Saturday, February 26, 2005

Self- Harm - It's All The Rage

I blogged a week or two back on (inter alia) the phemomenon of female prisoners cutting themselves.

Like tattoos, body piercings and heroin, it seems to be spreading from criminal subcultures to the mainstream. I thought March 1st was Dydd Dewi Sant, but in America it's "National Self-Injury Awareness Day". Can't wait for the Radio Five phone-ins.

According to the lovely Michelle Malkin, "actresses Angelina Jolie and Christina Ricci did it. So did Courtney Love (not deeply enough, IMHO - LT) and the late Princess Diana. On the Internet, there are scores of websites with titles such as "Blood Red," "Razor Blade Kisses" and "The Cutting World""

I think Razor Blade Kisses are actually a Goth band. But Cutting World seems kosher. How long before W.H. Smith is selling "What Modelling Knife ?", and the kids are looking for the latest (red-and-white striped, like the traditional barber's pole) awareness wristband, currently the must-have accessory among the 10-14 set ?

Uh-oh. Too late. Orange, if you want to know. Life imitates satire once again.

This is a public information post.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Church News

No organisation exemplifies the British cultural collapse better then the Church of England. Described within living memory as 'The Tory Party at prayer', it is now 'engaging with the issues of the 21st century' - or in other words, abandoning a Bible-based theology in favour of an inclusive, user-friendly Christianity more suited to a liberal, Godless society.

The ancien regime are struggling grimly against this tendency, the current battleground being over whether (open - people like Mervyn Stockwood just got on with it) homosexuals should become Bishops of the Church.

On the one side - organisations like Reform, Anglican Mainstream, most of the Anglicans in Africa.

On the other, Rasputin, the bishops of Worcester, Oxford, Southwark, the massed ranks of the BBC, Guardian, Indie, and all right-thinking, tolerant people.

Like Christina Odone, who writes in the Times of "a world full of no-nos: no sex before marriage, no feminism, no abortion and no gay sex".

I'm not sure about the feminism bit. But she's right - tragically, the Church has throughout its history been generally against these things.

Those on the side of light against the dark forces of bigotry and homophobia like to use this "killer argument".

"In much of Europe, in the USA, and in Canada, discrimination against gay people is now being consigned to history, along with slavery and the lack of universal suffrage. It is only shameful that the Church, which was in the forefront of the campaign to free slaves, still treats women and gay people as being less than fully human, with impaired human rights."

You've hit all the right buttons there - not just for liberals, but for everyone. Add in a few words to the effect that your opponents are funded by the American Religious Right, try to ignore the African view, mention George Bush if you can, and bingo - how could any right-thinking person not support you ?

Only one teensy problemette. No-one should be condemned because of the way they were born (I'll leave nature vs nurture for another day). But this argument fails to make the distinction between who you are and what you do. In practice it turns out that the evil reactionary bigots don't hate people with homosexual desires. But they do think it's wrong to act on those desires.

After all, we all have desires of all kinds. If I gave in to all of them, I would by now either be Supreme Dictator Of The Universe, dead, or (more likely) serving a lengthy prison term for crimes ranging from mass murder to serious sexual assault.

Yes, but these desires aren't at the core of your being. As John Humphrys on Radio 4 said incredulously to Archbishop Peter Jensen of Sydney (I paraphrase - can't find the link) "But that would mean being celibate all your life !"

We're back to Christina and her no-nos again. No one ever said it was easy. Christian literature is full of tales of broad, pleasant paths and stony, steep and narrow ones. We're all sinners. I certainly am.

Top coverage of the whole sorry caboodle at Thinking Anglicans. Presumably their opponents are unthinking, but an excellent site nonetheless.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Indie Watch

A correspondent points out that a few weeks ago, when the engagement of which I must not blog was announced, that principled newspaper The Independent covered its front page with 'The Stories You May Have Missed". (Their argument, which is not without force, is that a serious newspaper should cover serious news).

Was this, he asked, the same Independent which devoted Tuesday's entire front page to the death of a drug-addled American gun nut who wrote a couple of not-bad books in the early seventies ?

I wonder what the Indie's cover will look like when the guy who wrote these dies ?

P.S. Note this early tribute to Polly Pot. (I seem to be the only person ignorant of the fact that the Child Catcher was indeed, in some sort, a drippy hopout.

Looters will be ... er ... er ...

So the British soldiers were found guilty. I'm not suprised. One guy's defence ("He was cold and so I moved him into the sun. With hindsight, perhaps using a forklift to do it may have been a mistake") was up there with Ian ("She fell into the bath and drowned - as you do") Huntley's story - what I call the "cat ate my homework" defence.

