Time for some truth, America. President Donald Trump was always in the works. America is a country which more than any other has celebrated and championed ruthless capitalism ahead of the public interest; of course the Oval Office was eventually going to be bought by an amoral billionaire.
President Elect Trump is not the problem with America; he’s the symptom of an insidious parasitic disease which has always been a part of the American experience. This is the richest country in the world that can afford to do literally anything; build a colony on the Moon or turn the Middle East into glass; and yet won’t fund healthcare or education. A country that has used 9/11 as the excuse for every evil it has perpetrated since, and yet refuses to look after those brave first responders who are dying as a result of the smog at the World Trade Center site. America is a country that acts so often in the name of its founding fathers while deliberately and systematically dismantling the systems they created.
A country that for years has looked at tens of millions of its citizens who quite literally cannot read, and rather than attempt to change this fact has cultivated a distrust of those who attend the finest educational centers in the land. “Ivy League” is a greater insult in the US than “illiterate”. A country where televised news is explicitly designed to consider advertising revenue as more important than informing the electorate. Where the sacred duty of acting on behalf of the people in holding politicians to account has been replaced with fawning over celebrity, misreporting pop science, manufacturing epidemics of fear, spending more money on three dimensional diagrams than research, and replacing statesmen-like journalists like Edward Murrow with hyperactive TV presenters like Wolf Blitzer.
This is the country that has decided children being massacred as they sit in school is an acceptable price to pay for the right to carry a firearm.
For the rest of the world looking in, America is the great horror show. For every Barack Obama, there are ten Donald Trumps. George W. Bush’s Presidency, hugely unpopular across Europe, now seems like the good old days of Republicanism. At the turn of the Millennium, Europeans thought there could not possibly be a less competent character for the highest office in the world. Then Americans gave them Sarah Palin. Surely, that was the worst it could get. No. Not in America where gross incompetence is no more a deal breaker than outright racism or brazen lies.
2016 has been an awful year in almost every regard; movies have been appalling, beloved artists have died, and across the civilised world, countries have competed to see who can commit the most self harm in one vote. For months it seemed that the UK would claim this title with Brexit and a resulting GBP value roughly equivalent to a half eaten tub of Pringles, but never to be outdone in size or stupidity, the US has wrestled the title of Stupidest Electorate In The West from their old masters.
Donald Trump has lied perhaps more than any other Presidential candidate of all time. His supporters do not care and nor, despite the indignation of some individual commentators, do the media. FOX News is often correctly lambasted for its openly partisan reporting and its continuing support for Mr Trump was never in question, but organisations such as CNN and MSNBC have much to answer for as well. In an attempt to chase ‘balance’ they have switched fairness for false equivalency. Johnny Sixpack may be excused a, ‘they’re both as bad as each other’ albeit with a weary sigh, but respected newscasters suggesting the same have abandoned reason. Whatever her faults, Secretary Clinton is manifestly more qualified to hold office than the host of The Apprentice. She has been a public servant for decades, she is respected around the world, and she doesn’t lie as often as Mr Trump. There is nothing of real public interest in the Wikileaks emails (all courtesy of a man who is effectively an anarchist, lest we forget), and yet they have dominated electoral converge.
The environment has been a non-issue in this campaign. So have guns, so has healthcare, the shape of the judiciary for the next fifty years, congressional and electoral reform; John Kerry lost an election because absent evidence, the media perpetrated the narrative that he was a coward in Vietnam; Hillary Clinton lost an election because absent evidence, the narrative was that leaked emails suggested corruption on her part.
There is no dressing this situation up. It is not hyperbole to say that Mr Trump is potentially the worst American President in history. An office held by great men; men like Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt, FDR and James Madison, is now to be held by a man who boasts of sexual assault, a man openly supported by white supremacists, a man who demonises people based on nothing more than their place of birth, who has called for political rivals to be incarcerated, who suggests shooting Presidential candidates, who calls the sitting President an ISIS founder and a Kenyan Muslim, who lies and lies and lies and lies – this is to be the Leader of the Free World.
This is to say nothing of Vice President Elect Mike Pence who believes homosexuality is an illness which can be cured, man-made climate change is a myth and there should be no such thing as the separation of church and state.
