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Once in a generation, if that, there appears in the world of sport an athlete whose greatness is more than what can be measured on a football pitch, inside a boxing ring, or on a running track.

In the world of that most international of sports, football, Diego Maradona was greatness tout court. He played the game like a man whose genius existed to serve his team, not as someone for whom the team existed to serve his genius. It’s the difference between the ideals of the collective and those of the individual. …


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In a 1992 interview with Arthur Miller, Charlie Rose asked him what quality the great playwrights have shared in common, distinguishing them from the not so great ones in any given age?

After a pause to gather his thoughts, Miller replied that the “big ones share a fierce moral sensibility” and that “they are all burning with some anger at the way the world is.” “The littler ones,” Miller continues, “have made their peace with it. The bigger ones can’t make any peace.”

Oliver Stone is an artist whose work (his early work especially) is, as with Miller’s and all the “bigger ones”, suffused with the passion and fire of a man who refused to make peace with the world he both experienced and observed around him after serving two tours in Vietnam as an infantryman, prior to emerging determined to live life on his own terms or not at all. …


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Donald J. Trump is America’s Nero. His elevation to the office of president in 2016 was not the aberration his liberal detractors argued. Rather it was a symptom of US imperial decline, the first seeds of which were planted with the evacuation of the US Embassy in Saigon in 1975, setting in train a process that was deferred by the demise of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, after Moscow’s own Vietnam in Afghanistan in the 1980s ended in similar fashion.

The invasion of Iraq by US military forces and its UK ally came over a decade into America’s unipolar moment, when imbued with triumphalism and End of History hubris, the Bush neocon administration set about shaping the world in its own image with the objective of establishing a new Pax America. …


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Brexit and Covid, Covid and Brexit, both will forever be entwined in a toxic embrace in any social history of the UK covering this period going forward, revealing in equal part the very worst and best of British society at the start of the third decade of the 21st century.

As we move into 2021, that we still have something that can be described as a society at all is in no small part down to the country’s National Health Service. As someone who was forced to rely on its care in late September, spending three nights at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, I am well placed to assert that the NHS continues to exist as a powerful testament to the strength of the socialist and collectivist ethos from which it derives its special status in the hearts and minds of every right thinking person across this island. …


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It is hard to decide what was more abhorrent: the booing of players at The Den, home of Millwall FC, when they took a knee prior to the match against Derby County in solidarity with Black Lives Matter recently, or the squalid defence of the booing by such as Paul Embery, someone on the left in Britain who’s gained himself a deserved reputation in recent years for defending the indefensible.

Let us not pretend. Support for an entity in Britain referred to as the ‘white working class’ is support for a politics rooted in ethno-nationalism. It is pandering to nativism dressed up as defence of community and tradition. It is, in the last analysis, a politics that comes perilously close to the BNP — only with a bit of public ownership thrown in. For just as it doesn’t take a weatherman to know which way the wind blows, it doesn’t require you to be ‘woke’ to know that a section of left in Britain has become corrupted by right wing ideas and tropes. …


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If words could be transmuted into gauntlets, Boris Johnson mightily threw one down at the feet of the SNP leadership with his claim that devolution in Scotland had been a “disaster in Scotland” and was “Tony Blair’s biggest mistake” while in office.

Aside from the fact that one million dead Iraqis would no doubt take issue with the fatuous claim that devolution constituted Blair’s biggest ‘mistake’, from Johnson’s mouth has just spilled the truths which hitherto dared not speak their name.

Those truths are that in the eyes of the British Tory establishment Scotland’s rightful status is more that of a province of Britain (North Britain), and less that of a partner nation in the UK. The disdain for Scotland in Tory circles has ancient roots in Scottish intransigence when it comes to the untiring attempts to exercise suzerainty over it from London. …


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The chaos that’s engulfed the US in the wake of the 2020 presidential election merely reflects the chaos of a broken society that is headed on a rocket ship to hell. Despite Biden and his supporters’ attempts to salve the deep wounds and fissures that disfigure any of the national myths about diversity, harmony, ‘out of many one’ (E pluribus unum), and other such idealistic sentiments, the brute reality has been unmasked by Trump to the point where placing the mask of civility and decency back on the face of America appears an increasingly impossible task.

Just consider the following:

The fact that despite Trump’s open disregard for science and the truth; the fact that despite sanctioning the cruel and barbaric separation of migrant children from their parents and their detention in cages at the US border with Mexico; the fact that despite his courting of conspiracy theory lunacy, his open detestation of racial justice and support for racist policing and racial profiling; and despite his shambolic engagement with Covid19, culminating in his public suggestion of bleach as a viable treatment for the virus — the fact that despite all this and more some 70 million Americans still cast a vote for the incumbent in this election reveals nothing if not the diseased state of America’s soul at the start of the third decade of the 21st century. …


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This long-read piece comprises a chapter in my book, East vs West: The Struggle for the Future. With the 2020 US presidential election upon us, the history of Washington’s rise and its role in shaping and disfiguring the world since has never been more vital to understand.

1.

America rides to the rescue in WWI and afterwards makes it move

It was in the aftermath of the First World War — the ‘war to end all wars’ — that Washington emerged as a global hegemon.

The country had entered the war in late 1917 at the point at which the European warring powers had fought themselves to a standstill, their economies exhausted after four years of unremitting conflict. Washington’s entry on the side of the Allies ensured that the Central Powers of Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire could not conceivably continue what by then was a war of attrition. Moreover, by this point the enemy within — in the form of a rising tide of working class militancy and communism — now posed a greater threat to the survival of the major central power Germany’s ruling class than its enemies without. As such, whatever resources and strength remained after the ravages of four years of attritional slaughter on the Eastern and Western Fronts had to be, as a matter of necessity, redirected to meet it. …


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As a product of Edinburgh, and further still the city’s working class, very early on you became aware of the name Sean Connery.

You learned of his very humble beginnings in the 1930s in Fountainbridge, today a gentrified upscale part of the Scottish capital but back then a run down enclave of overcrowded tenements slap bang in the centre of the city. …


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Humanity has reached a demonstrable tipping point and now has an urgent decision to make. Said decision comes down to a choice between continuing down the path of ecological and planetary ruin, or rapidly changing course in the direction of a sustainable future not just for the human species but for every species that inhabits a planet upon which history confirms we have been a blight.

Don’t believe me? Think that I’m guilty of vacuous hyperbole? Well, in that case hark, the sentiments of Yuval Noah Harari, author of the internationally bestselling work Sapiens:

If we combine the mass extinctions in Australia and America, and add the smaller-scale extinctions that took place as Homo Sapiens spread over Afro-Asia — such as the extinction of all other human species — and the extinctions that occurred when ancient foragers settled remote islands such as Cuba, the inevitable conclusion is that the first wave of Sapiens colonisation was one of the biggest and swiftest ecological disasters to befall the animal kingdom. …

About

John Wight

Writing on politics, culture and whatever else. You can support my efforts at https://tinyurl.com/wehjcjd

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