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Horrible (Future) Histories: The Gory Tories

Right now in Britain we seem to have a myriad of political issues. The big one is, of course, the EU referendum. Much has been written/shouted/detailed in fancy graphics about whether or not we should stay or go and which option is completely definitely going to lead to World War Three (Hint: It’s probably neither). This blog post is not dealing with that referendum. Another big ongoing political scandal is the kerfuffle over the junior doctors’ strike, as human blancmange Jeremy Hunt tries eagerly to work out a deal that will cause hundreds of thousands of overworked doctors to work that little bit more for the good of, err, someone or other. This post is also not really about that.

Rather, this post is going to have a brief look at the proposed Neighbourhood Planning and Infrastructure Bill that our government wants desperately to push through. In essence, what seems to have happened is that the government’s long-running, not-at-all-disruptive plans to build HS2 have been stalled slightly due to a lack of archaeologists to carry out the necessary surveying and/or excavation work to make sure that people can get to London about 10 minutes earlier without having to permanently destroy thousands of years of Britain’s past. The news broke that there was a shortage of archaeologists, which you know, could be due to the fact that they have low pay and very poor job security. Instead of thinking about all the possible policies that could be implemented to combat this by, for example, giving the sector a bit of extra funding (creating more jobs) or not trying to raise tuition fees yet again and discouraging people from getting qualifications to allow them to become archaeologists (did someone mention jobs?), our beloved Etonian overlords decided to try and push through some legislation that means they don’t need to bother with that troublesome business of protecting heritage or nature or any of the other nuisances that get in the way of hugely expensive propaganda projects.

When the news of a lack of archaeologists broke, some cynical and pessimistic corners of the sector claimed it’d only be a few years before the government tried to just stop archaeology happening at all. Turns out those pessimists were just a tad too optimistic, as it took a bit less time. 3 days. Hmm, really feels like the last resort. But clearly they’re in the right here, as no one cares about old stuff anyway! It’s not like one of the nation’s biggest tourist attractions is filled with archaeological objects. Nope, we’ve filled the British Museum now, we don’t need any more stuff. Or knowledge. Or jobs. Instead we’ll get HS2 slightly earlier, so that all of those out-of-work archaeologists and recent graduates can get to the hub of British commerce a bit quicker. Except for the bit where they have to pay to get on it, that’s less likely to happen.

I really did want to wait until the government responded to the 17,000 signature-strong petition against this bill before writing this, but as there’s no indication as of yet that they’re bothering with it, I thought I’d get cracking. I emplore you to point out to the Tories that some people quite like Britain’s exquisite heritage and don’t particularly want it destroyed without any consideration. The petition can be found here: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/130783.

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The House of Mirrors

All jobs require very different skills. For example, to work in retail you need to be able to smile on cue and finish every sentence with an upwards inflection. To work on a bar you have to have the cheery outlook of a cat living on a catnip farm and to work in politics you have to be able to look slightly less ridiculous than your opponents while trying to complete normal people activities like eating a bacon sandwich, riding on a zipwire and articulating an original thought.

Recently I’ve been driven to madness thinking about politics a lot by a brief and mostly indirect encounter with a particular British politician. I won’t mention his or her (what am I saying? When would a woman get into a position of power in the British government?) identity but let’s just say he’s often pictured as being as happy as Nick Griffin in a Mosque and has the power and influence of Brazil without Neymar. For the purpose of this post we’ll refer to him as Mick. Now, Mick taught me so many things about the workings of politics in this once by nature, but now only by name, Great Britain. He taught me that politics is not, as it once was, about changing things, not for the better, not for the worse. What politics is about is convincing people that they are valued and agreed with by the people in positions of (relative) power. People want to know not only that their representatives share their views but also that they’re down-to-earth, that they’re really no different from anyone else. But the sorry truth seems to be that they see themselves as above everything, and they have to work ever so hard to repress this feeling when they’re slumming it by listening to their ignorant supporters ranting about this and that while they nod their head mumbling ‘mmm’ ‘yes’ or ‘you’re right’.

