Tuesday, 22 November 2011

poppies, guy fawkes, symbols.

By the vagaries of the calendar, and the strange chance of world events, there's been a nice confluence of events this week.

Firstly, we've got the ongoing spectacle of the OccupyLSX movement camped out in front of St Pauls and other places, inchoate, incoherent. Against something. But with many differing things that they are for. That incoherence is, of course, something that our press has picked up on, and critics of the movement have picked up on, and run with. Which, to be honest, is more than slightly missing the point. Many great (and, to be fair, not so great) political movements, from time immemorial have pretty much been based upon what they are against, rather than what they are for. If I may point to the mob that stormed the Bastille, for an example. They didn't - as far as I am aware - have a well-worked out list of demands and, well, a manifesto. They had grievances. No more, and no less. Anybody who thinks, maybe, I'm dramatising OccupyLSX by comparing them to the French Revolution - fair point, well made - but what about, say, The Poll Tax protests? Again, grievances. I'm pretty sure the vast majority of people who protested and - in the end - rioted against the Poll Tax didn't do so because they had a well-worked out plan for local government taxation. What they had was objections to the new one that had been applied to them.

One could go all through history and pretty much make the point that most protest movements, and many of the revolutionary movements, didn't have any idea what to do when the hated inequities had been removed - Mohandas K wanted the British to leave India, but it was only when his goal was in sight that he and the rest of the Congress party really began thrashing out the constitution, the post British set up. Martin Luther King wanted an end to segregation, in schools and elsewhere, but did he have a plan for post segregation education? I'm pretty sure he didn't. In comparison, I can think, off the top of my head, of several such movements throughout history which had a set list of demands which got precisely nowhere, at least at the time - The Pilgrimage of Grace, for instance, or the Chartists. In fact, one could make a reasonable argument that the protest movement which says "this must stop" and then leaves the door open to negotiations and deliberations about what comes in place is more true to the spirit of democracy than an organisation which has a set list which it then - basically, let's make no bones about it - petitions power to allow. The latter harks back to the top down, divine right of kings era.

What interests me just as much, however, about the OLSX laddies, is the way they and many others have appropriated event 2. Event 2 being Bonfire Night and the bogeyman of Guy Fawkes. There's always been a sneaking admiration for Mr Fawkes in all the bonfire celebrations. The "hurr hurr, he was the last man to enter Parliament with honest intentions" riff. The "He should have blown all the buggers up" riff. Etc etc. This has gone somewhat tediously global with the (passable) film adaptation of the (vastly superior) Alan Moore comic "V for Vendetta". Alan Moore, hoary old anarchist that he was, gave V a nice Guy Fawkes mask, and this has now, in several years, infiltrated pop culture to such an extent that internet hackers and anti-capitalist demonstrators are all wandering around fetishising...what?

An ultra-reactionary Catholic terrorist who wanted to blow up the (admittedly massively undemocratic by any reasonable modern standard) British Parliament, and return the country to a pre-lapsarian Catholic past. Possibly, I'd assume, with Auto-da-fe. Probably with a nice dollop of the Divine Right of Kings (as long as they were, y'know, *Catholic* kings). And - one would assume, judging by the rest of Europe at the time - repression and oppression of Protestants, rather than what was rapidly becoming British *discrimination* against Catholics. I make no bones in saying that the discrimination is not something I support, or excuse, but the burnings and purgings, the massacres and executions were pretty much a thing of the past (apart from when yer lovely fella Cromwell exported some of the tropes to Ireland, anyway).

Yeah, I think I'll pass on that one.

What yer fellas there are doing, really, is looking at the past through the eyes of today, and with the pre-occupations of today. It is - and this is a phrase I tend to use a lot of late - pure Whiggishness. That today, Catholicism and Catholics are neither generally oppressed nor oppressors is a post-Enlightenment wonder (the Enlightenment, of course, that fruit of minds Protestant and Catholic, but probably kick-started by the lovely secular Jew Baruch Spinoza). That's all well and good, and a marvel of the modern age, that we in the West and - sporadically, the rest of the world - live in an age where that doesn't matter . But it's to forget the important point, which is, *it would have mattered then*. A Catholic takeover of the UK in 1605 would have had long lasting repercussions, and brought us more in line with the continent, which at the time wasn't particularly - Holland aside - covering itself in glory in it's support for freedom of thought.

But what the whole malarkey shows is, of course, the power of symbolism. A figure like Fawkes burning merrily, once a symbol of Protestant Hegemony (hey, first useage of the trademarked name), mutates over the centuries to become a figure of rebellion against an o'erweening state. Never mind the essential fact that, in comparison with today, the last thing you could call the Stuart state was o'erweening. Shambolic, and not really there in comparison to now, would be a better description. The modern conception of the state is not really born until post the 30 years war, for a start. What he did, what he was for, gets replaced by "What we like to think he represents". And so, we may make the statement that "those who do not learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them" and scratch our chin wisely, because we have just given you profoundity in spades. And all the while, we learn the meaning of history through the lens of the now, rather than the lessons of history.

