As children in Lancashire, my older sister and I would hatch plots to kill Saddam Hussein by preparing the Persian stew khoresh sib o gheysi with human excrement instead of lamb. We’d play-act elaborate scenes of his subsequent death, and fall about in riotous laughter. We had been toddlers when our parents watched the footage on ITN of Saddam’s chemical weapons attack on Halabja in March 1988, which killed thousands of Kurdish people, and poisoned the water, soil and gene pool. Anger was part of our heritage.
On Thursday morning, I stood on my upstairs balcony in Surulere in Lagos and watched the smoke from a burning building. It turned out to be the house of the state governor’s mother. (The family house in another suburb was also torched.) Nearby, the headquarters of our House of Representatives member was spared the same fate only because it was next to a hospital, although all the windows were broken. It later transpired that politicians had been hoarding food – beans, noodles, sugar, salt, garri, rice, vegetable oil – meant for Covid-19 relief, some dating back months, in warehouses up and down the country. Nigerians of all ages were aghast. In some instances, even the soldiers sent to guard the warehouses – the police had made themselves scarce – assured the looters that they were there to keep the peace and not prevent them from carting off what was theirs anyway.
When McDonald’s announced that it would be delivering a million free school meals to children in need, the fast food giant was said to have ‘shamed’ the government. But McDonald’s – with its union-busting techniques, poverty wages and insecure working conditions – isn’t shaming the government by intervening; it’s fulfilling one of the Conservatives’ key articles of faith: that people should be dependent on the will and generosity of the private sector and the free market. When the Conservative MP Ben Bradley claims that extending free school meals ‘increases dependency’ on the state, he is not only pedalling a myth about the psychopathology of working-class people, but toeing the line that, even in a pandemic, we should not turn to the state.
A year ago, a far-right coup in Bolivia – backed by Brazil and the US – ousted the democratically elected government of Evo Morales, catapulting Jeanine Áñez, an unknown senator from the lowland frontier region of Beni, to the presidency. Áñez promised to hold elections within 90 days, but instead postponed them three times. On 18 October this year, Morales’s party, the Movement towards Socialism (MAS), won a crushing first-round victory on an 86 per cent turnout. The new president, Luis Arce, for many years Morales’s economy minister, won 55 per cent of the vote against a fractured right-wing opposition.
This autumn was always going to be a tawdry season in America. The past couple of weeks have been a jubilee of below-the-belt viral content: a photograph of the former vice-president’s son leaning down apparently to snort powder off a woman’s bare buttock; a still from the new Borat movie of the former New York mayor in a hotel room with a young woman, leaning back on the bed with his hands in his pants; a story of a journalist pleasuring himself during a Zoom conference in the sight of his colleagues (he said he thought he’d turned the camera off). Sleaze and perversion are now the permanent backdrop of US politics. The world turns its eyes away from a hegemon whose henchmen can’t stop pulling their dicks out. By contrast, the final debate between Trump and Biden was almost decorous.
On Wednesday, Donald Trump tweeted a series of photographs with the caption: ‘Kayleigh McEnany presenting Lesley Stahl with some of the many things we’ve done for Healthcare.’ The pictures showed his press secretary handing some papers and a hefty volume to the 60 Minutes reporter, just before an interview which the president cut short acrimoniously. As many Twitter users were quick to point out, one of the images showed Stahl opening the book and peering inside at an apparently blank page. Had the book been mocked up for the purposes of the interview, embodying not only the lack of an actual health policy, but also the fakery and pretence at the heart of the administration? Others responded that the absence of text proved nothing, since it could have been a flyleaf or title page: ‘Haven’t you ever read a book?’
It’s hard to work out who the intended audience for Sky History’s reality show The Chop was supposed to be. The channel itself seems pitched at middle-aged men who own too many books on Nazi Germany and Roman Egypt. The Chop aimed to find ‘Britain’s top woodworker’ by pitting contestants against each other in a series of challenges, perhaps using different historical carpentry methods. Regardless, those of us who missed the first episode last week will now never know, since Sky has been forced to pull the entire programme from its schedules, and delete all video clips of it, after receiving thousands of complaints from people (I was one of them) who’d seen a trailer featuring a contestant with white supremacist tattoos on his face.