They wouldn’t dare disagree with vital support, and as a result they end up being little more than reflective surfaces when they’re actually with the underlings of the party, the proles. No progress is made, no ideas are challenged, and thanks to the monstrous ego of the politician, no possibility of their own ideas being altered is entertained, even in the realms of imagination. There’s a theory that there’s a infinite number of parallel universes yet I still can’t fathom one where politicians’ ideas could be impacted by the words of their loyal party grunts. This rejection of taking to heart the concerns of the ordinary people highlights the shift in politics that’s occurred in recent times. Politics isn’t something one gets into in order to change the nation to help the majority but rather a career path where games are played and people are manipulated almost as much as statistics in order to gain votes. Whoever gets the most votes, whether they’ve been completely above board or not, wins the game. It’s chess, with an election clock and plenty of disposable pawns.

Mick tried to come across as caring and understanding when faced with his potential votes but had a remarkable sense of entitlement. I was frankly a little taken aback at that. For someone to have such a blatantly inflated opinion of his own importance after years of being the media’s whipping boy was admirable. Satire has failed us. I shudder to imagine the level of self-worth needed for people to rise to the top of the political toilet.

Britain’s Long-Awaited Saviours (Apparently)

In recent times, a new political movement has popped up in the UK. No, I’m not talking about Ukip, not this time anyway, but rather the Facebook-based group ‘Britain First’. Now, if you’re reading this from outside the UK, you probably won’t have been subjected to their ramblings, although if you do live on the island, I’d say there’s a fair chance at least one of their photos has been redirected to your poor little timeline. Britain First professes to be some sort of saviour of Britain, saving it from the millions of imaginary benefit-frauding Muslim extremists who are shoving halal food in everyone’s faces as they think about having a bacon sandwich. I’d suggest that maybe their estimations of how many Muslim people live in the UK are a little off. One supporter’s claim that there are “28 million male Muslims… going to cost the taxpayer a fortune” seems slightly fabricated. 28 million men suggests a further 28 million or so women, resulting in a Muslim population of 56 million. As the total population of Britain is around 63 million, it seems unlikely. As for the idea that they’re going to “cost the taxpayer a fortune”, well, I’m not sure this person’s done their research. I’ve managed to draw out of a trusted source that not every person who identifies as a Muslim is unemployed. A shocking suggestion I know, but one that seems to stand to reason, regardless of how obviously impossible it is for that to be the case.

Putting to one side the questionable statistics professed by some of the group’s members, we must consider the evil they’re protecting us from. Erm, anyone got any suggestions? No? Ah. Well after perusing their page (while struggling to refrain from ripping my eyes from their sockets) I’ve ascertained that they’re protecting us from two things: Halal meat, and Muslims, who are subtly brought in to many a debate. To support this, I quote Britain First’s caption of a picture of a sign that states “Rape: The only crime where the victim becomes the accused”: “Very true, we’ve seen it in all the Muslim grooming cases”. Subtlety and genuine concern in abundance there.

We should of course not accuse them of hating immigrants, as they’ve clearly stated that Poles, “Our comrades in the battle… are very welcome”. Polish people aren’t dangerous, they’ve come to work hard not slap children with halal lamp chops. At least they’re not just pulling ideas out of thin air though, there are world leaders they look up to, people whose good work serves as inspiration, and they salute and admire Vladimir Putin, “true defender of HIS people”.

Finally, I’ll leave you with a nice, moderate choice that Britain First’s supporters offer Muslims. “if muslins and other ppl wnt to stay in my country then u work work hard and contribut to our economie otherwise go bk to were u came frm uneducated lowlife scums” [sic]. You can almost see it written on the back of a dove.

 

 

Shock Politics – Rufus Hound on the NHS.

