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Fuck Humanity

31 Mar

I like my life.  Usually I feel pretty fulfilled and interested.  Sometimes I’m irritable, or lonely, or lazy, or annoyed, but I’m usually pretty positive about life on this planet, and that I’m doing enough good things.

But today I feel that all of my security and confidence and happiness is just so much shit in the wind, because humanity is fucking awful.  I know I usually like to present positivity and talk about how people are people and we should all be excellent to one another, but today I don’t feel like that.

I feel like people are just nasty, selfish, grasping monsters.  We bitch and we fight and we snipe and we hate and we kill.  And those of us that aren’t hating and killing and destroying happily live in our own bubble and let it happen to others.

I saw this picture today, on my lunchtime read of the news.  I was okay with it, until I read the story behind it.

And it made me really fucking angry.

This four year old girl, a Syrian refugee, is afraid that the photographer has a weapon pointed at her.  She has her hands up in surrender, and she is waiting to see if she will be killed.

How fucked up is this world?  How full of evil and despicable people is it when tiny children know what it is like to be threatened by guns?  When their mothers and fathers and siblings have desperately taught them to show that they are surrendering, in the strained hope that they might not be shot dead?

Suddenly, I’m on a downhill rush, remembering that in Nigeria there are hundreds of children missing, stolen by lunatic rebels Boko Haram, and that this is just the latest in a series of kidnappings and that these are the same monsters who sent a child into a village with a bomb strapped to her body, and that the evil fuckers will do this again and again.

In India, rapists and murderers are supported by judges and ministers blaming the victim for the crime, even going so far as to ban a documentary into the rape and murder of Jyoti Singh which horrified the country in 2012.

In Bangladesh writers have been hacked to death in the street by religious extremists who don’t want atheists to have a voice.

In Mexico hundreds of people are “disappeared” in conflicts between cartels and government forces to keep people in fear lest they threaten the profits of the drugs trade.

In Gaza ordinary people are caught between Palestinian militants and the Israeli military – in 2014 more Palestinians were killed by Israeli government forces than in any other year since the occupation of the West Bank began in 1967.

There are civil wars going on in the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Syria, and fighting between government forces and rebels and/or extremists in over 60 countries, some on the brink of wider conflict.  Those fighting use rape as a weapon, indoctrinate the kidnapped and train stolen or orphaned children to be soldiers who will go on to commit horrific acts of violence themselves.  There’s no honour in these wars, many of them are the result of the arbitrary slicing of territories that took place in the European land grabs, the dispossession of land by “civilised” colonial forces, the implementation of racial hierarchies by the “enlightened” viceroys or governors.  Seeds planted in the profit-led annexation of other people’s homes that have now grown into ever evolving tribal, racial and religious hatred.  Except in places like Australia, where genocide was practiced openly.

And in the UK, the rational, secular, enlightened emblematic nation of nations,  we are still waiting for the punchline to the sick joke that our own government and police may have played a part in covering up systemic sexual abuse of children and perhaps even the murders of rent boys, whilst our politicians simper and sing about British fucking values.  Meanwhile, the statistic of two women a week murdered by a partner or former partner holds steady, and over 13 million people (one fifth of our population) live below the poverty line.

This is just a little slice, a list conjured in my momentary break down.  I can’t even begin to list the hurt we are doing to each other in destroying homes, habitats, the global environment – in sweatshops, mines, brothels, factories – in violence and murder and hatred and distrust – worldwide!  All of it justified by a god or a prophet or a book or money or power or just fucking because.

Our species is a waste of fucking atoms, a violent, twisted sick joke of consciousness.  I want to go back to safely mocking extremists, ’cause ya know, if we can still laugh, then we win!  But I can’t.  I look at the face of that terrified little girl, who should never have needed to know this fear, and I can’t laugh, because I’ll fucking choke.  I can’t pretend its okay that sometimes people do bad things because humans create art and music, and give great hugs and buy the Big Issue sometimes, or drop coins in a charity box.  Humanity is fucking awful, despicable, abhorrent.  Not only those that commit the atrocities, but those of us that let them.

People are people, and I can’t stand it anymore.

I don’t know what I can do.

A war to end all wars

4 Aug

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the recognised start of The Great War, the moment that Britain declared war on Germany after the Germans remained silent in reply to a British ultimatum regarding Belgium’s neutrality.  It is often said that when Britain entered the war that the politicians and population expected it to be a short war, with the soldiers leaving in August apparently calling back to those they left behind that they’d be “home by Christmas”.

As you should know, this war lasted 4 years.  Here are some numbers you may or may not know:

  • During the war an estimated 9 million combatants were killed
  • It is estimated that the total death toll including civilians was 16-17 million
  • 38 countries were involved in the war – at a time when the total number of sovereign states was 62 (different sources give different estimates due to the statuses of some countries, as low as 32 out of 59).
  • 3 empires were wiped from the map during the war or in its aftermath: the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the German Empire.


