Physio: "Hello, so how are you getting on?"
Me: "Really bad, my back's getting worse."
Physio: "Oh dear, what sort of activity is it affecting?"
Me: "I can't do more than half an hour on the computer without being in agony."
Physio: "And how long do you stay on the computer?"
Me: Long silence... "What?"
Physio: "How long do you stay on the computer after it begins to hurt?"
Me: "Do you mean how long in terms of time?"
Me: "About, oooh, it depends about.... amdsn."
Me: "About, erm, an hour or two. Sometimes a bit longer."
Physio: "You stay on even after it starts to hurt?"
Me: "Very occasionally."
Physio: "How often is very occasionally?"
Me: "About, every day."
Physio: "Every day? Even though it puts you in agony?"
Me: "I have a blog, and I read a lot of blogs."
Physio: "What's a blog?"
Me: "A web-log, a log on the web, I've got a politicalish log web."
Physio: "Do you think doing hours of something a day that puts you in agony is a good idea?"
Me: "In what context?"
Physio: "In context of the fact you have painful muscular-skeletal condition?"
Me: "S'pose not."
Physio: "Do you think it might be a good idea that you take a break from the computer?"
Me: "Take a break? As in, not go on it?"
Physio: "Yes, leave off it completely for about a week?"
Me: "Leave off it for a week? But why?"
Physio: "Because it's putting you in agony?"
Me: Long silence... "Can't you just give me pills or inject me with something?"
Physio: "No, listen, you don't have to give it up forever, just take a break."
Me: Long silence.... "Okay."
Physio: "Good. Now you will do it won't you?"
Physio: "You won't go home and go straight onto your web-log will you?"
Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Physio: "Hello, so how are you getting on?"
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
Pamela Bone, doing the writer's choice with McKewan's book "Saturday", over at Normblog, touches on thoughts about the burka and made me want to write this.
The first time I saw a woman in a burka it made me feel sick. I was fifteen, maybe sixteen years old and it was in Birmingham city centre. I didn't know then what it was or why it was worn, but the sight of a women on a hot sticky day encased from head to toe in several thick billowing layers of black cloth, with even the eye slit covered in gauze, genuinely shocked me. I remember being unable to shake the feeling of upset for the rest of the day.
I continued to see her over the years, although I haven't seen her for a long time. She was always with a man, a young man who wore shorts in the summer and who walked along with his hands in his pockets looking quite jolly and approachable. I'd watch their kids getting older, a boy and a girl, always dressed in western gear, the girl once in a Mickey Mouse top. I still had little idea of why the woman wore a black shroud, but I guessed obviously it had something to do with religion and oppression of women. But the fact that the man and kids she was with didn't truss themselves up in disturbing garments made me begin to think that wearing this thing must be totally her wish, and that as the man looked so modern and amiable that perhaps it was even a case of him "supporting" her in this bizarre choice of clothing, no matter how embarrassing he might actually find it. Fair enough, I found myself eventually thinking, each to their own.
Then September 11th. I had been a firebrand atheist, my complete ignorance of all religions often employed as a deliberate insult. Being so closely caught up in events in New York however, I didn't want to be ignorant anymore so I started to become more informed; the Middle East, Islam, al-Qaeda, the Taliban, everything, as world events unfolded after the US terrorist attacks I made an effort to educate myself.
And now I understood about this lady and her burka. And the message from a lot of female Muslims was not that Muslim dress was repressive, but that it was an empowering expression of their tribal loyalties. A lot of the female Muslims I worked with covered their hair and you couldn't call them meek and mild, and so did a couple of the female doctors at the hospital I attended. Again, each to their own I thought. Many religions require many things of their faithful. Just because it isn't something I would want to do, doesn't make it wrong.
But the burka. I couldn't get over the burka. The burka isn't about modesty or religious expression, it's about obliteration of the self; a complete eradication of individuality. It is about making yourself a non-being. I will say it now, I still feel ill when I see a woman in a burka, not because I am racist, not because I have anything against Islam, but because any abuse of the self shocks and upsets me.
If that lady I saw down the years in Birmingham wore the burka of her own free will then the last thing the rest of us should do is support that decision. She is attacking herself every bit as much as a woman who cuts her arms with razor blades, or starves herself in anorexia is attacking herself.
And if she wasn't wearing the burka out of her own free will, then she was being attacked every bit as much as if her husband was dragging her along the street beating her.
There can be no more reason to deny a woman the feel of the sun on her face, or her ability to see the world she walks in, than there can be reason to deny her food and water. These are the most base things any human being has a right to.
To me headdress, no problem. Burka, human rights abuse.
Then Shabina Begum. I was friendly at the time this case came to court with a couple of Muslim females who had plenty to say about it. They had never been pressured to wear any headdress and had never done so, but they saw around them a growing pressure on women in their community to start doing so. Something that had been rare here, they said, was becoming common, and was running the danger of becoming compulsory. And it wasn't just the men in the family putting the pressure on, it was the women too, worried about their daughters being compared less favorably with other more "devout" daughters, and how it might affect their prospects. And worse it wasn't even just the mothers, but the daughters themselves, fired up with a desire to appear devout, enjoying the approval it got them. But how devout is devout enough? What's right, the Hijab, the jalib, the burka?
Now this is my position. I am not interested in having dialogue with a man who thinks that a woman should cover her hair, I am interested in dialogue with women who think they should. I do not feel any sense of antipathy towards any female who wears Muslim headdress. I don't pity her, or revile her, or think she's anything strange or unnatural, or someone that needs a talking to, or someone that needs rescuing or liberating.
