Posts Tagged ‘politics’

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?


Dear Sisterhood: I apologise but I am not sorry.

September 13, 2010

People expect me to be a feminist.  I’ve always found this a little disconcerting.  As far as I can see, the expectation is based on other aspects of my personality – my slight tendency towards tomboyishness (much less pronounced now than it was when I was 18), my reputation for occasionally-too-brutal honesty, and my almost total lack of traditionally ladylike qualities.

I can see why people might think i’m the kind of girl who’s likely to harbour odious feminist ideals, but as my use of the adjective ‘odious’ clearly implies, I don’t.  In fact, I find stereotypical feminist views and ideas embarrasing, and to be honest, a little silly and outdated.

Now I’m not totally ignorant, and I acknowledge that once upon a time there was a definite perception of women as lesser beings and that feminism, as it arose then, was necessary and revolutionary and wonderful, and it worked.  We got the vote, we’re allowed to have careers, and speaking as a fairly average 22 year old woman, I don’t remember even one single incident in my life where I’ve felt that I was at a disadvantage because of my gender.  If anything, my gender has actually demonstrated a good few advantages, even if only of the free drinks variety.  Hey, it saves me money, so I’m not complaining.

If you read the news a lot – or even if you just spend some time talking to young women of around my age – you’ll probably find that I’m not the only one who feels this way.  We don’t feel the need to fight to be equal to men, because most of us have never been made to feel that we’re not already equal to men.  And with, effectively, nothing left to prove, we feel free to make the choices we actually want to make, instead of feeling that by making those choices we are ‘betraying’ some kind of ‘sacred sisterhood’.

Yes, I could have gone to university – I did well in school, and am ‘above average’ in the IQ department – and got degrees, had a high-flying well-paid career and owned my own house by the time I’m thirty and blah blah blah.  But those things are just accomplishments, and I’m not wired to look for accomplishment – I’m wired to look for happiness.  I know myself well enough to know that a high-pressure career and lots of money wouldn’t make me happy at all, so I chose to drop out of college and start working in easy jobs with average paychecks, so I’d have the chance to meet lots of people and enjoy being young.  I can already do the one thing I considered studying at uni (creative writing) and had no specific career aspirations or requirements.  So I lived in delapidated shared houses with friends, and I worked whatever temp jobs the agency sent my way, and I went out four nights a week and had the time of my life.  Financially I wasn’t well-off at all, but for the most part I was at least happy.  Then I got lucky and met the love of my life and got engaged when I was 20, we found a nice little flat we could afford, and we’ll be married when we’re both 23.  I’d like to have children when I’m around 25 or 26, the age my mum was when she had me.  I have a reasonably well-paid job which I’m not horrifically bad at, I get on with most of my colleagues and get good benefits from my employers – private healthcare and a casual dress code which allows me to wear jeans and a hoodie to work.  But I’d be lying through my teeth if I said I don’t sometimes look forward to leaving full-time work to be a housewife and mother, and I’m going to stick my neck out a bit here and say that those are totally natural desires for a woman to experience.

Look at the increase in women giving birth later in life, the increase in IVF treatment, and the advent of services like internet dating sites and speed dating.  It’s very, very obvious that women still WANT a husband and babies, but they’re too busy with their careers – and I wonder if that’s because they really want to spend their prime reproductive years slogging away in an office, or if it’s because just as there used to be pressure on women to be homemakers and mothers instead of having a career, there is now a pressure to have a career and be a high-flier, to compete with men and prove that you can bring home the bacon.

I think feminism has actually gone too far the other way now.  I’ve never felt that a man was pressuring me to stay in the kitchen, keep my mouth shut and supply a steady stream of apple pies; but I have frequently felt under pressure from feminists I’ve struck up conversation with to maintain my ‘independence’ on behalf of the (totally mythical) sisterhood, as if my desire to settle down and dedicate my life to having a happy home is indicative of some kind of weakness.

Frankly, these days it seems to take balls to do a woman’s work.

The Tale of the Non-Ground Zero Non-Mosque

September 12, 2010

Watching the news the other day, Chris asked me what I thought of Terry Jones, the throwback who was planning on burning 200 Qurans on 9/11.  What I thought was: why is he on my TV?  That’s some pretty bog standard religious intolerance right there.  One pastor in charge of a very, very small branch of the church, wants to burn 200 books for no readily apparent reason.  It’s ignorant, stupid and pointless.  More than anything, I think it’s childish. 

