Skip to content

Contending for the Living

1792: This is what revolution looks like

Contending for the living Red Pepper, October-November 2012 In France, 1792 was the year of “the second revolution.” On 10 August, the King was overthrown, bringing to an end three years of uneasy “constitutional monarchy”. For months the Legislative Assembly had been locked in conflict with Louis XVI, while at the same time fighting a… Read more

Politics, our missing link

Contending for the Living Red Pepper, August-September 2012 The word comes down to us from ancient Greece, where polis was used to describe the city-states that emerged in the sixth century BC. This polis was more than a community or concentration of individuals. It was a self-conscious unit of self-administration (independent of empires) and from… Read more

Olympic icons

Contending for the Living Red Pepper, June-July 2012 In a world where the words ‘iconic’ and ‘icon’ have been cheapened by gross overuse, it’s salutary to recall their original meanings. In a religious context, an icon is a representation that is more than a representation, an image that contains a power beyond itself. It’s not… Read more

Challenges to secularists

CONTENDING FOR THE LIVING Red Pepper, April-May 2012 When a High Court judge ruled against Bideford Town Council’s inclusion of prayers in its formal agenda, Tory Communities Secretary Eric Pickles acted quickly, fast-tracking a parliamentary order “effectively reversing” the Court’s decision. By doing so, he crowed, “we are striking a blow for localism over central… Read more

Looking at 2012: negations and affirmations

CONTENDING FOR THE LIVING Red Pepper, Feb-March 2012 2011 has been hailed in the media as a year of “protest” in the abstract, but it’s been more challenging and concrete than that. In defiance of received political wisdom, mass action in the streets returned with undeniable impact. Contests over space and the public domain became… Read more

Streets of the imagination

CONTENDING FOR THE LIVING Red Pepper, October-November 2011 Events over the summer brought to mind William Blake’s uncompromisingly angry poem “London”, written in the early 1790s under the impact of revolution in France and repression at home. The poet wanders “through the charter’d streets / near where the charter’d Thames does flow” where he encounters… Read more

Time to talk utopia

CONTENDING FOR THE LIVING Red Pepper, June-July 2011 In 1818, Shelley visited his friend Byron in Venice, where his Lordship was camped out in a decaying palazzo, ruminating on the city’s faded glories. Their conversations – on human freedom and the prospects for social change – formed the basis for Shelley’s poem Julian and Maddalo,… Read more

“Life is possible on this earth”: the poetry of Mahmoud Darwish

CONTENDING FOR THE LIVING Red Pepper, April-May 2011 On a bright winter morning we made a pilgrimage to the hill of Al Rabweh, on the outskirts of Ramallah, where the poet Mahmoud Darwish is buried. An ambitious memorial garden is planned, but at the moment it’s a construction site littered with diggers and cement mixers…. Read more

Bible bashing (lessons for the rich)

CONTENDING FOR THE LIVING Red Pepper, February-March 2011 A body of antiquated dogma and myth, a source of repression, paean to patriarchy, bulwark of hierarchy. That’s how many would summarise the Bible, and there are more than enough juicily quotable Biblical passages to justify that view. But there’s much more to this book – or… Read more

UK government threat to cancer patients

Red Pepper, December-January, 2010-2011 Politicians of all stripes feel obliged to genuflect before the altar of cancer, so it’s not surprising that the government has made strenuous efforts to cast itself as a defender of cancer patients. Some of its measures are genuinely beneficial. Innovative bowel screening procedures will save thousands of lives and extra… Read more