The Guardian is shocked at the "horrific images" of prisoners simulating various naughty acts. Surely the images themselves can't be horrific to a Guardianista ? I thought they approved of that sort of thing - indeed, they want such scenes to be a commonplace in Her Majesty's Forces.

But there is a difference between consenting and non-consenting adults. Nonetheless, this humiliating treatment, while unpleasant and wrong, comes pretty low on the list of bad things that happen in war. I'm more concerned about that hotel worker who may or may not have been beaten to death.

Apparently it's illegal to 'work hard' captured looters, a hideous crime which the Guardian makes much of (the working, of course, not the looting). I'm not sure what applies now, but not so long ago it was OK to shoot them. I think I'd prefer the happy snaps.

France, 1944. From Max Hastings' book "Overlord", Corporal Baldwin of the Westminster Dragoons.

"In a field on my right I noticed some dead British infantry. There were two civilians there and I pulled up. Another jeep with a military policeman pulled up behind me. We walked towards the two men and it became obvious that they had been looting the bodies. Two had had their boots removed. The civilians started to speak quickly in French, but the policeman simply said "Bloody bastards" and shot them with his Sten gun."

For a little more perspective, here's what the Army can do to a seventeen year old British part time soldier, captured on exercise. From Chris Ryan's 'The One That Got Away'.

"When I was seventeen, on my first escape and evasion exercise with the Territorial SAS, up at Otterburn in the middle of winter, I was caught by the hunter force of Three Para. They got us, gave us a good kicking, stripped us naked, tied our wrists and anchored us up to the chest in the middle of the river until we were completely numb. Then they took us to an insulated airborne shelter (anyone know what one of those is ?), with five gas heaters blazing, where the temperature was about 120 degrees. As our circulation got going again, the pain became excruciating - and it was then, when we were doubled up in agony on the floor, that they started interrogating us about who we were and what we had been doing. As soon as we were warm and starrting to recover, they put us back in the river and so began the whole process again ..."

On Ryan's eighteenth birthday he was captured and interrogated on exercise by Belgian paratroops. He doesn't say exactly what they did to him, but thought "there's no way I'm ever going to get captured again".

Obviously the Guardian, Respect, Malice Ahon etc will use this series of unfortunate events as a stick with which to beat the Army with. Among the rest of us, some proportion please.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Blimpish on Chavs

What Burchill and her Chav Chic chums seemed to entirely be missing in their analysis is the notion of respectability. Yes, this country has always had a working class and it has always had its rougher side. On the whole though, certainly from mid Victorian times, the English working classes did not pride themselves on living to that rough side. Historically, the English working classes were possessed of a hardy moral puritanism, after all - morals were something that they tended to look down on the middle classes for.

Here is where they miss the importance of the sixties (first) and then the Thatcher episode: not that it was a betrayal of the working class, but the end of it.

I'd agree, with the proviso that the working class as previously known vanished in the 1980s. During the 1960s the cultural revolution removed the moral foundations, but it was not until the economic scaffolding was taken down during the 1980s that the house actually collapsed. (During the 1920s and 30s the economic scaffolding had also been removed, but the moral foundation remained). Places like the mining villages of Yorkshire, the South Wales Valleys, or the heavy industrial areas of the North East, went from tight-knit, self-reliant communities to smack-ridden disaster zones in a generation.

The kind of behaviour that Julie thinks authentically working class was despised by actual working class people. It was college types who loved people like the hero of Alan Sillitoe's late 50s novel "Saturday Night And Sunday Morning", an early protochav.

Here's Daniel come to judgement again, Rod Liddle on the white working class male.

And my hero Norman Dennis (last chapter) on the old socialist ideal of the family.

"Old Labour (properly so-called) saw each successful, decent family, egalitarian in its division of labour and benefits through the willingness of each to be self-sacrificing for all the others, as itself a socialist commonwealth in action. Such families were believed to be both common in the respectable working class and achievable as the norm in all classes. Their widespread existence — as these ethical socialists believed — proved that it was not ‘against human nature’ to be dutiful and unselfish. "

"No loss of reputation has been swifter or steeper on the left than that of the working-class male: from heroic proletarian father to unspeakable abusive beast in one generation."

Little Man, What Now ?

If the blog is half as good as its title it'll be a cracker.

Presumably inspired by this book.

Whose author took his name from this story.

Or the film of the book.

Or this song.

Nothing Lasts For Long ...