But nor do I think she's special. Nor do I think her headdress and why she wears it is outside the realms of that which can be discussed.
So if a woman says she wears it because it stops her being exploited by men, like STWC's Salma Yaqoob did recently, then I assert my right to be offended at the inference that I am being exploited. If she wears a designer hijab, I'd like to ask her how that is consistent with modesty. I'd like to know her opinion of the fact that I wear make-up, short-sleeved tops, and skirts. I'd like to know if she would defend a woman's right not to have to wear any kind of headdress. And if she doesn't wear a burka, I'd like to ask her what she thinks of women that do, and assuming she thinks the burka too strict, then what has she ever done to highlight the issue of burkas in her community? There could and should be no objection to posing questions like this.
But there can never be any defense of the burka. On the proposed Dutch ban of the burka I am in full agreement, and I don't see why Britain could not and should not do exactly the same thing.
It would be too late to give that lady I used to see around Birmingham a chance to feel the sun on her face, but perhaps we could stop the same harm being done to her daughter? Stop that little girl who grew up wearing pig tails and pink dresses from having to spend her adult life walking around in a death shroud.
Interesting discussion following this post at Pickled Politics.
And if anybody has a copy of the Yasmin Alibhai-Brown's Evening Standard piece on the Burka that's mentioned would you kindly get in touch? I'd really like to read it and it's not on-line. Thanks.
Posted by Helen at 5:30 pm
Sunday, November 27, 2005
Peter Tatchell tells us about CND having tea and biscuits with Iranian ambassador, Dr Seyed Adeli, "representative of a clerical fascist regime that executes apostates, unchaste women, gay people and even children." CND's interest in him comes from "the possibility of an attack on Iran". What, an attack other than the one it's currently under from a brutalising and vicious regime?
The STWC and SWP are also shitting on the Iranian democrats and socialists by vetoing protests against the Tehran regime, a regime that likes to murder "socialists, trade unionists, communists, feminists, journalists, students, lawyers, writers, doctors, human rights activists and religious and ethnic leaders". The STWC and SWP are however, of course, campaigning against any US led invasion.
All sounds very familiar doesn't it?
Go ahead and torture, hang, stone to death and murder your fellow countrymen oh mighty ayatollhas - the far-left waves you on whilst jeering at those nasty Americans for you.
Posted by Helen at 1:08 pm
Now this is interesting - the roman Catholic Archbishop of Birmingham, Rev Vincent Nichols, in a speech about the failure of secular society to inspire, is quoted as saying:
"If everyone in an organisation, be it a hospital, or a bank, or an industry, simply worked precisely and solely to their job description, the enterprise would grind to a halt within days. Indeed, what makes for a successful enterprise is precisely a shared vision, an underlying sense of purpose, a team effort in which personal whims and autonomy are put to one side for the greater, common good."
Anyone else read that and think what utter bollocks? If you've ever worked for the type of company that has things like a "mission statement", then I think you'll agree that all of that corporate stuff does bugger all for achieving a sense of unity or anything else. Companies try and get their staff to buy into the whole "shared vision" shit because it wants to get a grab-handle on their souls in order to better manipulate them. It's a way of getting employees to do things like work awkward shifts, or do unpaid overtime, or take on more responsibility without pay, supposedly for the common good. However it's really just a way of squeezing wage costs to better placate the share-holders and feed the pukingly massive bonuses of the company directors.
Luckily, the British are not very susceptible to this type of thing, and most people do their jobs in as half-arsed a fashion as they can reasonably get away with. This is because the vast majority of jobs in the western world are exploitative and potentially soul destoying, and require the sort of unrelenting effort that few human beings can keep up for any length of time on something so pointless without losing their minds. Getting everyone to work precisely and solely to their job description, far from being the thing that would bring any organisation to a halt, is a Utopia most companies can only dream of.
Posted by Helen at 3:21 am
Thursday, November 24, 2005
I've been described as many things over the years; "heart attack candidate", "Type A personality prone", "quakerish", "starched", "buttoned-up", "coiled spring", and if one more person tells me to "chill" I'll smash something.
But I think I'm finally starting to get the message.
I'm now being told I'm a...
Excuse us, could you just put down that hammer for a minute and listen. You’re so busy getting things done you rarely take any time out just to relax. In fact, you’ve probably forgotten how to relax. That’s because you’re so anxious to prove that it’s possible to lead a good and moral life without religion that you have built a strict and forbidding creed all of your own.
You keep a compost heap, cycle to the bottle bank, invest in ethical schemes only and the list of countries you won’t buy from is longer than the washing line for your baby’s towelling nappies. You admire uncompromising self–sacrificers like Aung San Suu Kyi and Che Guevara, and would have liked the chance to be incarcerated for your principles like Diderot or Nelson Mandela.
You would never cheat on your partner, drink and drive, accept bribes or touch drugs. You never waste money though you give lots to charity. Living a good life? You’re a model to us all. But it wouldn’t hurt you to try a little happiness once in a while. Loosen up.
(New Humanist quiz.
H/T Just Ain't Right)
Posted by Helen at 10:35 am
As I switched the TV on this morning with trembling finger, I pictured the scenes of devastation and disorder that might greet me.
But no, it seems the first night after a change in licensing laws passed off "without incident". Oddly, the country didn't go out and take part in one mass drunken puking brawl. Central News however informs me that they are going to set up camp in one pub in the city to watch for any affects over the weekend. What? Journalists spending their weekend in a pub? Shum mishtake shurely?
(Of course, tomorrow it is supposed to snow. If this country is going to grind to a halt it will be the weather and not the drunken hordes that will be responsible. Anyone think we can get through this weekend without "city gridlock chaos" headlines?)
