Month: September 2015

Insulting Behaviour

Cameron’s Friend

I am almost tempted to feel sorry for David Cameron. After all, who among us cares to have our undergraduate behaviour paraded before a jeering mob, if the readers of the Daily Mail can be so described. The story is that the Ashcroft millions filling the Tory coffers failed to generate a Government post of sufficient gravitas, so he hired a Sunday Times journalist to put together a pastiche serialised in the Daily Mail mentioning juvenile indiscretions, real and, it appears, imagined, about the current Prime Minister. One of the more entertaining was the unverified story of an interaction with a pig as part of an initiation ceremony into an Oxford dining club. Its sheer salaciousness has sent the story stratospherically viral amongst the salivating twitterati who are unable or unwilling to devote more than 140 characters to vent their scorn and outrage. Even if it were true and it probably isn’t, the best one can say about Lord Ashcroft and his shovel-wielding amanuensis might be ‘is that all?’ He probably hasn’t quite come to terms with the fact that this kind of sub-tabloid muckraking makes the raker smell pretty strongly of shit. The only people who may suffer permanent damage are the prizewinning author of “Call Me Dave”, who probably regrets offering her services as a hatchet woman, and her embittered employer.

Nevertheless, Britain is a free country, where people can pretty much say and publish what they like, and insulting the Prime Minister or even the Queen doesn’t carry the death penalty.

from: “Spitting Image”


Not so elsewhere. It was hoped when the new ruler of the House of Saud took office, that a kinder, more tolerant Wahhabism might present itself to the world. It would seem not, however. A juvenile nephew of a Shia activist was convicted under torture on a range of charges including ‘insulting the King’, preaching a sermon which ‘disrupted national unity’ and taking part in a protest which turned violent.  There were no defence lawyers or what we in the West would describe as ‘due process’. His punishment is first beheading followed by being strapped to a cross and his body left to rot. He is now just twenty-one years old.

We continue to do business with barbaric regimes, since not to do so might ‘damage our interests’, in this case, the interests of the petrochemical barons and weapons manufacturers. It seems there are always ways of getting around mutually contradictory policy objectives like arms sales and human rights. And, of course, primitive, medieval punishments carried out every day in lands where various types of Shari’a are practised, have ‘nothing to do with Islam…’

If you’re looking for the image of a crucifixion, don’t bother. We have enough already.

Being Nice to Ladies

Sexist? No. It’s just feet.

You know what? I really couldn’t let this pass without remark. I am no fanboy of PC in all its forms, fatuous or otherwise, courtesy usually providing an acceptable alternative. If people find certain words, phrases and innuendi ‘offensive’, then so be it. Life is hard for delicate little flowers sometimes and occasionally its winds blow cruelly. This is all about one Charlotte Proudman – the irony did not escape me – who was complimented about her photograph on LinkedIn – where young Turks of all ages get to publicly joust for their next big break. OK, a bit patronising, much as the remark made by a senior lawyer, complimenting Ms Proudman on what was, after all, a quite well-taken picture of a pretty twentysomething. But, this was no ordinary bimbette. No, indeed. She happened to be a human rights barrister who took grievous offence to the gentleman’s perceived sexism.   She responded rather robustly, I thought, saying in her own words that she found his message ‘offensive’ and that she was not on LinkedIn ‘to be objectified by sexist men’. She then went on to describe his behaviour as ‘unacceptable and misogynistic’. Quite clearly, she doesn’t know that the word means a deep hatred of women. She went on to suggest that he should ‘think twice before sending another woman (half your age) such a sexist message’; the irony of using ageism to bemoan sexism clearly escaped her.
The inevitable Twitterstorm produced champions for both sides, and it’s been hilarious to follow the exchanges. The tweet-and-bleat feminazis versus the knights in shining armour for whom paying a courtly compliment is really rather dashing. Did he pat her bum? No. Did he leer at her suggestively and call her ‘sweetheart’? No. They have never met. Did he ask her to send him a picture of her in her nightie? All he did was write a complimentary if perhaps misguidedly candid note on her LinkedIn page which she was at pains to point out was for *snigger*  ‘business purposes’.  Now THAT was a sexist and misogynistic remark. The words are exactly the same but… 
It’s interesting to me when I notice that so many arrogantly believe they have a God-given right to go about their daily lives without ever being offended, or simply engaged with. But, hey, they can’t. Nobody’s an island, thank God. What makes life grand, interesting and serendipitous is when we encounter all kinds of people, saying all sorts of stuff, some of them are ‘nice’, some oafishly rude, others paralysingly stupid. Far better to endure the occasional rough encounter – or receive an unexpected compliment–than to live in the emotional twilight and tyranny of social paralysis that the PC among us cultivate so enthusiastically.
I suspect that she might be regretting her strident little tantrum. Educated, grown up people should really be better equipped to deal with remarks which offend them and now she has to detach herself from an hysterical and schoolgirlish social media firestorm.  I wonder how she’d behave if she was subjected to serious, deliberate and sustained harassment, as many undoubtedly are, some of whom may be her clients. I hope she can defend them with rather more measured objectivity than she shows when defending herself.