This could not happen elsewhere. Donald Trump could not become President of France or Chancellor of Germany or Prime Minister of Canada. Only in America could a bullying, misogynistic, racist, failed Emmy winner be rewarded for his petulance with the highest office in the land. Donald Trump is the violent ejaculate of a superpower that treats its own citizens with abusive disdain. Other Western democracies house middle-classes that bemoan the inequality of society and wonder how best to help the weakest in society. America scrapes its poorest off the boot of unconstrained free market economics that work from the basis that if you’re not rich, it’s your own fault and the horrors that follow are your just desserts.
Of course America voted for Donald Trump as President. The shock of Barack Obama’s election wasn’t that he was black; it was that he was socially liberal in a viciously illiberal society. That a shred of basic decency had somehow made it through the faecal gauntlet that is the American electoral system. President Obama was a modern European pragmatist in an Old Testament country.
Donald Trump is larger than life, ridiculous, inexperienced, unfit for command, a bully, a charlatan, a cur, mocked around the world, excessively wealthy despite having done nothing to earn such riches.
You reap what you sow. Donald Trump is America.
There’s an article in today’s Herald which covers both a fraudulent Tory having to pay back ill-gained expenses and an illicit homosexual affair in a hotel room. Or so you might think if you read the papers the way most people do.
The implication concerning the former is obvious. Tory MSP Ross Thompson has been forced by the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body to pay back £120 he claimed for a hotel room he wasn’t allowed to. Except it wasn’t the SPCB who made him pay it back; it was his own party and the reason they did this was because it might be interpreted as less-than-good; not because there was any actual evidence to suggest wrongdoing had occurred.
So that, as they say, would be that. Barely newsworthy, you’d be forgiven for thinking. But therein you miss the meat of the article. The clue’s in the sixth word of the subheading. A Tory sharing a room with someone from Labour isn’t all that exciting, but a “male friend”? Well that’s more intriguing, isn’t it?
In case you were as to any doubt as to the importance of both sleepers’ gender, article writer Daniel Sanderson rubs the point harder in the second paragraph by pointing out that Mr Thompson is, “in a civil partnership.”
It’s impolite, to say nothing of jarring, to refer to the subject of an article as, “one of them gays” but pointing out in an innocuous fashion that said subject is in a civil partnership is absolutely fine. And necessary, when discussing MSP expenses, of course.
The article then spends some time talking to one of Mr Thompson’s colleagues (the anonymous kind, of course) about how he is ambitious, inexperienced, immature, a renegade, and a problem.
It’s towards the bottom of the article, when almost all readers have departed for saucier climates that this reasonably important line makes it in.
There is no suggestion of anything beyond a working relationship and friendship between the pair.
You might wonder again, at this point, why the need for the article in the first place. An MSP was asked to pay back £120 of expenses because it might look bad, and he did so. There’s no suggestion the expenses were claimed illegally. Because they’ve been paid back so quickly they won’t even make it into the SPCG’s annual report. Neither Mr Thompson nor the Scottish Conservatives have anything to say regarding the matter. That’s a sidebar stub if ever there was one.
So why does the article go on for so long? What does it matter who was in the room with Mr Thompson if the concern is merely the cost? Why start off by effectively saying, “a gay man was in a hotel room with another man who wasn’t his husband,” then devote more than a few lines to the questioning of his character before quietly slipping in at the end, “but no one’s saying he did anything wrong”?
I don’t like knee-jerk reactions and I’d like to think the best of Mr Sanderson, but this article leaves a decidedly scummy line around the tub. It’s entirely possible that this is just a bad amalgamation of two separate articles; one small one concerning a non-event, and another larger one concerning the controversial (if you’re into such matters) hiring of a Labour man by a Tory.
But it’s also possible that this is something else, and the fact that the thought even arises betrays a lax editorial standard at the Herald where language open to such an interpretation evidently goes by without a double take. Mr Thompson’s civil partnership has nothing whatsoever to do with anything mentioned in this article. The only reason to mention it at all, let alone so prominently in the second paragraph is to let you know immediately that you’re reading about a gay man. The only reason to mention the sex of the other person in the room, let alone in the subheading itself, is to invite snide speculation as to the private actions of a gay man when he’s alone in a room with someone of the same sex and a bed.