Ergo, to give a random example that has been cited in argument with me, the fact that Alexander the Great had male and female lovers means that gays in the military are fine. Well, no. It doesn't mean that at all (gays in the military *are* fine, by the way, I'm not saying otherwise). It means that his society had differing views of personal and sexual morality than societies built around the Judeo-Christian model. Had differing views about what "maleness" was. Or, another misapprehension, Robert the Bruce fought the English, therefore, Robert The Bruce (descended, just as the English Kings were, from the Normans, and holding lands in England) was a heroic Scottish patriot. And not in any way an aristocrat who thought the Scottish throne was his by right, and so went to war with the English who had invaded. And on and on, the misappropriations of history go, each new generation adding their own little lustre to things, their own twist, their own interpretation, always through the eyes of now.

And so to symbol 3. The Poppy. Of course, the coincidence of the forthcoming Armistice Day with Bonfire Night happens always. But again, we see the misapplication of symbol. We are told that the Poppy is to recognise the sacrifice of the war dead. Ok. Fair point. Nobody objects to recognising that people died horribly. Then, we are told, that they fought to preserve us, our way of life, etc etc.

This, of course, is essentially not true. Oh, don't get me wrong, I'm not an apologist for the Kaiser, or indeed, for Hitler, but we went to war in 1914 to preserve Belgian nuetrality. Treaty obligations. Just as we went to war in 1939 to preserve Poland, who we similarly had a treaty with - albeit, one of extremely recent minting, unlike the Belgian treaty (and despite, by the way, the amount of times in film and tv that we are shown that clip of Chamberlain's sonorous proclamation, I've lost count of the times people have told me that Germany went to war with us. No, no, no. In both cases, we declared war on Germany).

Again, y'see, the idea we went to war with Germany both times for the self-preservation reason is profoundly Whiggish, and the hindsight view of history rules supreme in such pronouncements. That the struggle with Hitler very quickly turned existential is not in doubt. That he was also a reprehensible figure, responsible for genocide and horror, is not in doubt outside certain circles where they enjoy doing that silly salute, or amongst certain silly men in the Middle East. That we went to war with either Hitler or the Kaiser to "preserve our way of life" (or, as some modern schooled youngsters have told me, in the case of Hitler, to "save the jews") is, of course, not true. We went to war with both for the same reasons we went to war with Napoleon, that we went to war with Louis XIV, and, pretty much, back to Cardinal Wolsey, that we went to war with any nation in Europe - to stop one nation dominating Europe. Balance of Power.

Now, it's perfectly reasonable to argue - as some revisionists have - that we could have stayed out of either of the World Wars, that our national interests were not served by entering either of them. Personally, in the case of the latter, I think that shows a profound misunderstanding of the Nazi regime, and also - through the eyes of hindsight, which is what the revisionist historians are using - a moral blankness (because to such people, knowing what they know about the Nazi regime, to argue that standing aside and letting Hitler do whatsover he may want to preserve our - even at the time - morally dubious Empire - is a little confused, both practicing the hindsight version of history whilst at the same time not letting the morals of today impinge on one's considerations). But, fair dos, it's an argument one can make. It's an argument that one can make that actually *has more worth* than the idea that "they went to war to preserve our freedoms*. Because it at least recognises we went to war out of deemed national self-interest. Whereas the "to preserve our freedoms" concept ignores the fact that, down the age from World War I onwards, none of those wars we fought were about that, although, as stated in World War II's case, it certainly *became* about it (in fact, it ignores the basic fact - oft ignored - that the war, any war, generally marked the end of the consensus we - allegedly - fought to preserve. Hence, post Napoleonic War, rights slowly begin to be extended to the masses, World War I, votes for women and the slow death of deference, change in social mores, standards, World War II, welfare state. Huge wars - ones involving the levee en masse, to use a Napoleonic phrase, *change* our way of life. They very rarely *preserve* them).

But - and here comes the kicker - having set up the false symbol, that it represents millions who died to preserve our freedom, our way of life (Who knows whether the Germans in World War I had any plans to invade the UK? Who knows what "way of life" they would have imposed had they done so? and who knows, for instance, the difference in democracy between the Kaiser's regime, and 1914 England? Who has looked into how democratic Germany was versus how democratic the UK was? Who knows what "our freedoms" were then? Who, actually, knows what "our freedoms" are now? Or do we just have images of Germans in those ludicrous pickelwhatsit helmets, and think "well, they must have been bad, they weren't us". Eat babies as well, you know), we've got to a stage where dissent against this symbol is seen as inherently wrong.

Case in point, the continuing fracas over numpty poppy-burning Muslims Against Coherence (or whatever their title is). Up and down the land, Anjem Choudhary only has to make a little appearance on a tv news show, or in a newspaper gagging for controversy, and threaten to burn a poppy for a torrent of illiberal, undemocratic, racist hogwash to emerge.

One doesn't have to be a supporter of Mr Anjem to make this observation. In fact, I'd go further and say, as a particular, strenous objector to his particular brand of medievalism crossed with the Society of the Spectacle, I can make this observation. I find his views just as reprehensible, if not, in many ways, more so, than the hogwash he engenders from seemingly decent humans.