It's male menopause time at the Guardian and Indie, as they mourn for Hunter S. Thompson and lost youth. The entire Indie front page, half the Guardian. I looked at the Guardian today with the same feelings as I looked at the Daily Mail the day after the Camilla engagement was announced. See pages 2, 3, 7, 9, 10 and 11.

Doubtless as the days shorten other Sixties relics will remember some long ago incident to add to the fetid pile of unwashed anecdotes.

No wonder they're upset. The man and his work are symbolic of the class of 68. A couple of bursts of brilliance back in the days where things really looked as if they might change - and then what ?

The problem with the counterculture was that it was only - and literally - a counterculture. It knew what it was against (the existing culture), but not what it was for. Thirty-five years on the counterculture still doesn't know. Against the war in Iraq ? Check. Against Saddam's evil ? Check. What are you going to do short of war ? "I don't know, but there must be another way".

Thompson spent the last thirty years of his life being remembered for two early works. His later stuff still had the same targets, but who wants to listen to someone bellowing "I hate straights !" for thirty years ?

(He probably wasn't a very nice man, either, if the scene in the lift at the Dunes motorcycle race is any indicator. Certainly not a chap to borrow the lawnmower from, the Laban Tall touchstone of a civilised being.)

I doubt if one in fifty of the people who bought "Fear and Loathing" to add to the Hesses, Castenadas, Peakes and Donleavys of the seventies student bookshelf ever bought another thing by him.

In the UK the counter-culture has been remarkably successful in the work of destruction, and we have a situation, particularly in England, where we can be said to have no national culture. We're still waiting for whatever new culture (a.k.a 'rough beast') may rise from the myriad subcultures inhabiting the ashes, with a childish belief that somehow all the good bits of the old culture will be retained.

In the US the existing culture, though embattled, was stronger and has not rolled over. That's why America and the 'Religious Right' are every Guardianista's nightmare. What's the point of hating Britain, or England ? There's nothing there to hate.

The NHS, the Met, and Race Targets

I noted yesterday the under-representation of Native Brits in the NHS.

In a speech to the TUC in September 2003, Trevor Phillips, chair of the Commission For Racial Equality, thought this was A Good Thing for which the natives should be grateful.

"So, colleagues, I ask you next time you add 50,000 to your circulation with a story about so-called health tourists please mention the 45,000 foreign nurses working in NHS hospitals today without whom none of us black, brown, white, citizen or refugee would enjoy the healthcare we take for granted now.

Let me make one point, that is the National Health Service, the most British of institutions, was launched by a Welshman, built by Irish labour, sustained by Caribbean nurses and now held together by Indian and other foreign doctors with Filipino nurses, and Somali cleaners. That is modern Britain."

His remarks were applauded by columnists like the Guardian's Jackie Ashley.

Strangely the converse doesn't apply if the natives are over-represented. No-one to my knowledge has made a speech pointing out with pride that if an Asian girl is shot for her mobile phone, the crime is likely to be investigated by dedicated Native Brits, serving all communities without fear or favour.

Far from it. Too many crackers on the beat is apparently A Bad Thing. While a white patient who demands care by white medical staff is condemned by all, and loses entitlement to NHS care, it's quite acceptable to argue that black Londoners need black police.

As the Metropolitan Police Authority (chairman Lord Harris - see here and here) put it : "Of greater concern to the Authority is the recruitment of black and ethnic minority police officers. While the Home Office statistics released today indicate a positive increase in the percentage of VEM (Visible Ethnic Minorities - since half of Eastern Europe arrived in London this is now the preferred PC term for black and Asian people) recruits to the Met in the year between April 2001 and 2002 – a 23% increase for that year, representing 4.9% of the workforce total – we know from current figures that we still have a long way to go to achieve the 25% target set for completion by 2009."

I still can't work out why this is so important. Does the colour of a policemen's skin matter, as long as he does his job well ?

The only real 'reasoning' is in the Home Office targets report, one of many.

"The employment targets are wide-ranging and cover recruitment,
retention, career progression and the senior officer level. They will
help ensure that each service is truly reflective of the communities
they serve, and thereby better able to serve them and meet their
needs and priorities.

If this applies to the police, why doesn't it apply to the NHS ? Or, come to that, to soccer sides ? If Jack Straw is right, the Baggies would have been able to meet their fans needs better without the Three Degrees, and Bradford City should have swapped the great Cec Podd and Joe Cooke for a Patel and a Hussein.

