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Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Disorderly Brexit Has Already Begun

When Thomas Hobbes fled from London to Paris in 1640 he proclaimed himself, rather proudly, as “The first of all that fled” from England’s looming civil war.

I recalled that when it occurred to me that it is not so much that England risks a disorderly Brexit as that we have one already. The moment Theresa May wrote her political obituary, her Article Fifty letter, individuals and organisations began to make their own moves.

The Lithuanian, Polish and Romanian workers began to go home and fruit and vegetables began to rot in the fields though I don’t know how many newspapers apart from The Financial Times printed the photographs. EU nurses and doctors began to go home too, or look for jobs in Remain EU countries. The NHS authorities are now pleading with the government to admit more non-EU foreign workers to replace those who have been lost. 

The European Union itself began to pack up its agencies in the UK, including the European Medicines Agency. Quite a few UK citizens contemplating the limitations of the threatened blue passports found their Irish roots and applied for Irish passports. Dual nationals switched to the better side.

A few companies have moved out and perhaps a few vulture firms have moved in, sensing the chance of a kill when companies go bust or top end house prices fall or the USA gets the permission it wants to dump chlorinated chicken and unfit milk on the UK.

As I write, we are bracing for Unilever’s announcement that they will abandon their UK headquarters and work exclusively from their Dutch one. Easyjet has already launched its contingency plan with a new base in Austria.

Anyone and any company with any sense is hoarding euros. And so it goes on. This is already disorder, though merely a foretaste of what is to follow when the factories start to close, the food banks become even more essential, the criminals start to celebrate. As a writer in The Financial Times observed, a civil war is starting in a country hopelessly divided. The worst is yet to come.

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

A Simple Solution to the Hollywood Problem

Just don't go there.

Since I deleted the Hollywood-obsessed Guardian and Huffington Post from my Favourites bar, must be over a year ago now, I find I know so much less about Hollywood and it's a good state to be in. As for the actual films, I am sure that occasionally a decent one slips through the net, but that's certainly no reason for enduring the others.

Back in 2014 I had some time to kill in London and, finding myself in Leicester Square, decided to re-visit a cinema which once specialised in arthouse movies. They were screening Darren Aronofsky's Noah. It was all right, Noah as a Californian hippy, but there is only so much surround sound someone like me can tolerate. I haven't been back.

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Deadly New Flu Virus Targets Daily Express readers

A mutant flu virus is causing worrying concern to Boris Johnson. It targets older voters and especially those whose brains have been addled by The Daily Express. What makes it worse, Boris is reported to have said, is that it comes at a time when my enemies in the Cabinet have starved the NHS of funds. So these people don’t have a chance. It’s very bad news for me.

So far the virus seems not to have targeted Daily Mail readers, but a spokesperson for the CBI, who did not wish to be named, commented, “We can only live in hope”

Thursday, 1 February 2018

The Biggest Demonstration Ever - To What Purpose?

The usual suspects are telling us they will organise the biggest demonstration ever if Donald Trump visits London. They may well succeed. It will conveniently avoid confronting the fact that Jeremy Corbyn has led his party into an alliance with the Donald Trump wing of the Conservative party to deny young people the rights and opportunities which those older have benefitted from. One third of Leave voters have a good opinion of Trump.

There can be no Big Tent in British politics because the country is split down the middle over Brexit.  Demonstrating against Trump can be no more than  feelgood politics for those who are not so much disenfranchised as deprived of a political party - but unwilling to confront that glaringly obvious fact.

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Re-defining the word "Intimate": Modern Bollocks, Number III in an occasional series

"Prince Harry and Ms Markle will get married in St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle. It holds about 800 people, making it a more intimate setting than the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's wedding in Westminster Abbey."

BBC News website, 28 January 2018, explaining why President Trump does not have an invitation

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Wind The Bobbin Up: Mumsnet and the Satanic Mills

A user on Mumsnet has called out the nursery rhyme Wind the Bobbin Up. I have cut and pasted from the Internet:

“Wind the bobbin up originated in the cotton mill towns of the north of England in Victorian times,” she wrote.
“As anyone who knows a bit about a bit history can tell you, the cotton mills were horrendous places which horrifically exploited women and children, forcing them to do dangerous work in appalling conditions for little pay.”
“How can it be right to trivialise these horrors by getting children to sing a light-hearted ditty about it… It’s offensive to the memory of all those who suffered these horrendous conditions and experienced serious injury or even death as a result of hideously exploitative working practices,” she finished her post.
The author does not tell us who originated this "ditty", though it may well have been some of those horrifically exploited women and children; the Opies date the rhyme to Yorkshire in the 1890s. If its origins are humble, then the Mumsnet writer in downgrading it from a singing rhyme to a "ditty" might be accused of trivialising their imaginative creation.

When I sing the rhyme to myself I use the words Wind my bobbin up which is a corruption but one which reflects the fact that songs and rhymes get their living meaning from what we now do with them rather than what they might once have meant or been used for. Children singing this rhyme in a school today are not being prepared for a grim life in satanic mills; the rhyme is employed because it is fun and promotes hand- eye co-ordination and so on. In this case, I am prepared to give schools the benefit of the doubt on their motives.

It's rather a tribute to the memory of those who worked in the mills that this rhyme is not simply a museum piece, but something which new and hopefully more fortunate generations can enjoy,

The Mumsnet post may be a hoax, designed to draw out the Political Correctness Gone Mad headline; but the surfeit of adjectives and adverbs simply suggest bad faith.

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.