Daily Archives: August 15, 2011


Lessons From Ghana

I am off back to work in Ghana for a few weeks next month.

Anyone who believes the crime in England was related to poverty or to race should visit Ghana, where crime is at a low level and society is extremely helpful and supportive. People are much poorer than in the UK yet are not ignorant of the possibilities of western levels of consumption, but they would not dream of seizing them by force, and those few who do have no pro-criminal social milieu in which to shelter.

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The Times Reviews Medea

Very happy with today’s review of Medea by Libby Purves in The Times. Can’t link to it because it is hidden behind the great firewall of Murdoch. Taking a risk that News International’s lawyers are rather too busy to sue me for copyright, here it is:

Nadira Janikova sprang to attention over her affair and marriage with the whistleblowing British envoy to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray. She told the story in her show The British Ambassador’s Belly Dancer, containing the famous admission that the first time she saw him she thought: “Who is this old foreigner, does he have any money?”
Seven years on, as an actress, she radiates an exile’s determined vigour: a steely, competent, wounded, potentially ruthless brand of feminine strength, which makes her ideal casting for Euripides’ Medea in a sinewy new version by Stella Duffy, directed by Sarah Chew.
Medea after all, though a royal granddaughter of the Sun-god Helios, is the foreign wife of an Establishment man, Jason. Far from her roots and rejected, she becomes the avenging demon who kills her rival and her own two small sons.
Because the horrible story is familiar — Duffy uses the traditional prophetic, worried chorus of women to signpost it — it is mainly a meditation on motive and provocation, with Medea’s pain at its heart. Uninhibited howls of “dark, wild grief” and rage greet us from behind the marbled slabs of the set even before we sit down: when she appears, exotically scarfed, she rages about being foreign, deceived, betrayed and as fierce as any man.
For all the high language and the sinuous, scarf-twisting writhing, Janikova is most real in the more colloquial lines, as she contemplates her dark intent and flirts deceitfully with Jason, who is played by Richard Fry in blokey and exasperated Cockney, like an EastEnders geezer telling his stroppy girlfriend to “leave it off, darling”. That actually works rather well, giving a sense of grounded realpolitik to counterbalance Medea’s primitive rage. As he says soothingly “I don’t blame you, you’re a woman”, her eyes hood with dark intention.
Sarah Berger, powerful as the nurse, relates the revolting details of the bride’s death; two sweet twin boys (the Pleasance director’s, I am told) are seen, although mercifully their throats only get slit offstage. A grim but gripping hour, but worth the ride.
Box office: 0131-623 3030; to Aug 29

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Revenge and Punishment

The country is in a mood for revenge. The BBC reports that 200,000 people have signed a petition for withdrawal of benefits from those involved in rioting, while housing associations and councils have started to initiate evictions.

This is madness. If you believe – as I do, and David Cameron claims to – that these lootings were nothing more than simple criminality, then surely they should be treated no differently to ordinary criminal procedure. Criminals do not receive benefits while in jail anyway, whatever the Daily Mail may wish its readers to believe. But deprivation beyond that appears to be the aim of politicians now, wiht those not jailed losing their benefits and loss to those jailed extending beyond their sentence.

I support custodial sentences for many of the looters. I have absolutely no time for gangster culture. Many of these criminals have shown that decent people do indeed need protection from them – in the case of murderers, muggers and arsonists, for a long time. But the custodial sentence for the man who pinched two bottles of water was a totally irrational over-reaction.

If we have learnt anything about punishment in modern times, it is that prison purely as punishment and isolation does not work long term. The purpose must be rehabilitation, training and a better understanding of society and its obligations. There is not enough of this in custodial centres already. To add to it the idea that people should be returned to society in a state of enforced homelessness and with no income, is absolutely mad. There is no other word for it. A more certain way of causing future crime could not be found.

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Broken Britain

Not sure where this came from, was sent to me by email. An excellent cartoon.

Where I differ from so many of my commenters is in seeing all three caricatures as representing a real type of deeply unpleasant person involved in what has gone so wrong in our ultra-materialist society. Most of my commenters view the first two that way and the third as a noble class warrior fulfilling a legitimate desire for material goods (and killing pensioners and burning families out of their homes). Or some such bollocks.

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