Why young people should vote

This article appeared in The Palatinate

Russell Brand
Russell Brand has given a voice to the disillusioned masses. “I fervently believe that we deserve more from our democratic system than the few derisory tit-bits tossed from the carousel of the mighty, when they hop a few inches left or right” he declares, representing the common man in not-so-common language. To pare it down, he thinks politicians just don’t get it and are all the same and as such voting makes no difference. Continue reading Why young people should vote

Frànçois & The Atlas Mountains

A version of this article was published on Purple Radio

On the modern international pop music scene, France has specialised in exporting electro-pop, with David Guetta’s mass-produced club dross, Daft Punk’s retro-disco and beyond that the likes of Modji (remember them?), M83, Phoenix and Cassius.

One French band you probably won’t have heard of is the indie-rock outfit Frànçois & The Atlas Mountains. They sound quite a lot like Metronomy or Vampire Weekend, and represent a multicultural, international type of French music, as you’d expect from a band named, in English, after a North African mountain range. Frontman François Marry moved to Bristol in 2003 and played in pubs with locals before setting up the group a few years later. They are signed to Domino Records, an English label which boasts Arctic Monkeys, Franz Ferdinand and Four Tet.

Continue reading Frànçois & The Atlas Mountains

Let’s hope change in Caracas follows change in Havana

Dilma Rousseff receiving a Hugo Chávez picture from Nicolás Maduro

As the United States ends its embargo on Cuba, many foresee the slow break down of the Caribbean country’s isolation, with an American-style way of life seeping in, bringing with it more business, liberalisation, democracy, and of course more McDonalds.

The reverberations of this deal are being felt across Latin America. Perhaps the biggest impact will be in Venezuela, which has been Cuba’s strongest ally for the past 20 years.  Under Hugo Chavez, and now his hand-picked successor Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela has provided cheap oil in exchange for, among other things, high-level intelligence expertise and many thousands of Cuban medical personnel.

Continue reading Let’s hope change in Caracas follows change in Havana

The other Charlies

A version of this article was published in The Bubble

The displays of solidarity with Charlie Hebdo in France have been heartening. However, outside of this swell of national pride and support, it has this is also given the opportunity for racists of different forms to pose as anti-establishment figures to their disillusioned followers.

Dieudonné M’Bala M’Bala is a black French comedian who once used to campaign against racism and stood against the Front National in elections on this platform. He since made friends with Jean-Marie Le Pen and has been in trouble multiple times for anti-Semitism, calling Holocaust remembrance “memorial pornography” and joking about the gas chambers. Funny guy. Depressingly, he has lots of followers, who for example have provided him with hundreds of thousands in donations. At best they do not see his blatant racism as a problem; at worst they like it. Continue reading The other Charlies

Islamism and Charlie Hebdo

A version of this article appeared in The Palatinate

Shock all around. Thousands flocked to the main squares of cities, displaying signs declaring je suis Charlie and holding pencils in the air.

Messages in Place Du Capitole, Toulouse
Messages in Place du Capitole, Toulouse

The recent murders are the most deadly and by far the most shocking in a series of French Islamist attacks over the past few years. The same magazine was firebombed in 2011. In 2012 Mohammed Merah, from the suburbs of Toulouse, went on a shooting spree in his home city murdering seven people, including three children. He targeted a Jewish school. In May 2013 a solider was stabbed. In May last year a French jihadist murdered four people at a Jewish museum in Brussels, Belgium. Just before Christmas there were two attacks, reportedly motivated by fundamental Islamism, in two days: on the 20th December a Muslim convert tried to stab a policeman in Tours; on the 21st another man injured 11 pedestrians by driving into them. Continue reading Islamism and Charlie Hebdo

Présidente Marine?

Front National 2010-05-01 n03

This article was published on Left Foot Forward

“Fascism arrives as your friend,” suggested the children’s author Michael Rosen. “It will restore your honour, make you feel proud, protect your house, give you a job, clean up the neighbourhood, remind you of how great you once were, clear out the venal and the corrupt, remove anything you feel is unlike you…”

All this sounds attractive for the French right now, mired in a political and economic crisis. The Front National sits near the top of the polls, and the prospect of an extreme-right president in France is seriously being discussed. A recent edition of L’Express, was titled “President in 2017? Why the worst is possible”, over a picture of a stern Marine Le Pen. The governing Socialist Party is deeply unpopular and the opposition right-wing UMP divided. But the reason for the success of the FN goes deeper than the current mainstream political malaise. Continue reading Présidente Marine?

Back-to-front slang

Slang is normally considered a form of language that has little rules or order. Yet a form of slang in the French language, called Verlan, is impressively systematic. The nearest British equivalent is perhaps Cockney Rhyming slang, except Verlan is far more widespread. Verlan, like slang in general, serves as an identity marker and a way to talk in secret. It is a remarkable ‘system’ of slang, allowing an unlimited number of words to be transformed by following the rules. Continue reading Back-to-front slang