The Extreme Centre, by Tariq Ali

Extreme CentreI first saw Tariq Ali on an episode of ABC TV’s Q & A (http://www.abc.net.au/tv/qanda/txt/s4277313.htm).

After that I found his name his name coming up in a variety of places, until this book came to my attention.

I was interested to see what perspective he could give on the current political climate in Britain considering he seemed to be addressing an issue that has often been applied to Australian politics: the sameness of the outcomes delivered no matter which party was in power.

Overall I didn’t find the book to be as enlightening as I’d hoped, but there were several interesting sections spread throughout. One such section spoke of the financial cost of American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, conflicts that are basically being paid for on credit – amassing huge national debts that continue to accumulate and compound.

The main thesis addressed in the book is that a particular economic and political outlook has been adopted across the board in America, Britain, Europe and throughout “the West”, to facilitate a broad US hegemony (which seems to be one of Ali’s favourite words) or what could be termed a United States Empire.
It’s the kind of argument I’ve seen elsewhere in maybe more subtle ways, showing how one-time fringe economic doctrines have become mainstream practice: the shrinking of government responsibility (and resulting removal of welfare services), the transfer of public assets and infrastructure to private ownership, and the reduction of taxes on high incomes.

At times I felt Ali came across as a grumpy old man (maybe it takes one to know one? 🙂 ) and that impression tended to weaken what he was saying, using at times emotionally charged terminology that undermined any hoped for appearance of objectivity. Such as:

“What the whole world knows to be false is proclaimed by the United States to be the truth, with media networks, vassals and acolytes obediently in tow. The triumph of crude force is portrayed as a mark of intelligence or courage; criminal arrogance is described as moral energy.”

and

“Since British economic and foreign policies are now in tandem with those of its imperial master…”

While there could be some truth within statements like these, the WAY the ideas are expressed is NOT conducive to presenting a persuasive argument. At best they merely preach to the choir, at worst they could antagonise and alienate readers who may have been convinced through a more reasoned, less openly partisan approach.

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