A Patriotic Vision For The Left

For a long time now, the words “nationalistic” and “patriotic” have seemed to me to be largely associated with xenophobia, bigotry and prejudice. Political parties like UKIP and the British Nationalist Party have long been claiming that only they are proud of their country and their people.

UKIP’s 2015 General Election manifesto was emblazoned with the slogan “Believe in Britain” as if no other political party did. The English Defence League adopted St George’s flag (ignorant to the fact that St George was Syrian) as if to suggest that they were the true guardians and lovers of our country, and that no other political party could really care for England.

A quick Google search reinforces this unusual association between bigotry and patriotism. The so-called “patriot movement” consists of various conservative movements in the United States that include organised militia members, tax protesters, conspiracy theorists, and radical Christians who believe in an impending apocalypse. ‘Patriotism’ apparently equates with ‘loony’, too.

And just as these illiberal, conservative groups often pose as patriotic, so the left has forever been accused of the opposite: of having a deep loathing for the United Kingdom and wanting to systematically dismantle all of its traditions and institutions. In his novel A Time of Gifts, Patrick Leigh Fermor describes his early perception of left-wing politicians as men and women determined to see the destruction of everything ‘British’, from country-life and religion to cricket and farming. Continue reading

Remembrance, Yeats, and the Irish Easter Rising

The following post is a guest post by Tom Bailey, an 18-year-old literary and political blogger. He writes on a variety of topics from music to politics on his own blog, where he also publishes his poems. His Twitter handle is @TomBaileyBlog

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On Easter Monday, 24th April 1916, Irish republicans rebelled against British rule in Ireland and attempted to establish an independent Irish Republic. Various republican groups, led by the likes of Patrick Pearse and James Connolly, seized key locations in Dublin and proclaimed an end to British supremacy.

The rebellion was swiftly stifled, but sadly not before hundreds had been killed and thousands wounded. After Pearse and his followers agreed to a surrender on the 29th of April, republican leaders were rounded up and executed.

As the anniversary of the Easter Rising approaches, it is right that we should commemorate those who lost their lives during the rebellion. But, as we must always ask ourselves, how ought we remember them? How can we best do justice to those who did?

Easter Rising Tea Towel

A tea towel commemorating the Easter Rising, by The Radical Tea Towel Company

Well, perhaps we can find some guidance in the poetry of Irish Republican W.B. Yeats. In his poem “Easter, 1916” Yeats captures the conflict (mental and physical) of the Irish nation like no other writer ever has. The text is here:

I have met them at close of day
Coming with vivid faces
From counter or desk among grey
Eighteenth-century houses.
I have passed with a nod of the head
Or polite meaningless words,
Or have lingered awhile and said
Polite meaningless words,
And thought before I had done
Of a mocking tale or a gibe
To please a companion
Around the fire at the club,
Being certain that they and I
But lived where motley is worn:
All changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born. Continue reading

Six Radical Moves By Pope Francis

Since becoming the 266th pope of the Roman Catholic Church in March 2013, Pope Francis has gone from strength to strength in bringing Catholicism into the 21st Century. He’s also shown himself to be a bit of a radical in the process! Here are six areas where we believe Pope Francis has taken radical and liberal steps in the last three years:

1. On Homosexuality

In 2013, Pope Francis famously asked, “If someone is gay and searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” He has consistently argued that God isn’t necessarily concerned with the sexual orientation of Catholics, but rather their faith and the love they show to others. He has also suggested that the church could be open to civil unions, and in October 2014, the Synod on the Family’s interim report affirmed the “gifts and qualities” of LGBT individuals. It seems that the Catholic Church is embracing a more modern view of the world and moving on from some of the historic texts and philosophies that criticise gay people.

2. On Refugees

Pope Francis has also repeatedly shown love and humanity towards refugees and those fleeing war and poverty. When European governments were attempting to come up with a quota for refugees, he reminded people that, “Behind these statistics are people, each of them with a name, a face, a story, an inalienable dignity which is theirs as a child of God…” Continue reading

Stop Fracking Hand

Frack Fracking – Get Green Energy

The following post is another written by Will Richardson, a literary and political writer and friend of the Radical Tea Towel Company. He writes his own blog called The Opinionist and his Twitter handle is @WillRichardson6. Agree with the post or not, we’d love your comments below!

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You know when you’re drinking a milkshake and you start to reach the end; you’ve drained it down to a diluted little pool of milk and bubbles and spit-back between the ice cubes, so you suck harder on the straw and it begins to make that gross slurping noise, kind of like: “phhhssshrrrawwwhhphhh”. Well that is a pretty apt beverage-based illustration of fracking.