It isn't merely the objections to burning the poppy - "it should be illegal", or court cases brought against those who burn the poppy (although, I would and did find that objectionable enough)...as though differing opinions and political stunts should be illegal because people with delicate sensibilities find them "offensive" (but, strangely, it's often those very same people are the first to object when you pick them up on more directly offensive behaviour - if you can't see the difference between burning a paper flower and - say - daubing a mosque with a cross, a poppy symbol, smashing windows of shops and hotels and generally being threatening - as in a recent case, much cited by the far right as an example of "how our laws protect them, not us", then I'm worried, to be honest, at the level of your comprehension of reality. Or, to bring another example into play, those very same people are up in arms if anyone is prosecuted for burning the Koran - which, by the way, so am I, but for profoundly different reasons - but get irate at the burning of a paper flower...oh, and here's a beautiful irony, they - who would, were the rule of law relaxed somewhat, probably riot and burn down the houses of alleged poppy burners at the same time look down in mocking superiority when the Arab world erupts into the same because of some alleged "insult to the Prophet". That's us, the supposedly above all that country that still burns images of a 400 year old dead terrorist...and slightly sides with him?) - but all that then flows from it. One of my favourite riffs is the statement that if second or third generation descendants of immigrants don't like this country, they should be deported back "to where they came from". So, that's a policy of deportation back to Luton, right?

Of course, the racism of this statement is barely challenged. Instead, home-spun wisdom along the lines of "when in Rome, do as the Romans" is proferred (because, of course, when in Rome, we don't behave like tourists and integrate wonderfully into the culture there). But, for instance, should the third-generation descendant of - say - a Jew who fled the Nazis offer a criticism of this country, very rarely (outside, of course, this aforementioned circles of men who enjoy doing the silly salute) is the same solution - deportation back to Germany, in this case - offered. And at what point, exactly, do we accept that someone can have these illiberal views and *still be counted as British* if their antecedents are not British? 3 generations? 4? 5? Or when their skin colour becomes, y'know, white?

All of the above, of course, is not to say that the views are not wrong, because they quite spectacularly are (although, every criticism hurts a little because even the most lunatic usually has a germ of a point wrapped up in it - no matter what your opinions on the western interventions in the Muslim world, for instance - mine are possibly a little more hawkish than most who would make this argument - we very rarely view the casualties in the same way as we view casualties amongst "OUR BOYS". And making the essential point to such defenders of "OUR BOYS" that more of our soldiers, most probably, died in the first five minutes of the battle of the Somme, or Ypres, than died in the entirety of our recent excursions into Afghanistan and Iraq doesn't quench their somewhat maudlin shroud-waving. One doesn't have to be harshly contemptous of the waste of any life in any war to also grasp an essential overreaction and overcompensation mechanism that's going on in such behaviour. Royal Wootten Bassett, hold your hand up here. Just as every criticism - not matter how racist - of Mr Anjem's stunts has a germ of truth in it too).

It's not to say I view Mr Anjem and his merry band of - hah! - Crusaders with anything less than contempt, because I do hold utter contempt for them. But it is to say, that I view the rights and freedoms we have acquired, over the years - protected, on many an occasion, by those very "OUR BOYS", even were that not their original intention, or the intention of those that declared war (you see the caveat?) - as having far more importance than my contempt of Mr Anjem.

The way to combat such idiots is not to prosecute them for having views that we find reprehensible. The way to combat them is to defeat their ideology. The only way to defeat an ideology is to show that the ideology you stand for - western liberal (small l, kids, small l) democracy - is superior to their fascistic, theocratic fantasies. That's not to advocate going easy on them, should they, say, support or fund terrorism. That's not to pretend they aren't there. That's not to allow them credence as freedom fighters or people we should give respect to. That's definitely not - as has been the case in certain halls of academia - to allow them the facilities and support to organise and spread their nonsense and exploit and radicalise people who may have legitimate concerns about western foreign policy, their culture being traduced, racism, what have you. But to robustly stand up for one's values, to defeat them in argument, not to cower behind laws created merely to suppress, to BE the liberal democracy we claim to be. The liberal democracy that, much as Mr Anjem wishes he wasn't, he's part of too.

And it would help, really, if we started to appreciate what those values were ourselves. And instead of indulging in group-think, flag-waving, shroud-wearing and misunderstanding about what they are, we need to fight for them, live them, preserve them, learn and redefine them anew each generation. Sometimes - one would hope less and less rarely - this may take going to war to preserve them. But when we do, let's ensure that's why we do, and if we go to war for some other reason, let's be honest enough to admit that likewise. The only existential threat our society currently faces is the one from ourselves, and our tendency to flee from the values we claim define us, whenever we are presented with a situation morally difficult.

Understand your history. Not your myths.

Rambling, I know. But I think it get's what I want to say across...

Wednesday, 16 March 2011


I'm currently using a right. Freedom of speech. Isn't it good? Shouldn't it be defended. Hurrah for Freedom of Speech!

The only problem with this right is, like all the others, it's a bit contingent on other things isn't it. Not that the right should be removed, or denied. Of course not. It should be strengthened. However, however, however...

However, I'm using my right to Freedom of Speech here and - at present - seven people are subscribed to read my witterings. I can say whatever I want (providing it's not overtly libellous, or advocating terruh-ism, or the like) and a whole 7 people POTENTIALLY could notice, and pay attention.