A map showing the countries involved and the sides they shared. From a collection of posters by Laura Hobson

A map showing the countries involved and the sides they shared. From a collection of posters by Laura Hobson

Although not the bloodiest war in history, it was remarkable not only for the scale of the killing and casualties but also, arguably more importantly from a historical perspective, the number and variety of combatants.  For Britain of course, this was a time of empire, and the Empire was mobilised.  Many empires were mobilised.

Today, memorials and other ceremonies are being held in Britain, Europe, and elsewhere, to commemorate the sacrifice of those who died in the war and the effect it had on our societies.  I find that I cannot think about World War I without thinking about the legacy of that time for so many parts of the world.  In my mind particularly are the conflict zones where conflicts were carved or accelerated by occupying imperial powers, whose arbitrary boundaries were affected by both world wars, and furthermore, where people are still dying as a result of these historical actions.

The ongoing conflict between the Israeli administration and the Palestinian freedom fighters/terrorists can be traced back through centuries, if you so wish, but the establishment of the Mandate of Palestine, ruled by the British who had won the region from the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I, is a turning point in that region’s history.  Subsequently, the establishment of the Jewish state of Israel would take place after World War II, with the British gifting the land to the displaced diaspora, and ever since then Gaza and the West Bank have been in limbo, with no recognition of sovereignty and continued conflict over Israeli occupation of more and more Palestinian land.

Last week, around one and a half thousand Palestinians and over 60 Israelis died in a resurgence of violence between Hamas and Israel in Gaza.  The majority of deaths on the Palestinian side were civilians.

When I think of World War I, the Great War, I think about the sentiments that came out at the end of the war.  The symbol of the red poppy for the fallen, and the goal of remembering them.  Not only remembering their sacrifice on a personal level, but also remembering the war that their sacrifice might not be just a historical footnote, but a reminder that our goal must be peace.  When I hear the words “Lest we forget” and “we will remember them” I want to honour their memory by doing all that we can to ensure that young men are not sent to die or be maimed in wars that centuries later will be half-remembered or seen through the lens of costume dramas.

I want to honour them by searching for the peace that they fought to defend.

That peace should be sought for by all people, everywhere, and whenever we can we should be enabling peace, not conflict.

Not selling weapons to brutal regimes.  Not invading sovereign nations on false pretences.  Not using our influence to maximise profits whilst the local populations suffer.

So whilst leaders across the world, including our own British government elites, pay lip service to the dead of the Great War, to the killed and wounded and the families they left behind, I want them to know that we are watching, and willing them to truly honour the sacrifice in both world wars, and every conflict since, by doing their utmost to ensure that wars and armed conflict are avoided, especially when increasingly in modern conflicts it is swathes of civilians who die with indignity and anonymity, with no memorials or poetry.

Interestingly, this week marks another anniversary that should never be forgotten: the 69th anniversary of the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the USA.  The combined death toll of these attacks is estimated at over quarter of a million people (including those who died of radiation effects afterwards) for two days of action, so 125,000 for each day .  Compare that with 17 million over four years – an average then of 12,000 a day, and you can see how human effectiveness at taking lives increased in just the 30 years after the “war to end war”.

I leave you with that great warning to all modern people “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”.  Let us learn from the past, let us remember.


Lest we forget.

Dead Pretty

15 Feb

The Sun is a tatty rag filled with half truths and hyperbole.  This is not new information.  What is new is that The Sun has actually managed to shock and upset me – I thought I was inured to its tactlessness and depravity, along with that of its tabloid shelf-mates.  I was wrong.

Her name was Reeve Steencamp.  She was a human being shot dead in the early hours of yesterday.  She wasn’t a character from some trashy Hollyoaks noir.  The Sun’s front page has reduced a whole woman’s life to a cheesecake photograph without a name.

I understand that Steencamp’s death (murder?) has made international news purely because her boyfriend, Oscar Pistorius, is an internationally recognised name, but the salivating tabloid pack have reduced her from a whole person, past being just Pistorius’ girlfriend, to the level of some dead chick readers can perv on.

Call that journalism?  It is one of the worst examples I have seen of the conflation of sex with violence in a so-called newspaper – selling a suspected murder story with ADDED TITS.  Fucking deplorable.

You would think that the press would have developed some sensitivity after Leveson, that they would be keen NOT to be seen being crass and sleazy after the hacking scandal.  There is a new campaign against Page 3, and yet today the Sun seemed to move Page 3 to Page 1 – probably assuming that Steencamp’s family live too far away to complain.

Well I’m going to complain.  Steencamp murder was reported in the early hours of Valentine’s Day – not just the day when many men are expected to bare their feelings for a partner despite being expected to repress their emotions throughout the rest of the year – but also the day of one billion rising.  A day when women and men worldwide joined a movement against violence against women and girls (VAWG).

A day on which I am sadly certain that Reeva Steencamp was not the only woman to lose her life to the violent actions of a partner.

Just one day after a tragedy for Steencamp’s family and friends and one day after a joyful protest against VAWG, The Sun presents the death of Steencamp as some kind of macabre soft-core.  I’m not saying that her death isn’t a news story.  I’m not saying that the papers should ignore the fact that she was a model – or indeed ignore the fact that she was beautiful.  I’m saying they should show far greater respect for her as a person than treating her as fridge-filler and an excuse to sex up the front page.