As if we don’t know when to stop, as if we truly have no concept of the velocity at which we are hoovering up the life-enabling resources on which we depend, we have begun the process in the UK leading to desperately guzzling the final dregs from within the earth’s crust through fracking. All in the hopes we can power our futile existence for just a while longer until our planet starts to compact and crush inwards like a Ribena carton subject to a particularly greedy child.

Fracking is in vogue at the moment as the way to harvest non-renewable resources and it, as well as everything revolving around it, is absolutely bloody awful. Like frantic and suddenly bankrupt millionaires popping the cork on our last hurrah, through fracking we are attempting to live the lifestyle we’ve become accustomed to, frenziedly chasing the dream we once lived before the repo men come knocking on the door. And in a time when sustainable energy options are not only a dire necessity, but plentifully available and logistically workable, this is simply unacceptable.

Fracking, or ‘shale gas drilling’, as it’s more euphemistically called by George and David and Amber Rudd as they try surreptitiously to bring it into the public consciousness of acceptability, is a process whereby a rig drills vertically down and then horizontally a few thousand feet underground to expose cracks in the shale rock, in which are hidden pesky little gobbets of shale gas. Slickwater is then pumped down to widen the cracks, and then proppants – some scientific sand mixture – to keep the cracks widened so the gas can escape back up the pipe and be harvested.

You might think, perhaps, that forcing open cracks in the very foundations of the ground upon which we tread may not be the best idea in terms of the integrity of our land. Well, chum, you’d be right in thinking such a thing. The US Geological Survey itself has admitted that fracking has caused earthquakes in previously geologically staid states, i.e., states where earthquakes haven’t been usual for millions of years. Indeed, between 1973 and 2008 there were about 21 earthquakes per year in the central and eastern US. That pumped up to 99 per year between 2009 and 2013, and in 2014 alone there were 659 earthquakes! At that rate, the women’s sex toy industry is going to be bankrupted, seeing as most of the country is turning into one massive Sybian. The geological devastation wrought by fracking, then, is not up for debate. Fracking causes earthquakes. Continue reading

Orwell and the Politics of Language (Part 2)

The following post is the second of two posts on George Orwell written by Will Richardson (you can read the first part here), a literary and political writer and friend of the Radical Tea Towel Company. He writes his own blog called The Opinionist and his Twitter handle is @WillRichardson6. Agree with the post or not, we’d love your comments below!

Hello again! Or just hello if you aren’t one of the loyal millions who have read this riveting two-parter from the beginning. In the first half of this on-going discussion, I wrote about the use and manipulation of the English language in politics, and how George Orwell gave us the blueprint to identify the techniques used by our leaders to confuse and manipulate us, and to conceal the truth of matters, to make things sound like other things, basically.

And this because we have allowed our language to be diluted and softened and to have the power and the meaning taken out of it, to an extent.

We are not blameless for the degradation of our language and its manipulative, dishonest use in politics. Unfortunately we have taken the same attitude to English as we take to interior design: minimalism. And of course Twitter, with its hashtags and its 140 characters, has played no small part in this development. Twitter has enabled and necessitated the reduction of discourse down to soundbites and slogans and catch-all phrases, and has completely decimated nuance in public debate. Continue reading

Orwell and the Politics of Language

The following two-part guest post is written by the talented Will Richardson, a literary and political writer and friend of the Radical Tea Towel Company. He writes his own blog called The Opinionist and his Twitter handle is @WillRichardson6

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George Orwell is probably most famous for having the second most misused adjective derived from his name. (“Oh my Gawwwd, mum. I can’t believe you won’t let me skip Nan’s funeral. This is so Orwellian!”) Second only to Kafka, perhaps. (“Oh my Gawwwd this burrito is so Kafkaesque.”) He is also known for uttering a bunch of inconveniently prescient stuff, among which: “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.

1984, the book from which that shocking quote is taken, has the fine legacy of being the go-to example of dystopian tyranny (“First it’s registers for paedophiles, mate”, John insists, “the next thing you know, Government’s gonna be givin’ you a colonoscopy after every meal”). Although I’ll not try and convince you that if you are currently resident in Britain you are living in some dystopian Hell-scape bordered by barbed wire and overseen by oppressive, droid-headed CCTV; and I’ll not try to convince you that the powers that be keep us in fear and obedient through constant warfare, or that the government and the media tries to divide us by religion or colour or money; I shall be showing you the way in which that quote of old George’s is relevant to us in 2015. For it is not because should you tell the “truth” (man) you will get hauled into the back of a blacked-out van and lugged to room 101; no, it is because the manipulation and alterance of the English language in the political sphere and in public discussion has morphed to allow lies to become truth, and to make our truths lies.