Not quite so grand, anymore, is it? This seemingly wonderful right is a little, well, toothless. So, for instance, I could speak truth about a subject, or my interpretation about the truth, and it has little or no impact. So, say, I could make the undeniable point (and it is undeniable) that governmental debt *as an element of GDP* is not particularly high in a historical context, that it's been much higher *as an element of GDP*, that interest on Government bonds is at a historically low level. And my seven readers may read, and agree or disagree. Meanwhile, one newspaper can print "there's no money left" and there, my lone words are drowned out.

Now, you may think my argument is bollocks, and you may argue against it (I'm just using it as an example), but where's my freedom of speech there, really? The freedom to talk quietly whilst someone else has a megaphone. And a PA system last seen when the Stones played Wembley? Not really a freedom is it?

And that's my essential point, which I reached in discussions with Ms Grain regarding rights for women. Rights are all well and good, but if they do not have societal, financial, cultural and educational underpinnings they become meaningless. I have a right to buy a porsche. I do. But unless i
(1) have the money to buy the porsche
(2) know how to drive
(3) live in an area where the porsche will attract admiration rather than resentment and
(4) it doesn't get stolen or scratched

then this "right" is pretty fucking meaningless. And that's where most rights leave us. The contraceptive rights that women gained after the first feminist wave are irrelevant if women aren't educated in their use. The middle and upper classes, strangely enough, were. The working class, strangely enough, don't tend to be.

And that's my issue with fighters for "inalienable rights". Unless they actually address the societal structure that those rights are to be practiced in, the same old same old will get repeated. Those at the bottom will get screwed, those at the top will get to practice them.

Plus ca change, eh kids?

Sunday, 6 February 2011

a rant

The White Working class disconnect - Multiculturalism, Antisemitism, Islamophobia, Immigration, and the economic elephant in the room.

Recently, I have been working my way through Anthony Julius' monumental "Trials of the Diaspora", which is a history of anti-semitism in the UK. A very good, and worthwhile, book. In several instances I may disagree with Mr Julius - for example, several times, a defence is offered of Zionism as not being in any way the same as other European nationalisms because it is in essence a reaction to the fact that Jewish people were oppressed. Well, the end point of that is indisputable - anyone with any inkling of history would rightly grant Mr Julius that (as an aside, the current prevalence of Holocaust memorial days and the like, the drowning of the history book market with titles related to the Nazis and WWII, I think to a degree actually helps to hide that. The idea may sound counter-intuitive, that the focusing on the greatest mass genocide in modern history - and I mean modern history, by the way, it's arguable, for instance, that the actions of someone like Tamurlane were comparable in scope and relative size, to say the least, without the technology that the nazis used - helps hide European anti-semitism, but the point is, the narrative is pretty much always focused on the exceptionalism of German crimes - to take merely 20th century examples, what A Level history student knows much, if anything, about the pogroms in Tsarist Russia? Who knows about the anti-semitic and authoritarian nature of the pre-war Polish state? The crazed anti-semitism that Stalin succumbed to? The anti-semitism of Poland in the 60s? Very few, I would contend), however, the idea that a nationalism differs because the ethnicity or nationality suffers oppression is a fallacy - Polish Nationalism was still nationalism. Zionism is a product of the 1800s, and can trace it's roots to the same wave of nationalisms that the French Revolution encouraged. It's a blood and soil nationalism. End of. In fact, one could argue that it's the last surviving Western blood and soil nationalism, but to do so would be ignoring, say, the Balkans. One could also argue - a lot more convincingly - that of those nationalisms, it's caused (comparitively) the least pain and hurt and here - looking at the mess such movements made of most of Europe for at least the latter half of the 19th, and first half of the 20th century, one would be on firmer ground, but at the same time, one must concede that any nationalist project generally does cause suffering to someone. Most "soil" is under disputed ownership. To argue otherwise is to ignore reality.

Other points he makes regarding the subject of Zionism - for example, the curious prevalence that it plays in political narrative - are less disputable. There is, undoubtedly, a healthy dose of anti-semitism in our obsession with the Israel/Palestine situation (and indeed, the philo-semitism of supporters of Israel is pretty much just anti-semitism reversed. Rather than taking Jewish people as individuals, instead, they are examplars of morality and nobility, of ethics - in it's own way just as patronising and false a viewpoint - although, obviously, not as menacing - as the anti-semites), which, on a realistic level, affects a very small proportion of the planet. Of course, one can offer other reasons for our media and popular fixation with the situation - the legacy of Empire being one, after all, the UK held control of the region for a vital period of time. Or the cultural fixation with "The Holy Land". The (in)convenient placing of the place at the meeting point of 3 continents. The west/east clash of civilizations thesis that goes back to at least the Ancient Greeks versus the Ancient Persians. The racist overtones (and, again, racist overtones on both sides. The fact that here are some pretty white, European looking fellows in dispute with some not quite as white, not quite European looking fellows colours both sides of the equation - on the anti side, it feeds into post colonial guilt, and they practice transference - the jews become scapegoats for the sins of Imperialism. On the pro Israel side, here is "democracy" fighting "barbarism". Both these most definitely feed into the media representation of the situation). The idea that the conflict is the major obstacle to world peace, which is a constant trope throughout European society, is another example of an anti-semitic fixation. As I've stated before, the Middle East policy of the west is not dictated by Israel/Palestine. The Middle East policy of the west is dictated by our reliance on several regimes there who supply us with oil. It's dictated by our craven acceptance of them, our unwillingness to challenge them, and it's dictated by the tricks they play to hold on to power.