This may not be deliberate. Hopefully it’s not. But it’s there. It happened. You can read it for yourself. People used to expect more from the Herald. This is one small example of why they no longer do.
In the eighteenth century, the French Enlightenment philosopher Voltaire wrote that, “if you can make people believe absurdities, you can make them commit atrocities.” It is, sadly, every bit as much a truism today as it was before the tulmultous events of the Revolution which followed his death at the close of the century.
It is important to note that at the time of writing, it is unknown who committed the latest atrocities which struck at the heart of France though of course that hasn’t stopped unscrupulous ‘journalists’ and by extension the twitterati from baseless speculation. Inevitably, the phrase on everyone’s lips is, “Muslims.”
It’s become an unfortunate cliché to begin such a discussion with, “of course most Muslims are peaceful, but…” Non-Muslims can only imagine what it must be like to have to defend their faith in times such as these. We do not require Christians to answer for Anders Breivik or the bombers of family planning clinics any more than we demand contrition from the Saudis for Osama bin Laden. Neighbourly ribbing aside, no one judges millennial Germans for the actions of their great grandparents, Iraqis are not held to account for the crimes of Saddam Hussein, and yet following every attack on civilisation by Islamic extremists we cast a suspicious eye on our Muslim citizens, waiting with baited breath to chastise them if they voice anything but the most vocal and heartfelt condemnations.
Religious terrorism is the great evil of our age. There is no explanation, excuse, or circumstance which justifies the actions of those who would strike at our friends and family in their homes. And yet there is no doubt that these fractions of men, these cowards and curs, feel entirely justified in their murder. They are as indignant in their slaughter as we are in our outrage. They go to hell covered in the blood of innocents with pride and joy because old men taught them to hate, as those old men were taught before and though it flies in the face of accepted tolerance in the West, to ignore religion as the direct cause of the rage that beats at our door is an abandonment of reason.
Debating the difference between mainstream religion and fundamentalist or extremist religion is to sidestep the obvious. There would be no religious extremism without religion. From human sacrifice in Mesoamerican civilisations, through Egyptian slavery and the Crusades, right up to the Ku Klux Klan’s so called ‘white pride’, the Vatican’s protection of child molesters and ISIS waging war on Humanity itself, religion has been the primary fuel that burns in the fire of human barbarism.
Still we patronise them. A man preaching the ridiculous is mad; a civilisation chanting along is religion. “Faith-based” is a lazy stereotype thrown around by unionist commentators to describe Scottish politics. It is derisory. An unashamed criticism. “People only vote for the SNP on faith; it’s nothing to do with facts.” The merits of such an argument aside, why is the same naked scorn not there when it comes to the origin of that very criticism? It seems preposterous to have to note the following, but there is no evidence – none whatsoever – for the existence of a singular or pantheon of beings or entities that bear any relation to the fictions our ancestors invented to enslave people. There is a compendium of evidence that points to the truth. Religion is about control, and the easiest way to control is to instil fear. From there it is only the shortest hop to anger and hatred. This is why religion was created.
Whether Islam is ‘better’ or ‘worse’ than other religions is an interesting, but irrelevant discussion when it comes to countering the threat of terrorism. It is not atheists strapping explosives to their chests. Agnostics do not vow death to the West. Humanists do not cry “God is great” as they deprive men, women and children of their lives. No evidence-based judgment of the Human condition can conclude anything but that that ours would be a world more peaceful and loving absent the bigotry that we indoctrinate our children with.
There is no denying that we are at war, and horrific though it is, there are times when the use of violence to defend ourselves is inescapable. Firearms and munitions alone however will not save us from the loveless abyss these men of God would drag us into. As with so many ills in the world, education is the silver bullet. No one is born religious. There is no such thing as a ‘half-Christian’ child. We tell lies to the young, and they are the most odious untruths our species has ever conceived. We tell them to abandon personal responsibility, because God has a plan for us. We discourage critical thinking because faith is the shibboleth by which virtue is judged. We encourage them to scorn their neighbours because there is only one true religion and non-believers, whatever their other qualities, will be judged accordingly. Perhaps worst of all we instil a casual disregard for life itself because our very existence is but a test for the next, and everlasting rapture lies in wait for true devotees.
