Archive for June, 2007


UCU And The Israel Question

ucu

It is sad that in order to begin such a debate I must affirm that I am not anti-semitic, sad but not surprising. These days the zealots have sought to polarise the moderates into acquiescence with the “If you’re not with us, you’re against us” tactic. It is a clever use of political correctness the way political correctness is often used by the right to avoid debate on questions they wish to sabotage.

I am not a holocaust denialist, unlike many of the fundamental zealots on either the Zionist or Fascist side I have been to Auschwitz and Dachau and seen it all with my own eyes. Having done so I have images in my head which will go with me to the grave. I could not go to Auschwitz again I don’t think. As a committed left-wing activist the evils of nationalism come as no stranger to me and Germany’s quest to promote itself and its cultural model above everything else in the 1930s and 1940s is something of abhorrence. It should provide a beacon as to just what exactly happens when nationalism is allowed to run rampant to its natural conclusion.

And yet to assume that we have learnt from the holocaust is to disregard much of the history of the last 50 years. I am surprised and dismayed that the Israelis were not the most vociferous of critics of the ethnic cleansing perpetrated in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo, and that Israel did not send its crack troops into Rwanda to prevent the widespread annihilation of the Tutzis. Why is the Simon Wiesenthal centre not now also engaged in hunting down the members of the Interahamwe and the Impuzamugambi who are still active in lawless parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo? These are war criminals, murderers and ethnic cleansers and yet they remain unencumbered by the Western World. Part of experiencing adversity is the greater understanding it gives you of oppressed groups and what you then do about it. Israel is active in promoting and defending the rights of Jews across the world as one might very well expect it to do, however they are either naive and short-sighted or isolationist and bigoted if they feel that it is enough just to protect their own kind. Would Israel have been more inclined to be involved politically or militarily if the oppressed in Bosnia had been Jewish as opposed to Muslims? Would they be involved in Africa if there was an age-old Jewish community rather than disenfranchised blacks, the lowest of all the global pecking orders?

I am an active member of the UCU, the Union which has been at the centre of recent controversy regarding the motion at recent national congress to debate the pros and cons of a boycott on Israeli academic institutions. Let me make this quite clear it has not been decided whether or not such a boycott ought to take place. Personally I agree with a boycott but that is not the issue. The media reported en masse that the UCU had discussed and agreed such a measure. The Morning Star was in fact the only national daily paper to have correctly reported that the measure was in debate and not a de facto agreed policy.

The motion that has been discussed is that academics from Palestine, of whom many en bloc have called for the boycott question to be upheld, should be invited to speak at UK campuses in favour of the measures they are proposing. Within the framework of such a debate, the Academic Friends Of Israel have also been invited to take part in order that the debate should be as balanced and objective as posible and not merely reflect the traditional line of the left and deny the transparency of an open discussion.

What I particularly object to is the force and rhetoric of the US Zionist activists coming out from under their stones at the merest hint of a discussion and proclaiming that they will seek to put us anti-semites to the sword and drag us through the courts and break the resolve of UK academia.

That the academic freedom of a sovereign nation should be threatened by the political and mainly economic pressure of a single group is alarming enough. It is compounded by the lack of any defence from the self same nation states government. Disappointing but of course by no means surprising. If the Zionists had faith in the validity of their argument then one might expect them to rely on this winning the day in a debate conducted by academics but it cannot really surprise anyone that they choose not to leave this to chance because their argument is weak and does not stand up favourably when pitted against that of the Palestinians.

The United States of course is no stranger to the question of democracy by the ‘our way or the highway’ approach. This question has simply underlined the arrogance at the extent to which certain parts of its establishment wish to forward this policy and the complete faith in their right and ability to do so across the world. Personally when I see the ultra-reactionary big guns come out so forcefully and so quickly I can’t help but think we must be doing something right.

Song Of The Day ~ The Cinematics – Trapped Behind This Face

Advertisements

And The Newsroom Goes Silent!

rapist
I damn near spat my tea out I was laughing so much. Someone either has a very evil sense of humour or that geezer isn’t reading the news anymore!

