One of the many negative aspects (are there any good ones?) of the so called Obama effect is the disproportionate amount of media attention being given to the utterances of every African American from comedians and gangsta rappers to the usual suspects, the preacher politicians. Obama overkill is hard enough to bear but the rest? Theyve been around years, what make anybody think they have anything new to say?
The latest of this ilk to come and give us British the benefit of his unique insight on the answer to Life, The Universe and Everything is The Rev. Dr. Jesse Jackson (D.Phil, University of Sendusthemoney).
The Rev Dr. was allegedly a mentor of Barack Obama in the early days of The Presidents march to world domination. It is clear that Jackson was a major influence, their oratory styles show a shared penchant for incomprehensibility.
Addressing an audience Dr. Jackson of politicians and media people, Dr. Jackson told them:
There are children of light and children of darkness: one grows tall and multiplies with fruit (most people find it easier with a calculator but each to his own), the other is stunted. The stunted one is the inferior one. It was denied the light and photosynthesis.
This was serious stuff, absolutely vital for people entering the giant leek growing competitions so popular in coal mining areas. But surely Jesse Jackson had not come to England to talk about growing leeks. We has a little more of a clue as to his real meaning from the next nugget of wisdom:
Children in the light are driven by hope, children in the dark are driven by fear. (OMG he was turning into Yoda) There is global street violence and corporate violence. he said, the wealthy are reprimanded, the poor go to jail.
Reverend JJ may as well have been talking about the known unknowns and the unknown unknowns. He might even have been talking about the unknown knowns, the things we know but dont know we know. One of the known knowns was that nobody in the audience knew what he was talking about and it seemed neither did he.
Eventually the evangelist moved on to the subject of prisons.
Prison does not work, he said. We have made an industry out of locking up our young men. There are a million African Americans and half a million Latinos in prison.
From there it was hard to guess where the lecture would go next. These pithy observations sounded more and more like Chance the Gardener in the film Being There, or Forrest Gump maybe. Jacksons speech had now come to a fork in its path. One road pointed to the fact that having one and a half million people banged up was a great way of disguising how bad the unemployment had really become. The other was signposted fiscal stimulus as the prospect of letting loose a million and a half thieves and crooks would certainly trigger a surge in demand for cars, televisions, computers, camcorders and small, expensive, portable items as people replaced stuff that had been stolen.
Some left wing commentators had spoken of Jacksons delivery being as mesmeric as Obamas. it is a sad reflection of the failure of British education that journalists no longer know the difference between mesmerising and stupefying. The politicians were just too polite to interrupt.
A senior Conservative Member of Parliament was the first to break. He stopped The Reverend and reminded him that prison had worked in Boston.
That was in a period when there was midnight basketball, was the riposte.
Midnight basketball? Is this the answer to all the ills of our inner city communities? With bated breath the live audience and those of us listening on Radio awaited the great revelation of how Midnight basketball might work for the common good. Alas it did not come, the speaker had not finished with prisons.
In school they got five free meals a week, in prison they get twenty one. Its a step up.
Hang on a minute, wasnt he just complaining about young men being sent to prison? So is this a suggestion that prison inmates meals be reduced to five a week? Does he want the poor lads to starve?
The second Parliamentarians veneer of reserve was broken. Martin Salter, a Labour MP tried to goad Jackson into condemning violent video games by asking if such pastimes made the situation worse in inner city areas. One could not help but hope for a reply to the effect that if the boys could play Midnight Basketball they would have no need to play Grand Theft Auto or shoot hos. It was not to be, Jesse had further to go into the realms of the surreal.
Freedom is victory over indecency, equality requires investment, he proclaimed, continuing: we must fight the disease with values, a lot more psychologists are needed.
Leaving aside the obvious question, What was he on and can we have some please, the most fascinating issue he raised was Midnight Basketball. Everybody was mystified by it, was it something to do with a type of Urban Zen, a raised state of consciousness. Would people one day say of a great teacher he quit crime and debauchery to devote his life to Midnight Basketball. Alternatively perhaps it was a reference to an imagined time of peace and plenty when everybody drove a Cadillac and nobody had anything to do but play Midnight Basketball. Or was it a coded reference to a forbidden pleasure in the way that in England the term French Polishing more often mean a service offered by ladies of negotiable affection that anything to do with antique furniture.
Perhaps Midnight Basketball is simply a phrase that conjures images of The Golden Age that exists in all our minds and always seems to slip from the future into the past without touching the present. In the way that Englishmen of a certain age go a bit misty when we recall the days we could take our girlfriend to town, see a show, have supper with wine in a good restaurant, be killed in a terrorist incident as we waited for a cab, have a respectable funeral and still have change out of five pounds.
All that of course was in a period when we had Midnight Cricket.
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