When I was 18, for a Secret Santa I was given a book entitled ‘How to be right; In a P.C. World gone wrong‘ the person I had bought it for me, had done so knowing that I was interested in politics and very argumentative, she had thus – as you should clearly never do – judged a book by it’s cover. The subsequent weeks found me going over this tedious A to Z of tired right wing complaints, ranging from traffic laws being enforced, the necessity of rich people being allowed to engage in dog fighting and the deplorable lack of racial slurs in general society. Whilst I went thought it I added furious annotations to the entries that most annoyed me in angry scrawl. It took a while but I realized why it was this book pissed me off so much, it wasn’t that the entries where overly offensive, or to much to handle. The various blurbs from right wing luvvies described the book as ‘Originally witty’ and ‘a fresh perspective’ on the world, the introduction by the author kept thanking his ‘liberal’ editor for managing to stomach the political incorrectness he was braving flinging around the office; these people had mistaken being reactionary for being subversive and in their childish glee to be naughty schoolchildren again had spent a lot of time explaining to us who radical they are. In short the strange fetish many people seem to have with ‘battling political correctness’ hasn’t just lead to a regressive attitudes, it has in fact – which is worse – made political dialogue so much more boring.
I say boring, because having the same obsessive diatribe about the inability to say the things in public you are currently saying in public is not only a redundancy but a double redundancy which is wasting the time you could be spending talking about actual problems – or literally anything else – instead of equating the fact that the perimeters of generally constitutes polite conversation in most people’s opinion have shifted in the past fifty years, to being taken away by the KGB. This is an odd form of faux rebelliousness in that it seems to have no real focus other than getting upset when someone who isn’t a white male gets ahead in some way; Barack Obama for instance has to have been the result of affirmative action in some way, no one can say merry Christmas any more or even discriminate against gay people in your capacity as a government representative. I wouldn’t mind if these where the beginnings of a discussion about – respectively – Race and democracy, the place of religion in the organs of state and how much leeway someone can be given for their personal discriminating beliefs, but they never are; these are always introduced with the howling charge that leftists are, by covert means attempting fundamentally alter society in way it’s never been before and ending with the conclusion that the traditional values we all hold dear are lost forever with the same unity of the so called free thinkers accuse the other side of.
Most of the Anarchists I know have yelled at me for being annoyed by political incorrectness. As they would “Rather know if someone is a bigot” and “rules against thought are wrong” those are both , in themselves true, and would be relevant to this argument if there where any ‘Political correct’ Laws actually on the books, the closest thing any state in the western world comes to is Hate crime legislation, and even then those are about incidents where actual violence has actually occurred: saying “I think Gay people are Immoral” isn’t a hate crime. Saying “I think gays are immoral and we should go and kill us some” to a baying mob a few blocks from the Castro District is a hate crime for obvious reasons and specifying a hate crime as distinct from a normal murder or assault has very little to do with catering to the sensibilities of liberals and brainwashing conservatives, and has a lot more to do with practicalities. In America for instance, the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (1994) and the Civil rights act (1964) are held up as bastions of political correctness, one protecting a woman’s right to not be blocked getting into family planning clinics, the other criminalizing segregation. The reason they exist is to take the enforcement of the law in the cases of reproductive rights and racism out of jurisdictions where it is unlikely that these particular groups are going to have their rights protected by making these things a federal crime so that far from thought crimes being created, these laws allow actual crimes to be investigated, challenging the small oligarchies that grow up in any small community, best shown in the movie ‘Mississippi burning‘. There are no laws stating that you can be prosecuted for thinking homophobic things, you can be prosecuted for impacting someone else s life if you utilize your bigotry in an official capacity in say the position of a judge or police officer, but it’s not as though this has greatly impacted the inherent racism of the justice and policing system in both Britain and America, that being because, despite the consistent whining from this particular group; Rich White men still run the show, and when we pretend otherwise we are just chasing shadows.
The consistent need by the right wing chattering classes to pump out the idea that treating people fairly is at it’s core, a plot to make society boring and bland is itself a boring and bland statement, creating a whole new political correctness of the politically incorrect, based on tedious projection; someone can’t be not homophobic because they don’t want to be, it must be out of fear of the gay lobby, all white people hate all black people and the ones who say so are just not lying to themselves, all men secretly resent women in the workforce, and all women, when their true to themselves, want to be coddled and patronized like a housewife from the 1950s. Apart from sounding incredibly stressful to keep up with, this world the media of the right has created sounds incredibly boring, what is generally called ‘political correctness’ is essentially not being weird about other people being different to you, which once you get over the fact that not everyone is like you, you can have some conversations that aren’t necessarily about how everyone is so sensitive about they way you talk about them. Because if we don’t get over it, and we keep listening to people who say that non-bigots are just guilt ridden idiots who want to protect everyone’s feelings then we’ll start to believe it and people who aren’t mental will think books like ‘How to be right, in a PC world gone wrong‘ will seem intelligent. Which will, anyone who has read the book will agree, will be a sad, dull day.