Heart FM news tells me that two local pubs have applied for 24 hour licenses, but it is just for use on "special occasions".
It's just gone 2am on Saturday morning and I'm awake as usual and will be until the usual 3am insomnia deadline passes. However, I am cheered by the fact that I could, if I wanted to, go and have a drink in a pub.
Central News tells me that the Friday night revelling down on Birmingham's Broadstreet was just typical Friday night revelling. That might have been because there were more news crews down there than "revellers". One nightclub, Central News informed me, closed earlier than it was licensed for due to lack of customers, and a lady bar manager interviewed said they opened late but that the people they had in for the last hour were "a nice crowd". Still, warns Central News, there is no room for complacency. We have yet to see what Saturday night will bring. Close your curtains people, and spend the night trembling in fear.
Two independent reports from Liverpool (see comments) seem to suggest that that city survived Saturday night. Birmingham city looks okay as far as I can see out of my window.
Round Up of the Weekend:
ITN Lunchtime News pronounce that "the debauchery and violence some were predicting" didn't happen (some were predicting? Like who, the ITN Lunchtime News perhaps?!). New licensing laws pronounced "much ado about nothing". So, breathe easy folks, we made it through without the troops having to be called in. Fancy that.
Posted by Helen at 8:02 am
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
Humanity in general is fine, in fact I think this blog generally comes out in favour of preserving and respecting humanity as a whole, but the General Public? No.
To be fair, I have been mentally scarred by the General Public, so it's no wonder that I'm prejudiced. I was working as a BT operator when they introduced putting the number "1" in after the "0" in regional dialing codes. Dear God, that taught me a lot about people. I mean, you put a "1" in after the "0" - what the hell's difficult about that? Instead of "020" you dial "0121". But, no, let's all act like it's the most complicated thing since we put a rocket into space.
To be fair, what really flummoxed the General Public, I think, was the complication that with some numbers, mobiles and such, you actually didn't add the "1". This was altogether too much. Okay, if you added a "1" and you weren't supposed to, you would get a message telling you to omit the "1", which you'd think would be simple enough to understand.
But most of the General Public didn't understand what the word "omit" meant. Then they would phone up the operator service and yell abuse down the phone, shouting that the message kept telling them to omit the "1", but they were putting the "1" in, and they still couldn't get through.
Believe me, there is no way to explain to someone that the word "omit" means to "leave out" without sounding patronising. So that would get you more abuse, because now they felt stupid and that was your fault.
So, no, I have no love for the General Public. They are mostly idiots, and every poll or survey carried out amongst them proves it. Take this one for instance - a survey carried out by Amnesty International UK says that of a thousand people questioned, a third believed that women were partly responsible for being raped if they had flirted. Does anybody reading that think that that third seriously did much actual thinking to arrive at that opinion? Not only for what that opinion says about women, but for what it says about men. If you are a man reading this, do you think that because a woman smiles at you a lot, or maybe even talks suggestively on occasion, that that gives you part justification for using violence to take her sexually against her will? No, nor I, but a third of the population of this country may disagree with you.
The General Public don't know what they are talking about, can't think for themselves, and shouldn't be allowed an opinion on anything. Unity of Talk Politics sums up how the General Public does its thinking in the post Vox Populi:
"... on a wide range of issues what passes for public opinion tend to be ill-informed and based on the sketchiest possible understanding of what the debate is really about, making public opinion infinitely malleable and susceptible to influence, something both press and politicians know all too well. After all, if you're faced with a complex issue (ID cards) that you don't understand and particularly care about then why bother thinking it through yourself with the politicians and media can do you thinking for you?"
Yes, they don't know what they are talking about, can't think for themselves, and shouldn't be allowed an opinion on anything. And if they are allowed an opinion, then it shouldn't be taken seriously except as an alarming indicator of how stupid the General Public is. A woman carries no blame for being raped, even if she flirted. Carry on as before everybody.
I don't know whether it's my age, or because I got into blogging where people put thought into opinions, or what, but I feel a real sense of growing frustration at the ignorance, apathy, and cliched thinking of our society in general. It's not differences of opinion I have a problem with, I'm okay with other people being wrong, it's just the lack of thought that goes into forming most opinions that gets me.
So from now on, no one in this country is allowed an opinion unless the thought-process that resulted in that opinion can be articulated in a reasonable and intelligent way. I hope everyone's got that because I'll be watching.
Posted by Helen at 10:13 am
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
The current Bishop of Birmingham, soon to be Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, speaking to The Times, says that too many people are embarrassed about being English...
"Multiculturalism has seemed to imply, wrongly for me, let other cultures be allowed to express themselves but do not let the majority culture at all tell us its glories, its struggles, its joys, its pains."
He called for the English to rediscover their cultural identity by properly marking celebrations such as St George's Day on April 23. "I speak as a foreigner really. The English are somehow embarrassed about some of the good things they have done. They have done some terrible things but not all the Empire was a bad idea. Because the Empire has gone there is almost the sense in which there is not a big idea that drives this nation."
Nothing against Dr John, but I do think he's completely missed the point. Being embarrassed is what the English do. We are understated and modest. And I don't think we're particularly self-conscious about the things we did in the name of our Empire anymore. I think the mindset of the modern English person is shaped much more by the two great wars of the last century. Particularly the Second World War, which is still a very large part of the collective consciousness.
If you don't think there's a big idea that drives this nation, Dr John, then you're not paying attention. This little country made the last stand against Nazi Germany. I think that's probably given us enough confidence in our national identity for a few generations to come, thanks.