But that’s what religious wars are, isn’t it?  Childish.  Pointless.  You’re both worshipping an imaginary man in the sky.  You honestly think one religion is more relevant or makes more sense than another?  You think either is worth people dying over?  You think if your God does exist he condones you killing other people because they don’t happen to believe in him, or they believe in him in a slightly different way?  Stop burning shit and grow up.  This guy didn’t deserve any attention at all.  His impressively retro moustache is far more deserving of air time than his ignorant, reactionary plan to burn a holy book which is no less valid than his own, for reasons that make absolutely no sense.

This pointless media shitstorm apparently centred on the alleged ‘Ground Zero mosque’.  I use the disdainful quotation marks here because there is no such thing as the ground zero mosque.  What is being proposed is basically a community centre, with a basketball court and a few rooms set aside for people of all different faiths to socialise together.  And it’s two blocks away from ground zero.  And more to the point: there are already at least three mosques or prayer centres within about 5 blocks of ground zero.  If you don’t believe me, go to Google maps, find ground zero, click ‘search nearby’ and type ‘mosque’, and watch a pretty little constellation of results pop up in the immediate area.

The fact that people even think it is disrespectful to have a mosque near the site of the 9/11 attacks is deeply worrying.  It implies that people still believe that every Muslim in the world agreed with or was in some way responsible for the actions on that day of a very small extremist group.  I would have hoped maybe people had got some fucking sense into their heads; that maybe it had occurred to someone, somewhere, that Christians throughout history have perpetrated awful attacks on other people based on their religion, and there’s no uproar over building churches near the sites of those atrocities. 

So, let’s get the story straight.  Something that is not a mosque is being built some distance away from ground zero.  Some mini-cult leader up in Florida decides to protest this thing by burning 200 Quran.  Instead of ignoring him, like the ridiculous loon he is, the world’s media floods to him, publicising this total non-story to the point where people in Afghanistan were burning flags and getting themselves injured protesting his protest.  Which NEVER ACTUALLY HAPPENED.  The President of the United States himself got down on his knees and begged this wacko not to burn the Quran, and I lost a hell of a lot of respect for Obama at that moment.  What he needed to do was get up on his little podium and say to the press, “What the hell are you doing?  He’s a moron!  There is no mosque being built at ground zero and this man is a moron and there are more important things going on in the world that we need to be concentrating on, so get a fucking grip.”

I’m all for free speech, ok?  You can say whatever you like.  What I don’t agree with is this idea the media seems to have gotten into its collective head, that everything that everyone has to say is totally relevant and worth reporting on.  Some people just need to be ignored.  Because if people like Terry Jones get the idea that they can say whatever crazy shit they like and the world will sit up and take note, we are going to be in serious trouble.

A world of idiots

May 25, 2010

When I was little I assumed that grownups knew what was going on.  I always believed, without ever really thinking about it, that at some particular age you magically ‘become’ an adult, and all your silly preconceptions fall away and you are suddenly endowed with wisdom and a profound understanding of the world and your place in it.  (This just goes to show how ignorant I was as a child.)  In fact, I kept on half-heartedly expecting this to happen to me until I was around 19, despite the ever-mounting evidence that it never happens to anyone, ever, at all.

When I finally accepted that I was as grown up as I was ever going to get – and probably have been since I was about fifteen – it was actually rather frightening.  Because what it means is that we live in a world of idiots.  There is no such thing as ‘grown up’, there is just ‘older’, and everyone you’ve ever met, including teachers, policemen, judges, astronauts and presidents, is just an overgrown child with a fancy haircut who has got really, really good at pretending they know what the fuck is going on.  But they don’t, and neither do you; which when you think about it, explains rather a lot.

Watching the news is a great way to demonstrate to yourself that most people should probably still be in nappies.  Take, for example, the worldwide cacophony of pants-shitting which occurs every time someone whacks the name of an animal in front of the word ‘flu’.  It is a well documented fact that the ‘regular’ flu, which is usually seen as nothing more than a half decent excuse for a couple of sick days, kills up to FIVE HUNDRED THOUSAND people a year.  Swine flu has killed 3,900.  Bird flu 263.  I’m not saying those 4163 people who died of ‘animal flu’ weren’t important, but I am saying: seriously, we have bigger things to worry about.  Wars, for example, during which we have taken many more than 4163 ‘precious’ human lives.  AIDS, which has been a raging epidemic since 1981 and has so far caused 25 MILLION deaths.  Swine flu is not number one on the list of things I might lose sleep over if I could be bothered to worry.  Just sayin’.

