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Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Blog 52. Hijab jabbing gibberish

Why not ban Burqas, Beards & Botox?

Yes I’m actually going to write about the thing I said I would write about in the previous blog post rather than frothing about something that sidetracked me in the intervening seven days.

The issue of covering the face with a veil is entering a phase of hysteria. That potent mix of fear and racism tinged with guilt and prejudice sprinkled with stupidity is all covered over with the sauce of media-induced faux public anxiety to create a journalistic wet dream. Column inches and radio minutes just ooze with bland rhetorical questions masquerading as ‘a reflection of current public concern’.

Boring as it may be, lacking in drama, devoid of panic, couldn’t we just try and re-establish a sense of proportion and priority?

The rational and therefore un-newsworthy response to this subject is surely that women should be supported in this country to go without the veil IF THEY SO WISH.

Throwing round the notion of criminalising veiling by Muslim women instantly propels it into a disproportionately high profile political fire cracker that can be set off randomly for a variety of reasons; to fill a lazy news day, create a distraction, give politicians with nothing real to talk about something to exercise their jaws with and so on. But it also fuels the right-wing nutters, makes the Muslim community feel more under siege and in fact will encourage many younger Muslim women to adopt the veil when they might not otherwise have done as a way of thumbing their noses at western insincerity.

As mentioned last week the idea that we need to be able to ‘read’ each other’s faces is an interesting one on so many levels. Even a cursory examination of this particular red-herring exposes just how mendacious its proponents are being.

Are we going to bar men from wearing beards?

Are we going to ban Botox?

Are we going to outlaw facelifts and fillers and anything else that might zombiefy human features?

Are we going to prevent professional men from wearing those expensive suits that give the impression of alpha male power to every slack-arsed, bloaty bellied soon-to-have-a-heart-attack oik?

Imagine you are on the bus and someone farts. You glance round to spy the guilty party who exposed the rest of the unfortunate passengers to last night’s poorly digested curry. You suspect the heavily made-up woman now peering with glazed eyes out of the misted window but – how can you ever tell? She may be blushing under that caked-on foundation but you will never know!

Celebrities must be banned from wearing those large dark sunglasses. For all we know, behind that barrier they may be wearing an expression that suggests they actually don’t care two figs for the fans surging round them screaming and clamouring for autographs.

In my experience, professionals are often masters of the uncommunicative visage.  Several years ago a dentist broke off my tooth when she was supposed to be filling it. Ok – these things happen. But when I returned to the practice repeatedly complaining about hideous pain she stared at me blankly as if she had no idea what was wrong. Once she looked me in the eye with absolute directness and told me I was imagining the pain, which by that point was so bad I could neither sleep nor chew. A fortnight later a small chunk of metal fell out of my mouth – causing unbelievable relief. A new dentist mentioned, to my utter surprise, that the tooth was broken and the metal had been filling the gap! Clearly dentist no. 1 had her own kind of veil.

The commonsense answer to this issue is education on both sides – those who suddenly decided it was threatening to see veiled women and those women who may feel pressured into covering their faces when they would otherwise not. But for the government in its panicked attempt to appeal to those who may respond to the current bandwagon to start kicking this one round is dangerous. As for the so called opposition, they are hedging their bets for fear of losing the position of not-being-quite-so-bad-as-the-government. It is unconscionable.

There are more pressing problems.

Half of us are dying of obesity while the processed food industry goes unchecked. Too many children are on Ritalin. Gambling is embedding itself into normal life as a new cancer. Misogyny is flourishing. We have lost international credibility in parts of the world that are currently undergoing radical change. We are living in ways that are economically and environmentally unsustainable. Western young women are mutilating their bodies in the pursuit of unrealistic fantasy perfection. Public sector morale is at rock bottom. I’ll stop there.

Is a bit of cloth over a woman’s face really the crucial topic of the moment? And, for argument’s sake if it is, is media and political frenzy the way to deal with it?

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Blog 51. Fool Britannia...

Having had a fun Love Libraries evening with the good folk of Leamington Spa who braved the awful weather on Friday – I found myself on Saturday with thankfully little to do. Fully detoxified from TV, it can be mind boggling, strangely fascinating and disturbingly compelling to spend a few hours just gawping at the box (flat screen!).

The tone of most advertisements is a frenzied hysteria of images which, for the disconnected, often makes it difficult to work out what is being promoted.

