Thursday, 17 November 2011

Septic Blatter

Sepp Blatter may have now taken top spot on the list of figures least likely to get a job with the United Nations. Just above the Duke of Edinburgh. The President of FIFA, football’s world governing body, says there is no racism in the game, and that if words were said in the heat of battle, the affected party should say it is just a game and shake hands afterwards. Never before in the history of kicking stuff has someone so highly ranked said something so highly rank. Unless you count Blatter’s other blurtings on homosexuality and female footballers of course. He’s a joke, the topic isn’t. The FA currently has two alleged cases of racism in football to investigate, while the Kick It Out campaign is the latest initiative set up to tackle the issue.  

It comes in the week that the Stephen Lawrence murder trial begins at the Old Bailey. 18 years after the black teenager was racially abused then attacked by a gang of young white men, his parents are still hoping for the justice that has so far eluded them. In the time from crime to culpability the world has changed, but not everyone in it.

At the time of Stephen Lawrence’s death, in mid 1993, 10.6% of the UK population was unemployed. To put that into context, figures out this week put October’s rate at 8.3%, a 15 year high in itself. Then, as now, Britain was staring down the barrel of a barren balance sheet and folks were feeling the pinch. When the American stock exchange collapsed in 1929, the ensuing economic depression saw the German chancellor embark on a programme of cuts in government spending, wages and benefits. Stop me when this sounds familiar. In the ensuing tide of national bitterness arose one Adolf Hitler. His shiny brand of nationalism offered something to cheer for, and his racial scapegoats offered someone to blame, the rest is history.

Prejudice is the last refuge of the disempowered. When the biscuit tin gets bare, some eyes will always scrutinise with whom they have been sharing the Bourbon Creams. Famine will find out the cannibals, while most of us starve politely. Surely the acid test of any truly civilised society is whether the strong protect the rest, or feed off them. And these are indeed testing times.

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