Friday, 10 July 2020

The school that tried to end racism where it didn't exist

(This piece was originally published on the Conservative Woman website on July 9th 2020.)

I recently watched the baffling and infuriating two-part Channel 4 documentary, ‘The school that tried to end racism’. From the trailer and the fact that it was being aired on Channel 4, I took a wild guess that there would be very little racism that needed eradicating in the school. Sure enough, from the very start C4 excelled in meeting my low expectations.

The show introduced us to a year seven group of multi-ethnic 11-year-olds who mixed freely and stated that they don’t care about ethnicity or skin colour and that they see everyone as equal. Nothing to see here, you might conclude, but as we were about to learn, not caring about skin colour is in itself a form of racism. Clearly, these little bigots were in need of some serious moral instruction to help them overcome the racism they couldn’t see in here to read on.

Monday, 25 May 2020

Why a Sinn Fein government would churn the stomach of many people in Ireland

In the Sunday Independent on 24th May 2020, Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald stated that IRA terrorism was 'justified.' During the IRA's terror campaign, Sinn Fein were the minority nationalist party in Northern Ireland. In the Republic they had minuscule support and were viewed as pariahs by most of the population. Sinn Fein like to portray themselves as the most patriotic party in Ireland, but how can they really claim to love their country when for most of their history they defied the will of the people? Mary Lou McDonald's defence of the Provisional IRA is a repudiation of the democratic wishes of the Irish people, north and south, nationalist and unionist during the Troubles. Along with supporters of loyalist terror organisations, Mary Lou McDonald takes the side of an organisation that held the views and wishes of the majority on this island in utter contempt. So much for their unity aspirations. As someone with family in both the unionist and nationalist communities, I prefer the kind of unity that brings people together rather than blowing them apart.

Anyway, here is just a short excerpt from the litany of atrocities that were part of the terrorist campaign that was 'justified' according to Mary Lou McDonald:

-April 1981:The murder of 29 year old mother & census collector Joanne Mathers for the 'crime' of collecting forms.

-November 1974: Birmingham Pub Bombings. 21 dead. 182 injured. 
The police and emergency services were greeted with the mutilated corpses and body parts of young pub goers strewn all over the wreckage of the Mulberry Bush and Tavern in the Town.

-June 1996: Murder of  Garda Detective Jerry McCabe in attempted IRA robbery of post office van delivering cash in County Limerick.

-March 1972: Abercorn Restaurant bombing. 2 dead. 130 injured. 
Bomb explodes on a Saturday afternoon in a packed Belfast restaurant popular with women and children from both communities. Two young Catholic women, Anne Owens 22, and Janet Bereen 21, are killed outright. Of the injured many were severely maimed. Injuries included, limbs blown off in the blast, eyes gouged out from flying glass, facial disfigurements and life long psychological trauma. The IRA initially denied responsibility, but former IRA members have confirmed to journalist Ed Moloney that the IRA carried out the attack as the Abercorn was frequented by off duty soldiers.

-April 1984: Murder of Mary Travers. The Travers family were on their way to church when the IRA ambushed them and attempted to murder their father, Thomas Travers, a Catholic magistrate, who they shot six times in the attack.  He survived and in a 1994 letter to the Irish Times had this to say:

"Mary's murder was carried out by a member of an evil and brutal criminal organisation. Some of her killers were members of the murder machine, self-named Provisional IRA. At least one was a member of political Sinn Féin... May I say that on the day my lovely daughter was murdered her killer tried to murder my darling wife also. At that time Mary lay dying on her mum's breast, her gentle heart pouring its pure blood on to a dusty street in Belfast. The murderer's gun, which was pointed at my wife's head, misfired twice. Another gunman shot me six times. As he prepared to fire the first shot I saw the look of hatred on his face, a face I will never forget."

June 1990: Murder of 65 year old retired RUC officer Jim Sefton. IRA place booby trap bomb in the elderly man's car, killing him and critically injuring his wife.