A couple of days ago the comedian Rufus Hound posted a piece on his blog (http://rufushound.wordpress.com) entitled “David and Jeremy want your kids to die (unless you’re rich)”. This has stirred up a little bit of a furore. Now, before I begin to try to pick apart this political/moral slanging match I want to point out that were this a poker match, all the people in it are placing bets in the hundreds of thousands of pounds, while I can stretch only to wager a penny. But I’m in the game, so here goes.

Toby Young, the journalist and writer, viewed Hound’s post title as highly offensive, believing that the suggestion that the Prime Minister and the health secretary want children to die is, as Daily Telegraph columnist Damian Thompson puts it, “despicable” when David Cameron’s previous personal bereavements are taken into account. I’m fairly certain in asserting that Rufus Hound is not mocking this event. David Cameron’s personal experiences, no matter how tragic, are not relevant in the consideration of the motives behind, and the possible interpretations of, Hound’s article. The post uses a tactic that’s commonplace, if in a way that some would consider as being over the line, and that tactic is shock. It’s designed to grab attention; it’s a title that, regardless of your feelings about its offensive nature, makes you want to read the following argument. The title is in keeping with the tone of the post itself, in as much as Hound wants to get his point across with as much force as possible. This isn’t careful, meticulously planned politics, this is a raw, passionate plea for the British public to support a cause that Rufus Hound feels strongly about.

Having somewhat defended Hound’s title choice, I must clarify that I don’t approve of the way he handled Toby Young’s fairly aggressive tweet. Young tweeted to the National Health Action party (the party for which Hound is to stand in the next European elections) “Are you going to expel @RufusHound for his disgusting smear against @David_Cameron?” Hound’s reply, while defending his post, seemed to accept Young’s assertion of a personal attack, but after the How to Lose Friends and Alienate People author’s offering of judgement and advice, Hound claimed “I only really want to achieve one thing Toby. I want the people of this great nation to realise that their NHS is being stolen from them by born-to-rule selfish b******s”. Brash phrasing yes, but clear that his thoughts were only on ensuring his post had the best chance of being widely viewed.

It seems to me that hearts ruled heads in all corners of this debate, highlighted by Damian Thompson’s categorisation of the National Health Action party as “some loony Left party” (http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/damianthompson/100256730/bbc-comedian-rufus-hound-says-cameron-wants-children-to-die-beeb-says-nothing/). He’s keeping the high ground I see. Rufus Hound’s title could easily be seen as offensive, and yes, his post is derogatory towards the Conservatives, but this outburst was born from genuine concern for an institution widely regarded as a great one. Despite phrasing and tone that might be more appropriate being shouted from a platform in Trafalgar Square at the beginning of a nationwide revolution, it is not a political view that deserves this much controversy. Dr Taylor, the leader of the NHA party, has said he will “talk to” Rufus Hound about his comments, and while the assertion that David Cameron’s policies are motivated by the desire for the deaths of children is outrageous, it does not mean that Hound’s other views are ones to be repressed. The means used were wrong, maybe Mr Hound should apologise for his assertion, but in a political context, it was nothing more than a strategy to shock people into considering a different standpoint.

A Cacophony of Drones and Meaningless Promises

Politicians are a funny bunch aren’t they? All those funny little ex-Etonians rabbiting on about changing this, making Britain that and, in Boris’ case, playing whiff whaff across the mayoral table. They tend to say rather a lot without actually saying anything at all, but I suppose that’s what they get taught at Oxbridge. I think they’re conditioned out of knowing that some questions can be answered with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Instead they’re told to stutter and stumble nervously, shifting while they do so, before regurgitating the script their many hundreds of background writers have spat out that is vague enough to be non-committal and cyclical enough that their ending point is the same as the point they started with.

Of course, despite most of them being made from essentially the same mould, they do differ somewhat. Let’s take just a few to focus on for now, starting with the main one, David Cameron.