In comparison to marking November 11th every year then, marking St George's day seems a bit, well, pointless. George was Greek wasn't he? And anyway, dragons don't really exist. It's meaningless.
And if you want to talk about culture, well then we've got Shakespeare and The Beatles. There's a conversation stopper. Anyone wanna try a come back on those? Nope?
Dr John also wants to make something of the "Christian roots" of this country, which is only to be expected, what with him being an Archbishop and everything - but our roots are not Christian. They're pagan. Christianity is a graft-on. The real roots of this country lie in our Anglo-Saxon heritage, from whence spring our rituals, our language and our laws.
And he may talk of secularist attempts to marginalise Christianity, but since Henry VIII unhooked us from Rome, Christianity has always had to shape itself for the convenience of this country. That's an English thing too. We've never really turned to the Holy Book to help guide our actions, but to the law books. That's why passions are running high about the Terrorism Bill. Any attempt to change fundamental principles on which our laws are founded is seen as an attempt to change who we are. And that hurts. That really hurts.
John Bright, that most English of Englishmen, and once MP of Birmingham, once famously said, "England is the mother of Parliaments" and Dr John echoes this when he says that England, "is a culture that... has given us parliamentary democracy. It is the mother of it."
Yeah, we know. But the thing is, it doesn't do to brag. Yes, it might serve us well to reflect upon what we have every now and again, especially when others threaten it, but we don't need to wave plastic flags and worship Greek dragon slayers once a year to do that.
Don't be worried about the English, Dr John. There's no need. We no more need to explicitly express our Englishness, than the woods need to big-up their trees. The best of Englisness is everywhere and in everything, that's probably why you've stopped seeing it. What you see as an embarrassed silence, is actually a quiet confidence in who we are and what we stand for.
Posted by Helen at 11:05 am
Sunday, November 20, 2005
Can't believe how much people give a crap that Roy Keane is leaving Manchester United. So some knobbly old Irish guy with a severe attitude problem, who once deliberately broke the leg of a Man City player ending his career, has had a tantrum and left some shit northern club that's rapidly going down the pan. And you call that news?
That's not news. West Bromwich Albion winning 4-0 on Saturday - that's news.
I do wonder at people sometimes.
Posted by Helen at 6:06 pm
Friday, November 18, 2005
So now we finally know what Osama Bin laden actually wants from the West. This includes:
Alcohol and gambling to be barred
No pictures of women in newspapers or advertising
No women serving passengers, visitors, and strangers
An end to oppression, lies, immorality, and debauchery
For the USA to convert to Islam, lose its constitution, abolish banks, jail homosexuals, and sign the Kyoto agreement
I mean, is that all? Why didn't he just say, he could have saved the world an awful lot of trouble these past couple of years.
Sure, Osama, we'll get that fixed up for you soon as possible. Next Tuesday do for you?
Posted by Helen at 10:03 am
Thursday, November 17, 2005
Watching the TV news coverage of the Anthony Walker trial, I'm starting to feel uncomfortable. It is clear that we are going to be fed the detail of this case every step of the way. Yesterday brought us headlines of "Killed Because He Was Black" and pictures of a similar axe to the one embedded in Anthony's head, and today Sky's headline sums it up with, "Horror of Attack Relived".
I understand the human interest of this tragic case. It strikes at the heart of our humanity to learn of such a young lad killed in such an unthinkable way. That those accused of his murder are held to have done it because they were racist, just makes the whole story even more pitiable, even more sickening.
But I just can't shirk the feeling that there is something lustful often in the reporting of it. "Here's our reporter, straight out of the court room, with the latest details." Must we? And do we have to see footage of Anthony Walker's friends and family walking into the court every day? Is it not all stressful enough for them?
Perhaps it is a matter of respect to give as much attention as possible to so heinous an attack, and perhaps that attention can only come in the form of shocking headlines and panting reporters standing in the beating rain outside law courts. I don't know.
But sometimes I do think that the media doesn't think, and just sleep walks into reporting events without giving due consideration to what damage they might be doing.
And yet they can and do report sensitively and responsibly when they feel it necessary. The local news coverage for instance of the troubles in Lozells was exceptional. It took great pains not to be sensational and to sort fact from fiction. It could have gone down the "black and Asians at war" route, but it didn't. It gave a voice to responsible community leaders, who appealed for calm and a recognition that outside forces were trying to create trouble. When the cemetery was attacked in Handsworth, and the graves of many Muslims broken, again the line taken was that the attack was meant to be provocative, and every interview with every politician, community leader, or local resident, reinforced the message that there should be no reprisals.
I compare that to what I remember of the local coverage after the car bomb planted by The Real IRA in Birmingham in 2001. News reports were full of what happened after the 1972 Pub Bombings, dragging up stories of how Irish people were spat on in the streets of Birmingham and hounded out of local workplaces. Reporters wet themselves with excitement down in the Irish quarter of the city, asking random Irish people if they thought they were going to be attacked by Brummies. I can't say they were spoiling for a fight between locals and the Irish, but they certainly took the juiciest angle they could, never stopping to think for a moment that there might be a role for them to play in damage limitation. Unfortunately for the news in this instance, there never were any reprisals by Brummies, although of course the media having done its best to scaremonger, never saw fit to mention this.
It was much the same after the September 11th attacks. I wasn't in Britain for the first week, I was stranded in New York, but when I got back I do recall much media lick-lipping at the idea of a violent backlash against Muslims. I also recall lots of interviews with self-righteous posh people pontificating about the negative coverage of Islam in the media. I don't think the media had time to do negative coverage of Islam, in between its reports about the expected violent backlash and interviewing lots of self-righteous posh people pontificating about the negative coverage of Islam.