These are just a few snippets of the IRA's terror campaign across these islands. Let's not forget the kangaroo courts and the summary executions of suspected informers, including a child with learning difficulties. Of course, Republicans will continue to try and justify the IRA terror campaign because of high profile atrocities committed by a small number of state forces on incidents like Bloody Sunday. How can Republicans justify responding to the killing of civilians with the killing of significantly far more civilians than rogue elements within state forces were ever involved in? As moderate nationalist politicians pointed out, the IRA assumed this role and authority for themselves in defiance of the majority of people in the nationalist community in Northern Ireland. Irish Republicans are trying to rewrite Northern Ireland's history and paint the IRA and their supporters as a minority facing oppression when the truth is they were one of a number of terrorist organisations oppressing the majority.

If former Prime Minister David Cameron can stand up in the House of Commons and condemn the killings of civilians on Bloody Sunday why can't Mary Lou McDonald now unequivocally condemn IRA terrorism? The British state has held its hands up and admitted there were times its forces acted reprehensibly. It has apologised and admitted wrongdoing.  How can Sinn Fein, whose armed wing were responsible for a significantly greater number of civilian deaths than the state, including against nationalists, still claim their campaign was in any way justified? Aside from their murders of civilians, their attacks on the security forces in both jurisdictions of these islands were also reprehensible and devoid of any democratic mandate.

In 2002, the IRA issued an attempt at an apology for the civilian deaths it caused in which they laughably claimed they didn't intend to kill civilians.While some of their members may have not, I'm sure the families of Joanne Mathers, Mary Travers, Brighton, Enniskillen, La Mons et cetera et cetera, might have a very different view on that issue. Meanwhile, they hypocritically campaign for prosecutions of former soldiers for alleged crimes while convicted IRA murderers remain free under the Good Friday Agreement.

Sinn Fein's surge in support in the Republic of Ireland has come largely from younger voters who have no memory or knowledge of the reality of IRA violence. They have been hoodwinked by Sinn Fein's woke virtue signalling and promises of an economic utopia in tiocfaidh ar la la land. Sadly, there are some too, who would have opposed Sinn Fein and the Provisional IRA during the troubles, but in recent years have fallen for Sinn Fein propaganda that they were merely responding to state oppression. If Sinn Fein ever take the reigns of power in the Republic of Ireland they will attempt to rewrite Irish history and give retrospective sanction at state level to a terrorist organisation that murdered 1696 individuals across these islands, almost half of whom were civilians. To say this would be stomach churning to the vast majority of the electorate who rejected Sinn Fein at the recent election is an understatement.

Tuesday, 19 May 2020

The Virus Times: 'I was looking for a job and then I found a job....'

Recently, I was talking to a friend via Facebook messenger about the benefits of going straight in to work after school or gaining a trade as opposed to going to university. My friend left school and trained to be a chef and bought his first house in his early twenties, just as I was entering university as a mature student in my mid twenties. Since university, my politics degree and master's have been of no assistance in helping me develop a decent career despite my best efforts. For several weeks after that conversation, whenever I went on Facebook I was bombarded by advertisements for degrees in politics at several universities. Fantastic! I am now being trolled and taunted by my own social media account I thought to myself.

After graduating with my master's and a nice chunk of debt, I offered my labour for free, on a part time basis in several sectors, in order to gain valuable experience while also holding down a full time job. However, I discovered that those working for nothing opportunities were highly competitive, and mostly went to people who had the resources or support to do them on a full time basis. Those were the days when I was on the extreme far left politically, and so I blamed capitalism for my situation. Now that my politics have altered considerably, I see that the damage done to my employment prospects was a combination of my own poor decision making, along with the career interests of the mostly left wing academics that taught me, who it suited not to mention the limited opportunities that would come from the degrees they were teaching.

Is it any wonder that a growing number of middle class graduates have become easily deceived by the specious allure of the far left? In order for capitalism to perpetuate itself in a stable manner, it needs to ensure the vast majority of people have acquired a stake in the system. Having large numbers of people leaving university with degrees that don't enhance their employment prospects is detrimental to the needs of the economy and undermines social cohesion. However, the even more disturbing part is that many of these disgruntled graduates and post graduates take no responsibility for their poor educational choices. Instead, they blame the rotten capitalist system for having little demand for the talents of someone who did a research master's on the representation of non-binary identities within the Scottish transgender poetry scene of the late Victorian era. Is it any wonder then, that when Corbyn's grievance driven politics met the frustrated and unfulfilled ambitions and sense of entitlement of many university graduates it was love at first sight?

