Thursday, October 23, 2003

Liberal self-censorship Part II

A man is charged with stabbing his baby son to death. How is it reported ?

"His father, Shahajan Kabir, 39, appeared at Carlisle Magistrates Court ..."

"AN ILLEGAL immigrant appeared in court today charged with murdering his 10-month-old baby. "

"A 39-year-old father appeared in court today ...."

"He arrived in the UK in the mid-1990s and had been working at a local Asian restaurant as a chef. He had recently been interviewed by immigration services and was due to be deported in the next few days."

"A 39-year-old man from the Carlisle area ...."

Daily Mirror
"Dad Kabir, said to be facing imminent deportation from the UK, was driven from hospital to be quizzed about the attack ..... he came to Britain in 1995."

"An illegal immigrant has appeared in court charged with murdering his 10-month-old baby."

Do we detect a pattern here ?

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Goodbye Call Centres II

George Monbiot catches on.

"The impact on British workers will be devastating. Service jobs of the kind now being exported were supposed to make up for the loss of employment in the manufacturing industries which disappeared overseas in the 1980s and 1990s. "

Funny, wasn't Randeep Ranesh arguing in the Guardian that we'd just move up a technical gear ?

For once George is right.

IT jobs will continue to go to India because

a) there are some clever people out there
b) there are rather a lot of them
c) they are rather better educated

And a large proportion of their schools do all teaching in English, the language of IT and of world business.

Schools in India would be thought of as highly old fashioned over here.

There are still right and wrong answers.
Kids stand up when teacher walks in. Most time is spent teaching rather than maintaining order.
Pupils' self-esteem isn't a big issue for staff.
Self-expression is not the be-all and end-all.
Weird arts, long vanished in the British State system, like essays, comprehension, grammar, precis, spelling and public speaking are practised.

But they're not code gods. I worked alongside 50-odd Indian contractors a year or so ago. Good, but not superhuman. Though their work ethic is something else. 3 hours on the train to work, 9 hour day then 3 back ? That's in India of course. But on the 10K that paid he could afford servants to cook and clean, so he never had to tidy the flat, wash clothes or get his own food.

What's interesting is that the vanishing jobs are at a higher and higher level. Fund managers and stockbrokers are starting to contract out their research there.

And at the bottom end, UK call centres are doomed. In the Indian call centre my current employer operates, all the staff are graduates. Real degrees, too, not Diana Studies at University College North London (formerly Neasden Institute).

Sunday, October 19, 2003

John Humphrys Speaks

Well - the world and his wife seem to be abusing John Humphreys today, so I'll just add my two-penn'orth, shall I ?

On Sunday Britain's greatest thinker since Simon Jenkins pronounced on the Church of England brouhaha.

"When Rowan Williams was given the job he captured the imagination of the nation."

Wrong. He captured the imagination of Guardian and Indie readers and BBC researchers. Middle class liberals if you like. I didn't hear many people at work discussing his appointment. My brickie made no remark, nor did the plumber or electricians.

"People who normally showed no interest in church affairs perked up and took notice".

Same people, John.

"Here was a man who would drag the ailing church into the 21st century and revitalise it, make it relevant to the lives of ordinary people, imbue it with a passion it had lost over the years."

Here was a man who looked as if he agreed with us. Sod ordinary people. They read the Mail and the Sun.

"There was just one small problem. The evangelicals did not trust him. He was a liberal in a church where the conservative wing has been steadily growing in strength. He was the enemy. They declared war on him. That was less than a year ago."

Wrong way round, John. The Church's (admittedly idiotic) position was that uphill gardening was unacceptable in a pastor, though allowable for laity. By appointing Bishop Elton John, Rowan Williams started 'the war'.

I guess the thing that makes me particularly cross is that, by his own admission, he doesn't give a monkey's about the Church. It simply offends him deeply that any large UK organisation isn't signed up to the liberal agenda.

Mr Humphrys devotes the rest of his article to a crack at the Pope for his outrageous suggestion that chastity and fidelity may help prevent Aids. Such an attitude 'verges on the wicked'. John isn't heavily into youth culture, so I don't think that's a compliment. But Mr Humphrys is heavily involved in a campaign that will kill more people in the UK than any number of Papal pronouncements - the campaign for doctors to be allowed to kill elderly or terminally ill patients.

Last year Mr Humphrys senior died, after a long and painful illness. During this time he frequently expressed the wish to die - hence the campaign. No one who has seen a loved one in pain can doubt his sincerity. But as he himself writes

"The oncologist who treated my late wife (wonderfully) wrote of “the two opposing perilous interventions between which we need to steer”. On one side, he said, is “the inappropriate intervention to wrongly sustain life as it approaches its natural end”. On the other are the “increasingly strident calls to intervene to actively end life . . . that would increasingly put at risk many of the most vulnerable in our society”. "

It is this second strand of thought which is so dangerous and against which (among others) the Pope has spoken so strongly so often. No-one wants 'inappropriate intervention' - though one man's inappropriate ntervention is another man's life-saving intervention. This isn't what Humphrys wants, though. He wants "a competent adult who is suffering unbearably as a result of a terminal or a serious, incurable and progressive illness to have "the freedom to ask a doctor to bring their suffering to an end by assisting them to die at a time of their choosing”. In other words, it would allow a doctor to kill us. "

No thanks. To quote H.P. Lovecraft, "that way lies madness and the void". Estate-hungry relatives, budget-conscious hospitals or those with a desperate shortage of beds, a Dr. Harold Shipman clone. After all, we routinely kill unborn infants who may have a disability.