Dave Cameron

Dave is, inexplicably, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, and he’s amusingly stereotypical of the conservative politician, being a well-educated, posh former Etonian and Oxbridge graduate. Not that he doesn’t try to be more current and down with the kids though, he’s even on Twitter! It mostly seems like a platform through which he can receive abuse from the small-minded inarticulate future participants of The Jeremy Kyle Show. And also some justified criticism of course. Mr Cameron’s not a particularly incredible prime minister, he’s not great or terrible, he’s just kind of ok. At least if we had the funny-haired bumbler in charge, it’d be interesting.

Boris

Talking of Boris, he bucks the trend a tad. He’s not radically different as he’s still a posh private school Oxbridge graduate, but he’s got a persona. And he’s actually a very clever and qualified politician, which should really make him unpopular with the average man on the street, but this is a man who’s managed to have some power in a time when Britain doesn’t seem too Great and still remain wildly popular. Clegg couldn’t even stay popular without power. But he’s never stolen a cigar case from the president of Iran. Yes, Boris has actually done that. Of course his main appeal has nothing to do with politics whatsoever, but he’s got funny hair hasn’t he! Hahaha his hair is irregular! Let’s give him more power! More power for the funny-haired bumbling Londoner! You know all those books about a desolate, dystopian future? Well, I’m sure you can guess the leader prior to that.

Then there’s poor little Clegg.

Clegg

Poor little hated, lying, perpetually disappointed Clegg, looking like a puppy that’s just left a present on the floor on his first outing at Crufts. Except people would still like the puppy because the puppy didn’t promise not to do that. The puppy would retain some dignity. Nick was the popular one before the election, the one that offered something different. That went well. Now he’s desperately clinging to the leadership of the Lib Dems, merging them with the Conservatives until the two parties have the same level of diversity as the cast of Made In Chelsea.

Now I come to Wallace, sorry, Ed, Miliband.

Ed Miliband

There’s not really a lot to say about him, he’s just sort of there. Not as good as David Miliband, only slightly more influential than the Steve Miller band. His main flaw seems to be that he looks like Wallace from Wallace and Gromit. His main attraction? He looks a bit like Wallace from Wallace and Gromit. I think he’s got some policies too, but no one seems to be paying much attention to those. They’re not overly revolutionary.

There are other sorts of politicians though; I don’t want to assert that they’re all the same. You’ve got MPs like Jacob-Reese Mogg, who’s actually quite pleasingly posh, making history when he became the politician to have used the longest word in the English language, floccinaucinihilipilification, in the House of Commons. There’s Michael Gove, who looks a bit like a fish and seems to have the memory of one too, attempting to alter the education system roughly every three seconds. And there’s Nigel Farage, a scaled-down version of Nick Griffin who’s slightly less obviously racist and popular amongst the working classes due to his penchant for a pint and a fag.

Ah, the characters of British politics. A menagerie of drones you don’t really want in charge of your country, but we’re British, so stiffen your upper lip, they’ll all be gone eventually.

Garry Kasparov – the Lenin of the Twitter age?

History repeats itself. It brings in new people, new technology, and new surroundings, but it boils down to pretty much the same thing. One of the mainstays of history is revolution. According to Leon Trotsky, “war is the locomotive of history” and war isn’t always separable from revolution.

There’s a reason I chose a quote from Trotsky in that last paragraph, as he was a key figure in one of the most significant revolutions of the 20th century, the October revolution of 1917 in Russia. Without wanting to turn this post into a history lesson, I’ll give you a bit of background. 1917 was a year of turmoil in Russia, with a revolution in February resulting in the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II, the last Romanov tsar (the Romanovs had ruled autocratically since 1613). Following that, the Provisional Government was set up. That was weak and unpopular and was in turn overthrown via the October revolution driven by Lenin. For an auditory representation of the happenings of 1917, I’d recommend listening to Shostakovich’s 1917, it’s really rather good, and I’m not a fan of classical music.