It is no coincidence that so much of the world’s horror comes from the Middle East not because the region favours Islam over Judeo-Christian mythology, but because education is seen not as an inalienable right, but a pernicious evil that must be shied away from. Dissent is not merely rude or irritating; it is a sin against God and punishable by the most extreme measures.
If we wish to triumph over terrorism, we must first acknowledge the mire in which it breeds. We must bring about an end to such insidious claptrap as ‘respect for religion.’ Everyone should of course be able to believe what they will. If religion brings someone strength in the privacy of their own home then we should respectfully disagree and wish them well. The moment it impedes on our lives however, there should be an abandonment of tolerance. We should teach our children the difference between respecting someone’s right to believe, and respect for the belief itself. Religion should be no more shielded from scorn and ridicule than Fifty Shades of Grey or Twilight.
This war is not about land or resources; it is about hatred. That hatred is taught, and religion is the maestro. If we are to combat hatred, we must combat its source, and the peace must be won at home before we can hope to spread it elsewhere.
It’s hard to argue in anything but support of the proposition that political debate would be a lot better in this country if we ditched the concept of left-wing and right-wing. Jeremy ‘may or may not be an IRA plant – not sure yet’ Corbyn is either left wing or far left depending on how you see it. To some he’s centre-left but these are the same people who don’t find the SNP worryingly authoritarian so we won’t bother with their delusions today.
I find David Cameron right wing personally. Some go further, and yet just last week he and his ilk were talking about not only claiming the centre ground, but the centre-left. Couple this with a Labour party that secretly really liked those racist mugs and we are through the looking glass already.
Of course we’re not. It’s all politicking. It’s bullshit. George Osborne is no more a centrist today than he was a year ago. Theresa May, having moved on from her anti Nasty Party phase years ago is now so right wing she thinks immigrants swapped alphabetti spaghetti with hoops to try and scare her at dinner time. Jeremy Corbyn is far left if you accept the middle ground as Blairism, but no one bar Blairites does that.
The “centre-ground” is a meaningless phrase in modern politics. Once upon a time it was solely about economic policies. The left wanted to tax and spend and the Right wanted to cut taxes and have poor people string themselves up by their bootstraps. Or something.
It’s not now though. Now Left is interchangeable with liberal just as Right is interchangeable with conservative. And since none of us can agree where the centre ground is, aiming for it is an exercise in futility.
Most of my friends are liberal. This is hardly surprising. I’m liberal, one year shy of Churchill’s switching age and most of my friends are younger than me. By and large, the young are more socially compassionate than the old.
Most of my older friends however, to say nothing of the majority of people in my life I have real intellectual respect for, are conservative, at least with a small c. They have more financial interests than the young and are, reasonably enough, more concerned with such things than people currently enjoying a student grant.
But we’re not America, at least not yet. We’re a more interesting people than red or blue. My best friend has voted Conservative all his life and yet found it hard to disagree with what Jeremy Corbyn had to say on social matters. He earns more than the average and has no problem paying more for things like education, foreign aid and the NHS. In the US they’d call him a RINO – Republican in name only – save for the fact that in America, he’d likely be a conservative Democrat because their notion of the centre ground is to the right of ours.
I have liberal friends who hate the idea of foreign aid when British children are suffering in (relative) poverty. I know one young, liberal bar manager who wants to run his own place one day and sees no problem in the basic conservative theory of cutting tax credits so long as the minimum wage catches the difference.
I don’t have a moral objection to private citizens owning firearms, but the results of the US’s catastrophic fuck ups on this front cannot be ignored. Nor am I morally opposed to Trident in the UK. I can see a coherent argument for a nuclear deterrant without balking. My opposition has always been financial – we’re an island nation and I’d rather the funding went to naval defence forces. Or schools and hospitals, but that’s just my inner hippy blethering on.
