Archive for March, 2011

Whatever happened to racism?

March 17, 2011

Ok, so before I get arrested for writing this, I want to make something clear: I AM NOT A RACIST.  I do not base my opinion of people on the colour of their skin – unless of course the colour in question is that bright, dirty fake-tan orange in which case, consider yourself judged, you skank.  (I’m joking.  Maybe.)

‘Racism’ is a word that’s thrown about very carelessly nowadays.  Racism used to be pretty clearly defined – slavery, Nazism, apartheid.  Racism used to be about treating people badly because of the colour of their skin.  It also used to be widespread, culturally acceptable and legally enforceable.  Racism is not the same any more.

In the country newspapers such as the Daily Mail like to refer to as Broken Britain, racism now has a much more fluid definition.  Anyone, of any race or creed, now has every right to live where they choose, to have high-flying careers or a jet-setting lifestyle, to send their children to the best schools – and rightly so.  Nobody’s opportunities in life should be limited by their race.  But something is still wrong with the way race is dealt with in our society.  For example, the BBC is allowed to openly advertise a ‘black music’ radio station.  Would a ‘white music’ radio station be allowed?  Absolutely not.  You’re allowed to be race-exclusive, as long as you’re a minority.  White people can’t complain because we are still weighed down with our white guilt about slavery, apparently.  But how is this any better than the other way around?
If you’ve been paying any attention to the news at all this week, you will know two things. 1: Some shit has been going down in Japan, and 2: Midsomer Murders is being criticised because it doesn’t have any non-white characters.  In case anyone else has been wondering why nobody has given a toss about this until this week, when the thing has been running for fourteen years, it’s because apparently you’re allowed to HAVE an all-white cast, you’re just not allowed to publicly state that it was deliberate.  The producer in question, Brian True-May, has been suspended and could realistically lose his job over this totally pointless shitstorm.  Let’s remember, shall we, this is a work of FICTION – a work of imagination.  And if he has imagined a little village full of white people, then what is the problem with that?!  There’s no racism here.  The village is not populated by white people because they’re all card-carrying Klan members who burn any marginally brown-looking people who start sniffing round the local estate agents.  There just happen to not be any black people in the village.  I’ve lived in plenty of neighbourhoods with no black or Asian people!  The fact that ethnic minorities don’t live near me doesn’t make  me a racist.  Realistically, people of similar cultures and backgrounds tend to live in the same communities.  Society is happy to segregate itself.  I can tell you which areas of my town has the most Asians, the most Indians, the most black people – and they’re not there because Nazis have herded them in and allocated them each a bedsit.  People just gravitate towards the other people who are most similar to them.  If we start criticising programs for not having any black people in them, what next?  Once there’s a black character, is it racist to not include a Chinese character?  Once there’s a Chinese character, will the Muslims be offended?  Do they need to build a mosque in Causton?  Should the local school start speaking Polish?  DO WE REALLY THINK THE COLOUR OF THE VILLAGERS’ FACES IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN A VILLAGE WHERE OVER 200 MURDERS HAVE HAPPENED IN THE LAST FOURTEEN YEARS?  I’m just saying, you know, I wouldn’t choose not to live in a place because all the neighbours were white… but I might choose not to live in a small village with an average of like 14 murders a year.

We are supposed to celebrate the fact that Britain has become a multicultural society, and that’s all well and good – but it’s pretty obvious that it’s come at a price.  I don’t feel like I should have to say this, but I’m going to: we are predominantly, historically, a white, Christian country.  While I am about as white as it is possible to be, I’m not a Christian, so please don’t think I’ve got some kind of agenda here.  But surely there’s something quite wrong about the reports you hear about councils not being allowed to put up Christmas trees because non-Christian residents might be offended, and the way Christmas is now called ‘The Festive Season’ instead of ‘Christmas’?  Look, I’m sorry, you have every right to follow whichever religion you damn well please.  But if you are offended by the sight of a pine tree with some electric lights on it, GET A FUCKING LIFE.  To be honest, I imagine the number of people who are this sensitive is actually incredibly small.  The problem is, we are now overly cautious about race, and will fall over our own arses trying to ensure that NOBODY, ANYWHERE, EVER is offended by the white, Christian culture they have chosen to live in and be a part of. 