The idea put about by the Israel supporters (This, i concede, Julius does not say) - that Israel is under existential threat constantly - is similarly overblowing the importance of the situation. Whilst several regimes pander to their population with cheap, anti-semitic rhetoric, not one of them will invade or attack Israel. It simply isn't going to happen (Even the mental in Iran isn't going to attack Israel. Sorry, believe what you want, but it isn't going to happen). Israel will be under - as it is now - low level terrorist assault until such time as the irredentists in the Palestinian movement and the irredentists on the Jewish side actually stop dicking about. Until such point, Israel serves the purpose to those regimes that they do to it - justification of any action. Why do you not allow free and fair elections? ZIONISTS! Why do you not actually stop dicking about and actually sort things out withthe Palestinians? MUSLIMS! And so we get sucked into the binary logic and assume it's oh so important whilst China expands around the globe, buying land in Africa to grow food to support it's rapidly swelling population, whilst Russia flirts with authoritarianism, whilst dictators in Africa sit in power for decades, we believe the major obstacle to world peace is whether several million people agree over ownership of a small strip of hotly disputed and not particularly valuable land. Now, our economic dependence on oil and gas and the inevitable consequences of it? THAT'S the greatest threat to world peace.But let's not go there today, eh?

(That's all said by someone, by the way, who thinks there should be a solution, not one of those "hatfield and mccoy, it'll never be solved" types. I'm just saying idealism and ethics can also have a sense of proportion about them)

What's equally fascinating (and I say "equally fascinating" because firstly, I want to make the point that the subject of anti-semitism is completely and utterly worthy of studying on it's own, but at the same time, it's what we could call the "Ur-text" of racisms. Pretty much the first, and pretty much the template for most that follows) about the book is the way it informs a reading of other, current debates and disputes. The similarities between it, and the dreaded "Islamophobia" being one.

Now, I'm not a fan of the word Islamophobia. For a good number of reasons. The first, and perhaps to me most pressing, being that as a secular individual, I believe we have the right to criticise any religion whenever we like. I've got no time for being told that I'm not allowed to do so, that a belief set that dictates how we should live our life is not open to criticism, that it is akin to racism to critique it. This is ardent bollocks. I object to all religion, and I object to all religion equally. Am I going to demand you stop believing in it? Make it illegal? Mock you for believing in it? Not in the slightest. You believe what you want, chums. But should your religion set itself up as the supreme authority on law, morals, ethics, behaviour - from the repressive sexual elements of all religion, to the quite frankly bizarre dictats on what you can and cannot eat - then I have the right to say "hang on". So I am always going to be wary of being told that my rationally arrived at critique at *what I Believe at best to be comforting fairy stories* (and key words there are "what I believe", again, re-iterate my point, you believe what you want, I believe what I want, my critiques can be critiqued, your beliefs can be critiqued, quid pro quo, innit?) is a phobia. It really isn't. I was not scared as a child by a hell and damnation preacher. I was not frightened in my pram by an imam. No priest molested me, no rabbi circumcised me when I was young and scared, no guru took my money and bought a rolls-royce. I have no phobia. Sorry.

But, larger than that, beyond my own personal beliefs, is disquiet at the way it blends three seperate strands of thought together. The first strand - and, despite the various jeremiads delivered against yer Hitchens and yer Dawkins - the least malign of these *is* the secular tradition. I've made the point before and I will make it again, the secular state, the democratic secular belief system is the best friend of religious freedom the world has ever seen. Not for us, the pogroms. Not for us, the Inquisition. Not for us, the cleansing, the crusade, the jihad. We believe whole-heartedly in your freedom to believe. We just want our freedom to believe and criticise, as adults do, in healthy, grown-up debate. However, this is now blending - in the case of "Islamophobia" with two other traditions, namely, the sectarian, and the racist.

(I'll make the point here, by the way, that this is not just the case with Islam. It's most constant, and pressing, with Islam. But it's also noticeable with other religions. What we have in the UK at present is a strange mix between secular critique, sectarian - Protestant, or Church of England - assaults and racism. The reactions to the papal visit of 2010 are a very good example. On the one hand, some valid criticisms were made. On the other hand, some facile criticisms was made. And, also, this tied into a - small P - protestant anti-clericalism; lots of sneering remarks about priests and small children which - whilst informed by certain undeniable historical events - were often beyond the pale. And beneath it, a contender for England's oldest racism with anti-semitism, anti-irish feeling, mixed with one of our more recent hates, anti-german feeling.)