For the past week everyone I know has been incredibly happy that Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum has dropped out of the republican presidential race, leaving a boring and apparently moderate man who 2% of the American electorate think is called “Mittens” to pick up the nomination. They’ve been doing this out of a sense of state pride as Pennsylvania’s most embarrassing son has now stepped out of the political lime light for the time being at least. The only exceptions to this has been my Father-In-Law and my Wife who wanted Rick to go onto Tampa – a move that would have ultimately destroyed the G.O.P.’s chances this November. I however think both of these reactions are wrong; The republicans including moderates should have voted for Ricky, and ultimately given him the nomination for the same reason you need to take so much heroine, that you vomit on yourself in front of your niece on Christmas eve so you can see the true depravity of your addiction: an Insidious disease needs to get worse before it can get better.
The central tenant of Rick’s pitch to republicans ultimately correct – Moderate republicans don’t get elected, and haven’t done since Eisenhower: this is generally viewed as proof that America is a Right wing country who only votes for people like Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Cater, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama for superficial reasons that don’t need to be looked into. In fact what has happened is of the American right’s own making. Ever Since It stated utilizing the Evangelist Christian movement in the 1980 Election – a hitherto untapped market – the Republican Party, far from being able to control and moderate it as one would have assumed from a political party’s reaction to a religious movement became more and more reliant on the Evangelical baptist market, believing it to be the largest single bloc in American political life, rejecting all the Bob Doles and John McCains the less intensely religious wing of the party had to offer.
It is this rejection of relatively moderate republicans as ‘Republicans In Name Only’, and pushing home the idea of ‘True conservatives’ in the role of the far right white knight, the republican party has done an odd thing; they have taken a philosophy which historically has stood for moderating progress to make sure that progress Is right into a virulent ideology. Gone is the willingness to build a coalition with those from the center and as a result have boxed themselves into a world where criminalizing miscarriages seem like a good idea. This wouldn’t matter as much if tribal voting was less of a fact in modern American politics; a fact that accounts for the fact that ‘Conservatives’ are the single largest political group, even though a majority of Americans believe Gay Marriage should be legal and that taxes aren’t too high. In a large number of cases it’s not the actual ideas of the party that hold the GOP together, rather the self image that has built up around it. This self image is as outsiders but also speaking for the majority, this idea of self means that If Romney does win, it will almost certainly be attributed to the Republican party speaking for the oppressed masses who apparently want Doctors to lie to their patients in a clinic that has nothing to do with planned parenthood, but if he looses it will attributed to the alleged moderate nature of Mittens and his Massachusetts team resetting the cycle for 2016, where otherwise normal human beings will state that they are not concerned about the very poor and don’t believe in women’s health.
The only way to break this cycle of self assured fleeing to the right is to actually field an indisputably far right candidate. Someone who has publicly stated that men forcibly impregnating a woman is a gift, that current gay marriages would be nullified and that expanding education opportunities is an act of snobbery. To actually run a candidate who sincerely says these things and is widely regarded to be getting ready to act on them to the point that they have to try to play down their near psychopathic right wing ideas, as Goldwater had to in his disastrous 1964 bid for the presidency. My Democratic friends seem much more relaxed about Mittens, as he gives off an air of a cynical Yes man, this relaxation will be construed by republicans as proof of Romney’s insidious liberalism, and so thus continual resistance to the final realization of what it is the republican party is actually doing with itself is delayed for yet another election cycle. This is less advice to help the republicans win and more a hope that the country I now live in might one day have a kinder and more considerate public dialogue. So if you are a republican, or living in an open primary state, don’t vote for the centrist I the hopes of dragging the American right away from the abyss, go hard right to push them ever closer to their moment of clarity. Because it’s to late for the G.O.P. to be reasoned with, they need to get worse, before they can get better.
For Harry, England, and a severely underdeveloped national identity: Why I won’t be celebrating St George’s DayPosted: April 14, 2012
Whilst getting ready to have my fingerprints taken by U.S. Immigration yesterday, I listened to an episode of ‘Objective‘. For those not in the know, ‘Objective’ is a radio program in which comedian Richard Herring deconstructs seemingly objectionable symbols to see if they can be recovered for normal people – this particular episode was about the English Flag, and its use by far right groups. Whilst I was listening to it, I realized that April the 23rd will be the first Saint George’s day I will spend outside of England, and that I don’t especially care. This isn’t because I’m a super Anti-nationalist; the English national day – the Anglo-Saxon equivalent to Saint Patrick’s day – is generally ignored by the people it apparently celebrates. Those who take part in English Celebrations generally can’t explain what it is their celebrating other than that ineffable entity “Englishness”, talking about “Fairness” which apparently no culture ever has thought of, queuing, which is less of a value and more of a serving requirement, and “Tradition” which will always involve talking about the Monarchy as though being born into a rich family and reading what the prime Minister has written for you every October is either an achievement or something the whole nation is involved in. The idea of these things as uniquely English has never really stood up against any outside scrutiny that I’m aware of; for example, my American wife continually makes fun of the fact that a Pringles campaign of “Great British Flavors” features “Salt & Pepper” as though that particular combination of rare spices is and has always been enjoyed by the inhabitants of one small European island. The fact of the matter is that the English, unlike any other nationality on earth, seem to have no idea what they’re about.