In the 80’s it was keep-up-with-the-Joneses. The 90s urged us to get-stuff-or-be-out-of step. The 00s went for the jugular; surely-you’re-not-the-CHUMP-who-hasn’t-yet-got-this? But the current crop of commercials with orgasmic glitz, subtly undermining stereotyping, guilt-tripping and norm-bending surely gives sane folk headaches. On the one hand they’ve become even more aggressive but they also assume an astonishing level of gullibility. In this second decade of the 21st Century, the ad men seem to feel they can rely on a slavish desire to fit in while playing to each person’s delusion that they are distinctive. In a nut shell they are selling mass uniqueness to the unaware, unquestioning, rabidly acquisitive, insecure, consumer.

It’s hard not to be grudgingly impressed by the way marketing companies have persuaded the populous that it is normal to change sofas almost as regularly as their pants (and in general change stuff long before its worn out) – so that you can show your individuality through your choice of mass produced furniture. Really?

Do people believe that picking one lump of metal on wheels over another will distinguish them and/or render them blissful and admired as they watch TV drivers manoeuvre through  a pastel toned Utopia of clean gleaming streets? Invariably they are in a car that ‘reflects their individual personality’. That’ll be why they all look basically the same then.

And do people not fall about their living rooms when they see cute, healthy, bright, engaged, non-obese, funkily co-ordinated children looking adoringly up at their pretty mothers while they are fed chocolaty processed cereals for breakfast?

Are people who look as if they still have taste buds fooled by brown dust with boiled water just because the actors who drink it on the telly smirk madly and roll their eyes? Don’t they realise someone out of camera shot is massaging their feet or they’ve just been told that if they hold it down they will get some real coffee when the shot is over?

Who believes that breaking the bank to take your kids to some nightmare plastic theme park packed with folk who have too little imagination to plan a proper holiday and pay to stand in queues is fun?. Much better than a hose-pipe and paddling pool in the garden I suppose. How ignorant we were in the 70s. Who really believes it will stop their daughter turning into a teenager? Disney is NOT a cure for hormones.

Gambling will not make you happy or sociable or a fun person with the occasional large pot of dosh to throw around; it will do THE EXACT OPPOSITE.

Spending money on branded pop foods will not make your kids love you.

Buying a particular phone or app or any gizmo gadget will NOT morph you into David Beckham.

Your house is so dirty that it stinks! Does anyone really think that plugging in chemicals that heat up to smother the unpleasant natural odours with unpleasant unnatural odours is the answer? 

Dogs don’t need gourmet food.

Play clothes don’t need to be surgically clean.

Women who coo over their cleaning products should be locked up.

Personal Injury lawyers don’t give a shit about you and sometimes accidents are your own fault.

Pull-ups are just NAPPIES and children that big shouldn’t be wearing them.

Supermarkets do not save you money. They encourage you to waste food.

Even if it is with the aid of pet insurance, spending £6000 on vet bills for a pet is obscene.

No amount of makeup will make you look like THOSE women. They aren’t ‘real’.

Just how stupid do they think people are?


Next week possibly the hijab. The news that a woman is to be banned from veiling her face in court because people need to see reactive facial expressions is fascinating. I presume they will also be banning Botox, facelifts and face-fillers?



Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Blog 50. Ed Milliband, Coronation Street & Semolina moments.

No. Not the times he’s been verbally slimy, politically bland and morally anaemic. Not when he turned out to be the dessert you were served when you thought you were going to get rice pudding (David). Not the useless, disappointing, inexplicably repulsive slop everyone wants to scrape into the bin but can’t because people are looking.

Oh actually YES. That last one.

In the face of every opportunity to masquerade as vanilla sponge or lemon meringue or chocolate torte with mascarpone, he just oozes congealed mediocrity.

Even when Syrian citizens were being melted, his notable response to the vote in Parliament was not a statesman-like speech (on whatever side) but a snotty schoolboy ‘nah nah nah nah – David lost the vooooote’.

And what are the Labour power brokers thinking? Don’t they understand that this won’t wash in a country obsessed with soap operas? Most folk who don’t give a fig about HS2 or North Korean militarism could nevertheless tell you the family history of most characters in Coronation Street. Do they seriously think Brits are going to forgive Ed for nicking David’s toy? Will they pardon him for his woops-I’m-the-leader-now wedding? Will they overlook the kid-in-the-playground-you-didn’t-want-to-invite-home-for-tea aura of him? The lack of self awareness? These things shouldn’t matter but then it shouldn’t have mattered that Ming was too old. It shouldn’t have mattered (ref Churchill) that Charlie had a drink problem. But it did. I know, Farage drinks and smokes, is morally repugnant and creepy to look at but there’s always an anomaly.