Her name was Reeva Steencamp.  May she rest in peace, and may her loved ones find peace, and justice.

Privilege on toast

13 Oct

During last week’s Conservative Party conference David Cameron said something which for me sums up the problem of how privilege works in the UK. Using classic political styling he set up a strawman: that people are asking him to justify the existence of privilege, specifically his and that of his cabinet, for example. He then blew his paltry strawman away with a very Cameronesque soundbite. He said:

I am not here to defend privilege, I am here to spread it.”

The first thought that came to mind on the thought of spreading privilege was that he was sending BoJo out on the sleaze without any condoms. Then I thought more seriously about what he might mean – buy enough bottles of Moet and eventually you’ll find one with a golden ticket to a garden party at Buck Palace? Or the deeds to a Kensington address? Or ownership of a race horse? Spread the privilege Cammers, caviar for everyone! On tiny crudités! Pass them out at the job centre along with cloth napkins and Cuban cigars.

I digress. The main “shaking my head” point for me about this Cameronism is that no-one is genuinely asking DC to defend privilege. We make potshots about his privileged background as it seems to (mis)inform his policy – he makes sweeping judgements about the lives of low/no income Brits without acknowledging that, generally, he has no personal experience nor empirical evidence to back up his stereotypes. I am not asking him, however, to defend his own existence or to come up with a reason “why David Cameron”. All I want from DC is a recognition of context and, as this is all I want from any politician, thoughtful evidence based policy enacted efficiently, justly, and sensibly.

Cameron is answering a question in order to avoid examining another, far more important question. Most people I would imagine aren’t expecting a defence of privilege. We’re adult enough to realise that within any given scenario privilege will exist or develop. We don’t all have access to the same resources when we are brought into this world or since, life just isn’t fair in that way.  What I think most critics and commenters want from Cameron is for him to explain the behaviour of those with privilege, especially the ones who treat those without their privileges with disdain.

Every millionaire seems to like being described as a self-made man, but the truth is that for most of the super-rich, they had a hand up. Even if they didn’t have an inheritance in the form of cash or property or a business, they perhaps had familial connections and were introduced to people who pulled strings for them. The very few who came from poor backgrounds are exceptional people, who have achieved great things no doubt, but I think it might be wrong for them to imagine that they would have got anywhere without the everyday consumer, or without the infrastructure, legal and transport, provided by the state through taxation. Ignoring the context in which they achieved their success can lead to conceit and a sense of self-aggrandisement, a sense of superiority over the rest of us plebs.

What Cameron has not been able to do (nor Blair before him) is to bring to account those so swelled with their own privilege that they turn their backs on the rest of society, at the least by saying nasty things about the underclasses, and at the worst by doing everything within their power to avoid paying their taxes, often whilst decrying the benefits system as full of “cheats”. What is it about privilege that limits one’s ability to feel compassion for those worse off than yourself? Except of course when raising money for deserving charities through lovely parties and extensive foreign holidays visits. I guess you can’t compel a person (or corporation) to act reasonably or with compassion (unless you OWN them, like we own the royals), but you can compel them to pay their taxes.

So perhaps, DC you can’t defend the actions of the privileged or their existence, but perhaps you can make sure they follow the rules as much as the bottom third of the triangle must. Of course, examining your own privilege, leading to greater integrity and understanding of the way our society works takes honesty, patience and will. I suggest our glorious leader tries to spread this instead.

Bring me my chariot of fire

29 Jul

I am usually somewhat of a cynic whenever there’s any flag-waving to be done.  I’m proud to be British but also aware that it’s kind of odd to be proud of anything that you never actually achieved.  I’m proud to be a woman, I’m proud to be mixed race, I’m even proud to be a brunette… but none of these things are achievements, they’re just the way things are.  Now, being proud of something you’ve worked for, like a qualification or a job or a successful event, makes more sense.  If I had been born a blonde boy in Australia I’d probably be proud to be all those things as well!  Anyway, despite nationality being somewhat arbitrary I am proud to be British, and proud of Britain.  The reason I don’t get behind the flag waving is that I also see Britain’s flaws and just past the glow of patriotism lies the spark of nationalism, xenophobia, and racism.

Despite my cynicism, I do want things to go well.  I want the Olympics to be a success for example, and I was really pleased at the spectacle of the Opening Ceremony.  It was magical and silly and the lighting of the cauldron flame, with all the “petals” of the sculpture representing the countries that were taking part coming together to form one great symbolic fire, was amazing.  From Twitter and from speaking to people in real life (I still do that sometimes) I think that the response has been overwhelmingly positive.  We Brits might be proud but we do sometimes find it hard to celebrate ourselves and our country, and I think the ceremony allowed us to do that without being too earnest or tacky.

