the Moroccan side, just out of… Read More

The Things I Care About

What do you really care about? I asked myself that question recently, and I was surprised by the results. Firstly, it seems that I care about quite a lot of things. And secondly, although I care about these things, they’re generally not the things that I spend most of my time talking about, writing about, reading about, and taking action on. So it was a useful exercise. I’d recommend it to anyone, writer or non-writer. Just ask yourself what you really care about, and list what comes to mind, as quickly and roughly as possible, without… Read More