Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Hypocaust Memorial Day

Today, when for some reason the Government wants us all to contemplate Roman central heating systems. Yet when I rang the people at Chedworth about running a school trip there, they don't open till March !

The Government supports some strange initiatives - last year we had Balsamic Awareness Week. My friend Tim who knows about these things tells me it's a kind of herb vinegar from Modena, much favoured by Islington types for sprinkling on their organic scoff with rocket and tarragon. How typical of New Labour - what's wrong with decent working class British vinegar like Sarson's, brewed in Stourport since 1798 ?

Holocaust Memorial Day

In 2001, Education Secretary David Blunkett sent an information pack on the Shoah to every head teacher in Britain. It's an interesting document, with two basic themes. The first is that racism is a slippery slope - object to asylum seekers one day, and soon you'll be packing those cattle-trucks full of unfortunates. "Such events could happen anywhere at any time unless we ensure that our society is vigilant is opposing racism, sexism and other forms of bigotry". Continuous parallels are drawn between modern asylum-seekers and 1930s German Jewry.

"Research Britain's response to victims of Nazism throughout the 1930s.
Could the British Government have done more?
Provide examples of refugees who have come to Britain in the last 10 years.
How do we know about them and how are they treated here?"

I presume the correct answer to the last question is 'vilified by the tabloid press, especially the Mail' rather than 'given housing, heating, clothing, water, education, TV and phone'.

The second theme is that diversity and tolerance are so precious that there are some things which we should not tolerate. Like people with the wrong, 'intolerant' views.

"No one can legislate against a person holding intolerant views and in a democracy, where freedom of speech is a fundamental right, we cannot prevent people from expressing opinions that are prejudiced or even discriminatory. However .........antisemitism, racism and other prejudices are not neutral concepts, but harmful, anti-social ideas based on a desire to demean others, to harm them and even to wipe them off the face of the earth. Such prejudices are not in keeping with democratic values..... Independent, critical thought and moral values do not, even in a democracy, emerge of themselves but need to be nurtured through dealing justly with individuals at every level of society."

"If the lessons of the Holocaust are to be learnt, the suffering that is still caused by the perpetuation of negative stereotypes and 'acceptable' prejudice must be addressed."

In order to save free speech we had to destroy it.

I love that bit about independent thought not emerging of itself but needing to be nurtured.

Very independent. And how do you nurture it ?

"The promotion of democracy is a matter of education, not propaganda. A sense of justice and respect for human rights can be developed by educating young people to become independent critical thinkers, not susceptible to crude propaganda nor to cynical manipulation by politicians or demagogues. Societies ... racism ..... democratic ideals of social inclusion .... MacPherson Report ... Stephen Lawrence ..... institutional racism ... in our society".

The answer seems to be "Call your propaganda education".

Perhaps the government could save some money next year. Just hand out a small sheet - 'Two Facts About The Holocaust You might Not Have Realised".

#1 - Killing People Is Bad
#2 - The Germans Did It

And older children can read The Last Of The Just, Andre Schwarz Bart's epic of the Just Men.