My general experience of how English people are supposed to see themselves is calm, collected and grown up enough to not have to bother with flights of nationalistic fancy, viewing other nations who do partake in flag waving and cultural celebrations as somewhat petty, as we – the English – are the most accepting, most tolerant group of people in the world, demonstrated by the fact that we have annexed three other countries and then, taught the world how to build trains and play cricket before resigning ourselves to allowing all the other childish nations of the earth their special day to let them think, if just for one day, that they’re nearly as good as us. A strangely arrogant impression of the world expressed probably most vehemently by the mediocre historianesqe TV personality, David Starkey, and explained correctly by the significantly more competent actual historian, Michel Fry.
This attitude is ingrained in my parents’ generation and almost certainly in my grandparents’, and is so probably because of the empire. Unlike America, or France or any nation on earth you care to name, English culture as we know it today grew up as that of the primary nation on earth. From 1763 to at least the middle of the 1920s the British state was the most powerful, most domineering and most successful world power, which meant we didn’t have to define ourselves as we were the benchmark against which all other nations where judged. Shakespeare is apparently the greatest playwright In the world, Anglo-Saxon common law is supposedly the best legal system and the Germanic Latin pyratical dialect people began speaking in the East Anglia marshes fifteen hundred years ago is the world’s most widely spoken language. Our ancestors did such an amazing job of creating the world in our image, we, their decedents, have been left with a somewhat vestigial idea of who exactly we are. When I looked up the rest of the flavors Pringles were offering as “Great British Flavors,” I found out the other three are “Smoky Bacon,” “Curry,” and “Kebab.” Bacon as a food is incredibly universal within the western world and if I had to pick a country for it to specifically belong to it would probably think of America or Germany as more into pork than the English. Curry and Kebabs begin touted as ‘English’ or ‘British’ is obviously strange to an outsider but to an English person, just obvious. Both these dishes are as much part of the English way of life as Sunday roasts, and definitely more so than the Queen, or the Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race, or any other silly thing we’re supposed to think of when we say “England.” These things haven’t simply been appropriated, they’ve been altered into wholly new things – Chicken Tikka Masala as most westerners would know it was invented to cater to the English, and the Donner Kebab is almost certainly the most popular drunk food in Britain today, just as Dried fruit is the staple of an English christmas because it’s way people in the middle east preserve food. Not to mention the fact that Saint George was a Palestinian who fought for the Roman Empire and is celebrated as patron saint of, amongst others, Georgia, Egypt, Catalonia, Greece, India, Palestine, Ukraine, Beirut, Rio de Janero, Moscow, Qormi and Serbia. In many ways, I feel the way Four flavors Pringles uses “British” sums up what English culture has become: Half universal, half piratical.
Not to suggest that English culture is somehow a multicultural paradise in which we’ve learnt the lessons of Empire and managed to balance the mingling of cultures with the respect they all deserve though I’m sure a lot of people In England would like to think that. The lack of what can be tangibly be called ‘English’ apart from killing Welsh people and drinking room temperature ale didn’t used to matter because we were what everyone else has to accommodate themselves for; but now, in the post colonial world it’s meant that unlike almost every other country In the world – who had to define themselves to become countries – any overt nationalistic feelings we have are necessarily reactive. A case in point would be the English Democrats who include in their Mission statement:
“The English Democrats believe in standing up for what made England great. We believe that by putting our people first and by making sure that England is more than just a cash cow for other parts of the UK and Europe, we can once again by the country which is the envy of the world.”
I sympathise with the goal of the English Democrats – that being to devolve power to the English in the same way it has been to the Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish – but I still don’t understand what they see as the core of Englishness beyond not being Celtic or French and that we used to run the world; these things in themselves are trappings of the English Aristocracy and they are the ones who can point to India, South Africa, Canada and Australia and say their ancestors had a role in creating what those countries are today. For the Majority of English people, our identity has been shaped by our industrial instead of our imperialist past and with both gone the English are unique in other post imperialist, post industrial European nations by having nothing else we can truly call our own. We have no alternative to the Bagpipes, or Kilts, which is probably why we’re all so bitter about Scottish Nationalism – at least their nationalist movement is a positive one.
I won’t be celebrating St George’s Day on the 23rd of April, not just because I’m in another country, or that I’m a right on lefty, or even that I think the holiday’s been taken over particularly by racists or that I necessarily think that England’s day in the sun is over. I won’t be celebrating because I have no idea what a Saint George’s day celebration would entail and I don’t think English nationalists do either. And until they can define to us what it is we should be proud and unified about, The Confused and the reactionary will always be the most prominent voices promoting “English” culture.