Saturday, 27 August 2011

Doctor Who and the Lost Summer

Tonight saw begin the second half of Matt Smith’s second series as the star role in Doctor Who, after a surprise summer break.

The last episode of the series’ first half involved a war featuring various of the present Doctor’s contacts that, given the astronomical special-effects budget, was hardly the most climactic of fictional conflicts before introducing that last resort of the burnt-out soap screenwriter, a lost child returning as an adult. This episode was entitled Let’s Kill Hitler and featured the unfortunately all too non-fictional dictator in a bit-part before he sat out the rest of the action in a cupboard.

The real Hitler and the Nazis are hardly off the screens right now, to the extent that it becomes difficult to separate serious history from prurience. One wonders whether the goal isn’t to keep Germans "in their place" by reminding them of the madness that went out from their country a lifetime ago. Are media manipulators trying to distract us from the fact that every major European country has had its turn making other populations' lives a misery, with the latest post-holder being Greece?

The reason for the break was ostensibly so that a cornfield required in the script could grow – but a tale whispered from the studios, that may of may not be apocryphal, could provide an alternative explanation.

rock 'em sock 'em? REad more about davies v Moffatt at Heroic Times
It speaks of the rivalry between former Who executive producer Russell T Davies and his lieutentant Steven Moffat growing so toxic that when Davies got the top job the rivalry leaked into the script in the form of winding back Davis’ innovations. Two of Davies’ characters, assistants Rose Tyler and Martha Jones, appear briefly in this episode. If that’s a sign that the break was used for knocking senior production heads together, then the hiatus was spent productively.

Joe Daniels
300 words

Friday, 26 August 2011

history of Israel: still news today

horrible histories:click for homepage
I haven’t bought a general history magazine regularly for some time, since I thought the only one available was BBC History, which resembles the BBC's product for children Horrible Histories, except without the humour and relevance.

However, I’ve discovered History Today, lured by the tagline "What happened then matters now". Since my daughter will be spending about a third of the coming year studying "the conflict in Palestine" from 1945 for her GCSE History, I was interested to see in the current issue Soldiers of Zion by Mira Bar-Hillel, about her father’s war service for Great Britain in what would become the Jewish Brigade.

click to find out more about the Mufti and Hitler at Jewish Virtual Library
I was hooked, having never heard of the Jewish Brigade. As a Gentile in post-Blair Britain, trying to learn the whole of the story about modern Israel makes one empathetic with the mythical Isis trying to gather the scattered pieces of her consort. It was gratifying therefore also to see confirmed that "the Mufti of Jerusalem [had] formed an alliance with Hitler", something still denied around many dinner-tables.

This is, of course, before 1945, but I wonder if the National Curriculum will allow my daughter to learn of ties between Nazis and Arabs in the wider context of the founding of the State of Israel? Surely our involvement in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya show that the days when a country could be hung out to dry with the epithet "a faraway land of which we know little" belong to the old dispensation: so why is it so difficult merely to get a picture of the viewpoints of all sides regarding Middle Eastern affairs?

If History Today is in the habit of publishing articles of the quality of that written by Bar-Hillel, I’ll be subscribing!

Tony Urquhart
300 words

Saturday, 20 August 2011

David Starkey, riots and chromatic relativism

Historian David Starkey is the latest victim of attempts to erase debate on race from enquiries into why the recent riots erupted in London and other parts of England. His main offence appears to have been saying that "the whites have become black".

But hasn’t this idea been with us for some time in the concept of being "politically black"? There were no complaints when left-wing academic George Yancy [right] summarised the concept (appearing on some 1980s ethnicity questionnaires) in 2005:
The political use is one in which blackness is subversive of the status quo, viz. whiteness. Given this use, there is no incongruity in the idea of a person being pigmentationally white and politically black…All it means to say that a person is politically black is that the person is anti-status quo…that she or he is oppositional or counterhegemonic.
Starkey took pains to say that "It’s not skin colour, it’s cultural", which resonates with political blackness. It also fits in that black politicians like David Lammy and Diane Abbott "have merged effortlessly into what continues to be a largely white elite; they have studied at Oxbridge and gone on to Oxbridge-style careers, such as that of MP".

click to read more about Joel Kibazo
Yancy would call Lammy and Abbot "pigmentationally black and politically white". His chromatic relativism underpins a new apartheid where a white person who critiques black culture is racist. Take Ugandan journalist Joel Kibazo’s [left] clear-eyed and unsparing dispatch from Tanzania on BBC Radio 3: had a white person delivered exactly the same words, would there not have been cries for his head?

Where Yancy’s apartheid differs from the South African model is that it seeks to keep black people down from the inside, obviating the need for homelands and secret police. I know it’s multiculturally counterhegemonic to say so…does that make me politically black?

Joe Daniels
300 words

Thursday, 18 August 2011

overheard #2

"I'm over 70 and I still pay tax because we managed to save a bit..."

unpalatable views: ideology is no excuse

redness no excuse!
As a Conservative-voting blue-collar worker, I find it disturbing to speak to people with views I wouldn’t countenance because they are too "right-wing". The reason I am disturbed is because of the frequency with which the holders of these views are Labour voters, usually union members, sometimes even Labour party members.

