Back in November, I was delighted to take part in a fascinating day-long event in Brockley, the Brockley Festival of Ideas for Change, featuring 16 speakers from the local area discussing pressing issues of our time from a left-of-centre perspective. The day was divided into four sessions, and I’m pleased to note that recordings of the event are now online on the Brockley Society website as follows:
I took part in the third session, An Inclusive Society, and the recording of my talk, “Demonising ‘The Other’: Tackling the Rise of Racism and Xenophobia”, begins 14 minute into the recording, after the novelist Gabriel Gbadamosi, discussing “The Creative Community as a Condition of Multicultural Society.”
You can also, if you like, read a transcript of my talk, which I published on my website a week after the event. As I stated in my introduction, I wrote it in a 90-minute burst of concentrated creative energy just beforehand, and “[i]t distils my feelings about the current rise of racism and xenophobia in the UK, the narrow victory for leaving the EU in the referendum in June, and the terrible indifference to the current refugee crisis, which is taking place on a scale that is unprecedented in most of our lives.” I added that “I examine the dangers posed by an ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality, laying the blame on cynical politicians and our largely corrupt corporate media, whilst also asking how and why, on an individual basis, people are becoming more and more insular, and what, if anything, can be done to counter these dangerous trends.”
I was followed by Rosario Guimba-Stewart, the director of Lewisham Refugee and Migrant Network, who spoke about “Refugees and their Challenges”, and the session ended with author and campaigner Jackie Walker’s talk, “From Life to Action,” a powerful account that was read out by her friend Rosalind Stopps, after she was targeted, unfairly, by supporters of the state of Israel for alleged anti-semitic views in her role as the vice-chair of the Momentum group, from which she was sacked as a result of her persecution. The charge of anti-semitism was untrue — and it’s worth bearing in mind that Jackie is part Jewish, just as it’s also worth noting that similar unfair attacks have been targeted at the Labour Party in general. Just to be clear: criticising the state of Israel for its apartheid-style subjugation of the Palestinians it has been trying to get rid of for 69 years is not the same thing as anti-semitism, of the kind that led to numerous pogroms in Europe over many centuries, and eventually to the Holocaust in Nazi Germany.
I hope that another Festival of Ideas for Change will take place — and not just in Brockley, but elsewhere in the country. After the dreadful events of the last ten months — the EU referendum here, and Donald Trump’s election in the US, and the subsequent emboldening of racism and xenophobia as a result — it is clear that everyone on the left and the centre-left needs to engage wth finding ways to preserve decency, tolerance and an international perspective in the face of the horrible new development of the UK as a depressingly and dangerously backwards-looking and insular country.
Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose debut album ‘Love and War’ and EP ‘Fighting Injustice’ are available here to download or on CD via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and the Countdown to Close Guantánamo initiative, launched in January 2016), the co-director of We Stand With Shaker, which called for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison (finally freed on October 30, 2015), and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by the University of Chicago Press in the US, and available from Amazon, including a Kindle edition — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US).
To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, and The Complete Guantánamo Files, an ongoing, 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011. Also see the definitive Guantánamo habeas list, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.
When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:
Here’s my latest article, providing a link to the audio recording of my talk – and 15 others – at the Festival of Ideas for Change, which took place where I live, in Brockley, in south east London, last November. My talk – inspired by a key theme in my Guantanamo work, and by my position regarding UK politics – was entitled, “Demonising ‘The Other’: Tackling the Rise of Racism and Xenophobia,” and I hope it’s of interest. There were many other great speakers, and I hope another Festival of Ideas for Change is on the cards. With Brexit in the UK and Donald Trump in the US, vibrant and compelling ideas for change are certainly needed.
Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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