Here’s an exercise in terrifying yourself: take a look at the Wikipedia page “List of states with nuclear weapons”.  Even the ‘big five’ of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty have a worryingly patchy history with each other.  The US, Russia, and China?  Sooner or later, some overgrown baby in a suit is going to start throwing his nuclear toys out of the metaphorical pram.  You know how occasionally you will pull on a door clearly marked ‘push’ for a good 30 seconds before you realise what you’re doing?  And how there’s someone in the office who you just hate even though he’s never actually done anything to you?  Yeah.  People just as stupid and reactionary as you are out there right now with their fingers hovering over buttons which could put humans somewhere below cockroaches in the running for most developed species on Earth (a position I sometimes doubt we ever held in the first place).  Also, if the though of another US/Russia cold war hasn’t caused you to pee down your leg, I have two words for you: North Korea.  North Korea – and China, come to think of it, although they are at least in the NPT – always give me the impression of sulky teenagers locked in their rooms.  You don’t know what the hell they’re doing in there, and the occasional smell wafting out under the door isn’t reassuring.

To me, good old George Dubya Bush was the ultimate example of why nobody, anywhere, ever, should be allowed to be in charge of anything bigger or more powerful than a donkey.  The guy couldn’t even master the difficult task of getting a pretzel from his hand into his stomach without choking.  He was also frequently referred to as ‘the most powerful man in the world’.  So he can’t eat without supervision and believed he was ‘misunderestimated’ – I’m not making this up, by the way – and that God spoke through him.  I always wondered what the Pope thought about that.

The scariest thing about Dubya was that people voted for him.  Perhaps, if you happen to believe Michael Moore, not as many people as the results showed, but nonetheless a large number of human beings genuinely believed that he was worthy of leadership.

Having said that, however, I think Barack Obama is the cleverest politician I’ve ever seen.  He could be lying through his teeth every time he opens his mouth, he could be Satan himself come to drag humanity down into the flames once and for all; but every time I watch him talk I felt like maybe, just maybe, everything could turn out ok, and the entire world won’t die screaming in a nuclear blast in my lifetime. 

Which just proves, I suppose, that I’m just as stupid as everyone else.

Election related whingeing

May 11, 2010

When I was growing up – and even now, in fact – my parents would never tell me who they voted for.  They are apparently not unique in this quirk, with many of my friends reporting a similar lack of parental guidance in the political arena.  If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say they were Lib Dem voters, but this is largely because their silence comes across as a sort of sitting-on-the-fence attitude and I see the Lib Dems as a sort of sitting-on-the-fence party.  Which pretty much explains why I voted for them myself, actually.

This was the first election I have ever voted in (that’s one of the few sentences I’ve uttered recently which makes me sound young, by the way) and I must confess to having mixed feelings about the whole thing.  At first I considered deliberately spoiling my ballot or just not voting at all, but in the end it occurred to me that if I wanted the right to bitch and whine about the outcome, I had to do my part in creating the outcome; so I went along and officially parked my backside atop the Lib Dem fence, even though they want to be in the Euro and I don’t.  It’s not a political thing, it’s just that I’m bad enough with money as it is, and really can’t be arsed getting used to a new currency.

I admit that my decision to vote Lib Dem was not based entirely on passionate agreement with their policies so much as it was based on a desire to not vote Labour or Tory.  I don’t wish to get into a Monty Python-style “what have Labour ever done for us” session, but still, I haven’t been overly impressed by them over the last couple of years and I’m pretty pissed about Gordon Brown running for prime minister considering he’s already had a good old unelected go at it and fucked it up royally.  For the record, following the ‘bigotgate’ incident and his simpering, pathetic response to it – which strongly suggested he wasn’t sorry he said it so much as sorry he got caught – I believe every word of those rumours about him bullying his staff.  You have to be pretty desperate for approval when your only recourse is to trot your wife round the country with you so she can prattle on at everyone about how fucking wonderful you are – and on that subject, a note to Sarah Brown: I love my man too, but that doesn’t mean he could single handedly fix our well and truly bollocksed economy.  Get a grip.

As for the Tories, I just don’t like David Cameron.  I think he is a simpering baby-faced wanker.  I don’t like his face, his voice, or the way he cycles to work followed by a car carrying his suitcase and shoes, ostensibly to demonstrate how much he cares about saving the environment.  I don’t like his schoolyard bully style billboards lampooning Labour – I might not like Gordon either but for fuck’s sake, you are supposed to be ADULTS.  I don’t agree with some of his policies, but to be totally honest, that wasn’t the main reason I didn’t vote Tory.  I  just didn’t want to give David Cameron the satisfaction.  There’s a sort of sinister robot quality to him.  I’m not actually convinced he is human.

