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review 2017-01-28 19:44
White Heat: A History of Britain in the Swinging Sixties (v. 2) - Dominic Sandbrook

'The stock exchange will be pulled down, the horse plough will give way to the tractor, the country houses will be turned into children's holiday camps, the Eton and Harrow match will be forgotten, but England will still be England, an everlasting animal stretching into the future and the past, and, like all living things, having the power to change out of all recognition and yet remain the same.'


This history ends with the above quote from George Orwell, after 794 pages of fantastically written social and political history. The main premise of Sandbrook's volume is that despite the 1960s being billed as an age of social and cultural revolution, much of British society, its values and behaviours remained consistent with previous decades. He argues that the counter culture of the late 60s was a small milieu of upper-middle class youths that, for the most part, were able to rebel because they had a financial safety net to fall back on and a path back into regular society. The introduction of the birth control pill that, it has been claimed, brought on the sexual revolution and the age of free love is often highly overstated. Sandbrook argues that British sexual practices remained largely conservative and the majority sought monogamy.


Now Sandbrook it would seem, is a conservative and the argument can be made that he went into this work with a preconceived notion of what he wanted to find about the 60s and wrote his book around that. I'm sure there is an element of truth to that, nevertheless I felt that for the most part he was fair with, for example, the Labour party and Harold Wilson's government. He was sympathetic to the economic position the previous Conservative government had left behind and the challenges that Wilson's government then faced. Even though the over riding conclusions were ones that promoted a political narrative, I'm not so sure it's a false one.


I could tell after around a hundred and fifty pages that the author is passionate about modern British history, his writing was engaged, witty and in depth. There are a lot of gems. One of the things I took away that I hadn't known, was that the Labour party managed to get the bill outlawing the death penalty passed against the tide of popular opinion. In 1964 popular support for abolishing hanging sat at just 23 percent, yet the abolition passed through parliament at votes of 343 to 185. The 60s was also the decade that abortion, homosexuality and suicide were decriminalised and in that sense it represented tangible, progressive change in law in the UK. Sandbrook argues that this was a culmination of decades of campaigning rather than a sudden break in traditions coming from youth culture and I suspect here he is correct. 


The political commentary was broken up with chapters on the formation and success of acts like The Beatles. I'll admit, perhaps controversially, that I'm not particularly a fan of The Beatles. Despite this I thoroughly enjoyed Sandbrook's version of their story. He seemed to wish to exonerate McCartney, who in his view, is often billed as the less talented song writer when put up against Lennon. One draw back of the sections on the band is that Sandbrook often portrays the darker sides of Lennon's character and again, this may be in part down to politics and the idea that Lennon is often seen as the hippy in the band and the one who was most in tune with the counter cultural excesses of the late 60s. However this in my opinion doesn't take away from highly informative, interesting chapters.


If you can accept the possible political overtones of the author what lies beneath is a riveting history of Britain in the 60s, an accomplished body of work and one that I highly recommend to anyone with an interest in history.  

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url 2016-08-16 04:56
Explaining how the right wing get their popularity by using fear
The Politics of Fear: What Right-Wing Populist Discourses Mean - Ruth Wodak

The link provide an excerpt of the book to be read online.


Interesting concept on how fear could be used as a a political tool to gain supporters. 


Does that mean most humans are not good at finding out they are being misled? Probably. 


Interesting concept. 


One of the strong reasons I support paper book and real physical bookstores. I wouldn't pick this one up if it is not being displayed in the local bookstore. 

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review 2016-08-15 12:48
Action packed, with an engaging protagonist and a hopeful and inspiring message
Street Soldier - Andy McNab,Henry Lloyd Hughes,Random House Audiobooks

Thanks to Net Galley and to Penguin Random House UK Children’s for providing with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

This is the first novel I’ve read by Andy McNab and I was intrigued by his foray into young adult writing and particularly by the main character. Sean Harker is a young boy (sixteen at the beginning of the novel) who loves cars and speed, whose life has been quite difficult, with no male role figure, a mother who has struggled through difficult and often violent relationships and he find his identity and his sense of self through his belonging to a gang. He ends up in prison and is given the opportunity to join the army and make good. Although at first it sounds to him as if he’d be betraying his friends, when one of those comes to a bad end, he rethinks his priorities. But not everything is plan sailing and old acquaintances and new temptations come his way.