To give three examples, I often hear them rant about the world’s population ("we need compulsory population control"), single mothers ("put them in homes where they won’t be a burden on the state") and race ("send all the Muslims back to where they came from"). These are real examples I’ve come across while speaking to left-wingers.

I can’t quote irresponsible views like the above without answering them. Population control brought Indira Ghandi’s first government down spectacularly in the fever of the Emergency; many single mothers choose to work instead of relying on benefits, despite the fact that after 13 years of concentrating on taxing the rich, a single Mum with two kids choosing to return to work from benefits faces the equivalent of a 90% tax rate; and a lot of Muslims come from here in the first place – this is where they belong, and they are anxious to maintain the freedoms that all of us wish to continue to enjoy.

But professing left-wingedness seems to be a get out of jail free card concerning unpalatable views. These are people who say they wouldn’t touch, say, the English Defence League with a bargepole: and a good thing too, as their views are too extreme to be representative of the EDL.

During the Blairite reformation of the Labour Party, message and reality parted company and remain dislocated. We already have to deal with Labour's unelected placemen on councils throughout the country – we let them back into Government at our peril.

300 words

tuition fees: less university education, please

click to go to David Willets' homepage

Today on BBC Radio 2, Vanessa Feltz stood in for Jeremy Vine and spoke to Universities Minister David Willetts, ostensibly about A-Level results.

This being the last year that university fees for English students are fixed at £3,000 per year (they rise to £9,000 pa next year), la Feltz cornered Willetts on this, asking how much he paid in university fees. Being in his fifties, he replied, he was one of the ten percent or less who went to university whereas now there are more people going on to become university students than there were who gained O-levels in his day.

This is a situation the Coalition Government inherited, along with tuition fees, which were introduced by Tony Blair’s first government in 1998. Yet where were the student protests then? Did the unprecedented time allotted to debating fox-hunting blind the students to what was happening to the pounds in their and their parents’ pockets?

Vast numbers of school-leavers go to university. How much do people who oppose tuition fees – who only seemed to find their voice after the 2010 General Election – want to deduct from my wage so that their children can get a document entitling them to an income I and my children will probably never see?

Thirteen years of Labour's ideology-based government have drained us of money and goodwill and have increased social divisions. My thesis is that the playing-field regarding income will be levelled by less university education, not more. Picture the scene: two twenty-one-year-olds are applying for a job involving maintenance of machines in a factory. One has just gained a degree in engineering, the other has left school at 14 and has worked, learnt and solved problems on the machinery in that factory since then. Which one will a prudent manager give the job to?

Tony Urquhart
300 words

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Scottish Power: you have just lost our business

Dear Scottish Power,

You have just lost my family’s business. I was phoning your office on an unrelated matter when I was told that, despite our energy usage being lower than average, you were raising our monthly direct debit from under £100 to over £150.

After some discussion, our daughter waded in with her usual measure of common sense and called round energy companies, eventually getting us a deal of just under £90, capped for two years, with n-power. You wanted us to pay even more for capping our bill.

What makes you raise your prices so steeply? Are you dead-set on corporate suicide? Or have you been listening too intently to climate-change ideologues who tell you that less people equals less pollution, and have assumed the role of reducing the number of vulnerable people over the coming months?

Whichever it is, Scottish Power, know this: you have lost our business.


overheard #1

girl overheard on phone

"Of course, the coverage of the riots in London is totally racist. Nobody cared when the riots were taking place in black areas, but when it spread to white areas it went all over the world..."


Monday, 8 August 2011

the resurgence of the "me-riot"

It’s tragic that a man has died in an incident with police in Tottenham, but we need to divest ourselves of any illusion about the subsequent riots there, which have spread to unconnected parts of London: they are not about that incident. Furthermore, blaming the police for these riots is like blaming doctors for illness – it just won’t wash.

After similar disturbances in the 1980s, criminologist Jock Young’s analysis was that the days of the bread riot in Great Britain were over. The then violence, he said, grew from frustration on the parts of individuals who didn’t have mobile phones or computers, as primitive and unnecessary as those technologies then were. The looting we see presently indicates that the days of the "me-riot" have returned, and the phenomenon is now prosecuted by those who want iphones, ipads and the like without working to pay for them.

In the 1980s we had a Conservative government, and now we have a Coalition in which the Conservative Party is the senior member. In between, we had three socialist governments in capitalists’ clothes who twisted the lessons of life to create an air of of entitlement among young people: on a playing field where competition had been banished and therefore nobody lost, everybody had a right to expect the iphone and the ipad. Now that life has refused to bend to their expectations, they’ve gone on a ruinous tantrum that reveals both their immaturity and the danger they pose to normal working people living beside them.

My thesis is this: those who think they have a right to take what they want without earning it need to learn what real life is like at the hands of the police and judiciary if we, the silent majority, are not to make our own roar heard.

Tony Urquhart
300 words