Monday, 22 June 2015

Race and guns - the fatal flaws in American society

There are so many recurring news stories that we witness in the media. Some are so familiar that they barely register as news anymore. When it comes to America, you can normally guarantee that excluding politics, stories about gun violence and race always seem to dominate.

With this in mind, the fatal shooting of 9 African Americans at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston at the hands of a white racist was so depressingly predictable.

As the world's leading super-power, America likes to present itself as the country that the world should aspire to. It's culture and values were exported around the world throughout the 20th Century and it continues to be seen as the leader of the free world.

As much as I like America and love many aspects of its culture, I'm coming to the conclusion that America is not somewhere that I'd want to live and there are aspects of its society that are totally flawed.

America seems incapable of dealing with its issues around gun control and race and seems destined to continue with this 'groundhog day' narrative of gun violence and racism.

Despite many of the advances made by African Americans since the Civil Rights era, on many levels I sometimes wonder if any progress has been made on race relations in America since the end of slavery! Why is it in 2015 we need a #Blacklivesmatter movement?

As for gun control, like many people in Europe and around the world, you can only shake your head at the attitude some American's have towards guns. This is summed up by the idea that if members of the attacked church had been armed with their own guns, the killer Dylann Roof wouldn't have been able to kill!

Guns and race are the fatal flaws in American society and have been since the country was created. I loved this sentence from Jonathan Freedland's article in the Guardian. He wrote:

"Race and guns are the birth defects of the American republic, their distorting presence visible in the US constitution itself."

I've sometimes imagined how interesting it would be if you took a country's history and turned it into a 12 part drama series along the lines of a Mad Men or a Game of Thrones.

I think it would be fascinating to watch - all history is effectively an ongoing story. If we took American history, the opening episode would begin with America's Founding Fathers finalising the constitution. The birth of a brand new idealistic country that would go on to dominate the world.

The great irony in the story is that the fault lines of race and guns were enshrined in the constitution. The rest of the series chronicling American history throughout the 19th and 20th century would be dominated by the recurring themes of race and guns which they got so wrong at the very start.

No country can every truly escape its past but America seems incapable of addressing gun control in terms of what's needed for a 21st Century society and not one for the 18th. As for race, America has always struggled with the issue and place in society of its African American community. The land of the free still struggles to afford that right to African Americans.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Now there's a chance for FIFA to clean its act up

It was my intention this evening to write a few thoughts on the FIFA corruption investigation, but after Sepp Blatter's shock resignation today my thoughts on this blog have had to change.

Firstly I think I'm like most football fans in this country when I say this is brilliant news. It's made even better by the fact that it seemed so unlikely. I think people cyncially assumed that Blatter would ride out this current storm and keep going like he has done for so long.

I've always thought that to reform FIFA it would need three separate groups to take a stand against the organisation. The three groups are: The major international football nations of Europe and South America, FIFA's main sponsors and the television broadcasters.

If the major football nations decided to boycott a future World Cup and form their own alternative competition, FIFA would have no choice but to bow to pressure to reform. A World Cup simply wouldn't be viable without the big European and South American teams.

This leads us onto the second group, the sponsors. FIFA's biggest sponsors include Adidas, Coca Cola and Visa and it's clear that any World Cup without the biggest nations is not in their interest, the second issue for them is their continuing association with an organisation tainted by sleaze allegations. If they withdrew sponsorship FIFA would be screwed.

The final group are the television broadcasters. Can you imagine if the likes of the BBC and ITV decided not to bid for broadcasting rights in protest against FIFA? Without broadcasters who is going to watch the World Cup and bring audiences to advertisers and sponsors?

In the end none of these groups needed to threaten or take this action. The twin investigations by the FBI and the Swiss attorney general's office have found evidence of criminal wrongdoing so strong, that Blatter and FIFA find themselves in a position that is untenable to maintain.

Blatter simply had to resign, and with an organisation mired in corruption allegations, Blatter has to take responsibility as this has happened under his leadership.

Last Sunday I was reading about the investigation led by the US Justice department and FBI in the Sunday Times, they also had a feature on their Insight team who have conducted their own investigation into FIFA corruption for a number of years.

It reminded me of what great investigative journalism is all about. The time, effort and resources to compile and gather information to tell a story.

With Blatter shortly to step down, there's a great opportunity to reform and restructure FIFA completely. What's probably needed is a whole new guard of officials and executives to take over the running of the organisation. People who hopefully have few links with many of those currently accused of corruption.

There's a long way to go, but today is a good day for world football - lets hope that Sepp Blatter's resignation is the start of a new beginning.