It was Lenin’s strong political views (Marxism) and oratory skills that persuaded enough Russian citizens to join his cause and seize power in Petrograd. There are people now that also have strong political views, and one such man is chess grandmaster, Garry Kasparov. Now, I’m not saying that Garry Kasparov is exactly like Lenin, that’d be far too bold for me, but I do think some interesting parallels can be drawn between them.

Lenin had to drum up support in and around Petrograd, giving speeches to those who would gather to listen and, through his April Theses, he yielded enough persuasive power to take power from the weak and unpopular Provisional Government. Kasparov is not pioneering a revolution against Vladimir Putin’s regime, but he is a strong and powerful voice speaking up against what he calls Putin’s “Police state”. The obvious comparison would be with Josef Stalin for the police state, and opposition under him was non-existent. But then again, Stalin was described as a ‘Red Tsar’, with his regime almost identical to that of the Romanov Tsars, whose policies were essentially continued by the Provisional Government, against whom Lenin rebelled.

Although both Lenin and Kasparov spoke without hesitation against their contemporary Russian Governments, they did it in very different ways, methods according to their times. Lenin’s was direct, speeches in public up to 7 months before power changed hands. He had a different aim from Kasparov, that’s clear, but would Twitter have been a channel used by Lenin? It’s a major weapon for Kasparov. He provides startlingly frank political commentary on Putin’s policies, condemning the likes of Edward Snowden for “praising a KGB dictatorship”, stressing the extent of Putin’s dictatorial nature, and questioning the moves made by Obama in the age-old troublesome US/Russia relationship.

Through Twitter, Kasparov reaches a worldwide audience. Proof of that is evident in this very blog post, as I don’t live in Russia. Obviously that means that theoretically, Kasparov could have the support of anyone around the globe were he to call for direct action, but I imagine even with the scope provided by the world wide web, there wouldn’t be the commitment or even the support that Lenin had from the residents of Petrograd.

The last major difference I wish to look at is the government that each was/is fighting against; Lenin was faced with an unrepresentative, unelected, temporary body with no secret police force and a world war to deal with, whereas Kasparov objects to a police state-based dictatorship that shows no sign of subsiding, regardless of Kasparov’s argument that dictatorships in this age, while domestically powerful, are internationally weak.

I don’t know how Putin’s Russia will progress; whether he’ll continue in the same vein, repressing the people of Russia and preventing progress, or whether we really will see a repeat of 1917 and a major turning point in world affairs. If the revolution does occur, I’m sure it’ll give future historians a lot to debate, Russia’s always been fruitful in that respect.

I Hope Satire was Given a Good Redundancy Package

The Daily Mail is a pathetic publication, racist, sexist, ageist and the rest, and I’ve been meaning to write a blog post lambasting it for its ridiculousness. However, I’m not going to do that, I’m going to let the Daily Mail show you how stupid it is.

Someone on Facebook posted a link to an article where the daily mail claimed something could cause cancer (nice to see they savour originality). I noticed down the right hand side there were some article headlines under the title ‘Femail today’. The following are the top 55 stories sorted into categories and shortened to give you all you need to know about each headline. Bear in mind, my rephrasing of some of these actually saves the Daily Mail embarrassment.

Category one is ‘Celebrities wearing clothes at events’. Here are the stories:

  • Candice Swanepoel writhes on beach in a bikini for promo videos
  • Cara Delevingne models on catwalk
  • Sandra Bullock wears dress to promote film
  • Alexandra Richards wears a dress
  • Iggy Azalea wears shiny corset on stage
  • Supermodels wear wigs on catwalk

A normal, tabloidy start there, with pointless statements about famous people wearing clothes at public events where their clothes do often come under scrutiny. However, their casual wear shouldn’t be anywhere near the word ‘news’, as the second category, ‘Celebrities wear clothes in public’ shows:

