Ahir Shah: Distant | Review by Steve Bennett
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Ahir Shah: Distant

Review by Steve Bennett

New-generation leftie polemicist Ahir Shah rages against global iniquity with a poetic passion. Intimidatingly well-educated, he burns with a righteous rage at the stacked dice of capitalism, addressing the dreadful consequences with articulate clarity.

The disconnect between Western lifestyles and the price paid by the planet and humanity is the central plank of his argument. His main point is how we are immune to pain at a distance; overlooking virtual slave labour in China for iConvenience here, or the bitter irony of how Bangladesh will be bear the brunt of global warming, having received virtually none of the benefits of industrialisation that caused it.

It’s Capitalism 101 as this Cambridge graduate (double first, since you didn’t ask…) explains how the system now means money makes money much more effectively than any industry, making proletarians of us all.

The theme of distance could also apply to his delivery, too, as there’s some gap between us; he slips into the trap of talking at us, rather than engaging with us, although the insightful content always keeps us absorbed. At just 24, he combines the wisdom and acerbity of an older man with the certainty and energy of youth.

Distance also applies to time, as Shah addresses historical events as well as the present, and he can overarch several big issues in one. Talk of the female jihadis going to fight for Isis becomes a feminist issue as the media always portray them as easily-led victims, in contrast to you men who take up the same fight. It’s a tightly written show, packing a lot of argument into its hour.

This is all well and good, but what about the comedy? Well Shah can coin a sharp witticism, amusing analogy or silly sketch to serve his diatribe; and there’s a soupçon of self-mockery, too, as he’s aware of his own pretensions and hypocrisy. And sometimes he just needs to point out the preposterousness of the system we all lazily engage with, however detrimental, for it to be mordantly funny.

Humanity maybe going to hell in a hand basket, but at least we have an eloquent tour guide pointing out the landmarks of our destruction as they whiz past.

Review date: 29 Aug 2015
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Laughing Horse at the Counting House

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