To show what I mean, it won’t be George’s political fiction to which I’ll be referring; it will be his 1946 essay: Politics and the English Language. In this essay, the man elucidates how the politicos’ lingual use allows for truth to be concealed, or for the definition of truth and lie to blur.

George Orwell Tea Towel Continue reading

Buying Gifts for Left-wingers, Radicals & Liberals

Everyone knows that the best birthday and Christmas presents are ones that speak to a person’s interests and values, because they show you’ve at least put some thought into the matter instead of just plumping for the latest Top Cat shot-glass.

It’s easy with kids, where you can simply pinpoint their latest craze (Lego, Manchester United, tiddlywinks) and buy them virtually anything to do with those categories. Things are a little tougher for us grown-ups whose core ‘interests’, as measured by amount of time spent, often seem to revolve around the commute to work and unblocking the storage room toilet.

When people do have obvious hobbies, the likelihood is that they know a lot more about it than you, and therefore your attempts to impress with a copy of the ‘Titchmarsh Annual 2013’ risk shooting wider than an England quarter-final penalty kick.

A person’s politics, on the face of things, offers a golden opportunity to get someone a gift that is both useful and fits their values. Yet before the Radical Tea Towel Company came along, the choice was surprisingly limited. Books were by far the most common solution – but there’s only so many times one can read a biography of Jeffrey Archer.

It’s Christmas, so here’s a list of potential political gifts for leftwingers and liberals: Continue reading

Top Ten Oscar Wilde Quotations

Famous for the witty dialogue of his plays, Oscar Wilde’s epigrams often serve as vehicles for his somewhat scathing satire and pointed social commentary. He was, undoubtedly, a man of words, and it is his skill with language that makes the plays so incredibly enticing. 115 years after his tragic death from meningitis, we look at some of the playwright’s most inspiring and radical aphorisms, taken from both his plays and his essays.

1. “To recommend thrift to the poor is both grotesque and insulting. It is like advising a man who is starving to eat less.”

This quotation, taken from Wilde’s essay The Soul of Man Under Socialism (of which we at Radical Tea Towel are huge fans!) and featured on our Wilde tea towel, is one of our favourites. Its sentiment is frighteningly apt today, when public services are suffering huge cuts, benefits are being slashed and over a million people are using food banks every day, just to survive.Oscar Wilde tea towel

2. “With the abolition of private property, then, we shall have true, beautiful, healthy Individualism. Nobody will waste his life in accumulating things, and the symbols of things. One will live. To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.” Continue reading

Becoming a vegetarian is one of the best life changes we can make

The following post is a guest post by Tom Bailey, an 18-year-old literary and political blogger. He writes on a variety of topics from music to politics on his own blog, where he also publishes his poems. His Twitter handle is @TomBaileyBlog

Over to Tom…

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There are hundreds of reasons for becoming a vegetarian: it’s cheaper, it’s healthier, and it’s undeniably a more humane way of life. But most importantly, it’s better for the world in which we live.

As Einstein explained, “Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.” If Einstein said it, it must be true! But how can eating less meat save the planet? Well, let me explain.

The environmental impact of humanity’s insatiable carnivorousness is undeniable: according to a study by Goodland and Anhang, livestock and their byproducts produce an estimated 32.6 billion tons of carbon dioxide every year, equating to 51% of annual worldwide Greenhouse Gas emissions.

That means meat production produces more Greenhouse Gas than all other sources put together! Want to reduce your Carbon footprint? Cut down on your meat!

Continue reading

Informative & inspiring: a review of Suffragette

Ninety-seven years after women were given the vote in England, Focus Features released Suffragette, a British historical drama commemorating the achievements of the Women’s Suffrage movement. Starring Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter and Anne-Marie Duff, Suffragette skilfully captures the bravery and fortitude of these noble women.

The film focuses on the experiences of Maud Watts (played by Mulligan), a fictional composite of many working class women fighting for equality. Maud works in the Bethnal Green Laundry and, like many working women of the time, is treated terribly by her boss, who sexually abuses women who work for him.

Throughout the film Maud comes to realise the inherent injustices of society as she grows more and more involved with the suffrage movement, to the anger and distaste of her family and community.

The film demonstrates the incredible struggle that suffragettes experienced, from hunger strikes and police violence to arrests and complete ostracization. It also reveals the stigma that was, for a long time, bizarrely attached to the belief that women should have equality with their male counterparts. Continue reading