Wednesday, March 03, 2010 

Michael Foot, 1913-2010.

It's become a cliché to say when someone truly great or stratospheric passes away that we'll never see their like again, yet I challenge anyone to say that it isn't true of Michael Foot, who has died aged 96. Not only was he the last socialist to lead the Labour party, something which will certainly never happen again, but he was also the last great, genuinely principled leader of any mass political party. In an age where presentation and pretence trump integrity and honesty every time, we've lost one of the few remaining reminders of why politics truly matters, something which challenges even the most committed and well-meaning of us at times.

Foot will partially be so fondly remembered because he lost, and as a nation there's little we love more than a romantic loser. Who knows what kind of prime minister he would have made had history been different, but he could hardly have been worse than the alternative. It was as a parliamentarian though that he truly excelled, and he's bequeathed us one of the greatest insults in the House of Commons during the 20th century, accusing Norman Tebbit of imitating a semi-trained polecat every time he rose to speak. Nigel Farage take note. He was never more right than when he made the unquestionable point that "most liberties have been won by people who broke the law", something completely anathema to today's generation of Labour politicians to whom the state in all its guises is never wrong.

As a 17-18-year-old it was Foot's even more left-wing nephew Paul who I wanted to emulate: the investigative journalist who through his campaigns freed more innocent people than almost any other in this country. When he died back in 2004 it was the tribute and image painted of the two men in Private Eye which has always stayed with me: the comedic vision of the two Feet, walking down a London street, arguing and debating as they went, both gesticulating to make a point with their sticks, other pedestrians fleeing from their path. That both have now left us is deeply sad, but the memory of these two great contributors to British cultural and political life will live on for a very long time yet. As the Guardian's obituary finishes:

Michael gave love and earned love as few politicians do in any age. He was wonderful company, a marvellous comrade, a magnificent man, a great socialist and libertarian. The only tribute that he would want, the only memorial that would do him justice, is enduring application of his values in the cause of progress.

Let us give him that.

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Friday, January 18, 2008 

We'll build this rook house here for Bobby.

Bobby Fischer 1943 - 2008

Mr Eugenides on the genius, recluse and antisemitic loon.

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Saturday, November 10, 2007 

I believe in nothing but it is my nothing.

I am stronger than Mensa, Miller and Mailer
I spat out Plath and Pinter
- Manic Street Preachers, Faster.

Only Pinter left.

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Saturday, May 19, 2007 

Farewell to Falwell.

Generally, it's regarded as distasteful to dance on the graves of the recently deceased. Honestly though, what other possible reaction is appropriate when the world has been sadly deprived of another bigoted, hate-preaching apocalyptic false prophet?

Jerry Falwell became world infamous when he so accurately pointed the finger of blame shortly after the 9/11 attacks. Rather than going with the general feeling that this had been an attack by 19 inadequates armed with boxcutters and fundamentalist Salafi Islam, he instead remarked, while talking to Pat Robertson, a fellow nut-job:
"I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say 'you helped this happen.'"

Who could possibly disagree with such a refined opinion? Then again, how could Jerry Falwell, who believed in the very same God that the hijackers did, who hated the same people that they did, and who probably would have found much in common with their views on society itself had they ever met, point the finger at those who were actually responsible without attacking his own creed?

Whenever such enlightened fellow members of the human race depart from this mortal coil, I can't help but imagine by indulging their own beliefs just where they would turn out to have gone. There's surely no contest in this case: Falwell went straight to hell. Since the beginning of Falwell's preaching, the Devil will have had plenty of time to think up just how best to torture this hater of homosexuals, abortion and illicit sexual relations. It wouldn't just involve Falwell being made a bitch for the rest of eternity in burning damnation; that would be too obvious and nowhere near enough punishment for someone who spent the best part of his life persecuting those who simply had different beliefs and lifestyles to those he favoured. No, Falwell wouldn't just be receiving everlasting, continuing death by mau mau, he'd be forced into having unprotected sex with just the sexually liberated women he condemned, only for them to become pregnant and then abort his love children right in front of his face, all while being jumped up and down on by Tinky Winky, another of his targets.

Thankfully for Falwell, who failed to follow the two main teachings of the person whose message he supposedly spent his life spreading, loving your neighbour as yourself and extracting the rafter from your own eye before pointing out the one in your brother's, neither hell nor heaven exist. He is instead at peace, which is something that can't be said for those campaigning for their own rights, such as gay marriage to be recognised, who are still being discriminated against with plenty of thanks to the power of his organisation over America's politicians. There is one bright spot; his hatred of those with a different sexual orientation wasn't enough to appease another branch of well-known lunatics:
the Westboro Baptist Church has announced that it will be picketing his funeral (PDF).

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