There are those however who didn’t like the ceremony.  As the saying goes, haters gonna hate.  What interests me about this is the particular features of the ceremony they didn’t like, and why.  Top Tory Twat Aidan Burley, he of the Nazi stag do fame, has put his foot in it with some snidey comments about the “leftie multicultural crap” of the ceremony, in particular seeming to be offended by the celebration of the NHS in a sequence with glowing beds, dancing doctors, and all the children’s literature baddies being chased off by an army of Mary Poppinses-es.  es.  Many people have slated Burley, but Daily Mail hate-hack Rick Dewsbury has claimed his comments were spot on in a piece that is so staggeringly spiteful, as well as flagrantly racist, I find it hard to accept it isn’t a spoof.

Dewsbury used the personal tragedy of a family who lost someone due to neglect in a hospital as the jumping off point for a rant against the NHS as a whole, while dancing through a clear outrage that some of the people in the ceremony weren’t white.  It’s a nasty bit of writing.  One comment I’d like to address here is Dewsbury’s assertion that the mixed race family in the centre of the segment celebrating the internet and Britain’s great pop music history is “absurdly unrealistic”.  I actually think the original wording of the article was more extreme* but I didn’t think to screen print it.  His basic premise here is that the idea of a happy middle class mixed marriage is “absurd” and “unrealistic”.  I’ve got news for you Dewsbury: these people exist.  I should know, one such couple spawned me.  That’s right Rick, my existence AT ALL negates your argument.  It gets worse for you Ricky boy… I personally know many mixed race people and many couples who are not of the same race.  And by race I mean skin colour, because lets face it, you’ve got no issue with a fair ginger person marrying an olive skinned brunette, you only have a problem with whites marrying blacks.  Or asians. Or any of those “ethnic minorities”.

Back to Burley:  I spoke to my sister (another mixed race ethnic minority infiltrator RUN RICK RUN, THEY’RE EVERYWHERE!) about the MP’s tweet, and she made me laugh by pointing out that saying you’re glad the sportsmen and women are coming in marks the end of the “multicultural crap” is hilarious, because nothing says “no to multiculturalism” more than the assorted peoples of the 200 odd nations of the world competing in the Olympics walking by.  Some of them in variations on their traditional national dress, no less.  Burley, you really are thick, even for a nazi person who went to a Nazi-themed stag do.  Wanker.

And finally for Dewsbury.  You’ll probably never read this from your racial purity bunker in Midsomer village, but I want to say it anyway.  You say it was “shameful” to glorify the National Health Service, the only universal healthcare service in the world, but I say it is shameful to take a family’s loss and devastation, which should be fully investigated by inquest not by tabloid blather, and use it to launch a twisted attack on one of the building blocks of modern Britain via your own thinly veiled racism.  No one has ever said that the NHS is perfect, I’m still waiting for a knee op that has now been cancelled twice, but the fact that it is there at all saves lives and marks us out as a nation that will not leave strangers to die on the street.  This may shock you, but the fact that we have an NHS does not mean that you can’t pay for private healthcare if you wish, if I was an athlete I’d have gone private to have my knee fixed sooner, for example. Choose private if you prefer, but don’t then whinge about how ‘my taxes will still pay for it’ because even if you have private healthcare, if you ever need an ambulance it is the NHS who will come to your aid.  In this country, if you collapse on the street, someone will dial 999 without thinking twice, and an ambulance will come, and you will be treated regardless of whether you can afford private healthcare or not.  But if you really would rather die on the street in this scenario than have the doctors you so loathe try to treat you, please will you have that wish TATTOOED ON YOUR FACE so as not to waste the time of any well-meaning passers by.

In summary I would like to say to both Burley and Dewsbury and any other Alf Garnets out there who agree with them these two points:

1.  The NHS isn’t perfect but it is one of the things that I feel is a legitimate British achievement we can all be proud of, because we are the only nation that cares enough about each other to even try to make it work.  Slagging it off isn’t the way to fix its flaws, funding and managing it properly, investigating its failings and implementing policy to fix them, is, along with allowing good people to get and keep jobs in it.

2. Britain has black people.  Britain has brown people.  Britain has people of so many various shades that they couldn’t even fit on one dulux colour sheet.  Some of them meet people from different colour swatches and fall in love and have babies.  The age of Empire so many of the racist right bleat on about wistfully IS THE REASON that we have British people of African, West Indian, Near and Far Eastern and Asian descent, and more.  These people’s parents and grandparents are part of our nation’s history, part of our landscape.  If you have ever been to the area of London where the Olympics are held you would know that there are people there from all sorts of backgrounds, and that the young people growing up in cities like that don’t have the fear that you have.  You seem to panic that celebrating this somehow undermines the white ethnicities of Britain, and the people whose families have lived in the same areas since the domesday book, but it doesn’t at all.  No one is saying that Dizzee Rascal is a greater Brit than Brunel, or even Ethelred the Unready, just that he is another thread in the tapestry.  Deal with it.

*The article has definitely been tweaked post-publishing. Dewsbury’s comments about Dizzee Rascal and Grime music are gone, as is a statement complaining about seeing an ethnic minority face in nearly every camera shot. Also, some trite phrasing about the segment with the mixed race couple deserving praise “if it was that two people with different colour skin and different cultural heritages can live harmoniously together” has been shoe-horned in, and whereas before it said one would be hard pressed to find such a couple, it now says it “isn’t the norm”. Perhaps the PCC does still have some clout and the DM wanted to avoid crossing it. More likely they realised that the tone was extreme even for the DM readership and back pedalled. It’s pretty poor practice for a paper to edit published pieces and not record the changes, still, this is the DM we are talking about!