Song Of The Day ~ Scanners – Lowlife

G8plakat

I shouldn’t have thought there are many people who do not know the story of the boy who cried wolf, there are bound to be cultural varients but the basic premise is sound enough and likely to be one of those sorts of tales that is culturally-agnostic. The moral is laregely to do with liars not being believed more than the first couple of times, that whilst people may listen to begin with if you keep on talking without substance they will stop listening and when you do have something valid to say no-one will hear it. So it is with the G8 summit.

I could be heartened by the fact that Geldof has finally caught up with the rest of us on the proper left but I’m afraid it is too little, too late. Geldof has failed both consistently and comprehensively to see the root cause of the problem and seeks to pussyfoot around on the surface in a way that is the equivalent of putting an umbrella up to guard against a tsunami. In 2005 not only did St. Bob derail the Make Poverty History march in Edinburgh, a march that despite his efforts to cram people into stadia for a chance for all the bleeding heart liberal popstars to vanish up their own arses a little more, nonetheless became the largest mass protest in Scotland’s history. But to add insult to injury he was then pictured with his head coyly on the shoulder of a man who far from preventing poverty has been instrumental in the carpet bombing of the empoverished populations of 2 countries. The hypocrisy of the G8 2005 was something I went into at length in my G8 diaries which you can read if you wish (Scroll down and start at the bottom and work up if you want to be authentic about it!).

That Geldof should then feel empowered to berate us, we who went through the endless shite put up by the police to march on the Gleneagles Estate to say that promises were bollocks if not carried out, pledges are not bank transfers or debt relief was callous, offensive, misguided and sick. I am no Professor of History or Social Policy or Politics or Economics and yet I foresaw in 2005 that the debt relief and aid for Africa was a vacuous sham put on for the cameras. I ought to point out that I am not an oracle or a prophet either. You cannot realistically thaink for a moment that the eight richest sovereign nation states are going to sit around and plan their own obsolescence and to expect them to do so is either naive or complicit.

standoff

I do not know if Geldof is merely seeking to extracate himself from the tainted rhetoric of toadyism that characterised him in 2005. If so then praising the warmongering, lying lap-dog Tony Blair is not an especially good way to go about doing it. Apparently Geldof felt sorry for Bliar for not being able to obtain any legacy for himself during the summit in Rostock. Sorry Bob but Tony’s legacy was decided years ago when he decided, unlike Harold Wilson with Vietnam, to allow British troops to be a subservient force to US imperialist enterprises. British soldiers and Afghan and Iraqi civilians die whilst American corporate pigdogs get rich on the projects and the rape and pillaging of the oil resources. It is a scandal and a disgrace and THAT is what Blair will be remembered for.

Yet Geldof still expresses his admiration for Blair and Brown “In this issue, he [Bono] and I and all the other thousands of people wouldn’t have got very far if Blair and Brown hadn’t been doing their thing for the last few years.” No, perhaps Bob is correct here, if Blair and Brown and those like them hadn’t been such a hinderance to world peace and poverty perhaps he would have had less chance to shine in the spotlight. I am at a loss to explain just what he thinks Blair and Brown have been doing. If, as he has himself finally admitted, the G8 have failed comprehensively to deliver on even their own very modest targets, then just who does he think is at fault and what is he doing about naming and shaming them? Or is Sir Bob just another forelock-tugging tosser, an Irishman who has sold out to become part of the establishment, and that of a system that still brutalises and discriminates against his own countrymen.

Britain is one of the richest countries in the world and yet it carps on about taking in economic migrants, it donates a tiny percentage of its wealth to the 3rd world and it cannot even be bothered to house, clothe and feed its own people. So who does Sir Bob think is responsible for that if not Blair and Brown?

When it comes to Africa the G8 could have dropped the debt completely for poorer countries years ago, but to do so would only have had meaning if in conjunction with a system that did not allow the banks to go straight back in and offer loans and ridiculous interest rates again. It is also only applicable provided these countries are not going to be subjected to the mindless economic idiocy of the IMF and World Bank and their rabid free marketering policies which would wreck the countries entirely for the indigenous populations but make a mint for those western concerns buying up recently privatised utilities. There is certainly an irony that the countries who are responsible for helping Africa get clean and accessible drinking water are the very same ones that are making it more and more difficult for their own citizens to afford it in their own countries.

The arrogance of these leaders seemingly knows no bounds. In a summary published by Germany on behalf of the G8 leaders they say:

Peace and Security

We discussed with our African partners questions relating to long-term peace-building and the prevention of violent conflicts.