Race is sacred ground, now.  You can make a racist joke, as long as the race in question is your own.  You can use whichever racial slur you like, as long as you belong to the race in question.  And, well, anyone can say anything they like about white people.  Who cares, right?  Is it even possible to be racist about white people?  There’s plenty of us.  We’re big enough and ugly enough to deal with it, right? 

The simple fact is that race is an issue because we make it an issue.  We’re making it an issue when we discriminate negatively based on race, but we’re also making it an issue when we discriminate positively based on race.  Race will only cease to be an issue when it doesn’t matter to the extent that we can STOP GOING ON ABOUT IT.

Anyway, before we start accusing Midsomer Murders of being racist, let’s remember: all the murderers were white, and so were the victims.  What says ‘racial equality’ better than that?


Why I am better than other people

March 12, 2011

Sometimes I worry that my stomach is not flat enough.  Sometimes I obsess about my teeth.  Sometimes I wonder if there is a way to accidentally break my nose which will result in it healing without the little bump in the middle.

One thing I have never had a crisis of confidence about is my skill as a writer.  Given my other insecurities, I don’t think this makes me big-headed – in fact I think I’m being pretty objective about the whole thing.  Most people have at least one thing they’re really good at, and my thing is writing big long rants about nothing and making them somehow entertaining.  The stats back me up here, by the way; ever since Wil Weaton retweeted some shit/genius joke I made about a garlic crusher named Wesley and I was famous on Twitter for about twenty seconds, my views per day have been hovering somewhere between 20 and 227.  Presumably some of them even like it enough to come back.  Hi, guys!

Anyway, my actual point is that my local paper, The Southern Daily Echo, appear to have awarded a man called Simon Carr the title ‘Columnist of the Year’.  What this tells me is that they must only have one columnist because I could write a more coherent piece of journalism than Simon Carr by the time I was seven years old.  That’s not an exaggeration, by the way – when I was seven I wrote a newspaper article about local youths leaving broken glass in my school playground.  My mum still has it to this day, preserved in a scrapbook, and last time I looked at it I was pleased to note that it was still superior to most of Simon Carr’s output.

Simon currently ‘writes’ (it’s a strong word) a column called Single in the City.  The ‘city’ in question is Eastleigh, and for those of you not from round ‘ere, Eastleigh consists of a railway station and three streets populated almost entirely by hair salons and kebab shops.  It is almost impossible not to be single if you are limiting yourself to Eastleigh.  Its Wikipedia page teaches us that Colin Firth went to college in Eastleigh, and the ‘Economy’ section is one sentence which I will reproduce here in its entirety, for your benefit: 

The B&Q head office is in the Portswood House in Eastleigh. The town was formerly home to a Mr Kipling bakery.

To clear something up, while we’re on it – B&Q head office is in Chandlers Ford, not really in Eastleigh itself.  I know this because I work there.  And factories which used to exist and now do not, really don’t count towards the economy of a place.

Anyway, Simon Carr is a 32-year old man who doesn’t seem to have realised yet that the reasons he is still ‘single in the city’ are fairly simple.  A:  He is the kind of man who, in his thirties, still perves over much younger women and calls them things like ‘fitties’.  B:  For all his whinging about being single and not being able to get a date with a ‘fitty’, he really likes going on about all the totally fucking stupid reasons he has dumped every woman who was ever dumb enough to go out with him.  C:  He is the kind of person who thinks an entire newspaper readership will be interested in the fact that he paid to upgrade on the train the other day.  This was actually the entire point of one of his recent articles, cleverly entitled ‘First Class Male’.  If this is what he considers interesting enough to put in a national publication I can only imagine how boring, arrogant and self-serving his normal conversational material must be. 

For anyone who’s going to trot out the old favourite “if you hate it so much why do you read it,” don’t be ridiculous.  People LOVE hating things, and I am no exception.  I used to love hating Liz Jones, although recently I have found myself warming to Liz – mainly because I discovered Jan Moir and realised I had to save up the great majority of my hatred for her.  There is something delicious about reading Simon Carr’s badly written, pointless articles about how he is a loser who hates everyone including his own friends, and thinking, my god I am so much better than you in every way.  It’s an ego boost and I love it. 

The point here, really, is that far from depressing me, Simon Carr gives me a great deal of hope.  If a publication with a fairly large readership deems him the cream of the crop, imagine the heights of success I could soar to!  I could be a younger, hotter, female version of Charlie Brooker.  Maybe.  I just need to find a newspaper that’ll put up with me cursing like a sailor.