People are too fond of labelling themselves; particularly in an age and country where we’re all supposed to be individuals, and more than that, we’ve a desperate need to be part of a gang. The SNP speaks for a huge part of liberal and centrist Scotland, but rather than be satisfied with this, there are acolytes who lap up everything Nicola Sturgeon lays out for them as if it were delivered by the Angel Gabriel and actively hound those who dare criticise even a single SNP policy. Despite what most papers would have you believe, they’re not alone. Scottish Labour and many of their supporters are hamstrung by a visceral hatred of the SNP, unable to acknowledge even the slightest good deed, and desperate to criticise things their opponents aren’t remotely responsible for. Gang mentaliy.
But where do these two parties lie on the spectrum? Both claim to be centre-left. There are many pundits who say they are dangerously far-left while on the street (and by street I do of course mean twitter), supporters of each denigrate the others by referring to them as Tories. Red Tories, Yellow Tories, and even some Blue Tories, goes the cynical joke.
If we can’t agree on the centre however, we can’t begin to get into the comparative intricacies of far-left, centre-left, and so on. So let’s just stick with liberal and conservative. Let’s acknowledge that life is too complicated to spend saying, “I agree with X on Y so I agree with X on every-fucking-thing.”
Or we could do what Political Compass do and recognise the need for at least two axes. Left/Right and Authoritarian/Libertarian. Sounds a mite complicated for the average political pundit though, doesn’t it?
Jeremy Corbyn calls himself a socialist. Alex Salmond calls himself a social democrat. I don’t know what the fuck that is. I call myself a left-wing, libertarian, pragmatic, liberal. Or at least I do when someone asks for specifics which is almost never from someone who matters, because those who are worth talking to recognise that your position on one thing need not dictate it on another. We are shades of grey, we are multi-coloured, we are fucking complicated.
And left or right, I don’t like anyone who wants to be part of a gang.
The title of this piece likely means more to me than it does you. Whilst at unviersity, I had a debate on Facebook with an SU officer about racism in today’s society and one helpful contributor suggested that ordering a ‘black coffee’ was nowadays, racist.
I treated this suggestion with the scorn it deserved; the move towards an age when white people simply saying “black” to describe something is considered racist? Not something I’m eager to help progress. On the flipside, “PC gone mad,” is, like “I’m a taxpayer” and “as a Christian,” something said almost exclusively by fucking arseholes and I’ve no wish to join that club. Let’s be honest though; anyone who has a problem with someone innocently ordering an Americano minus the Starbucksian bullshit phrase that now accompanies it has a problem with perspective.
UKIP Calypso has caused a fuss with such people and others beside over the past couple of days. “It’s racist,” goes the cry. Why? Because it features an English white man putting on an Afro-Carribean accent. Heaven forfend. As has been pointed out by others though, such people don’t seem to have a problem with Ricky Gervais’s “Equality Street” so what’s the difference?
The suggestion that one is parody and t’other be not is ridiculous. Anyone with a lick of sense can see both riff on classic tunes that aren’t suited to an oxbridge dialect. Neither has racist lyrics. These are not white supremacist songs we’re talking about. The trouble is that it’s a song in support of a vile organisation that is favourited by racists, so there is a liberal rush to condemn it by that association. But just as UKIP is not solely populated by racists, so too not everything associated with it is racist either. Let’s have some other examples.
Many moons ago whilst in a drama class, I potrayed a taxi driver with an Asian accent. “Stop!” cried the teacher. “That’s racist!”
“Why?” asked I? “Why is it any different to an English student putting on a Scottish accent?” I wasn’t being horrible about Asian people or perpetuating a myth about cab drivers; I was reflecting that many taxi drivers are Asian. The character’s race had nothing to do with the story; it was simply an added element of realism.
“It just is,” came the pitiful response, and duly pissed as a Scottish student in England, I played the rest of the scene pretending to be William Hague.
There’s a scene in the popular Assassin’s Creed series of games where the main character, having relived memories of an Italian ancestor speaks to a statue of another with, “Hey, what’s a matta wit you?”
“You’re racist!” cries another character.
“You’re racist,” he jokes back. Neither takes it seriously.