Dave may not have a chin but he has a compliant wife and he looks like a Tory. Nick – well you can’t help but keep glancing over at him with his dead-man-walking vibe. But Ed?

I’ll eat my Tapioca if the Labour Party are not currently engaged in the all-time damage limitation exercise cos Ed forgot that the Labour Party has its roots in the union movement. He was so busy trying to look scrumptious to non-Labour people that he forgot he was a bowl of semolina. Hell’s teeth. Do you see the Tories going round saying they are going to cut their ties with the landed gentry, the rich and disgustingly rich because some of them aren’t very nice? No. But Ed decided the best way to make-believe being treacle sponge with extra custard was to punch his mates in the guts forgetting that his mates are bigger than him and they wouldn’t like it.

You can’t help feeling (WARNING – analogy overload) that the unions are like a sullen unhappy partner in a long  increasingly fractious marriage kind of hoping the spouse might have an affair so they have an excuse to extricate themselves. And there’s Ed, gurning, naked and in-flagrante. (I apologise if that image put you off your tea).

If I were a powerful union leader right now I’d be thinking – you know what – I might just invite some of the other union leaders round for dinner – even the ones I don’t usually talk to. On the menu would be, ousting New Labour and all the cold lumpy sticky slimy stuff that is stuck to it (Blair Inc). For the main course there would be thick red meat and for pudding – let them eat cake!

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Blog 49. Dog Pooh in Scented Bags...

The perfect analogy for 21st century living?

The idea occurred to me as I pootled along a lane near my house (‘pootle’ is my current fave word). Decorating the bushes along a pleasant, leafy stretch were some of the usual blue, grey and sometimes lilac, scented plastic bags that dog walkers use. They collect up the doggie crap in them when people are looking before they hang them on the bushes or chuck them into the hedgerows when the coast is clear. It is so utterly ridiculous; so marvellously, hideously preposterously, ludicrously THE WAY WE LIVE. They just begged to be something more than mini memorials to indolence, shit shrines to selfishness, little reminders of only-I-matter, hints of the way the 21st century mind operates, it was inspiring.

 Some of the ripe faecal matter oozed a bit where the bags had been punctured or torn with the weight of their contents. A sickly aroma of chemical fragrance, mixed with the horrid innards, wafted in the warm breeze as I passed, effectively choking the smell of late summer, grass and leaves – even car fumes, which would have been welcome under the circumstances.

We are the bushes and passive hedgerows (some, like me, a little thorny) just being, as more and more doggy doo doo bags with their false floral smells are hung upon us until we become dragged down by barely contained, thinly disguised ugly truths.

Jingoistic racism is shit in a scented plastic bag of headline grabbing statements about immigration, juxtaposed with a call to patriotism.

Jolly laddish humour denigrating women in your bog standard comedy den is the shite of misogyny carried in the perfumed plastic parcel marked ‘irony’.

The Olympics was a dome of shite of scandalous resource-wasting, bringing wealth and prestige to an inner circle, wrapped in the colossal fragranced misty clingfilm of the-national-good.

The outcry against foreign aid is spite and greed on a level so extraordinary the shite requires a double layer of sweet smelling artifice. In this case the scent is provided by the lie about concern for our own public services as if there is some link. In fact our NHS is crippled under the burden of PFIs, poor management and targets and not by foreign aid. It is undermined by being manipulated by a disconnected elite who live and breathe private sector and privilege.

The demand for fracking as an answer to high energy prices and shortages is so wrong headed as to be surreal. The profiteers are chucking the prettily wrapped turds about so randomly you’d think no one ever noticed that availability of energy sources never actually saw prices dropping for consumers.

Equally, those still bellyaching about GM crops as a saviour of the poor and starving never noticed that the poor don’t get fed even when there is enough of everything on the planet. Both the frackin frackers and the gormless GM-ers need extra large bags for their particular crap. Maybe they could have bin bags soaked in Chanel No.5?

And so it goes on. You see just what a fabulous analogy it is? Most analogies break down / degrade (unlike plastic bags) but this one works in so many ways. It is the analogy that keeps on giving, it deserves a medal.

Try it. If it doesn’t work you will get your money back (not).

Choice in public services is the perfumed bag containing the shitty truth which is that those with the sharpest elbows can scramble for the increasingly limited availability of properly operating and funded services.

A zero hours contract is the aromatic legal packaging containing the shit of exploitation, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

The country is filling up with gaily coloured perfumed bags bulging with nasty toxic shit. When the bags all split the stench is going to be horrendous.