Ever since I completed university, my lack of an even average salaried job has been the source of much stress and frustration. However, today I take responsibility for my predicament instead of blaming capitalism. While I have been in employment for most of the time, it has largely been in areas not commensurate with my education and not very well paid. Spiraling rents in cities have seen me move numerous times, more often not out of choice. Ironically, one of the most frustrating jobs I've ever done led to a degree of success as a writer. In October of last year, I very reluctantly returned from Britain to Ireland after a spell of temporary agency work had dried up. I was unable to obtain anything more secure despite my efforts, and my hopes of my fiance joining me and setting up a home in Britain came to an abrupt end for the time being. It was a stressful period.

However, since the corona virus lock down my attitude has completely changed. Now, that millions of people are on the dole across these islands I no longer feel like such an under achiever. The week before the lock down, I was offered two not very interesting or well paid jobs. Morrisey knew what he was talking about. I wasn't too enthused by either offer, but I needed an income and I've always had the you just have to get on with things mentality, even if I bitch and moan a bit as I am getting on with things. Technically, some may argue that bitching and moaning nullifies the extent to which you are getting on with things, but let's not get hung up on semantics. Anyway, I was about to start one of the jobs, but due to the lock down the offer was rescinded at the last minute. Instead of dwelling on this setback, I have been taking the advice of some friends on Facebook to focus on what I am grateful for in order to bolster myself psychologically. I had contemplated turning to heroin instead, but I recently re-watched Trainspotting and it put me right off. Taking up being grateful looks like a lot less hassle in the long run and you also get to keep your teeth.

Joking aside, when I see the suffering and loss, both personal and financial, others are experiencing due to Covid-19, I don't have much to complain about. Suddenly, not having a great career that I am worried I may lose or a house whose mortgage I might no longer be able to pay is actually beneficial to my mental well-being. Who would have ever thought that having nothing to show for myself would pay off? Not living up to my full potential is actually a blessing at the moment, or maybe my problem has always been that I have an exaggerated understanding of my own abilities, and it is possible I actually exceeded my potential many years ago. Dear lord, now that's a deflating thought. Wait a minute, I thought this gratitude malarkey was supposed to make me feel better?

Friday, 17 April 2020

The Virus Times: How I'm staying fit as I binge watch my way through the apocalypse

I've always worried that the collapse of capitalism would involve mass looting and marauding gangs raping and pillaging their way through detritus strewn streets. I never would have expected that it would involve grappling with such dilemmas as, will I re-watch season one of the brilliant Netflix drama Ozark in one sitting, or stretch it out over the week. Honestly, I thought by now I would be swinging my tattooed neighbour around by his nipple piercings in a fight to the death over the last can of beans in one of our cupboards. I was talking to a cousin the other week who told me she was doing a lot of home repair at the moment. She said she expected the apocalypse to be a lot more interesting than walking your dog more and catching up on DIY.

While I'm watching more TV than in normal times, I'm aware of the dangers of turning in to a couch potato and so have increased the amount of exercise I'm doing. This week, I've even taken up teaching myself yoga via YouTube. I've been aware for some years that yoga has a lot of physical health benefits. Unfortunately though, it does attract a fair few guru types with a spiritual superiority complex who tend to be on the woke side of the political spectrum. I know this from having had the misfortune to attend a few hot yoga sessions in Brighton about eleven years ago. Hot yoga, for those of you who don't know, is basically yoga with heated air pumped through the room. It has nothing to do with the sexual allure of the instructor, as I found out when I attended my first class hoping to be acquainted with a Christine Hendricks lookalike in leggings, but instead got a sweaty male instructor with a messiah complex in his late thirties. He was insistent that he was a divine being, he emphasised this a lot, and that we could come to know God through yoga, like he claimed he had. For a divine being he was very clammy and lacked humility. He was none too impressed when I told him I would just be happy with the stretching. Anyway, the YouTube tutor is nothing like that, after his short tutorial I just feel very stretched, in a good way, but I am not sure if I am doing it right because I am not feeling smug like some of those people at that hot yoga class.