Confessions of a Pupil Librarian

March 6, 2011

When I was little I somehow got the idea that being ‘grown up’ meant being knowledgeable about things and having read lots of books and being able to talk about them confidently and wittily.  I don’t know where this idea came from but if it came from my parents, then I am very grateful for it. 

Because I thought this was what being a grown up was, I spent the majority of my childhood preparing for my future of glorious adulthood by reading, writing, and paying attention in school – activities for which I was often ridiculed and occasionally physically abused.  I was a pupil librarian in secondary school for two reasons: firstly because I loved books, but also because I spent all of my lunchtimes hiding in the library anyway and it seemed like the next logical step.  So I sequestered myself in the school library and in my bedroom and I read a lot of old-school British sci-fi, some classic fantasy, and a large red Readers’ Digest thing called ‘How To Do Just About Anything’ from which I learned how to deliver a baby in an emergency and not very much else, which just goes to show that gruesome pictures are a good learning aid for small children. 

Anyway, when I eventually emerged from my self-constructed fortress of books at the age of around 15 it occurred to me fairly quickly that other people had not done the necessary preparation for adulthood and were still, to put it mildly, barely literate morons.  I gave my peers the benefit of the doubt for several years but eventually gave up and realised that most of the world doesn’t give a single solitary shit about being well-read or intelligent or witty.  I continue to be deeply disappointed by this.

I’ve always found it hard to make friends, and this isn’t because I’m anti-social or a cold-hearted bitch (well, maybe a bit of the latter).  It’s because I am not interested in stupid people.  I could have been friends with hundreds of stupid people – but I just couldn’t be bothered with them.  Why should I?  I spent years ensuring I was an interesting person with interesting things to say so that later on I could dazzle people with my interestingness and wit!  And to be honest I am sort of offended that very few other people made the effort and so I am supposed to be enticed into friendship by conversations about reality TV and Facebook statuses full of spelling and grammar mistakes. 

So if we’re friends, this is why: because I admire the guts it took you to read a fucking book once in a while and admit it and want to talk about it.  Because I love that even though you didn’t pay attention in science because we were too busy messing around at the back of the class, you still understand why the large hadron collider isn’t going to destroy the fucking world.  Because I am just so fucking delighted that you know the difference between there, their and they’re.  Because you understood that being ‘cool’ in school was less important than being a decent human being.  I like your strong opinions which may be controversial but are always well thought through.  I like your ability to be honest without being cruel and your ability to admit when you are wrong and to use it as an opportunity to learn.  I love that you’ve never watched Big Brother, and you let me bitch about Twilight even though you have read it and actually thought it was ok.

But mainly, we are friends and I love you because you are the people who made me feel that all those years buried in books weren’t a waste of time after all.

Animal Ambivalence

March 3, 2011

It would not be fair for me to say “I love animals”.  It would perhaps be more accurate to say “I love most animals but I judge them on an individual basis”. 

Now I know this makes me a horrible person blah blah, everyone should love everyone else and everyone should love all the little furry/scaly/feathery things.  Whatever.  It’s easy to say those things, but if another human being attempted to shit on your head while you waited for a bus you probably wouldn’t continue to view them in a particularly positive light.  And so, I dislike seagulls because they have wronged me.  I think this is fair.

To elaborate a little, my bus stop is completely surrounded by lamp posts.  At any given time, at least one seagull is manning each lamp post.  Every few minutes one of them takes aim and fires at the nearest unsuspecting commuter.  Their aim and range are improving every day and it is only a matter of time before I am going to have to call my boss at 8.30am and say “Sorry Brian but I’m going to be a bit late, I have to go back home and wash some bird shit off of my face.” 