If hypocrisy was a sport…

25 Jun

I’m just sayin’, if it was, which it isn’t, then we could put David Cameron in for the Olympics.

With his speech on posited welfare reform policies that man has once again danced beyond the realm of satire, passed the vale of caricature and into the glen of farcical pantomime villain.

This image graced my Facebook feed, seems about right.

Now I’m the LAST person to defend the previous administration.  New Labour features as one of my top 3 greatest disillusionments of my life, along with never developing superpowers/getting an invite to Hogwarts/finding a magical alternate universe to frolic in despite being fully in the demographic of well-meaning-yet-lonely-teenage-misfit.  Despite being raised as a Labour brat it’ll take an awful lot for Labour to gain support from me in future.  I kind of wish I could wipe New Labour and the grinning skull of Blair from my mind, much as I have The Phantom Menace (“eesa people gunna die?” yes Jar-Jar, that’s the question Blair should’ve asked).  Blair has morphed into some kind of perma-tanned spectre, the stench of dishonesty, self-righteousness, delusion and megolamania follows him in an almost visible black cloud, along with a faint whiff of lunacy.

Back to our current Prime Minister.  The man who said, pre-election, that the Tories are no longer “the nasty party”.  Cameron has in the past attempted to come across as an everyman, usually with resounding failure, but he got points for trying.  Today it seems he’s had enough of that, and in a bid to convince the Tory elders that he hasn’t caught any form of wishy washy liberalism from sharing oxygen with Nick Clegg, he has donned his nasty party cloak and, cackling, started to come up with more ways to take money out of the welfare system.

So far, so what?  A politician talking about saving the nation’s money when in recession (a douple dip recession: whether the coalition policies are responsible for the second dip or not, I don’t know.  I do know that I have a craving for sherbert) is nothing shocking.  But Dave, can I call you Dave? Dave… did you really need to describe those on benefits as having a “culture of entitlement”?

5 minute break whilst I sit here shaking my head and sighing occasionally.

Okay.  I get it.  A person who says “oi, society, I don’t wanna work, I wanna sit on my arse and have you all pay for my house and my car and my phone and my wii and my babies and my horrible poor person habits like drinking and smoking*” is a scoundrel, and no-one, NO-ONE, wants their taxes to pay for that person to live a kind of hamster life, with food and wheel in case they need it, but making no real contribution (benefit scroungers, so I hear, are not even cute like hamsters!).  These people are bad poor people, living in a culture of entitlement.  Right, agreed, this person getting money is bad.  Now, I don’t actually know anyone like this.  Do you?  Does David Cameron?  He must do, because you see this is the kind of person he is talking about.

I know a few people who are on benefits.  So they do exist.  I know quite a few who are under 25, definitely literate and numerate, and yet unable to find work and in between temporary contracts use jobseeker’s allowance so they don’t have to tap up their parents for more than they often already are. There are three I can think of straight from the top of my head who are on disability benefit, because they have conditions that make it very difficult for them to work.  Do they want to work?  Of course they do.  It’s a matter of pride, of feeling useful and helpful and undermining the stereotypes that other people have about disabilities.  Take S for example: she had learning difficulties growing up due to being born with Down’s Syndrome.  As an adult she managed to get a work placement in a college which introduced her to lots of new people and made her very open minded, as well as considerate.  She is kind and conscientious.  She wants to work, however mobility problems (she walks slowly with a frame for help), hearing problems, and health problems that are all increasing mean that finding suitable work is incredibly difficult, perhaps even impossible.  She lives with her parents, who are both pensioners.  Tell me, David Cameron, what “steps” should S take in order to improve her health?  I’ll tell you something Dave, I am PROUD that in this country my taxes go towards supporting S and her family, to give them the financial, medical and social support they might need.

Nevermind that though Dave, nevermind that you seem utterly devoid of compassion for the disabled, the unemployed, and the young trying to set themselves up in life, let’s just focus on that one phrase: “culture of entitlement”.  Does that not strike you as just the teensiest bit of a wicked thing to describe in other people when you are, after all, the son of a millionaire?  A millionaire who, much like the “morally wrong” Jimmy Carr whom you chastised publicly (some classy work there Prime Minister) last week, was allegedly involved in tax-reduction schemes as part of making his fortune?  Is it not part of a “culture of entitlement” to go to Eton, and then Oxbridge, and then expect to run the country with your Bullingdon Club chums?  Is it not part of a “culture of entitlement” to make allowances for the incredibly wealthy tory donors, even to find them cosy parliament positions, when they indulge in ‘creative’ tax accounting?