Another reason I voted Lib Dem is that they were the only part who I didn’t feel were condescending to me just because I don’t have a penis.  Although I don’t consider myself a feminist in the traditional sense of the word, I found myself thoroughly offended by the approach to women during this election, particularly by the press coverage dedicated to the sartorial war of the wives.  Does anyone really think my vote can be swayed by a comparison of Sarah Brown’s hopeless selection of frumpy skirts and cardigans and Samantha Cameron’s endless aray of Zara shoes and expensive maternity-wear?  They could have spent the entire campaign dressed as a potato and Lady Gaga respectively and I still wouldn’t have voted for either of their pet idiots.  I would have enjoyed watching the news a lot more, though.

Miriam Clegg, on the other hand, carried on with her own job as a high-earning lawyer instead of following her husband around the country like a drooling, demented lapdog, thereby earning a modicum of my respect.  There was none of this “vote for my lovely husband even though he leaves socks everywhere” horseshit from the Lib Dems, and I appreciated that.  (Another note to Sarah Brown: I had already assumed that your husband was an irritating slob, but thanks for confirming it.  Still not voting for him though.)

I was also offended by Labour’s concept of the ‘Take a Break’ woman, although this offence is really on behalf of my fellow members of the Vagina Club, because I myself am not a homeowner with kids, working full or part time in retail, and I do not read Take A Break, Closer or OK! magazine.  The label irritates me because out of al the attributes of such women, they have chosen to label them simply as culture-vultures, ever hungry for more glimpses of cellulite on the thighs of beautiful celebrities, stories of plastic surgery gone wrong, or interviews with chavs who got stabbed in the face with a bottle by their own mum who was sleeping with their boyfriend.  God forbid they should be characterised as mothers whose political concerns centre around their children’s future, or working women worried about how much tax they pay and the fact that they would be better off on benefits than contributing to society.  No.  These women are just devourers of shitty magazines designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator, so clearly the best way to win their vote is to have the best-dressed, most accessible leader’s wife.  Now I’m all for democracy, but anyone basing their vote on the candidate’s wife’s wardrobe doesn’t deserve the right to vote in the first place.  (Incidentally, I know my not voting Tory just because I hate David Cameron’s face could look like the same thing – but I like to think of it as character judgement, which we all know is a valuable skill.)

The unexpected comic relief in this election has been the BNP’s campaign, starting with the protests over Nick Griffin’s appearance on Question Time, which I thought were pointless because if you want to turn people against the BNP, what better way than to let people watch Nick Griffin talk?  If his jowly face alone doesn’t give you nightmares about concentration camps then you should probably be a bit worried about yourself.  His party election broadcast was hysterical, from the framed picture of Winston Churchill on his desk to the ‘people on the street’ reading from autocues with expressions on their face which strongly suggested a gun pointed at their head just out of frame, to the cherry on the cake: the turbaned gentleman at the end, officially approving of the BNP on behalf of everyone who is not a middle-aged white English male.

On the other hand, though, I was starting to get a little tired of being harrassed in the middle of Southampton high street by placard-wielding reactionaries screaming about Nazism and waving pictures of Nick Griffin’s supremely unattractive visage under my nose.  I mean yes, undoubtedly the man is a bastard of the highest order, but do you really think there was every any chance of the majority of Britain wanting him in charge of their country?  It seems stupid devoting so much time and effort badmouthing someone who so effectively badmouths himself every time he opens his gob.

So finally, the result.  While I may have voted Lib Dem, I should make it clear that I never expected them to win, but I was surprised at how badly they did, especially after the ‘Cleggmania’ which followed the first TV debate.  At first the whole thing had a promising air of Rage-Against-The-Machine-for-Christmas-number-one about it, but I should have known that the majority of the people running around going “if everyone who wanted to vote for Lib Dem actually did it instead of picking Labour or Tory because they’re a safe bet, the Lib Dems might actually win” wouldn’t actually have the balls to take their own advice, but I enjoyed the, oh, three whole days of optimism it sparked.

I can’t claim to be any expert on politics (this is probably obvious from the hastily spewed mass of contradictions you have just slogged your way through – well done, by the way).  I didn’t even know what a hung parliament was until several days after we woke up to one, when I finally got round to looking it up on Wikipedia.  At first I thought I would have preferred a straight Tory win over this weird limbo which has somehow left Gordon in Number 10, but then I saw a few pictures of Cameron’s smarmy, gittish little face and changed my mind.  After all, from what I gather (from some half-arsed browsing of the BBC website while I probably should have been doing something productive), the hung parliament actually leaves the Lib Dems in a fairly decent position, because whoever wants to win has to get the Lib Dems on their side first. 

Mind you, I’m sure I can’t be the only moron confused by the following facts:

  • The Tories got the most votes – but somehow they didn’t win.
  • Labour didn’t get the most of least votes – but Gordon Brown is still prime minister.
  • The Lib Dems got the least votes – but basically whichever side they pick, wins.

I give up.