We affirmed that military solutions alone cannot secure peace in the long term. Instead, the political, economic and social conditions needed for promoting human security and stability would have to be aimed for.

Sorry that’s a joke yeah? I can just imagine President Mbeki’s response “Yes Mr Bush we will heed your precipitous words, oh wise one. Military solutions are not the way forward, after all you have the first hand experience that this is the case.”

It is impossible to see the G8 as anything other than a talking shop for the megalomaniacal and perhaps its only useful function is to serve as a rallying call to the dissolutioned to go and protest. Do not go there with hopes they’ll listen to you, with hopes that they’ll change something, that they’ll suddenly wake up and realise that they haven’t been being very nice recently. Go there and meet your comrades, talk to those who have come from far and wide because enough is enough. Sit down in roads, storm fences, resist the Filth, make your voices heard and one day, just maybe we’ll actually get in and hold them all to account. They did it at the Bastille, they did it at the Winter Palace but the next one is the big one. Question is, will you be there and stand shoulder to shoulder with the anarchists, the communists, the socialists, the environmentalists? Bob Geldof won’t. Every cloud…

Song Of The Day ~ Little Glitches – Sudden Moment Of Clarity

Ho Ho Homophobia

gay
Let me firstly stick in some dictionary definitions for reference, they may come in handy later:

dis·crim·i·na·tion (dĭ-skrĭm’ə-nā’shən) –noun

1. an act or instance of discriminating.
2. treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favor of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing belongs rather than on individual merit: racial and religious intolerance and discrimination.

big·ot·ry (bĭg’ə-trē) –noun, plural -ries.

1. stubborn and complete intolerance of any creed, belief, or opinion that differs from one’s own.

rac·ism (rā’sĭz’əm) noun

1. the prejudice that members of one race are intrinsically superior to members of other races
2. discriminatory or abusive behavior towards members of another race.

ho·mo·pho·bi·a (hō’mə-fō’bē-ə) n.

1.Fear of or contempt for lesbians and gay men.
prejudice against (fear or dislike of) homosexual people and homosexuality

I watched the furore surrounding the UK Celebrity Big Brother and racism row earlier in the year with some interest. I was sort of minded to post but never seemed to quite get around to it. I did not watch the actual program because it’s shite. This does make it a little tenuous that I should see fit to comment but it is less the events of the program and more the events in the world at large that I wished to subject to scrutiny and that I did watch with some interest and growing concern.

For the non-UK residents what happened was that one of the contestants of Celebrity Big Brother who was an Indian actress had a number of contre-temps with a couple of the other housemates who were, shall we say, of the more cerebrally-challenged variety. Many comments were made, some may or may not have been taken out of context but the accusation of racism was levelled and the program was accused of bringing Channel 4 and broadcasting into disrepute etc. etc.

I am not going to analyse whether or not the comments were racist, that is for those who watched the program to discuss in the context of which they were made, I highlight it because I do not feel that the debate afterwards was a valid appraisal of racism in our society and what we should do about it and it came at a time when bigotry was so openly rife in society and nothing was done about it. In fact the whole issue seemed to the media and public at large assuaged by the fact that Shilpa Shetty, the Bollywood actress in question, won the competition. It was as if this was somehow proof that Britons at large could not be racist ‘because the darkie had won, innit’, this, at best, rather patronising attitude of the politically correct and at worst offensive and bigoted mindset of the populist right seemed to me to illustrate all the more just how entrenched racism really was and how accepted it is at every level.

What was worse was that in the news in the very same week debate was raging about gay couples being afforded the rights of adoption afforded as standard to straight couples. This move had marked initially something of a turning point for gay rights because the issue of children and homosexuals has always been difficult for the ignorant to accept. The abolition of Section 28 in 2003 was an issue fought over with some vitriol and in fact the House of Lords had already overturned the Commons attempt to repeal the law in 2000, this was an issue about the supposed ‘promotion’ of homosexuality, an ammendment to existing legislation regarding Local Authorities in which the amendment stated that a local authority “shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality” or “promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.” It is the second part that especially contentious and meant that it could be used to censor in cases where the protrayal of homosexuality was anything other than an abnormal state of affairs.