Is there anything that screams more of a “culture of entitlement” than sitting in your ivory tower, barely able to get the words out for all the silver spoons in your mouth, having just laid on a multi-billion £ party for the most entitled woman in the country, who was only entitled to such by an accident of birth, laying into the 2nd, 3rd, 4th generation losers of the great Thatcherite regime who are no longer working class because there is no work?  The audacity of talking down to a nation that scrimps and saves and has never watched basketball with Obama, or trashed a restaurant with Boris, or compared millions with Osborne, or eaten lobster off gold-plated dishes with the Prince of Ruritania or whatever the fuck it is that you do in between U-turns, arse-kissing, blatant dishonesty and using every weapon in your arsenal to widen the gap between the rich and the poor, calling for a “meritocracy” whilst supporting a monarchy, an aristocracy and an oligarchy.

Shame on you Dave.  So much for not-the-nasty-party.  I always wondered why the students in Slytherin didn’t realise they were the bad guys.  Perhaps it was due to their “culture of entitlement”.

*Also horrible habits of the posh. And everyone else. Except people who get up early to do Yoga, takes all sorts.

Kittens and glitter and lipstick and SCIENCE!

22 Jun

Well there I was wondering if there was anything I felt passionate enough about to break the blogging lull I had fallen into, and as if hearing my prayers the gods of “you couldn’t make it up” and “if you didn’t laugh you’d cry” dug deep into their storage of Utter Unalloyed Bullshit and gifted the world with this:

Well reader, this video teaser for the “Science: It’s a girl thing” campaign aimed at getting non-sciencey girls into science, provoked some interesting reactions from me.  Firstly, acid flashbacks to adverts for The Clothes Show 1993 accompanied by a vague sense of self consciousness, and a memory of the book “Are you there God? Its me, Margaret“.  Secondly, a wildly oscillating ambivalence between bemused giggles and the kind of disgust I usually reserve for comments about Kate Middleton on the Daily Mail front page (people’s fucking princess, do you hear yourselves?  DOES NO-ONE REMEMBER DIANA??? Ahem… sorry… off topic…).

Anyway, what’s so wrong with it?  Surely girls are put off by science being a male-dominated area?  Surely showing a “girly” side of science will go some way to counteract that?  Well aside from the fact that open-toed shoes are a hazard in a lab due to the risk of extreme pedicure by broken glassware/heavy objects/undiluted hydrochloric acid, and that LOOKING PRETTY has FUCK ALL to do with being a good scientist (if you happen to be both, yay for you, but the two characteristics are not causally linked), this advert is massively patronising.  As has been pointed out by many of the twitterati and other bloggers, a study has recently shown that overtly feminine science and maths role-models demotivate young girls interested in these subjects. The women in the vid above are further examples of the unattainable perfection which women are trained from their youth to strive for, but with the added dimension of being clever scientists to make your average gal’s inferiority complex that little bit sharper.

I don’t have a problem with talking about how science affects women via the products and principles they use: I once toyed with the idea of writing about the science involved in the lives of women like myself who wear make up and heels and dresses because we rock the femme look. I’m interested in why good quality mascaras don’t clump, how wearing heels might be affecting my spine, and how much research and development actually goes into a “clinically proven” moisturiser. However, I’m also interested in how language evolved, how planets were formed, and whether or not a grand unifed theory might someday be achieved: science is just the way we understand the world around us, from predicting which direction a penalty will be struck to working out how the universe started. That is why I’m always drawn to science, it’s the why and the how of everything we do and everything we are.

I can’t stand the premise of this video, because it fields the idea that science can be re-gendered, from a masculine discipline to a feminine one. In my opinion (and I’m living this, not just talking about it) science has no gender. As a teenager, I grew to love science, particularly physics and maths, because in these subjects you either have the right answer, or you don’t. Your gender has no influence on how you derive an equation, if you follow the rules of algebra correctly you are right, if not then you are not. You don’t describe the action of gravity from a gendered perspective. It isn’t like reading novels or poetry or looking at art and identifying with the themes and characters as a woman or as a man. Your personal experience of sexism, the expectations you feel weighing on you due to your gender, have absolutely no bearing on whether or not x=y. There are no “girly” and no “macho” fundamental particles, the matter we are made up of has no connection to this society’s stereotypes of gender, race, sexuality, whatever. It just is what it is.

Oh yes Ms Mongrel, you say, fine fine, but why aren’t there more women in science? IS IT BECAUSE LAB COATS ARE NOT PINK? Ah, the question, how do we make women like science? How can we mould the subject to fit their delicate lady-brains? Well reader, I’m about to blow your mind with new information. Are you ready? Sure? Okay:


Woah! What a shocker! Am I serious? Yes I am. There are women microbiologists, geologists, astrophysicists, particle physicists, sociologists, neuropsychologists, electrical engineers, astronauts, medical physicists, earth scientists, the list goes on and on. Guess what? I personally know a lot of women who fulfil these roles. They weren’t dragged in to science by a frilly pink advert based on an ad exec’s labcoat fantasy, they just liked science. More importantly, they weren’t turned away from science by people who thought it wasn’t for girls as happened throughout, you know, ALL OF HISTORY. Luckily some of those who were told such bullshit just rolled up their sleeves and said “I’ll show them”, and became the trailblazers thanks to whom most of the younger women scientists I know were actively encouraged by their schools, peers and parents. They developed the confidence to try something that society thought (still thinks?) they wouldn’t be any good at because they are equipped with baby-growing apparatus.

