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Wednesday, 17 January 2018

The Social Function of Political Correctness: Do Your Shoes Shine in the Right Kind of Way?

In my country, a depressingly familiar newspaper story informs us of a head teacher, usually male and usually Christian, who has sent all the pupils home for breaches of some set of wilfully elaborate school uniform rules. He has stood at the school gates himself, assisted by highly paid deputies. School budgets in England always contain a significant slice to pay for this Uniform Police time. It’s one reason why there is so little learning in English schools.

In a rigid caste society, you can’t rise out of your caste but you can’t fall out of it either. So you don’t have to worry too much about etiquette. In less rigid societies, like my own, where there is some mobility, then you can try to get out of your caste and rise into a higher one. But those higher up will always be checking your credentials and, if they feel under threat from too many new arrivals, they will jack up the requirements for admission.

When Britain was dominated numerically by an industrial working class, a major internal distinction within that class was between those who were rough and those who were respectable. There were many indicators. One step up and out, the lower middle class was homogeneous in that there was no such thing as rough lower middle-class. In many ways, lower middle-class just was respectability and the signs of that respectability were many. The front garden, the net curtains, church attendance, the absolute avoidance of coarse language and any sign of intoxication, regular habits, regular bowel movements.  On the other hand, paying your taxes wasn't quite so clear cut since it was something which did not show. The headteachers who stand at school gates are basically the most extreme and even deranged representatives of  this lower middle class respectability, holding out to their pupils a false promise that if their shoes shine in the right way they will be able to rise in the world.

With de-industrialisation and the advent of mass higher education which has converted every local tech and poly into a university, we have ended up with a situation in which there are just too many people trying to get into the old middle caste. There just aren’t enough white collar jobs, not even enough low level pen-pushing ones. So there is a caste struggle over who is in and up and who is out and down. Political correctness is a weapon in this struggle, the main aspect of which is that it has added into job requirements a demand that you profess certain beliefs. Sometimes, it has succeeded in making profession of belief an overriding criterion which displaces competence altogether. So we have got to a situation in employment areas like local government where the wagons have been tightly circled to keep out undesirables. There are just too many people with rubbish degrees and some further qualifier has to be added. Political correctness is that qualifier.

Just as with the headteacher at the school gates, political correctness can assume absurd and grotesque forms – hence all the stories of “Political Correctness Gone Mad”.  Just as in the past, coarse language excluded you from respectability so now the wrong words exclude you from desirable employments. And the  words keep changing.

Most struggles are dynamic. The marks of respectability are not static and nor are the marks of political correctness. Beliefs and behaviour which would have qualified you as non-racist or non-sexist twenty or thirty years ago no longer do so. The barrier to entry into the caste has been raised as the job opportunities decline. Expect both trends to continue. Look at what has happened in the USA where its impoverished youthful  "squeezed middle" fights it out over shoe shine issues whilst the very rich bank even more tax breaks.

At its beginning, political correctness was about making us more civil and respectful and had many successes. Now it is a search and destroy mission, hunting down rivals for scarce goods.

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Going Viral?

At this time of year, I spend a lot of time trying to avoid viruses. But I think I should make it a year-round preoccupation. There are so many things which go viral. Admittedly, their half-life is very short. But, still, all of them are best avoided. They do damage your mental health. Right now, there are people all round the world sitting at home thinking about how they can make themselves go viral. Don't encourage them. Disconnect from Twitter and you are already half way back to living a viral-free life.

Friday, 12 January 2018

Modern Bollocks II: Stars in Their Words › News › Donald Trump

Trump Refers to "S***hole Countries" During Immigration Meeting With ...

President Trump denies making 's******e countries' comment during a ...

Question: Who is Being Protected from What by Whom?

Modern Bollocks

Police had been unable to tell the age or gender of the victim because the body was so badly charred

BBC News 12 January 2018

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Parliament: Misconduct and a Spreadsheet

One of the many problems with that spreadsheet  is that it trashes the distinction between real harm and imaginary offence. From the standpoint of any head of personnel, misconduct in the workplace is one thing and private activities which, if found out, excite prurient imagination and salacious gossip is something else. The spreadsheeter is having none of such liberal or secular distinctions and has used a format which suggests moral equivalence between very different things. In this they mimic both religious extremism and populist resentment and I guess that is a large part of the explanation for the spreadsheeter's current success. We live in a world of  zeal and grievance. 

I would prefer to see the government fall because its policies and incompetence are threats to the country's future, but I suppose that is too much to hope for. 

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Now, Mr Churchill, Would You Declare War On Germany in any Fresh Vote?

What I did last time around was I looked at everything and came to a judgment and I’d do exactly the same this time around.

Thursday, 31 August 2017

The End of The Guardian, deleted from my Favourites Bar

The Guardian was on my Favourites Bar together with The Financial Times (to which I have a subscription) and Al Jazeera. But, really, I  have wanted to delete it as I did some while back delete the absurd Huffington Post. I left it there partly because it does give me some headlines, though not always things which turn out to be important. Occasionally, there are important investigative stories.

There is something deeply wrong with The Guardian. It seems without intellectual or moral compass, floundering and even desperate – at the moment, desperate for Good News. Not so long ago, when  a beautiful young woman with style and attitude came along (and I admit, I was happy to heart it for Saffiyah Khan confronting Ian Crossland), the sense of The Guardian falling over itself was palpable. It was just over the top and often is.

It’s  priorities are bizarre. There is, for example, an obsession with Hollywood and the Oscars which seems quite misplaced. Why would anyone care about Hollywood to this degree? Why not just take pleasure in good films?

Then there are the writers of the very many Opinion pieces. I hesitate to name names. Very rarely does anyone in the large cast of writers manage to say anything which isn’t self-serving, puffing up my grievance to be bigger than your grievance. Worse, there is what reads like competitive grievance invention. The rhetoric is tired, like that of a superficial undergraduate essay written in haste. The range of positions is of course predictable, even with some of the contributors designated to take a “Different View” but always the same different view (the ones who are there to speak up for Russia or Brexit or whatever). When I read the Opinion writers in the FT, I feel I am much more likely to be surprised and challenged. And informed.

All the Guardian Opinion pieces are routinely shot to bits in the Comments below. For a long time, I thought these Comments the poor taste and poorly argued work of nerds and trolls. Increasingly, I think that they are actually on target. They are appropriate attacks on rubbish writing. I treat the ridiculous respectfully when I treat is as ridiculous, said the young Karl Marx. I have joined in myself but I don't feel comfortable in the role, which is another reason for deleting from the favourites bar.

If The Guardian folded, those who don't want to line up behind the programme and fantasy vision of the National Conservatives would have to start again somewhere else and I think that would be a good thing provided it was a genuinely fresh start and not the wheeling out of tired leftist hacks. The Guardian is going nowhere and it’s not helping in these difficult times.

It's true, it's also the case that Opposition politics in England is headed up by intellectual flyweights, including  Mr Corbyn,  who struggle to articulate a clear position even when the National Conservatives are also fielding flyweights - Johnson, Leadsom, Fallon, Grayling and winning by a mile, May herself - with the difference that those flyweights know how to be nasty in a way that Mr Corbyn doesn't.

Maybe if there was a new Editor at The Guardian with some intellectual sharpness and  global vision,and a clean sweep made of all the  hanger-on Opinion writers of whom there are simply far too many anyway, then it could survive. But not in its present Sunday School,  awful, cluttered, scatter-shot form.