In Depth

Instant Opinion: Bury football league expulsion is ‘grim warning’ for ‘small-town Britain’

Your guide to the best columns and commentary on Wednesday 28 August

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The Week’s daily round-up highlights the five best opinion pieces from across the British and international media, with excerpts from each.

1. David Conn in The Guardian

on the death of a footballing institution

Bury’s demise is a grim warning that small-town Britain is still being left behind

“The details of Bury’s crumbling expose an alarming, knacker’s-yard wreckage that is more broadly worrying for the economies of Britain’s old industrial places at this time of imminent national shock. Football, the national sport, has always reflected the country and its times. When Bury, Bolton, Blackburn, Preston and other north-west and Midlands towns formed the late-Victorian professional clubs, they were powerhouses of mills and manufacturing. The former public schoolboys who founded the Football Association in London in 1863 remained amateurs and opposed professionalism for years – partly because they did not need the money to compensate them for time off to train and play. Today, the ruins of Bury FC expose the wider vulnerability of its surrounding town and many places like it around the country on the brink of Brexit: a disruption engineered by politicians who never took the bus to school, apparently incubating extreme ideologies for a country from which they were always kept detached.”

2. Frank Bruni in the New York Times

on political fatigue

Donald Trump has worn us all out

“I woke up Saturday, made my coffee, shuffled to my computer, started to glance at the news and suddenly had to stop. I couldn’t go on. Trump had yet again said something untrue, once more suggested something absurd, contradicted himself, deified himself, claimed martyrdom, blamed Barack Obama, made his billionth threat and hurled his trillionth insult. That was all clear from the headlines, which were as much as I could take. He had commandeered too many of my thoughts, run roughshod over too many of my emotions, made me question too many articles of faith. I was sapped — if not quite of the will to live, then of the will to tweet, to Google and to surf the cable channels, where his furious mien and curious mane are ubiquitous. What I was feeling was beyond Trump fatigue and bigger than Trump exhaustion. It was Trump enervation. Trump enfeeblement. And within it I saw a ray of hope.”

3. Jill Filipovic in CNN

on the problems with celebrity protest

Taylor Swift's imperfect activism

“Swift is no Ferrera. She hasn't struck this balance perfectly -- there are a lot of LGBTQ organizers who are doing better work than celebrities when it comes to advocating for marginalized communities -- but she has, laudably, used her platform for good. She chose a specific issue. She gave her fans and followers a specific action they can take: Sign the petition and push your elected representatives to pass the Equality Act. Petitions, unfortunately, don't do much to sway a president who is hostile to LGBTQ rights, nor Senate Republicans who also refuse to give LGBTQ Americans necessary anti-discrimination protections. In an age of Queer Eye and Ellen DeGeneres, a great many Americans may not even realize that it remains broadly legal to discriminate against someone for being gay, bisexual or transgender.”

4. Pankaj Mishra in Bloomberg News

on the PR disaster of Narendra Modi’s Kashmir strategy

India is shooting itself in the foot in Kashmir

“In news reports and analyses, India’s prime minister is not uncommonly grouped with such demagogic politicians as Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Jair Bolsonaro and Rodrigo Duterte. Even Pakistan, long identified internationally as a rogue nation, has felt emboldened enough to denounce Modi’s government as ‘racist’ and ‘fascist’. Modi himself has suffered new damage to a reputation that he had diligently washed free of the taint of suspected complicity in a 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom. Ascending to power in 2014, he managed to persuade many in the West that he was focused on making India's economy grow and creating jobs rather than stoking Hindu majoritarianism. Modi’s image as an economic modernizer suffered greatly from his decision to withdraw most currency notes from circulation in 2016. Post-Kashmir, it has become even harder to maintain.”

5. Zulfikar Abbany in Deutsche Welle

on the benefits of pessimism

Optimists are stupid. Serves them right.

“I often think I'd live a happier life if I stopped worrying about my myriad of ethical concerns, whether I've done right by other people, or even done right by myself. Or whether I could try harder, and whether I need to spend a little more time looking back to work out why and how I went wrong — in the hope of doing better next time. A kind American journalist patted me gently on the shoulder recently and said, ‘I think you're over-thinking things a bit.’ ‘Yeah?’ I replied, with a smile, ‘You think?’. He was right, of course. But I wouldn't have it any other way. I rely on a sense of my being hyper-aware — hyper-aware of all the things I don't know. Optimists, by contrast, couldn't care less. They are basically stupid. Like the cliché ‘ignorance is bliss.’ And I don't mean that to be rude. Stupidity can be an advantage. It just depends on what you want to achieve in life and how you want to live it.”

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