Now, leaving aside the sectarian, because you essentially know what it means ("our god is bigger than your god"), people are going to look at the racist part, and make the obvious, and oft made retort "but Islam is not a race, it's a religion". Yes indeedy, well spotted sherlock, it is indeed a religion. A religion that - I think I've made perfectly clear already - I dislike and that I believe people should be both free to follow and free to criticise. And the reactions of certain elements within Islam to those criticisms are *entirely beyond the pale*. Let's not pretend, however, that they are new and unique. The long trail of auto-da-fes and witch trials and inquisitions and the like stretching back to (hah) god knows when disprove that notion pretty conclusively. Yes, fatwas and mobs demanding the burning of cartoonists and asassins and etc etc etc - wrong. There. Should be stood up against. There, Should not be pandered to. There. This is a point I will return to when I address multi-cult, but, let's move on to the racist element, shall we, just for a while?

It's an unfortunate truth that the racists have - on several levels - assimilated the language of the secular, and on a greater level, the language of the sectarian (Nick Griffin and his language about Britain being a Christian nation spring to mind...that's the Christianity originally devised by your Jewish pals, Nick? Because you *really* like the Jews don't you? Always have, and never ever been a Holocaust denier, have you? Cock) and are using them. I don't know about you, but I haven't seen anyone making a song and dance about white muslim converts. Nobody, really, is up in arms about Chinese muslims (of which there are a healthy number in the world, and, undoubtedly, a number in the UK). It's not really been an issue about Indonesian Muslims, either. Not *really*. I've very rarely heard remarks about Muslims from the Balkans, but that was more to do with their alleged criminality.

I mean, be honest, I've encountered racists who use the language of being anti-Islam and no doubt you have too, and we all know what they mean. They mean, predominantly, the individuals who come from a span of land from North Africa to Pakistan. With their primary fixation, given the whole seeds of empire thing, being those from the Middle East and the Indian Sub-continent. Now, an extremely charitable reading of this would be that there are more of them here than the other sorts, and that's why the focus is on them. That is, however, an extremely charitable reading. The actuality is, there is racism, lurking underneath the discourse (or, often as not, right there, front and centre, IN the discourse).

And there's no point claiming, firstly, as is the wont of certain elements, that it is only Islam the issue is with. Because I have no doubt that you and I know a person whose skin colour approximately matches the above indicated targets but is in fact a Hindu, or a Sikh, or even (in the case of some of my relatives) a Roman Catholic. And the same insults have been, no doubt, shouted at them. As well as, basically, everyone who is from that enormous spread of land being a fucking Paki, they are also, often as not, a fucking Muslim.

So, cloaking their racism in universalism, in talk of human rights, in talk of how women, or homosexuals are treated under Islamic societies (because of course, there is never homophobia or sexism in the makeup of the racist), they have - to a great degree - turned a secular discussion about religion into one about race and immigration. And they have turned a very important discussion - the discussion of how a society exists with many different cultures in it, how you match liberal values with viewpoints that often challenge or seek to replace those liberal values without losing what makes your values liberal in the first place - into one about race.

A lot of this is down to the press. This, by the way, is when one of the most glaring similarities with the Julius book hoves into view. A number of newspapers - the *guiltiest party by far* being The Express (which after nigh on a decade having Diana on the front page every day, and after a year or so of Maddy McCann replacing her) has been consistently misinforming a section of the population about the threat of the Muzzies. See also, stablemate The Daily Star (both owned, by the way, by pornographer Richard Desmond, who made his fortune with titles such as "Asian Babes". One could argue that there is a degree of hypocrisy in this, or one could say he is being consistent in protecting his business, and look at market demographics for pornography - when there are a few hundred thousand brown skinned people in the country, a porn magazine filled with semi naked lovelies from the Indian sub-continent is sufficiently exotic to corner a large market. When there are several million brown skinned individuals, on the other hand, the exotic nature begins to wear off. I'd be interested to see the sales for the title, and seeing whether there has been an increase or decline as the "asian" population of the country has increased. That may sound facetious, but there is the undeniable fact that a lot of porn is based around taboo or exoticism, and glimpsing the occasional brown face may give you a fetish and a yen for that skin colour, but when you live cheek by jowl with a reasonable number of people with that skin colour, the exotic element will most definitely wear off, as you start to lose the orientalist viewpoint and just appreciate people as people...). But mention must also be made of The Mail, The Sun (shockingly, "only to a degree", the Sun's real enemy in the past ten years or so has more often as not been our "bonkers" response to immigration than to immigrants itself, certainly the language used has been less demonising than that of the Express, Star and Mail), and The Telegraph (with, often, the same caveats as The Sun). Quite frankly, if you compare and contrast turn of 1900 articles in The Mail, with turn of the Millennium articles in the Mail, and replace the word "jew" with "muslim" (or, often as not, the words are not used, and some non-specific phrase such as immigrant put in it's place), the language and imagery is pretty much the same. The concept - Olde Englande is under attack from foreign hordes - remains the same. The elite remain pandering to them, the honest working man is being done down by them etc etc etc

Ah, the elite pandering to them. Which brings us back to multi-cult, and the white working class disconnect.