It might have been a better use of air-time to try and diffuse any sense of negativity towards the religion. After all, three thousand people had just been killed in its name, a fact that was often side-lined as if it were too impolite a thing to mention - just an embarrassing faux pas best ignored. Unable to address the issue of Islamic fundamentalism head on, the media didn't know what to do. It knew it would not be fair or responsible to represent all Muslims as terrorists, but then it didn't mind representing the rest of the country as salivating thugs ready to pour into the streets and reap murderous revenge.
The media response to the July 7th Bombings in London, I think, has been more measured in that regard. Perhaps we've grown-up a bit as a country. We're surer of ourselves and how we should respond to such an act. And we realise that we don't need self-righteous posh people to speak for the Muslim community. Muslims have spoken for themselves and have talked freely about the problem of extremism in their religion. This openness is much healthier. If responsible people do not discuss such matters, then the far-right will, and that helps nothing and nobody.
When we discuss such matters though, and when the media write the headlines, and film the reporters, and show the pictures, and devise the documentaries, the least we can ask of them is that they be honest without being sensational.
Soon the people accused of killing Isaiah Young Sam will be brought to trial. There are resonances between Isaiah's murder and Anthony's, but I'm already guessing that the Isaiah trial will be covered in a less sensational manner. It took several days for the press to release the names of those arrested, and only then were we sure the ones who killed him and stabbed his friend were Asian. With tensions strung out in the community, care was needed with how this murder was reported, and care was duly taken. Absolutely no good would have come from screaming headlines about a gang of Asian men killing a black man because of the colour of his skin.
But if the trial in Birmingham is less sensationalised in the national media than the trial in Liverpool, I hope though it is not down to an unwillingness to confront any racism in non-white communities, but due to a recognised need for ongoing sensitivity. My fear though with that, is if they don't feel they can shock in their reports, then they won't want to report at all. And that would say something very depressing about the mentality of the media in this country.
Posted by Helen at 9:11 pm
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
The "Get to know your candidate" post on Harry's Place reproduces this Salma Yaqoob's piece on the Channel 4 website.
This bit interested me:
"I started wearing the hijab at 18, having seen how western women were sexually exploited and pressurised to look attractive. The hijab gave me modesty, energy and permission to be myself."
Oh no! I don't wear a hijab, so that must leave me immodest, unenergetic, and without permission to be myself. Somehow.
Posted by Helen at 3:16 pm
This story of Tony Blair announcing the abolition of elections has been doing the rounds, but everyone seems to have missed the following. It's taken from an article in last month's Small Town Chronicle, sadly not on-line.
Blair accused of acting like Prime Minister
Accusations arose today that Tony Blair is acting like a Prime Minister, after he sought to push his political agenda in the House of Commons. "It's embarrassing," said one source, "it's like he thinks it's his job, that he's been elected leader of the country or something."
Criticism reached its height over a recent attempt by Mr Blair to make it legal to detain suspected terrorists for up to 90 days. "I simply don't understand why he's trying to do this," commented Kylie Klair, Labour MP for Snutton-button-Cutton, "I can only think it's just a bid for attention. After all, it's not as if the safety of the British people falls on his shoulders. Why should he feel so responsible?"
Charles Kenniticut, leader of the Gibberish Democrats said, "If he wants to act like a Prime Minister, then let me tell you he's going the wrong way about it. To be a leader you have to be wishy-washy, indecisive, and totally without any kind of agenda. That's my way, and always will be."
The would-be-leader of the once-was-opposition, David Daaaaiiiiiiivis, was kinder, saying that he "felt" for Mr Blair, and thought that it was a case of "there but for the grace of God go I." Although he conceded it was unlikely people would ever accuse him of acting like a Prime Minister.
But the strongest criticism for Blair's actions came from members of own party. Jerry Beardy, leader of Small Town Labour club, said that the arrogance of Mr Blair was what made him angry. "Who the hell does the guy think he is? Coming up with ideas to make Britain a better and safer country? What was wrong with the old Labour party when we trundled along on someone else's ideas from the last century? All right, it eventually made us unelectable and gave the Tories a free hand to trash this country and crap on the working class, but that's tradition. If Blair wants to act like Prime Minister then he's got to earn it - I don't see he's done that. "
Another Labour member who asked not to be named, said, "Quite frankly, thank God that Tony Blair is willing to make an unpopular stand on an issue he feels is important. I was always looking for an excuse to hate Tony Blair because he was so upperty, now I've got one. This civil liberties thing is a Godsend." Asked who he would hate when Tony Blair stepped down, he replied, "Gordon Brown, I suppose." Although he conceded he would have to "look for a good enough reason."
Another Labour "supporter" added, "I wish he'd just give up on pushing through these radical reforms that he thinks might benefit the country. I'd much rather him not bother. He should just chill out and not give a shit like other politicians."
But support came from close colleagues last night. Jack Inthebox, Minister for Abroad, said, "I think people forget that Tony Blair doesn't just think and act like a Prime Minister, he actually is Prime Minister, having been democratically elected by the people of this country three times. He is not, as some suggest, Hitler, nor, as the rumours go, does he eat babies for breakfast. He isn't deliberately trying to make things difficult for his party, and he doesn't want to be seen to be destroying the civil liberties of this country, but he cannot simply forgo his conscience just so that people stop calling him names and Labour MPs get an easy ride for the next couple of years."
Addressing MPs at Prime Minister's Questions in the commons, Mr Blair remarked, "I have a duty to do my best to try and protect the people of this country, and that is what I am going to do."