And why should they? Putting on different voices is fun; there’s never been any harm in it. Because I liked a certain movie, I’m particularly partial to putting on a South African accent every time I say “prawns” (and of late, “Pistorious”); no one who has ever heard me seriously thinks I’m attacking South African people. How many of us affect an Australian when playing about with a “barby” in the back yard? Every time we mimic a movie trailer we put on the ‘epic’ American voice-over accent. It’s not anti-American.
So what’s the problem with UKIP Calypso?
It’s for UKIP, and it’s that simple. We don’t like UKIP, lots of Ukippers are racist, thus the song is racist.
Except, the only way it’s racist is if I’m racist for putting on South African, Australian, Spanish, Russian, American, Japanese (you get the idea) accents too. As a liberal whose liberal ideas typically out liberal most liberals (try saying that over and over), I don’t like the idea that I’m racist. Which is fine because I’m not.
If I hated black people, I’d be racist. If I advocated inferior treatment of them to white folks, I’d be racist. I don’t. Every now and again though, I do put on an accent to make people chuckle.
UKIP Calypso commits no greater crime. Yes, it represents a party which policies are overtly racist. Yes, it represents a party which attracts racists like flies to shit. Yes, most Ukippers you meet and speak to are racist even if they’re too fucking stupid to realise it themselves.
That doesn’t mean the song is though. It’s a white guy putting on an accent for a laugh and because it suits the melody. It’s no worse than Ricky Gervais, or Alistair MacGowan or Jon Culshaw for that matter.
If you’re a liberal still reading this, fight UKIP. It is a horrible, backwards, establishment party (despite convincing most supporters it’s for the everyman) that will fuck up poor people and minorities in this country something rotten if they ever get in. They are one of the most serious threats to the continuation of the UK as a relatively free society.
That doesn’t mean the song is racist. It’s not. Pick your fucking battles.
Full disclosure; I have not been selected to appear in the leaders’ debates, and I’m a bit pissed at that. Fair enough, some of you may say, as I’m not currently the leader of any UK party (though I was asked more than once), but following the rules didn’t get me a blog that a handful of people follow and tweets that are read by enough people to pack out a small village hall, did it? So maybe I’m biased.
Or maybe they’re a fucking sham.
Let’s look at the credentials for each party, shall we? The Tories are in government right now, as are the Lib Dems so that’s an automatic qualification, whatever their chances might be. Nick Clegg might have as small a chance as me of becoming PM but this isn’t a potential PM debate, it’s a Leaders’ Debate and Mr Clegg is not only the deputy PM but also the leader of what is arguably the second most important party in British politics right now. Jokes aside, there are only two parties running the country right now and Labour aint one of them.
Then there’s Labour, who as the main opposition must also get in. They are the largest of the non-Gov parties by far and the fact that they’re currently led by someone who looks like he won a primary school art competition to be leader for the day and then got carried away doesn’t change that.
Who next? Well of course it’s UKIP, isn’t it? They’re the fourth party of British politics.
Except… they’re not. Blanket media coverage may have deprived you of this little titbit but in terms of membership, both the SNP and the Greens outstrip them. The SNP also have more MPs, MSPs, and councillors than they do. Not that these numbers were considered when the decision was taken. Do any of you seriously think Mr Farage would have been excluded had human-bot 3.0 Douglas Carswell lost his seat? In any case UKIP’s ONE MP has just gotten in; the SNP and that tiresome Welsh Plaid Cymru lot have had consistent representation in the House for decades.
So why is UKIP featured in the debates when the Greens who have more members and a longer-standing representation aren’t? Why no SNP? Why no PC? And isn’t there another country on that map too? It’ll come to me.
There is an argument to be made that only those with a realistic chance of becoming PM should be included, but of course that limits it to the Cameronator and the Milibot. Neither Messrs Clegg nor Farage will be Prime Minister in a year’s time. It will be Mr Cameron or Mr Miliband, even if they don’t secure an overall majority. As those of you not just skimming with have noticed though, I’ve already covered the fact that this is not meant to be a debate between potential PMs, and lest any of you need reminding, we don’t have a Presidential system. You don’t vote for the PM. You never have, unless they were your local MP.