The story is set in the UK (and it uses its location, and particularly London at the end, in a very effective and spectacular way), told in the third person, from the point of view of the young protagonist, Sean, who is street wise but not always good at fully appraising his circumstances or seeing the whole picture. He has his heart in the right place (he feels for his friends, is loyal and wants to protect his mother, and dislikes the racist and sexist comments of some of the other members of his unit) but he can be manipulated and influenced by those more experienced than him. Although the story does not go into psychological depths regarding Sean’s personality and thoughts, and it does not dwell in detail on his past, there is enough to make him sympathetic, and his reactions, doubts, mistakes and fears are all too recognisable and real. He is the small guy everybody tries to take advantage of, who doesn’t know whom he can trust, but he eventually finds his way.

There is plenty of action, including violence (and traumatic and sad events) and use of swearwords (although this is not extreme considering the genre), and the novel deals with difficult subjects throughout, including: suicide, extreme maiming and death of a teammate by bombing, terrorism, ultra-right politics, gang warfare, domestic violence, imprisonment… The pace is fast, fluid, and there’s not let down of tension and intrigue. It is a true page-turner, and although at times it seems about to go on a dangerous direction, it pulls it all together beautifully at the end. The protagonist is put to the test emotionally, physically and psychologically and although his reasons might be good (or so he thinks) he makes many mistakes. Thankfully he is given a second chance and he proves himself worthy of it.

At the end of the book the author identifies himself with the main character and explains that his life circumstances were quite similar to those of Sean Harker and how he was also given a chance and now he spends part of his time going to schools to spread the word.  The character and McNab’s own story made me think of many young men I’d met in prison (when I worked as a forensic psychiatrist) whose lives and circumstances were not that different to those of the character depicted in this novel. I just hope they all have the chance, the opportunity and the will to make good too.

Street Soldier is a great read for young adults (and adults) who like action, a well-plotted book, full of tension and emotions. It also delivers a positive and wholesome message and I can see it turned into a successful TV series or an action film. I’m sure this won’t be the last of Andy McNab’s books I’ll read.

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review 2013-09-07 11:32
Political and economic attacks on the middle and lower classes
Bushwhacked: Life in George W. Bush's America - Molly Ivins,Lou Dubose

Well, it is September 7th which means that it is the Australian Federal Election, and it is also the last day that I have to put up with the internet bombarding me with all of this political advertising. I remember that only a few years ago I could flee to the internet to escape the relentless bombardment of political advertising that dominated our televisions during the election campaigns but now, thanks to Barak Obama (and to a limited extent, Kevin Rudd) this has all changed. Due to the success of both parties in moving election campaigns online there is now nowhere you can escape the relentless bombardment of soundbites trying to convince you why you should not vote for the other guy.

I sometimes wonder if this is what political campaigning has become. Okay, granted, politicians lie, they always have and they always will. The only reason that they want the job is because of the power, prestige, and money that comes with the position. However the real question is whether they actually give a shit about the country that they are running, and most people simply say that they don't. This was the case in point with George W Bush. In a way he needed the votes to get himself elected, but the only America that he seemed to really care about was the America that was inhabited by the wealthy one percent. It is not that this has changed all that much under Obama, but at least he is trying to move the country in a new direction.

I guess the reason that I have become so disenchanted with politics is that the right wing parties seem to believe that they are the only party who are capable of managing the economy and running the country. However, managing a country and managing one's personal finances are two completely different things. It is okay to cut away non-essentials when managing your own house hold budget, but when it comes to managing a country, things change dramatically because the definition of non-essenstials change. Okay, granted, many of the right wingers seem to believe that they should not be paying for something that they are not using, such as public schools. However, the cost of a decent public education has become so prohibitive that I am actually loathe to have children because I cannot simply afford to give them a decent lifestyle.

The problem with the whole user pays idealism is that it is first of all simply plain selfish. While the top 1% enjoy the benefits of living in an advanced democracy, the rest have to scrounge money together to simply make ends meet, and that is not counting the fact that many of us end up going into debt to simply make those ends meet. In my time I have seen university education go from being free to being prohibitive. In fact, there are a lot of people at my work that have dropped out of university and started working simply because they cannot afford to go to university. Then there are people like me who are saddled with a HECS debt but am not earning anywhere near enough money that justifies the two degrees I have. Okay, I consider the HECS debt to be a claytons debt, that is a debt that is not really a debt. However, that may change with the new government (who I can forsee attacking the lower classes to support their upper class friends). In a way, with the cuts to public education, and to university, those of us in the lower classes are not only being denied education, and good quality education at that, but also the ability to earn a decent income.

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/713604797
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review 2013-07-22 00:00
Right Wing Poems: Satirical Poetry
Right Wing Poems: Satirical Poetry - Roger Lance Short, sweet, & hilarious!
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