Posted by Helen at 2:22 pm
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
France is in flames.
Yet Britain, despite the sickening murder of Isaiah Young-Sam, the night of trouble in Lozells, and the extreme provocation of the local Asian community, isn't.
Lozells has had everything thrown at it, from every quarter, from every fascist organisation for miles around, and yet it still hangs together.
Might that not suggest something to us about this country? Something about Britain currently being a well balanced society, with a general level of satisfaction felt by all its people, and dare I say it, a country and a populous that's been well looked after for a good few years?
Now, just remind me again who's our Prime Minister?
Posted by Helen at 10:25 am
Sunday, November 13, 2005
What a week for the Blair haters. Now they haven't just got meaty accusations such as him being a war criminal and a dictator to gorge themselves upon, they can also now jeer at him for losing the vote in the House last week. Knock yourselves out guys.
But it seems in their desperate lust for the blood of the Prime Minister all these years, they've missed something quite important. All this time they've been blaming Blair for everything, when in fact there's another British figure they can also wet their pants over hating - the Queen.
Yup, it seems that al Qaeda has pronounced the Queen as "one of the severest enemies of Islam". It's just been revealed that in the video message released by al Qaeda after the July bombings in London, that Ayman al-Zawahri denounced the queen, stating that she is ultimately responsible for Britain's "crusader laws", and calling her the enemy of Muslims.
You got that people? It's not just Blair we've got to blame for the terrorist attacks in London - it's also her Majesty! My God! If only we'd known we'd have had her head off years ago!
Of course, people like myself who tend to blame al Qaeda for al Qaeda attacks, won't be swayed by this revelation. I no more think that a posh old woman pottering about in wellies is to blame for the terrorist attacks than I am for walking about with my head uncovered, but that's just me.
But of course there are those who fell upon Mohammad Sidique Khan's video and his mention of the Iraq war as proof that Blair was personally responsible for the attacks. I presume now then that those same people will heap upon the Queen the same naked hatred they heap upon Blair. I'll expect a protest movement and rallies through London anyday now, demanding the Queen and her office be removed for the safety of the British public. Musn't be doing anything that upsets those Islamasists now must we? And if they find the Queen offensive, then who are we to argue, right?
How far, I wonder, would they have us go, those who simply cannot blame anybody but ourselves for the civilians we lost in the July terrorist attacks? If you thought Blair should go, then now the Queen must go to. Because you can't pick and choose the choicest bits from al Qaeda's book of hate. You can't just read along to the passages you like and then turn the pages of the ones you don't. You have to swallow it whole, chapter and verse, and try not to choke whilst you're doing it.
Posted by Helen at 10:39 am
Thursday, November 10, 2005
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
So Tony Blair has had a drubbing over the vote on introducing a 90-day detention for suspected terrorists. Cue hysteria over what this means regarding Blair and his job. Let's face it, this is the worst day Blair has had since his last one. And his bad days come pretty thick and fast. He's not going anywhere yet much as the media might want to go on and on about it. What's the matter news pundits, Bird flu hysteria finally run its course?
Anyway, as for the issue itself, I'm not sure (gasps of shock from the crowd). Three months doesn't seem to me the slaying of civil liberties that most MPs would have us believe. Three months is not indefinitely. And the police have asked for it, although I haven't looked into just why they think 90 days is appropriate.
But 28 days is equally meaningless to me, except when allowing for delivery.
I am sure about one thing though, and that is that I hope the House was right on this. Because Blair somehow being proved right one day would be too much.
Posted by Helen at 4:02 pm
Something's bothering me about the Chinese president, Hu Jintao's visit to this country.
Amnesty International tell us that the people of China continue to suffer human rights abuse under his leadership. These include such matters as the arrest of so called "cyber-dissidents", including bloggers, trying to use their fundamental rights of freedom of expression; the thousands of people sent every year without trial to the "re-education through Labour" camps; and the plight of North Korean asylum seekers in China forced to return North Korea despite threat of imprisonment, torture and execution, and the detention of journalists trying to help their cause.
And of course there is also the small matter of the fifty odd years of occupation in Tibet, and the ongoing imprisonment of Buddhist monks and nuns.
So, what bothers me is that the only demonstration that greeted him came from a small group of Chinese protestors.
Where be the others? You know, all those thousands who came out in force when President Bush came to town, holding up banners calling him a war criminal, and demanding an end to the "occupation" of Iraq. Where were they, when Happy Hu rode down the Mall, all those dedicated, die-hard protestors against oppression and occupation?
Did they have an important lecture to attend, do you think? Or perhaps their rainbow-coloured chunky-knit sweaters ran in the wash? Maybe their dread-locks needed a trim, or their bongos broke?
Or maybe, just maybe, the oppressive regime in China is just not a fashionable enough cause. Anti-Americanism is the order of the day is it not? That's where it's at these days.
The only thing that surprises me more than these people not turning out to protest, is that with their love of dictators they didn't turn up to greet him with a big loud cheer.
Posted by Helen at 4:00 pm
Monday, November 07, 2005
When Paul Dyson went before the cameras and cried over his missing girlfriend, I thought then he'd killed her.
Do you know how you tell?
People who are genuinely upset and worried mostly try very hard to keep their distress under control, especially in such a public situation. But people who are under pressure to appear upset and worried (i.e those trying to appear innocent when they know they are guilty) try very hard to show their distress. Once you know what to look for it, it can be quite easy to tell the difference. A grieving boyfriend shouldn't need to "act" upset. I don't think Dyson even convinced himself.