Yesterday, the point was made on my status, the same point I have been arguing quite vociferously for at least a decade. The "multi-culturalism has failed" trope has been kicked around at least for twice this length of time, maybe even longer. There is a two fold thing going on here. The first is, quite simply, again, racism. Make it about immigration or make it merely about race, but I have heard that phrase used by racists for the best part of 20 years. Back in the good old days, when they were more front and centre about what they meant, they used to say "the multi-cultural experiment has failed". Which language implied...an experiment? Therefore, there is an experimenter. And shock horror, wouldn't you know it, the experimenter always used to turn out to be the Joooos. Sometimes it would take them another level of prevarication to get there - "Marxists" was usually the fig-leaf they used to cover it with - but given sufficient questioning, the marxists were all revealed to be of a certain ethno-religious grouping...quelle surprise there, eh kids? Before you knew it, it was all Zionist Overgoverment and International Marxism/Finance and you were in some bizarre mash-up opinion piece, about how the country has gone to the dogs, and it's the hidden hand, half written by Hilaire Belloc, and the other half a mix between Peter Hitchens and Peter Sutcliffe, for all the rationality that was displayed. But then there's the second part of the equation. The second part being, to a degree, what has been sold to us as multiculturalism *has* failed.

Now, here's where I got overly atheistic, and possibly stridently left wing on your asses. Sorry about that. But...the working class of this country have always lived alongside immigrants. Going way back when. Generation after generation would come in to poorer areas, be assimilated to a certain degree (and we can't say it was never without any problems, because it quite obviously was, as the history of race riots and the like shows us), and then spread out and join the wider populace at large. Within a generation, generally, those "immigrants" would be British (or English) to a larger or greater degree. My friend from Uni, Matt, is a frightfully English boy, despite his forefathers having come over here from Holland. But when the immigrants had a different skin colour...

When the immigrants had a different skin colour, their adaption to the general populace was halted. Not in the sense that the poor areas didn't have them come in and they didn't become part of the community there. But...the less poor types *didn't want them moving in next door*. A combination of subtle and not so subtle methods of keeping them out emerged. So after a generation, there was far less dispersal from the ghettos that had formed. Instead, there was more concentration. And more. And what do we do, to keep the immigrants happy in their ghettos? Well, we keep well out of discussions of their religion, we turn a blind eye to cultural practices that are antithetical to laws of the land, we hand over control to self appointed community leaders (one of the most ignorant, and racist tropes is the constant referral to some preacher of whatever god as a community leader - you see it in the States with the urban black community as well, ignoring the plurality of voices and viewpoints and cultures that are within *any* community). And this goes on and on, with the embracing of faith schools (well, it worked with the catholics, didn't it? But then the catholics could disperse into the general population, being on the whole white, which as I have just pointed out, makes a bastard of a big difference).

But that isn't multi-culturalism is it? That's mono-cultural thinking. That's saying - instead of "we welcome you here and we will adapt to you and you adapt to us, and sooner or later we are living in a nice plural democracy where people's views and cultures are respected and allowed but there are no - apologies to hindus hah - sacred cows" - rather "you keep over there and don't come into our area and you can do what the hell you want. That way, we don't have to change one iota, we can bleed anything nice from your culture we want - hello cuisine, hello fashion, hello musical styles - but we don't have to live with you. We'll leave that to the poor, thanks. Which, by the way, by and large you will be because you'll be living in their areas which have been starved of investment and jobs for decades" (Oh, and the kicker, remember those corrupt dictatorial regimes in the Middle East that we support with our dependence on oil? They channel money into certain areas, mosques, faith schools, so their - not representative - version of Islamic thought becomes the dominant strand in thinking. That's what religion does. Push the faith. "Nasty" religion and "nice" religion. That's why faith schools should never be built, why religious education should always *only* be about religions and not *for* religions, why I have as much disquiet about Islamic faith schools as Born Again Christian academies, catholic schools, jewish schools et al).

No. That isn't multi-culturalism. That's ghettos. That's the same thing that happened to the jews for centuries (see how it all ties together, I wasn't just using the Julius book to go off on one you know).

It's inherently stupid, and inherently illiberal. It's racist and it's demeaning. And it's culturally backward - look at the impact Jewish people made on the rest of European culture in the century after they were "emancipated" by Napoleon, and the control of their culture by the forces of religion fell away. This isn't - sorry my semitic and philo-semitic friends - proof of the innate superiority of the jewish race. It's proof that once multi-culturalism is properly applied, that great moral, intellectual and economic strides can be made, both in the individual communities and the wider community at large. Our language of human rights may have come from the Enlightenment, for instance, but often as not, since the Jewish emancipation, the most strenous and forthright activists for it have been from the Jewish community. Which benefited both the jews of the world and the cultures they lived in.

Finally, the white working class disconnect? This seems to be a big issue with newspaper columnists. Often newspaper columnists who for the past 30 years who have been at least mildly "yay capitalism!" to quote Austin Powers...Well, for 30 or so years, the governments of this country have been practicing economic practices completely antithetical to the needs and - more often than not - desires of the working class. And whilst doing so, that same working class has seen the number of brown faces around them grow (and, indeed, watching the party that is meant to represent all their class only really make any strides in winning the argument on race - and sexuality, to be completely fair to the poor derided Labour party - to a degree where even racists pretend not to be racist anymore. That's not to say they *shouldn't* have fought and won those battles, but a little more consideration for the wider picture, for the fact that a poor black or brown skinned individual is still, at heart, a *poor* individual, just like his poor white neighbour, would maybe have helped a fucking bit there, you know? Instead of making all the noises and none of the actions, maybe lifting people out of poverty is as much of a priority and inextricably linked to the battle on race. Rather than, say, jumping on board the neo-liberal express and announcing "we are all middle class now". Which - sorry? to say - we aren't). It's understandable that a proportion of them wrongly interlink the two. Wrong, but understandable.