 

Journeys of Hope and Despair

From idyllic Greek islands to the fertile plains of southern Hungary, an avalanche of human misery, deprivation and increasing desperation has massed, gathering momentum, overwhelming the flimsy processing agencies which have proven inadequate to manage the sheer numbers of applicants who are desperate to reach the security of Europe. Twenty thousand are wedged on the picturesque little island of Lesvos, west of the Turkish coast. Crossing the Libyan desert, paying out their life savings to unscrupulous and cynically passionless bounty hunters for a square foot of space on an unseaworthy little boat, many have perished en route in the greatest mass migration since the end of the Second World War. Some are escaping persecution because their brand of Islam is insufficiently jihadist. Others are fleeing because they are Christian, hence targets for persecution, imprisonment, or worse. Others have been bled dry by incompetent and corrupt governments incapable of performing the one single task justifying their existence, that of looking after and protecting their citizenry. Some just want to work and find a better life for them and their children. Still others may have a more nefarious agenda, to infiltrate the land of the kuffar and plot its takeover. They are given names like ‘economic migrant’, ‘refugee’, ‘asylum seeker’ or ‘illegal immigrant’ to attempt to distinguish and classify them, to decide whether or not they have a right to be here.

Of a party from Eritrea who all left together, almost one hundred and forty souls, bound for Europe, twenty survived. People are dying in trucks, bodies are washing up on Turkish beaches, dead as starfish. So many stories, making all of us sit down, appalled, and ask what we, or our government can and should do.

The sheer scale of the invasion and its rapidity this summer has taken everyone unawares. It is naive to criticise the use of the word ‘invasion’, since so many are using ingenious means to circumvent the authorities. Agencies are supposed to fingerprint new arrivals at their place of entry but some migrants do not wish to settle in Italy or Greece, where processing them could take months, even years, and the social security packages are paltry compared to those offered in Scandinavia. So, they burn their fingers with lighters or use the liquid goo from a burned plastic bag to make their fingerprints unreadable. Such is the scale of the problem, the authorities simply wave them on so the next country in the chain can take responsibility for them. Fake passports are on sale in Rome to make journeying easier.

An Egyptian billionaire has offered to buy an island from Greece or Italy to house everybody temporarily until they can be processed. A brave idea, but not one which many of the hopeful travellers would be prepared to invest in, I suspect. After all, islands have been prisons for centuries.

Why is it that Germany seems to be welcoming so many? Perhaps it is, brutally, a matter of demographics. The German population is shrinking, and there are less able-bodied and, above all, young workers to keep the industrial wheels turning with legendary German efficiency. Cynical as it seems, the Germans may have hit the motherlode by tapping in to a source of cheap labour for a generation, whose taxes will pay for an increasing number of pensioners in their system, assuming, of course, that new arrivals will be able, indeed willing to assimilate and not huddle in racist ghettoes as exist in parts of France. The rightist Government in Hungary, however, whose demographic problems are not dissimilar, is building a fence along its border with Serbia to just keep them out. A Syrian lawyer desperate to reach Germany, scrambled under its razor wire, leaving a bright, bloody trail behind him. The Slovaks are only admitting Christians, not Muslims; they can thank ISIS, bin Laden and all the other bloodthirsty crazies for that. And, how many are the GCC countries, the ideological home for Muslim refugees, taking? None. Not one. Someone should be asking them some hard questions.

As Angela Merkel pointed out, the world is watching us. How we deal with this as governments and individuals will speak volumes to those who detest our democracies and spit on our way of life.
A government has the moral responsibility to protect the welfare of its citizens. At the same time, each individual has the responsibility to love his neighbor. Many of us will shortly have new neighbors with strange, unfamiliar customs, curious, unintelligible speech, different social norms. We can choose to tread this unknown territory of rapprochement with fear, as children who fear the dark, the unknown, or, we can take firm hold of our own heritage, confident in its ability to protect us emotionally and spiritually to reach out, one-on-one and in our groups, to do justice, love kindness and, above all else, remember mercy.