Liars put on an act. Someone telling the truth will just tell it, but a liar will feel they need to "convince" you they are telling the "truth". They'll use words such as "honestly" and "I swear to God" and "you won't believe this", or they'll go into obsessive detail and try to look like they are concentrating.
An old actor friend taught me this and it's quite useful.
Now go forth in the world and use this new knowledge for good, my friend.
Posted by Helen at 5:16 pm
You know I was the first person to laugh at Tony Blair's "Respect" agenda. I saw it as a play to the cardigan and slippers brigade, the ones who tell us it was better in their day (world wars aside presumably) and that this country is going to the dogs.
Well, this may be the day that marks my slide into premature old-foginess, but you know what, I'm beginning to think something is wrong.
There have been a few things this year, but it's been events of the last couple of days that makes me put fingers to keyboard. There has been a new shopping complex opened not far from me. Previously on the site there were a few uninspiring, slightly shabby Victorian houses, a Methodist chapel, and a little park. I lamented their bulldozing. But then when I saw they were opening a new Asda and Matalan I lamented slightly less. Yes, I am shallow. But to be fair to me, since the Morrisons closed down on my local High Street in January this year food shopping has become a bit of an expedition. And as for the Matalan, I am a ten minute car drive from the city centre, so you'd think I'd have no such need for a store that sells clothes and household goods. Well, no, the city centre is great, but it's getting in and out that's the problem. My busses are rubbish and parking expensive. So having such a place to hand, convenient, with free parking, is a real boon. Life just got easier.
Except for, ho ho, nothing is ever easy is it?
Take the trip to Asda yesterday. It was great aside from the half naked shop-lifter and his friends being chased around the store, two chav families having a monumental slanging match outside the entrance preventing anyone getting in or out, and the police blocks that only let cars out of the carpark when they had been checked.
Then today, I tried Matalan (time for thermal vests people) and the place was lovely and empty. Why then, it being so empty, did I find myself having to leap out of the way as people came barging towards me, usually with pushchairs? Why was I constantly made to feel as if I was in people's way because somebody suddenly wanted to look at the same things I did, despite acres of shelving with thousands of other goods they could go and look at? And why, when people knocked signs over, or knocked clothes off rails, did they walk on by as if it had nothing to do with them? Who were these people so important that consideration for others was utterly beneath them? At least the girl serving me was friendly.
Then, thermal vest purchased, I returned to my car. There seemed a lot of security men around. Trying to navigate through the carpark amidst other drivers forgoing such things as indicating and paying attention in their striving to find a parking space, I then had to dodge Chav men, who had decided to spend their afternoon walking in and out of the shopping complex traffic. There was a running battle between the Chavs and the security men, and this seemed to be the point of the men's activities. And they were men, not kids. In their twenties perhaps, wearing dirty track suits and mean expressions under their baseball caps.
So a place that was to be such a convenience, such a boon, has now become just another hassle, infested with worries about crime, either in relation to me or to my car. Thanks low life scum.
And driving home was no easier. A young women in a powerful looking car stopped bang outside the shop she wanted, no matter that traffic backed up behind her struggling to get past, no matter that it made things dangerous for pedestrians, no, she put her hazard lights on so all is forgiven. Further along, more dangerous parking, as always on this particular nightmare stretch. Why, can anybody tell me, are there enough traffic wardens in the city centre to slap you with a ticket if you are more than 45 seconds late back to your legally parked vehicle, and yet the roads of Cape Hill have been allowed to become a comfortable home to every tosser who thinks that parking safely and walking to the required shop is something only other people have to do. God help any fire engine trying to get through.
Thinking about it, every journey I make, every place I go, all swim with this low level sense of some people's complete disregard for everyone else. And as far as I can see it comes from two quarters. The first quarter is that band of people we now call Chavs. I always refused to use this term, believing that it was a snobbish term for the generally not well off. But there is very definitely a strange segment of our society that wears a uniform of sportswear and baseball caps, and who like to hang around shops, being conspicuous, smoking, and looking hard. Their general rejection of the unspoken rules of acceptable public behavior is what makes them intimidating. Most of us don't spit or swear in public, we don't stare at passersby, we don't feel the need to make the whole area aware of our presence, but they do. They are probably aware on some level of the disapproval their behavior elicits, but instead of allowing this to instruct them on how how they should behave, it seems to either make them defensive as if that disapproval is a personal attack, or it irritates some to want to provoke - "what you staring at?"
The second quarter are the conspicuously wealthy. Some people call it bling, I call it being a complete wanker. They genuinely believe that because they drive an obviously expensive car (SUV/BMW/Merc ect), wear tasteless clothes denoting designer gear, and spend a month's salary on having their hair highlighted, this makes them Uber Humans - they may have to share the same planet with normal Humans, but they don't have to play by the same rules. So they take up two parking spaces, drive at dangerous speeds in urban areas, walk in a straight lines across crowded places because everyone else has to move for them, talk loudly into their titchy mobile phones with their manicured hands ringed with monstrous pieces of gold, think everybody is looking at them with dripping envy, and don't think they have to queue.
Only the amount of money they have to spend separates these two segments of society, but they have plenty in common - no taste, no sense of invading other people's space, no respect, and they're ruining it for the rest of us.
I would suggest the normal ones amongst us, those of us who don't have to announce our arrival to every public space and make everyone uncomfortable, become less tolerant. More looks of disapproval, tutting, honks of horns, that sort of thing. A few of us might get picked off by the ones with screwdrivers and guns, but they couldn't kill us all.