And if it really gets to you, as I accept it might - you can put the responsibility where it should be - and do something yourself, like Mrs Morel's loving children in "Sons and Lovers".

I re-read this tonight, a year after my brave mother's death from cancer. First time I've read it since she died. Brings it all back.

"She had morphia every night, and her heart got fitful. Annie slept beside her. Paul would go in in the early morning, when his sister got up. His mother was wasted and almost ashen in the morning with the morphia. Darker and darker grew her eyes, all pupil, with the torture. In the mornings the weariness and ache were too much to bear. Yet she could not--would not--weep, or even complain much.

"You slept a bit later this morning, little one," he would say to her.

"Did I?" she answered, with fretful weariness.

"Yes; it's nearly eight o'clock."

He stood looking out of the window. The whole country was bleak and pallid under the snow. Then he felt her pulse. There was a strong stroke and a weak one, like a sound and its echo. That was supposed to betoken the end. She let him feel her wrist, knowing what he wanted.

Sometimes they looked in each other's eyes. Then they almost seemed to make an agreement. It was almost as if he were agreeing to die also. But she did not consent to die; she would not. Her body was wasted to a fragment of ash. Her eyes were dark and full of torture.

"Can't you give her something to put an end to it?" he asked the doctor at last.

But the doctor shook his head.

"She can't last many days now, Mr. Morel," he said.

Paul went indoors.

"I can't bear it much longer; we shall all go mad," said Annie. "

One night Annie and Paul were alone. Nurse was upstairs.

"She'll live over Christmas," said Annie. They were both full of horror. "She won't," he replied grimly. "I s'll give her morphia."

"Which?" said Annie.

"All that came from Sheffield," said Paul.

"Ay--do!" said Annie.

The next day he was painting in the bedroom. She seemed to be asleep. He stepped softly backwards and forwards at his painting. Suddenly her small voice wailed:

"Don't walk about, Paul."

He looked round. Her eyes, like dark bubbles in her face, were looking at him.

"No, my dear," he said gently. Another fibre seemed to snap in his heart.
More manufacturing jobs going .....

This time from Scotland to the Far East (Hoover), Puerto Rico and Brazil (Johnson and Johnson).
NeoCons and PaleoCons

Hadrian Wise with a thoughtful piece in RightNow on the neocons and Iraq - throwing light on the strange inversions which have 'righties' saying 'democracy for all' and 'lefties' saying 'hang on, these aren't people like us at all', previously documented so elegantly by Ian Buruma and more clunkily by yours truly.

But Wise doesn't mention the 'lefties' at all. It's all about the difference between neocons and true Tories (in the US 'paleocons'). But what is remarkable, to me at any rate, is how closely the 'left' arguments against intervention in Iraq match the paleocon argument. 'Not in our national interest' has in fact been the chief argument of the Stop The War campaign - especially in the days when it was getting a million on the streets.

"His (Fukayama's) theory that capitalistic liberal democracy is so much better at promoting peace and prosperity than any other socio-economic order that it will and should conquer the world and last for ever, is the core belief of neoconservatism. Once we recognize this, it is easy to see why so many former Marxists have adopted it, for it has much in common with Marxism: historical inevitability, the fusion of prediction and prescription, the primacy of economics, permanent victory to the best socio-economic system, and, most fundamentally, the idea that there is a ‘best’ socioeconomic system, best for everybody everywhere, an idea that generates the somewhat sinister excuse that those who fail to recognize what is best for them are suffering from ‘false consciousness’. The difference is simply the socio-economic system chosen: for the Marxist, it is communism, enforced by a totalitarian state, for the neoconservative, Western capitalism, nurtured by a liberal democracy."

"In America, virtually every neoconservative supported the war on Iraq, and virtually every paleoconservative opposed it. The paleoconservatives had one reason for opposing the war – that it was against American interests; the neocons had many reasons for supporting it, but most of these – Saddam’s apparent weapons programme, his defiance of the UN, his alleged dealings with terrorists, his oppression of his people, even his oil - were incidental. Their real aim was the establishment of a capitalistic liberal democracy in Iraq, an apparently insane project that makes sense when you remember that the neocons, as befits their Marxist heritage, believe human nature to be infinitely malleable. Rather than happy outgrowths of Western civilisation and tradition, capitalism and liberal democracy are the blueprint for the good society everywhere. Everybody should have them; it is the job of the United States to give it them."