Ah, say some, but groups like PC and the SNP are only operating in one nation, not across the entire nation of nations (see how fucking difficult all you Scottish No voters kept things?) which seems reasonable. If PC aren’t standing candidates outside of Wales, why should they be included in a UK general election leaders’ debate. Two reasons. One, this is a UK general election leaders’ debate, not an English one. Two? NOT A SINGLE ONE OF THE MAIN PARTIES RUNS CANDIDATES IN ALL THE DIFFERENT COUNTRIES.
You might think I’ve forgotten Northern Ireland. That was deliberate, because so has the rest of the UK. Look no further than “Team GB” to see that in action. Northern Ireland doesn’t elect Tories, Labour, Lib Dems, or any other party I’ve mentioned. And yet still their guys have seats in the house. Credit to UKIP at least for getting the name right, though that might simply be because GBIP isn’t as catchy.
The compromise suggested by the BBC is that while there will be ‘proper’ national debates featuring ConLibLabKip, there will also be ‘sort of’ national debates in individual nations, as if this weren’t really a UK-wide election for a governing body that legislates for all of us across the entire UK, but a collection of different elections across four different nations. The trouble with this is loud and proud. The ‘proper’ (or ‘English’ or ‘London’ if you prefer) debates will be primetime TV across the entire UK. The sub-debates in Wales, NI and Scotland will be regional ones only available to the rest of the UK via the web, and who but political junkies like you is ever going to watch them like that?
Supporters of Scottish independence often decried ‘the media’ en masse for defending the status quo, which is fair enough because that’s what it fucking did, and that’s what it’s doing now. “The UK” is “London” plus some other bits and like disease, war, and famine, the further away you are, the less you matter. The mainstream media is also London Plus, and has little desire to educate itself on the complexities of a parliamentary system that includes more than three parties, unless of course the leader of a fourth is talking complete shite and gets good ratings and RT numbers on newspaper articles.
Like it or not, MPs from all the parties I’ve mentioned above plus others and independents will be running in a UK-wide general election in cinemas near you, all good bookstores and online retailers next year. Of course a line must be drawn somewhere. If I stand as the leader of the Go Fuck Yourself party, I can hardly claim to have the same right to appear in the debates as Ed Milibandit.
For the establishment media to pretend that this is a London Plus election however, does a disservice to our democracy and all who participate in it. If you’re in Cardiff, Belfast or Edinburgh your choice will be greater than that shown in the debates. For the debates not to reflect that is to say that your vote is not as important as one cast in England. That’s not me being anti-English; that’s the system being anti-UK. Ironic, isn’t it?
NUS Scotland today said that universities should appoint more women to their boards and if they don’t do so voluntarily, new legislation should be enacted that forces them to. Currently the average Scottish university board has about 30% female representation.
Instinctively I’m minded to agree with the goal if not the method. Let’s say 50% of students are female (I believe it’s actually more than that); it seems perfectly natural that the university’s staff should reflect that throughout the institution.
I’ve never asked this question before but it came to me as I was discussing the issue (absent the all too frequent hysterics linked to it) with @MamaPartick on twitter today. I think it deserves some consideration. Why is it so important that the top of an institution reflect its mass? We’ll get onto equality of opportunity in a moment but as a kicker this seems pertinent.
My guess is that beyond our evidenced love of symmetry in everything, particularly in this country we’re attracted to the underdog and the numbers would seem to suggest women are being discriminated against. Having seen this, just as the US did with positive discrimination, we’re of a mind that pretty much any steps to attain ‘fairness’ are okay. Put another way, the ends justify the means.
The trouble is of course that “fair” is tricky. If as an employer operating under a doctrine of affirmative action you hire a black candidate, even if they were the best one you had, the suspicion that they were only hired because of their race will always be there. As a result, their career will be negatively affected by this policy even though it was introduced to help; they didn’t need that help but many will assume they were advantaged by it nonetheless.