Or perhaps we should be more radical and take up arms (uncharacteristic suggestion for this blogger, but I'm not well). First to go, those mothers who draw on a fag whilst maneuvering pushchairs. Next, the ones who play loud music with a heavy beat in suped-up cars. After them, those who pull up asking me if I want a lift in their car with blacked-out windows because they equate a woman waiting in a Bus Stop with prostitution.
Or maybe the government should do something about it, I don't know, have some kind of "respect" agenda. But then what government would ever be figged with something like that?
We're all doomed. I'm off to buy the Daily Mail.
Posted by Helen at 1:53 pm
Friday, November 04, 2005
On the TV this lunchtime, Midland's news reported tens of Muslim graves in Handsworth cemetery having been smashed. Khalid Mahmood (MP for the area) was interviewed and said he felt that this had been done by people outside of the community.
First stop for me the ever excellent Pickled Politics, and sure enough an update on this post. No one is quite sure what is going on. Offensive leaflets were left around the broken graves signed off by "Black Nation". No one seems to know if Black Nation is real, or just a front for another organisation with an agenda.
Here's the BBC's local report.
Whoever did this the intention is crystal clear. To deeply hurt and insult a community of people in the hope of violent reprisal. I note this vile attack was done just before the weekend. Clever thinking guys. You obviously want to make Saturday night "Riot night" in Lozells.
Smoke and mirrors. The people trying to whip up trouble are wearing masks and crawling about in the shadows. Cowards as well as sickos.
Good luck this weekend Lozells.
Posted by Helen at 10:29 am
Thursday, November 03, 2005
The more I think about the Archbishop of Canterbury's words (quoted in previous post) the more they come to mean.
Soon we will be marking another remembrance day for those that died in the two great wars. We wear our red poppies. We hold the two minute silence. Each town, village and city in this country has somewhere a stone epitaph marking out the names of each man it lost. I always understood it was important we remember, but never gave thought as to why. Clearly it was not so that we don't make the same mistakes again.
I think now it may be because the kingpin of our humanity is the recognition that each of us is non-replaceable. It's that which impels us to carve the names of the dead in stone, to light candles for them, hold silences in their honour.
Every September 11th I light a candle for those that died in the terrorist attacks in America. Having been in New York when it happened it's important to me that I mark the day. I've always felt upset when I've heard people refer to those attacks as something that America deserved. Now I truly understand why. It's because it dehumanises the victims, takes from them their individuality, reduces them to nothing more than a tiny speck of a whole nation. We shouldn't do that to them. That is how the terrorists saw them.
It's also why I find myself offended every time I hear someone state that the London bombings this July were a result of British intervention in Iraq. People who believe that are concurring with the thought processes of the terrorists. They are giving credence to the idea that civilian massacre is an inevitable consequence of a government taking unpopular political decisions; a good enough reason for fifty two people to be slaughtered one morning on their way to work.
For the life of me I cannot think that way. There's no part of me that can ever understand or excuse the individuals who carry out or support these acts. You don't kill and injure innocent civilians in random attacks of violence. You just don't. No matter what anger you carry, no matter what wrongs have been committed, no matter how large the scale of your grievance. You just don't.
And if you agree you don't, then neither should you ever give a nod of understanding to those who think you do.
I don't know what it feels like around the places in London where the bombs went off, but I remember in New York a real sense of violation. The dust from the destruction of the towers clung in the sky above Manhattan and a heavy smell infested the air that was both electrical and sickly sweet. The thousands of dead weighed on everybody's soul. You shared kind, knowing looks with complete strangers. Streets came to a standstill when trucks carrying debris trundled up Broadway. People stood in Times Square for hours just watching the news on the big screens together. Nobody laughed or even talked loudly. Everybody wore a haunted look.
I worried more at that time about how I would react, rather than how President Bush would. I didn't want to be made to hate. I had some sense that that would be their victory over me. Before we left New York my husband and I laid flowers amongst a growing collection of candles and cards on Broadway, a deliberately British sentiment in a foreign country. And each year as the anniversary comes, we both feel it deeply. It is thoughts of the victims we hold close. Not the terrorists. They never got any kind of victory over us and they never will.
They kill and injure. We carve names in stone, light candles, and hold silences. That is our way of healing the wound inflicted upon our common sense of humanity. That is our way of rubbing clean the idea that each of us is unique, each of us non-replaceable.
Posted by Helen at 1:09 pm
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
Today at St Paul's Cathedral, the Archbishop of Canterbury gave a beautiful, very moving speech. In honour of those hurt that day in London I have no words to match these:
"There is one thing that is always common to any sort of terrorist action, wherever it happens and whoever performs it. It aims at death - not the death of anyone in particular, just death. It does not matter to the killers if their victims are Christian or Muslim, Hindu or Humanist; what matters is that they show that they can kill where they please.
And the shock of terrorist violence is just this sense of arbitrariness. It really doesn't matter who you are, what you have done or not done, what you think and believe, you are still a target just by being where you are at a particular time. The terrorist is the enemy not just of a system or a government but of the whole idea that we are each of us unique and responsible and non-replaceable.
If it were true that one victim would be as good as any other, which is what the terrorist believes, the human world would be a completely different place, unrecognisable to most of us. We are here grieving, after all, because those who so pointlessly and terribly died were, each one of them, precious, non-replaceable. And those who suffered injury and deep trauma and loss are likewise unique, their minds and hearts scarred by this suffering...
To those who proclaim by their actions that it doesn't matter who suffers, who dies, we say in our mourning, 'No. There are no generalities for us, no anonymous and interchangeable people. We live by loving what's special, unique in each person. Everyone matters.'"
Posted by Helen at 6:10 pm