This is the worst thing about Science: It’s a girl thing! the idea of interviewing female scientists and showing that they are ordinary women with fulfilling work that they are passionate about is excellent. The idea of saying to girls “guess what, science isn’t all socially inept men in labcoats wearing their brown sandals with white socks, actual women work on this stuff too” is also excellent. Heck, that’s an excellent message to send to boys! This whole programme is based on a good motive and a positive idea. It’s just a shame they wrapped it up in tired old marketing bullshit and a great big tacky pink bow.

“Why don’t you just go out with him?”

23 Aug

What am I, thirteen?  Isn’t that the age we were when we started playing “you must have a boyfriend”?  Yes, I agree, he is nice, yes, I agree, he is kind.  I agree, he has a job, so he’s better than the ex.  I agree, he seems keen, he’s interested in me.  I tell you that there is no spark and so there is no future and you say

“Why don’t you just see how it goes?”

Will you be happier if I am someone’s girlfriend?  Does my singleness offend your sense of balance?  You’re part of a couple, I get it, you like to live vicariously through me.  You say you just want to see me happy.  But what if I’m happy single?  What if me being free to pursue what and whom I want is more important than a cuddle in front of reality TV?  What if contentment and security sound like diet coke when I’d rather be drinking martinis?

If I know his texts don’t make my heart leap, his lips aren’t like magnets for kisses, his jokes don’t make me snort my tea and choke laughing then why do I need to “see what happens”?  Just because he’s nice and he likes me does that mean I owe him a month? 6 months? A year before I admit that its not working, that its not him its me?

I want to live a truthful life.  I told him I wanted something casual.  But if I know already that I’ll end it when he gets serious then to me it seems its already over.

You should be pleased, he was the first one, my first attempt at moving on, you seem to think it has been long enough.  The first oasis in a desert, but that doesn’t mean my journey is over.  I don’t want to settle even if settling is what people do.

“That’s a shame” you say.  I don’t know why it’s a shame for me to decide that on my first attempt, since my heart last broke, I haven’t found a life partner or soulmate.  Did you like him that much?  Would he have balanced out the male-female-male-female seating plan?  Are you worried that I’ll have no-one with whom to share my Orange Wednesdays?

Is it so alien of me to prefer being single to being with whoever’s about?  It seems that for some any partner is better than none.  Think of all you have cut off, all the opportunities you are losing just so that you can be a “we”.  Is that why you’d rather I submitted to the orthodoxy of pub-lunch share-the-paper clear-his-eye-gunk coupledom? Because my freedom reminds you that you’ve surrendered yours?

I won’t settle.  It’s not a shame.  I won’t see how it goes.  He is nice, he deserves a nice girlfriend and I am not the one.  I’m fully single.  What comes next, who knows?



19 Aug

I wanted to write a post explaining my feelings about the word half-caste.  I wanted to put across how offensive I find that word, how its roots are based not only in racism but also in the fundamental division and oppression of humanity by birth/rank/wealth/arbitrary lines in the caste system.  I wanted to put across how every time someone uses that word to describe me or in front of me it is like a slap in the face.  The word suggests something subhuman, lesser, other.  It has been used to undermine the efforts and achievements of non-white people throughout history and into our present.  It hurts when people who know me use that term because surely if they know me they should know better?

It is one thing to reclaim words and to play with their context and connotations, but no-one has ever used the word half-caste that way in front of me.  They use it out of either ignorance of its connotations and implicit racism or out of not giving a shit about its connotations or being racist.  Why is this blog called Ms Mongrel then?  Is mongrel not offensive? Hell yeah mongrel is offensive!  That’s why I use the word: we’re all mongrels really in one way or another, unless we’re clones or inbred, but no-one likes to be called mongrel.  Mongrel is a term I have chosen to use in order to put across how ridiculous it is to differentiate humans by poorly defined racial groups or “breeds” as if we were dogs, its a provocative play on words and an in-joke within the context of this blog.  I was born in the year of the dog.  Dogs provide compelling evidence that the “purity” of a breed may give us desirable features but can also lead to congenital defects, health problems, and sub-par intellect.  Mongrel dogs are just as smart, just as loveable, as any purebred but you don’t have to pay hundreds to own one, they turn up everywhere.  Ms Mongrel is proud to be mixed, accepting of her mongrelhood, but only if you accept that you too are a mongrel can you use that word with me.  I wouldn’t recommend using it to describe anybody else.

If you need to use any word to describe someone in the UK who can’t be put in the “white” or “black” or “asian” or whatever box because their parents are a combination then the politest option currently is mixed-race.  The USA have terms like bi-racial and multi-ethnic or so I hear, sounds complicated.  Better to refer to someone the way they refer to themselves.  And just because you have one friend or more who is mixed race and doesn’t mind “half-caste” doesn’t mean it isn’t a racial slur.  It is a racial slur and it is hurtful and offensive.  I will not tolerate it.  Consider yourself warned.