This is to say nothing of the fact that top down equality, like trickle-down economics is not how you solve any problem. Washington D.C. is the blackest city in America and the schools are crap. By contrast, the relatively wealthy and white cities of Massachusetts have much better ones. It is a fact then that regardless of general levels of IQ, passion or whatever else you care to measure in children, those from Boston will likely fare much better in the workplace than those from D.C. They will do so because, deservedly or not, they are better equipped to function in a modern, high-paid job.
Imagine then that a young white man from Boston applies for the same job as a young black man from D.C. The Bostonian has a better academic record than his compatriot and is much more likely to succeed in the job. Instinctively we might want to lend a helping hand to the disadvantaged youth from further south, but is it fair to punish the kid from Boston because he had a good education? Of course not.
Fix the D.C. schools and everything else follows. If children are given the same opportunities then by the time they get to the interview, the playing field is level and no one feels bad about hiring the best candidate, regardless of what colour they are. I know Tony Blair is about as unpopular as modern UK politicians get, but why, “Education, education, education” isn’t the election promise of every single fucking party in the land is beyond me. Well, except for the Tories of course. They can buy education so don’t need to rely on the common shithouses the rest of us went to.
And so we return to women on university boards. There is no educational gap here, at least not in the sense discussed above. Indeed every set of results you’ll look at prove conclusively that girls do better in school than boys do. Interestingly, this is never seen as a problem we should address; simply a fact of life. “Why are we failing boys?” isn’t a common query. Read into that what you will.
This continues into tertiary education. Most university students are women. Their academic prowess continues. So up until interview day at least, there can be no generalised claim of discrimination against them and indeed at interview stage, there is existing legislation preventing sexual discrimination. Where much jolliness stems from is the Human Rights Act 1998 (you know, that pesky thing the Tories and UKIP want to get rid of), specifically Article 14 which says, “Don’t discriminate, you fucking dick.” [Exact quote.]
It’s not alone either; the EU (the other thing Tories and UKIP hate) isn’t keen on discrimination either. And as UKIP voters are happy to remind you, 140% of British law comes from Brussels so their ideas on equality pretty much hold firm in court.
The question arises then why there are so few women in the top jobs. The truth is both that there is a variety of reasons and truthfully that we don’t know if there is a main one. Anyone doubting that there is any discrimination is asking for it, because only the most foolish deny its existence whether deliberate or sub-conscious. Also undoubtedly true is the ugly idea that generally speaking there are some jobs that men are more attracted to than women. Women tend to be more attracted to teaching at primary level than tertiary. Should you doubt the veracity of this concept, consider why there are so few male nurses. Put simply it doesn’t appeal as a career to most men. The reasons for this can be debated but the end result is the same. Look at almost any job and you’ll find that one sex likes it more than the other.
We could go on but here the reasons are secondary to the main point of discussion. Not only how do we address the lack of women in these top positions, but should we make any effort to? Accepting for the sake of argument that the answer to the latter is yes, what I’m very clear on is that more legislation is not the answer, in part because it is patronising to women. When we already have anti-discrimination laws, any government explicitly saying that women are somehow too weak or ignorant to take advantage of them and need special treatment pisses on the gains for true equality that women have made over the past century. It is also discriminating against men, even acknowledging that it’s done with the best of intentions.
Phrased another way, if we have separate laws for the sexes, we don’t have equality.
I return to the question I posed at the start though. Why should we be so worried about how many women sit on university boards, or practice law or medicine, or sit on corporate boards for that matter? Women are not prohibited from these jobs. Indeed looking at many legal firms chase of equality through granting of training contracts and monetary grants, use of quotas and ‘non-discriminatory’ policies, there is an entirely non-facetious argument to be made that in getting in the door at least, in this area it is tougher for poor white men. The very suggestion of such in many circles however, will have you laughed out of the room, it appearing every bit as ridiculous as a man lodging a sexual harassment complaint against a female co-worker.
If women were banned from sitting on university boards, I’d campaign with them against such abhorrent practices. If a particular university is found to discriminate, those on the receiving end of it have every right to compensation. The mere fact though, that a university board has more men on it than women is not wrong in and of itself however.
The real crime would be appointing people to positions based on sex or race when there are superior candidates going for the same position. That’s real, unmistakable discrimination, and calling it affirmative or positive doesn’t change that.