  • Kim Kardashian wears denim, has cleavage
  • ‘The tighter the better’ – Kelly Brook wears leather trousers and tight shorts
  • David Beckham wears underwear in ad campaign
  • Angelina Jolie wears wedding ring
  • Miranda Kerr wears ‘Leather AND tartan’
  • Gwyneth Paltrow wears expensive suit
  • Karen Gillan wears tartan skirt
  • Kim Kardashian wears skirt, goes to gym
  • Tamzin Outhwaite wears tight tartan skirt
  • Amy Adams goes outside with fiancé, wearing jeans
  • Goldie Hawn wears orange outfit in Brazil

Some hard-hitting journalism there.

The third category is where celebrities break the golden rule; they show human emotions:

  • Kim Kardashian buys clothes for daughter
  • Mother plays with her child (Liam Gallagher’s love child)
  • Pamela Anderson and husband go to Paris for 6th wedding anniversary  [‘Rethinking that divorce?’ says the Mail, not content with their happiness]
  • Rita Ora and Cara Delevingne are friends, leave Chanel show together
  • Kaley Cuoco cries as sister auditions for the Voice
  • Adam Levine takes his fiancé out for a meal
  • Bradley Cooper goes swimming with his girlfriend
  • Dannii Minogue cries on X Factor after grandmother’s death
  • Jamie-Lynn Sigler holds her baby while out with fiancé
  • Kim Kardashian has picture of her daughter on her phone

One rule of being a celebrity is to take the fight club rule that little bit further and just not talk about anything, else you could be the subject of a ‘newspaper’ article, that’s right, the fourth category is ‘Celebrities talking about things’:

  • ‘Models are insecure’ – “Miranda Kerr on how she has to practice loving herself”
  • Not my best fashion accessory’ – LeAnn Rimes talks about bandages for broken hand
  • Jay-Z says he was a drug dealer
  • Rihanna says Princess Diana was “gangsta with her clothes”
  • Sharon Osbourne talks about plastic surgery
  • Heather Graham reveals ‘intimate secrets’
  • Scarlett Johansson’s SAT grades weren’t terrible

But wait! Celebrities don’t always just talk about things, sometimes they do things too! Don’t fret though; the Mail’s got those covered too:

  • Abbey Clancy has new clothing range
  • Celebrity with breast cancer gets a mastectomy
  • Sinitta volunteers to take Jeremy Kyle lie detector test
  • Susanna Reid has a tan while walking to Strictly rehearsals
  • Oprah Winfrey looks for a house in Hollywood
  • Danny Dyer joins Eastenders
  • Jodie foster dates Ellen Degeneres’ ex-girlfriend
  • Boyband member has bad haircut
  • Scantily dressed Rihanna sits on golden throne in music video
  • Simon Cowell has cut on forehead
  • Helen Hunt surfs, is toned
  • Made in Chelsea star has new clothing range
  • Justin Bieber skateboards on great wall of China

And before you accuse the Daily Mail of only caring about celebrities’ actions, they care about the important actions of non-famous people too, as clearly shown in category 6, ‘Normal people do things’:

  • X Factor finalists fly to antigua for Judges’ houses
  • Twilight fan spends £8,500 on tattoos of Robert Pattinson
  • Obese mother gets fitter around house because can’t afford gym membership

I bet you’re glad they didn’t leave those critical stories out!

Lastly, they did try to touch upon some events that could almost be considered newsish:

  • Simpsons character to be killed off
  • Miley Cyrus halloween costumes are popular
  • The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug trailer (Orlando Bloom and Evangeline Lily are lovers) [The bracketed part of that being the detail the article focuses on]
  • Liz Jones tells Tess Daly to change her stylist
  • New style book for men, telling them how to be ‘dapper’

There, don’t you feel more intelligent now? How did Buddha ever become enlightened without the Daily Mail?

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