But really?

You want to connect with the working class, perhaps stop shitting on them economically from a great height and then pandering to the bigotry they are fed by feckless tabloids. Stop telling them they have "justifiable fears" about immigration whilst taking away their rights at work and making their life more and more insecure financially, all so a very small proportion of the population can live in gilded splendour unseen since the late 1800s.

Maybe then, they'll stop getting misled by the - very small - proportion of actual, full on racists within their class. Just as maybe, if you stop treating a broad mass of people as though they are somehow unique and different because they believe in a different version of a sky fairy than you do (and, as a bonus, make constant societal noises about how it's wrong to question the sky fairies, even when their sky fairy says something remarkably horrible and silly, just as your sky fairy used to, before you told off the people in charge of the sky fairies messages and they realised "hang on a bit, because i said this, nobody is interested in my sky fairy any more, perhaps i should change what my sky fairy says"), perhaps those people will act like people and individuals and not be a huge scary mass of muslims you are able to be scared shitless of.

Just an idea.

The answer is secular, multi-cultural plural democracy. Always has been, always will be. The problem is, we haven't been practicing it. And we really should.

(ps: yes, the sky fairy stuff was offensive to religions. Sue me, i'm a religionophobe)

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Economic Shock

There was shocking economic news today when something happened that everyone with half a brain said would happen. People are unsure what caused the thing to happen. Many say that the thing they said would cause it happening is actually the cause of it happening, but others say that's just pie in the sky nonsense, and the real cause of it happening was GORDON BROWN SENDING SNOW. In this theory, Evil Wizard Gordon, cackling in his Caledonian fastness, performed eldritch rites to summon up Snow Pixies to destroy the good intentions of saintly George Osbourne.

It's believed The Sun is running with the latter version tomorrow.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Breaking News:-

It was revealed last night by Binty Carruthers-Smythe, founder member of the Bullingdon Club, that the entire Conservative Party Manifesto was, in effect, a giant rag week prank.

"Yah" said Binty, inhaling on a hookah pipe in an insalubrious smoking den in Central London, where artistes, bohemians and general ne'er-do-wells gather, "We were all getting completely off our tits on Tequila in 87, right, and someone said to Davey C 'wouldn't it be great, yah, if you could perform some kinda media terrorism thing, convince enough of the public of something completely ludicrous'. So we had a big talk about Situationism, and The Society of the Spectacle and all that guff and then someone had the great idea of convincing everyone that any problems in society are the fault of the government, and not Jonty Maxwell-Fyffe's dad, who owns Allied Amalgamated Satan inc (formerly Lehmann Brothers). It kinda grew from there, you know?"

We tried to contact seniour Conservative politicians to confirm or deny this, but apparently they were all on a retreat in the country, trying to see how many bread rolls they could stuff up Nicky Nacky-Noo's arse. For charity.

Friday, 8 October 2010

That Shadow Cabinet in full....

Shadow Chancellor:- Postman Pat. With his first-hand knowledge of how much stamps cost in Greendale, Pat is the perfect candidate to connect to the concerns of the public.
Shadow Foreign Secretary:- Gloria Hunniford. With her years of experience all around the globe, Gloria will be the perfect candidate to sort out Palestine and Kashmir.
Shadow Home Secretary:- Reg Hollis, from The Bill. With his years of experience policing Sun Hill, Reg will be the perfect.....


Oh, I really can't be arsed. Alan Johnson as Shadow Chancellor?

Beyond satire. Even exceptionally half-arsed satire like this erratic blog.

Monday, 6 September 2010

More of those hacked Blair texts:-

Hegemony Press' source at the Met (Officer Krupkey) has provided me with details of the texts hacked from Mr Blair's phone allegedly by the News of The World, both ingoing and outgoing. Today I present the first selection for your delectation:

From: Paddy A
Rec: 09:48 1 May 1997:
Good Luck today T! Look forward to working with you. Keep me posted how things go.
(no response)

From: Paddy A
Rec: 10:20 2 May 1997:
Hey T! I bet you've got a sore head today LOL. Txt Me Back re: The thing.
(no response)

From: Paddy A
Rec: 11:20 3 May 1997
Hey Tony! Long time no speak. Gimme a text!
(no response)

From: Paddy A
Rec: 11:49 4 May 1997
R U getting these? Txt bck!
(no response)

From: Paddy A
Rec: 13:42 5 May 1997
Hey Tone, what's up dude? Are we still on?

To: Paddy A
Sent: 17:57 5 May 1997
If you don't stop txting me, I'll get the police on you. Stalker-boy.

From: Paddy A
Rec: 18:01 5 May 1997

To: Paddy A
Sent: 18:05 5 May 1997

From: Paddy A
Rec: 18:07 5 May 1997
We'll fucking get you, you wanker. Just you fucking wait.

Come back tomorrow, when I reveal Tony's texts to "African Princess CR".