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96 pages, ebook
First published January 1, 2012
Stereotype vs. China Miéville - looks can be deceiving indeed.
And yet CM is an academic, and when he writes a passionate, angry, taking-no-middle-ground political photo-essay about the impact of recent economic and political decisions and trends on London and on the country as a whole, I am not only willing to pay attention but also feel tempted to take copious notes, like a good student should.
"London, buffeted by economic catastrophe, vastly reconfigured by a sporting jamboree of militarised corporate banality, jostling with social unrest, still reeling from riots. Apocalypse is less a cliché than a truism. This place is pre-something."This guy is no stranger to politics and its implementation and consequences, and I am more than willing to take his opinions seriously. And now I know that I have tremendous respect for him not only as a talented writer but also as a person, and I admire the strength of his political convictions and his willingness to not just take the often easy compromising middle ground on troubling issues (having said that, I do believe that quite often middle ground is the only reasonable way to go, but I don't have to agree 100% to appreciate his views).
"The pay gap between the highest and lowest paid in the UK has grown faster than in any other developed country, spiking since 2005. In 2008, average income of the top 10 percent was 12 times that of the lowest. Their riches grow. We others are told to tighten belts.Now, I don't know that much about current British politics or economics. But the climate is not that different in the US - the country, where, interestingly, 'socialist' is a slur employed by our own right-wing political party. And so I feel that I can understand and relate to the issues that Miéville so angrily yet eloquently brings up.
We’re approaching Victorian levels of inequality, and London’s more unequal than anywhere else in the country. Here, the richest 10 percent hold two thirds of all wealth, the poorest half, one 20th[...] Almost a quarter of young Londoners are out of work. A wrenching 40 percent of London children live in poverty."
"People, though, refuse to forget that the filthy riches of the filthy rich are not unrelated to the filthy poverty of others."Miéville tackles the uncomfortable here. He attacks the huge and still growing economic divide between the rich and the poor, aptly noticing that "Still, in London, defenders of privilege aren’t quite so prone to open swagger as their US counterparts".
"The Olympics are slated to cost taxpayers £9.3bn. In this time of ‘austerity’, youth clubs and libraries are expendable fripperies; this expenditure, though, is not negotiable."He questions the rationale behind severe cuts to the welfare and education systems while at the same time dropping huge amounts of money on the upcoming Olympics. Seeing the similar things happen across the board in my own country, I do share the indignation.
"Everyone knows there’s a catastrophe, that few can afford to live in their own city. It was not always so."He addresses "feral" youth rioting, questioning the motives behind viewing the young people as danger and the actions of police dealing with them. Miéville thinks police actions cross the line more often that not.
"Racism, of course, endures, adapts. According to the exigencies of ideology, casts around for one, then another first-choice hate [...]The government’s official counterterror strategy includes asking lecturers to report depressed Muslim students."I loved this passionate and highly intelligent (would you expect anything different from CM?) essay about the wrongs of the society. I'm reading his politically charged fiction book Iron Council now, and reading this essay made me appreciate the events he portrays in his story even more, seeing what he thinks of the real-life events. I highly recommend this essay - but be warned if your political views are closer to the right-wing - you will not like it.