M.G. Zimeta

5 December 2023

Berlin Pride

On a Friday evening in late July, I attended a Pride service at the Marienkirche, just off Alexanderplatz in central Berlin. The programme included blessings and hymns from Christian, Muslim and Jewish traditions, and as we filed in we were given white wristbands stamped with ‘Liebe tut der Seele gut’ (‘love is good for the soul’) in gold letters. I sat on a pew at the side with three Berliners: a Black American and two white Germans. They told me they weren’t believers but were there because it was the last service of the church superintendent Bertold Höcker, who had done a lot for the queer community, and they wanted to show their gratitude before he retired.

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29 August 2018

At the Khmer Rouge Tribunal

Hun Sen, whose Cambodian People’s Party took every seat in the national assembly in last month’s elections, is the world’s longest-serving prime minister (since 1985). His recent electoral victory was assured in November 2017, when Cambodia’s Supreme Court dissolved the main opposition party after the government filed a lawsuit accusing it of conspiring with foreign powers to stage a revolution. Forty years ago Hun Sen was a Khmer Rouge battalion commander. Fearing a purge, he fled to Vietnam in 1977; he returned in 1979 with Cambodian rebel forces and the Vietnamese Army which overthrew Pol Pot’s regime. The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia was set up in 1997 to try ‘the most senior’ surviving Khmer Rouge leaders, or those ‘who were most responsible’ for the atrocities committed under Pol Pot.

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13 September 2016

In John Lewis

London Fashion Week will begin on Friday, and with it comes the usual dismay about the thinness of the models and the impact of this on women and teenagers – including the models themselves. The Women’s Equality Party (founded last year) has launched the #NoSizeFitsAll campaign to challenge the UK fashion industry to do better. One of its demands is for Fashion Week to include models of UK size 12 and above. (Size 12, though smaller than average, is considered 'plus-size'.) 'The softly, softly approach has been tried for years and is not working,' the manifesto says. Well: not for women, anyway. Nearly a year ago I complained about the mannequins at the entrance of the ladies’ department in John Lewis on Oxford Street. ‘It’s nothing to do with us, it’s head office, you’ll have to fill in a complaint form,’ the sales assistants told me. A few months earlier, Topshop had been publicly shamed for its ‘ridiculously thin’ mannequins after a customer’s open letter went viral.

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2 March 2016

Democrats Abroad

Super Tuesday didn’t begin at 6 a.m. in Virginia, USA, but at 12.01 a.m. in Wellington, New Zealand, which declared for Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton by 21 votes to 6 (with one spoiled ballot). Since 1988, Democrats Abroad – members of the Democratic Party who live overseas – has been considered a state in the presidential primaries. It sends 21 delegates to the Democratic National Convention, only slightly fewer than Wyoming, North Dakota or Alaska. (Republicans living abroad have to vote by absentee ballot in their home state.) In 2008, DA was among a handful of states on Super Tuesday to declare overwhelmingly for Obama, who until then had been more or less tied with Clinton.

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9 October 2015

Politicians’ Poets

‘Comrades,’ Jim Callaghan told the Labour Party Conference in his first speech as leader in 1976, ‘there is a line of poetry which is a good line for socialists, even if it was not intended to be: “A man’s reach should exceed his grasp/Or what’s a Heaven for?”’ He was quoting Browning’s ‘Andrea del Sarto’. A line of poetry intended to be good for socialists might have been found in Brecht, but Browning would be more familiar, and less alienating, to the wider audience beyond the party.

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15 June 2015

Did it have to be the hair?

‘Going with the natural look as I start my 36th year,’ said the caption above a series of selfies of a woman with caramel-coloured skin and a loose afro (type 3b/3c), admiring the silhouette of her hair from different angles. Rachel Doležal is reported to have published the photos on Facebook in November 2013, around the time she was elected president of her local chapter of the NAACP. Last week it transpired that Rachel Doležal’s skin shade and hair texture might be the result of a spray tan and a wig, rather than the natural complexion of a person with African or African American heritage in her immediate family history. It appears that Doležal is a white woman who has gone out of her way to pass as black: ‘our’ hair, she said in a lecture on the history and politics of African American hair – while seemingly wearing an afro wig over her naturally straight, blonde hair.

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3 August 2011

Swartz v. United States

Last month, Aaron Swartz, a 24-year-old digital activist, internet analyst and anti-corruption researcher, was criminally indicted by a grand jury in Massachusetts for downloading millions of articles from the research database JSTOR. If convicted he faces a fine of up to a million dollars and a prison sentence of up to 35 years. ‘Stealing is stealing,’ the district attorney said, ‘whether you use a computer command or a crowbar, and whether you take documents, data or dollars.’

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