The tackling of the adoption issue was seen as the next valid step. However due to some aggressive campaigning by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, head of the Catholic church in England, who claimed that Catholic adoption agencies would rather close than consider gay couples as candidates for adoption, the government was forced to climb down a little despite their rhetoric to the contrary and put in a caveat that adoption from Catholic orphanages was not subject to the same law on discrimination until the end of 2008 when the laws properly come into place anyway. This is like saying ‘well we don’t like the fact that you are a rapist but we recognise that it is part of who you are so we’re going to give you 3 years to adjust to the fact that society has moved on in this regard’. The Catholic church argued that the homosexual lifestyle was not one they were comfortable with and they would therefore be negligent in their duty of care to children by allowing them to be brought up in that environment. Now I have to say the Catholic church being allowed to look after children itself is a somewhat shaky issue, their record is hardly exemplary and if I were called upon to decide whether I wished my children to be looked after a gay couple or a Catholic priest I have no doubt at all which I would choose and it isn’t because I’m an atheist!

Who are the Catholics really attempting to look after here? Are they acting to protect the interests of the church itself or are they genuinely acting as we expect parents to act and put the children first before one’s own beliefs? I cannot see it as being the latter because as a parent I know that the most important thing for children is love, if they receive this everything else will largely take care of itself. I’m sure the Catholics would rather a child did not go to any other belief system than their own just as I would not want my children adopted by a religious conservative but there is a difference in objecting for one’s own selfish reasons and ideosyncracies and objecting on behalf of what is right for a child. The first is understandable but should not sway any decision, the second of paramount importance and to be examined very carefully.

The senior Anglican clerics, the Archbishops of York and Canterbury, have also supported the Catholic stance stating “the rights of conscience cannot be made subject to legislation, however well meaning.” Which is an interesting statement when you think about it. Bearing in mind I think in all conscience that religion is responsible for much of the world’s evil does this mean that if I were to act in order to bring it down church by church that legislation could not touch me for doing so? Would the Archbishops support me in this endeavour?

I wonder if the Catholic church would seek to be so bold as to say that Islam was not the same lifestyle and therefore they would like an exemption for that too, I’m quite sure they are thinking it, why don’t they come out and say it?

The most worrying and offensive tenet that is clearly still very much at large is the issue of choice, that homosexuality is somehow all a matter of volition coupled with empirical influences during upbringing. Otherwise how could one possibly explain the difference in perception between it being acceptable to discriminate against those on sexual orientation grounds but not on nicene or colour grounds? This is part of the whole lifestyle choice myth that is very much one’s choice to live a certain way but should this inconvenience others then it is a different matter. The same horseshit is peddled in the case of having children. It is seen as a lifestyle choice to have children and why should hard-working single people have to pay for the provisions of parents? Why, because the fucking human race would cease to exist if people didn’t procreate. Do people really suggest that homosexuality is something learned rather than something inherent? Were that the case then people such as actor Kenneth Williams, who actively despised his homosexuality, would have been able to unlearn it. Are the bigots and the ignorant really suggesting that gay men and women could change if they so chose, and then are they going a step further to assert that they should do so? If not then they are basically saying that something that is biological should preclude one from adopting and bringing up children because certain parts of society don’t like it and if we put that in the physical realm to apply hypothetically to such arbitrary concepts as colour of skin, eyes, hair, size of feet etc. that is the foundation of eugenics and was the sort of thing that Dr. Joseph Mengele was very interested in.

As if it wasn’t disturbing enough that the media focused far far more on the Big Brother non-issue than the homosexuality and adoption case I was pretty stunned that 2 pieces of news in the same week that should have launched a decent debate were handled in such an attrocious manner that they served only to preserve bigotry, ignorance, hatred and ambivalence in both cases. The race issue was handled in a politically correct way which did not debate, did not educate merely brushed under the carpet with platitudes, whilst the homosexuality issue was handled in the open in a way that would not have looked out of place in Victorian times with the church essentially allowed to escape with it’s homophobia intact and without rebuke. Why, because deep down whilst they may think otherwise people know that if you’re black then they can’t be quite so openly discriminatory whereas if you’re a ‘bender’ then you’re on your own.

Song Of The Day ~ The Twang – Either Way