Apart from the exercise, yoga, reading and binge watching boxsets, there's not much else to do when you aren't allowed to go two kilometres beyond your house. I'm going to have to be imaginative in finding new ways to pass the time.  I might ring a family member or a friend and bring up some long since buried grievance and see how well it would go down today. I will keep you all posted.

Thursday, 9 April 2020

The Virus Times: The bizarre appeal of David Icke explained

The popular conspiracy theorist David Icke is claiming that Covid 19 doesn't exist and that the symptoms are caused by 5G wireless mobile technology in an attempt by globalist elites to exert authoritarian control over the citizens of the world. With over eight hundred and nineteen thousand Youtube subscribers and two hundred and fifty seven thousand followers on Twitter, it is worryingly evident that many people take him seriously. I suspect that Icke himself believes the theories that he promulgates. Of course, it is possible he is knowingly lying, but I think not. His apparent self belief is what makes him even more enchanting to those who are desperate for some unifying theory on how the world functions and our place in it. The passionate convictions and eloquence of any preacher form part of the charisma through which followers are drawn.

However, Icke's charismatic and seemingly deeply held beliefs are only part of his appeal to so many people. This is particularly true with his more recent theories in which he doesn't build on his previous claims that he is the son of God, or that the world's leaders are inter-dimensional shape shifting reptiles. He has probably realised himself that in trying to win over new converts he should probably omit the bits about our lizard over lords until last.

More recently, it is the manner in which Icke weaves many morsels of truth with wild conjecture to arrive at specious conclusions that draws so many otherwise intelligent people to at least give him a hearing. For example, Icke is one of many people, including foreign policy analysts and civil liberty campaigners, who rightly point out that 5G wireless technology can be used by both corporations and states to infringe on personal freedoms by creating a mass surveillance society. This is exactly what is going on in China as we speak. There are also many leading economists, journalists and academics, who as well as Icke, offer legitimate criticisms and raise valid concerns about the long term economic effects of fully locking down society for an extended period of time.

It is by taking these morsels of truth and legitimate criticisms of government policies that Icke gains new converts to his absurd world view. For those of you who fall in to this category, let me put several points to you. Firstly, if the Corona virus was a hoax concocted by a globalist elite, in order for it to be pulled off, it would require large swathes of the medical community from lab assistants, medical researchers, infectious disease specialists, hospital consultants etc. etc to be involved, not too mention a large swathe of other government staff in every country and members of various international bodies. How likely do you think it would be that all of these people who were asked to be complicit in a hoax that covered up the real reasons for purported Corona virus deaths would either agree to it or keep quiet about it? This is so self evident I can't believe I even need to type it out.

Finally, who do you think is more likely to offer credible theories on the origins of the Corona virus? The medical and scientific community, or a man who believes it is a hoax led by inter-dimensional shape shifting lizards, who when in human form comprise the global elite that are determined to usher in a totalitarian global state. If you believe the latter then maybe you've been inhaling too many chemtrails and going heavy on the fluoridated water.

Monday, 6 April 2020

The Virus Times: Stuck in the moment with you

A few years back, I went through a phase of being a tad over zealous about the benefits of 'mindfulness' meditation. At the time, I was trying to stay focused on life in the moment because reflecting excessively on a history of not so glorious past moments that led up to the present was too much to bear. One friend who rang me to discuss her very fragile mental health, rejected my advice to sit quietly in a room and focus on her breathing to get her in touch with the now. She sardonically suggested that being aware that she was breathing in the here and now was the problem to begin with. Who was I to tell her to focus on life in the moment when her moments were full of pain and suffering? Ironically, my own focus on living in the present was preventing me from taking an honest look at how my behaviour and decision making affected others in the past, present and possible future, not to mention myself.