As for everything I’ve said, it is just so much blah blah compared to the brilliant poem by John Agard, Half Caste, listen the hell out of this and learn:

John Agard reads Half caste

Post-Riot Rundown

11 Aug

For me personally the riots meant a few days of being literally glued to 24 hour news and Twitter, contacting friends and family in the affected cities via Facebook and text, and spending a lot of time trying to understand what for me is the biggest question: why?

Our Prime Minister and his cabinet have switched to tough talk since returning from holidays, they have drilled out the same phrases again about there being “no excuse” for “thuggery” and “criminality”, and their assertions that these riots are in no way related to politics but are simply the action of mindless criminals echo up and down the land.  Nothing, says Cameron, is “off the table” when it comes to restoring order and peace to the streets.  Nothing, of course, except for communicating with the rioters themselves.

In fact the only person I have seen on national television make any appeal to the rioters is the remarkable and admirable Tariq Jahan, whose son was killed in a hit-and-run in Birmingham on Tuesday night, which police are now investigating as murder.  Jahan appealed to his local community and to the nation at large to end the unrest and the violence, asking people to stay home.  “I’ve lost a son” he said “if you want to lose your sons, step forward, if not, then go home”.  His eloquent and intelligent speaking at a time of intense personal tragedy moved me to tears.

If a father in such a time of loss can talk directly to the rioters and looters, why can’t our government?  In the language that our national leaders choose to use the rioters and looters are dehumanized.  They are criminals, they are animals, they are thugs, they are inexcusable, inexplicable, unforgiveable.  The competition between commentators and politicians to assure us that they each condemn the violence, vandalism and arson is farcical.  It is as if voicing any opinion is invalid unless one specifically swears that they don’t agree with the rioters actions.  You would think it could be taken as read that in our society commentators condemn acts of arson, mugging, assault, theft, and the destruction of businesses, homes, livelihoods and communities, but if you offer an opinion without stating condemnation clearly first then you are viewed by some to be as criminal as the looters.

Ms Mongrel, as it says in my “About”, has one rule: people are people.  And that includes people that I don’t like, and that you don’t like, and that no one likes.  Every person in our society is a thinking and feeling human being who makes decisions and carries out actions according to their own reasoning.  If you don’t see where I’m going with this I’ll spell it out: the rioters are not animals, they are not subhuman, they are not some kind of secondary humanity like morlocks.  They are people, who for their own reasons have made decisions that I personally find hard to understand.  But I want to understand.  I want to know their motivations, their varied backgrounds and histories and their perception of society and their position within it that caused them to give up on behaving lawfully.  I feel that only through understanding this and acting on the underlying problems can we prevent such eruptions of violence from happening again.

To that end I have tried to read commentary from people who are more involved with the communities where trouble flared.  It is a demographic that I only have a passing interaction with, since I live in a small city where I feel comfortable to talk to people from any background, but where I myself and most of my friends acknowledge our middle-classness (complete with middle-class guilt and prejudice, but that’s a topic for another post).  So gathered below are my favourite commentaries so far on the riots and the reasons why some people might choose a spree of violence, terror and petty crime for a couple of wild nights in August:

Camila Batmanghelidjh, founder of charity Kids Company, talks about “parallel antisocial communities with their own rules” and why some people are so distanced from their own communities they were willing to attack them in “Caring costs – but so do riots”.

Socialist and New Statesman commentator Laurie Penny relates her experience and feelings regarding the riots and relates the feeling on the street to a wider political context in her personal blog.  In her New Statesman blog she more eloquently makes some of the points about the “them and us” rhetoric of our politicians that I have tried to discuss above.

As an FE Teacher blogger Rosamicula has been directly involved with the “unteachable” and expresses here her understanding of the “sense of power” rioters will have experienced, as a contrast to the usual powerlessness of their socio-economic situation.  She challenges my own prejudice about Tory voters(!) in a personal and intelligent description of the people she knows and has known who are of the rioters’ majority demographic. (Hat tip to Elena Cresci for linking to that blogpost)

The Guardian has plenty to say about the events of the past few days but I really like this piece by Zoe Williams as it looks at addressing the “why?” of the riots, in particular one part I have found hard to understand, which is the choice of targeting mid-range high street stores for consumerised looting.  Williams makes many points which I agree with, especially when she notes that government is determined to present these riots as criminality without a political context.  Her use of sociological sources, in particular the comparison with prison riots, is insightful.  I also appreciate her honest statement of her viewpoint as an observer of the riots who, like me, cannot entirely place herself in the shoes of the rioters, or of the government facing them down.

These are my key pieces so far in finding an answer to why these riots happened, and what undercurrent was tapped into after the peaceful protest in Tottenham on the weekend that led to these actions.  It is my opinion that the political context cannot be ignored, as Williams says “just because there is no political agenda on the part of the rioters doesn’t mean the answer isn’t rooted in politics”.  The controversial shooting of Mark Duggan and subsequent attitude from the police seems to have served as the last straw for people who feel that society, and the state, see them as human detritus to be brushed aside and ignored.  I may not know first hand what drives someone to act in a way that is for me unthinkable, but I’m trying to understand.  And in that respect I’m doing far more than our government.