I also dislike horses.  To be more specific: I dislike the sort of horse which is kept in a special stable and fed special food and treated like a fucking king at great personal expense while the family of the owner goes without because the horse is basically eating their money.  My dislike of horses stems from a period of work experience at a renowned stable in the Scottish Highlands when I was about 16.  During this time I was farted at, trodden on, dragged along the ground, and nearly thrown several hundred feet down into Loch Ness by various equine beasts.  And every time one of these things tried to eat/humiliate/murder me, <i>everyone took the horse’s side</i>.   When a big black bastard called Cadbury tried to throw me to my watery grave, I was scolded for ‘spooking’ him.  Yes, of course.  This gigantic black thing with the strength of twenty men was <i>frightened</i> by the 9st 16 year old girl sitting on his back letting him carry her around.  How silly of me not to understand that it was <i>my</i> fault he nearly killed me.   Now I know how to ride a horse because I grew up in the countryside and that is the sort of thing you eventually just sort of learn by osmosis after going to enough New Forest Shows, Brownie Fairs, and weekends at my mum’s friend Jenny’s stables.  I had done NOTHING wrong whilst riding this horse.  I was not afraid of the horse (up until the point where it tried to murder me, obviously) so don’t pull that ‘it could smell your fear’ stuff with me.  It just didn’t like me and so it tried to kill me, and that is that and I will never ever like horses because they do not deserve it.  Sorry, but if these things are so easily spooked then they seriously need to man up.

At work once, we had a discussion about which animals we would and wouldn’t eat.  A couple of the girls stated that they couldn’t eat a horse.  Well let me tell you, I would eat a horse.  I would eat a horse in front of another horse.  And I bet it would be delicious.

Having said all this I’m going to demonstrate a total lack of moral consistency by saying that I have no problem with sharks.  I know they got a bad press late last year for chowing down on some tourists in Sharm El Sheikh (a popular Egyptian scuba diving resort where I myself was splashing around in the sea only two years ago) but I just can’t muster up any animosity towards them.  They are, after all, designed to eat other living things, what with having a mouth which is basically full of serrated knives.  It is not the sort of mouth designed for a diet of fruit and veg (neither of which are abundant under the sea anyway).  The shark does not care that you are having a nice little holiday and have dieted for months to get into that bikini, and why should it?  As far as the shark is concerned, you got into the damn sea of your own accord.  You have accepted the risks.  He’s hungry and you are well and truly in the wrong place at the wrong time.  I don’t see why everyone was acting so surprised and offended about the whole thing – yes it sucks that some people died, but honestly, you jumped into his environment splashing about and looking delicious.  Did everyone think we had made some kind of truce with the Shark King?  Newsflash, guys: sharks like to eat big things that splash around on the surface of the water.  You want to jump in anyway, be my guest.  But you need to understand first that being a human doesn’t make you exempt from the food chain, and thinking that it should makes you arrogant and stupid.

 My favourite animals have always been wolves and turtles, ever since I was very young.  I can’t even remember why they’re my favourite animals any more because they have been for so long.  I think wolves have to do with a big book my Dad gave me called simply ‘Wolf’ which is full of pictures and Native American stories about wolves, and probably the fact that I grew up with huskies which vaguely resemble wolves.  As for turtles, people started buying me turtle stuff when I was just a baby and it’s sort of  become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Did the turtles come first, or did my love of turtles?  Who can tell.  Either way, I think they’re cute.

Then there are cats.  There’s a widely held belief that you are either a cat person, or a dog person, and I have always considered myself a dog person.  Dogs are smart, loyal, fun, and at least manage to keep up the pretense that they’re interested in you for more than your ability to supply food on a daily basis.  I grew up with dogs – big, proper dogs – and one of the hardest things about moving out was adjusting to not having one around.  I used to stop people on the street to play with their dogs, particularly one poor harrassed little man who used to walk his two huskies down Southampton high street every weekend and probably had far more important things to do than stand still while I made a massive fuss over his dogs.  I never expected to even like cats, let alone own one.  But eventually my desire for a pet overwhelmed my fussiness about the type of pet concerned, and then a friend’s cat had some kittens, and before I knew it I was taking home a tiny, timid, pale biscuit coloured kitten called Donut.  What I have to show for this, a year later, is a large number of scars on my arms and hands, a box full of poop in my bathroom, and a flat covered in hairs.  What I have learned about cats can be summarised as this: you shouldn’t have one if you don’t want to look like you lock yourself in your room and cut yourself, or if anyone particularly close to you is allergic because there is nothing a cat loves more than a person who is allergic to cats, or if you wear a lot of clothes of a colour different to your selected feline, or if you want to be able to stick your feet out from under the duvet without having them shredded, or if you don’t like scooping up poops every single day.  On the other hand though, if you have an indoors cat and treat it like a dog it will basically think it’s a dog.  Which is obviously much better.

So consider yourselves warned, members of the animal kingdom: you can be as cute and cuddly and innocent-looking as you like, but I’m not some kind of hippy.  And if you poop on my head, I will not forgive you.