Why aren't Trust managers and executives looking forward nervously to their next Whitehall meeting, when they have to explain that only 60% of their staff are Native Brits as against a target of 90% ?

I don't really need to answer that, do I ? When white liberals are involved, the ratchet will only ever work one way.

Wouldn't it be nice to live in a world where even Metropolitan Police Officers were judged solely on the content of their character, just as the colour of your doctor's skin is of no more significance than the colour of his eyes ?

Monday, February 21, 2005

A Death Is Mourned

It is always tragic when a great artist is taken from us. Even when he appears to us in the guise of a manic drug and alcohol abuser, a true genius with words somehow seems to rise above his failings.

And no matter how many years may pass, his poetic flame will still burn brightly.

No, I don't mean that gonzo scribbler !

Bon Scott, lead singer of AC/DC and surely the best thing to come out of Kirriemuir since the infamous ball was held, died twenty-five years ago.

Some say he went to heaven, some say he went to hell. But we will always be in his debt for lyrics like these.

"She had the face of an angel, smiling with sin,
The body of Venus - with arms"

Aware that to an educated listener "the body of Venus" could only mean this woman, Bon was at pains to point out that, unlike the Venus de Milo, the muse who inspired 'Touch Too Much' did actually possess two arms (I don't know if he ever met Heather Mills, or Alison Lapper - what a song there might have been).

This was typical of his craftsmanship and attention to detail.

In memory of this blazing, bourbon-soaked comet in the rock firmament, BBC Radio Wales presents an hour of classic Bon Scott music, available via the Interweb for the next week or so. Listen and wonder.

A Daniel Come To Judgement

Rod Liddle in the Sunday Times on discrimination.

"In terms of employment and income (and education), British people from Indian, Chinese, Japanese and Malaysian backgrounds easily outperform their white counterparts, both male and female. In terms of earnings, women from ethnic minority backgrounds (excepting those from Pakistan and Bangladesh but including, for example, African and Caribbean women) easily outperform white women. The average weekly wage of a white British woman in 2002 was £180, compared with £187 for all black and Asian women, £199 for African women and £210 for Caribbean women. These figures come from the Cabinet Office.

One year later the Downing Street policy unit concluded, in a report entitled Ethnic Minorities and the Labour Market, that “the old picture of white success and ethnic underachievement is now out of date”.

So exactly who is being discriminated against here? Should we not be manning the barricades in defence of white women and calling for positive discrimination against those women from our African or Asian communities? And how do we explain the poor performance of Pakistani and Bangladeshi women (who earn only £140 per week)? Does the problem lie solely with the racist and sexist white hegemony or might there be something within the indigenous culture that is holding these women back?"

All very true - this from the same guy who in 1998, as editor of the Today programme, was working to death the hideous revelation that "Asians applying to study medicine are more likely to be rejected than other students."

To be exact, "while one third of all applications for medical school places are from Asians, they represent only one fifth of those accepted".

Given that Asians were approximately 4% of the population at the time, the real story would have been that they were applying at 8 times the rate of the natives, rather than that they were "only" being accepted at 5 times the rate.

Mr Liddle appears to have undergone a Damasacene conversion on these and many other issues.

His successor at Today, Kevin Marsh, has strangely ignored this more recent story.

"Researchers at Oxford University say white men, who make up 44% of the UK population, accounted for 26% of new medical students in 2001.

They said medicine is increasingly dominated by white women and people from ethnic minorities, particularly those from the Asian community."

Or, in the words of one comedian, 'my family doctor's a bit old-fashioned - he's white'.

I liked this story from Salisbury Pages.

I got talking to an Asian anaesthetist from Bradford yesterday. He’s got a face like Uday Hussein, an accent like Geoff Boycott and a wicked sense of humour that’s all Yorkshire. Apparently a couple of days earlier he had been waking up a patient after an anaesthetic when the patient had become more and more agitated. Eventually the patient was awake enough to croak, “Where am I?”

“You’re in Brummagen General Hospital” my colleague replies.

“Thank God for that!” says the patient, with transparent relief, “I thought I’d been kidnapped.”

Looking around the bed my colleague realizes that there’s not a white doctor or nurse among them. “Mind you,” he tells me with a wicked glint in his eye, “I’d still like to have seen his face if I’d said, ”You’re in the Tora Bora mountains, mate.”"

One more sidebar link - via Irene Adler, to Conservative Brotherhood, "a group of African American writers whose politics are on the right hand side of the political spectrum." In other words, people who don't exist as far as the BBC and Guardian are concerned. I'd love to see a Gary Younge interview with, say, Thomas Sowell.