My friend didn't want to accept the here and now warts and all. She wanted the hope of a not too distant contented future. All I had to offer her were the trite aphorisms of watered down Buddhism and evenings of sitting alone in a room listening to the sound of her breath as she drifted in and out of suicidal ideation. As nice and all as Buddhists tend to be, it's no wonder they have far fewer converts than Christianity and Islam. The Christians tell you that you can cash in a life of suffering for eternal paradise and the Muslims offer you, the males anyway, an after life of orgies, which surprisingly appeals to quite a few men. An eternity of group sex wouldn't do it for me. It all sounds a bit too clammy and noisy and team work isn't one of my strengths. Who knows what female Muslims get in this imagined after life? A better deal would be a good start. Celestial orgies and eternal paradise versus the Buddhist maxim that life is suffering and the best you can hope for is being blissed out trying not to think about it like some kind of aspiring simpleton. While I tend to agree with the Buddhists, it's a terrible marketing strategy.

All that said, mindfulness has its salutary effects. While not a panacea for all of life's woes, slowing one's breathing down and watching what one is immediately conscious of does have a calming effect. There are free lessons on you tube or you can learn it from a book. It's simple and you don't need any self proclaimed guru types to bestow their pseudo-wisdom on you. However, life in the Covid-19 era feels like we are living through a period of enforced mindfulness. We are encouraged in every moment to be acutely aware to keep out of each other's paths as if we are all dog turds that no one wants to tread on. And you thought you were special?

One thing I will say in defence of Covid-19, is that nothing gives life a sense of immediacy more than trying to dodge an ever present infectious disease. Not only am I intensely conscious of my own breathing as I gasp like a neurotic Darth Vader in my medical mask in the queue outside Tesco, but I am also hyper perceptive to any one else breathing within two metres of me. Once inside the shop, I am then immediately aware that the shopping basket handles need to be sanitised with one of my alcohol based wipes, just in case the last person to use it filled it with nothing but croutons to go with his vat of bat soup simmering on the stove at home. When this is all over we will never be able to tell people with contamination based OCD that it's all in their heads ever again.

Monday, 30 March 2020

The Virus Times: An admirable act of recklessness

While out for my state sanctioned stroll on Sunday I walked past my local Boots, which in non-pandemic times would be in the busy shopping area of the town. On the other side of the street I saw a solitary elderly man trudging past with a walking stick. With his other hand he was eating what looked like a Magnum ice cream. I watched as he ploughed headlong in to the cold bitter wind, a reminder that winter's sting still lingered. He appeared completely absorbed in the pleasure of eating an ice cream, as if it was the only moment that ever existed. Someone should tell the Buddhists you can reach enlightenment via frozen desserts. He seemed oblivious to the altered social landscape around him. Had he not read of the medical advice for the over seventies to cocoon themselves? Why would such a feeble man take such a risk just to buy dessert?

Now, while I agree that the elderly should quarantine themselves and that this man was somewhat reckless with his well being, I couldn't help but think there might be other factors to consider before passing too harsh a judgment. The fact that such a frail old man was out walking to the shops indicated that he might live alone. If he had any grown up children maybe they lived far away and so there was no one to pick things up for him. Perhaps his daily walk to the service station and a few warm words with the staff while he grabs a newspaper and some confectionery is the only bit of human contact he has since his wife died. He is probably aware that death is something he will most likely face sooner rather than later, with or without contracting Covid-19, and that he has no intention of surrendering his daily pleasures until the grim reaper drags him from this world sucking on a double caramel Magnum.

So, was he reckless and irresponsible? Yes. However, there was also something admirable about this old man refusing to surrender his last morsel of autonomy. Watching him bent over on his walking stick, struggling forward in to the harsh wind as he enjoyed his ice cream reminded me of one of those gnarled and wizened trees you see in a stark landscape that lunges defiantly and indomitably against the elements. Only weeks ago as I rushed about with my busy life I don't think I would have noticed an old man eating an ice cream. Now in the eerie stillness of the Covid-19 era all of life is perceptible.