|Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X.|
Thank you Richard for your very good article on Muhammad Ali. Ali, or as I used to call him when I was growing up in Ireland, “Wee Ali”, I called him this in my mind, as a term of admiration and affection. Ali affected all. I was brought up in a right wing pro British family and milieu in Northern Ireland. My relatives because of those right wing and anti civil rights views despised Ali. Ali helped put me off those right wing views. I later emigrated to Canada. I met a right wing emigrant from Northern Ireland in the mine where I was working at the time. He too was frothing at the mouth for somebody, anybody to beat that "big Mouth N...." I always wanted Ali to win. It was a way to politically judge people at that time. Did they want Ali to win his fights or not. I always wanted him to win.
As you say in your piece Richard Ali had his contradictions. He abandoned Malcolm X. This was no small mistake to abandon that towering US and African American revolutionary. It is not excusable. He allowed himself to be separated from MLK as MLK moved towards working class unity and socialism. He eventually allowed himself to be feted by the extreme right wing war criminals such as Bush and co whom he had fought. Like his career in the ring he had his great high points and at the end some humiliations.
But while saying all of that, and recognizing all of that, Ali by standing against the Vietnam war, by demanding he be treated with respect, by fighting racism, by demanding he be called his own chosen name, (I was called John, I now call myself Sean. Why should some alien force name us) by giving up years of his career and earnings for his anti war and anti racist principles he won the majority of the world to his side. He was a fighter in all senses of the word.
There are many lessons from the life of Ali. One is that if we want to change the world we have to use humor and life in our talk and speech, not the dry repetition of statistics and droning on. Think about it: "I aint got no quarrel with the Vietcong." Maybe the best known anti Vietnam war slogan of all. And out it came, just off the top of his head, electrifying us all. Jesus Christ listen to the revolutionaries amongst us. When was the last time you heard one of them say they were the greatest, the prettiest, and with that taunting glimmering defiance of a smile. I laugh here in admiration as I remember his bragging. How can you win people to the revolution if you are always down at the mouth.
What a character. And there was another character I think off today as I take in the reality of Ali’s death. An Irish emigrant in London, a blue collar worker. He put a picket on the US embassy in London every day for all the years when Ali was forced out of the ring by US imperialism. They wanted to shut him up so they could get on with their slaughtering in their war in Vietnam. Ali should not have accepted that medal from the war criminal Bush. But….
And this is the essence of Ali’s life. He was a fighter. That is what is what. And as they say in my home country Ireland: And to hell with… the begrudgers.” .