Tag Archives: discrimination

Ode to Osama

In the wake of the recent Kenyan shopping centre attack, much opprobrium centred on the alleged role of a 29-year old British woman, Samantha Lewthwaite, or ‘The White Widow’, the somewhat derivative but admittedly catchy sobriquet bestowed on her. Lewthwaite was married to 7 July 2005 suicide bomber Germaine Lindsay, and is currently wanted by Interpol in relation to suspected terrorist activity.

After raiding her house in Mombasa, Kenya recently, detectives found a laptop that betrayed a long history of research into chemicals and bomb making. They also found a 34-line elegiac poem to the deceased al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, the full text of which can be found here.

This fulsome ode in honour of a murderous terrorist has, unsurprisingly, outraged Britain’s conservative media. As a response, and in order to evoke the average Briton’s take on such an unpalatable affair, the Daily Mail recently organised its own poetry compilation, accepting submissions from ordinary people around the country on the subjects of bin Laden, religious extremism, and modern, multicultural Britain.

Below is an extract from the collection of poems, with observations by the renowned Mail columnist Richard LittleEngland, an effusive, outspoken commentator known for his traditional values and moral fortitude.

~

Hello, and welcome to the inaugural Daily Mail poetry compendium. We’ve been inundated with responses from people who love their country and their way of life. Reading your entries has made me even prouder than usual to be British. Below is just a small flavour of the poems we’ve received, with brief analysis from yours truly, Richard LittleEngland.

(P.S. Don’t forget, my new book, No Thanks, We’re Full: The Real ‘Big Issue’ of Our Time is available to buy in all good bookshops from next Monday.)

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There once was a menacing sheikh
Who had the inordinate cheek
To proclaim his disdain
With a couple of planes
But the Yanks put an end to his clique

Trevor, Middlesex

Excellent work, Trevor. He was a cheeky old sod alright, wasn’t he? I always think of limericks as the lost art form.

~

Go home ragheads,
We don’t want you here
20 quid to the airport?
I’ll get a white driver next time
But I still like curry

John, Barnsley

Well…that’s a courageous use of the free verse technique John, I’ll give you that. Moving on…

~

The fire of Islam
Hot embers slip through the grate
It’s smoky in here

Quentin, Cambridge

Nice haiku, Quentin. A bit highbrow though, don’t you think? Try not to show off so much.

~

The boy from Riyadh, a gun in his hand,
Knew no other course but that of martyr
The infidel had raped his land,
From ancient Maghreb to modern Jakarta

Armed by those he wished to destroy,
He held his hand and played their pawn
Within him burned a latent ploy,
He would enact before the dawn

And on young minds his words did prey,
His lecture holding them in thrall
Until he sent them on their way,
As New York summer turned to fall

But monsters thus are never born,
And not for nothing was his scorn

Rob, Edinburgh

Eh, I think you’ve missed the point here Rob. Don’t you love your country? Or are you a Communist? Come on people, let’s get back on message…

~

Muslims in my corner shop,
Muslims on my street
Muslims wearing silly dresses,
Muslims in bare feet
Muslims taking all our jobs,
Muslims on the social,
Muslims fucking everywhere,
Muslims by the bowlful,
Muslims.

Lee, Bradford

Great stuff Lee, that’s more like it. I especially liked the part about the Muslims.

~

Whence this veiled threat?
Kabul? Khartoum? Or simply Kaboom?

East, West, Yin or Yang?
Josiah, Sharia, Qu’ran or Kerrang?

We offend the effendi,
A jihad he had

Fat chance a fatwa
From distant Islamabad

Will Allah wither
Or whither Allah?

Sunni or Sunnah
In sunny Caliphornia?

Stephen, London

Eh…it’s a bit esoteric, isn’t it Steve? That’s not even how you spell California. You bloody public schoolboys are too clever for your own good. 

~

An angel’s smile is what you sell
You promised me Heaven, then put me through Hell
Chains of love got a hold on me
When passion’s a prison, you can’t break free

Osama, you’re a loaded gun
Osama, there’s nowhere to run
No one can save you
The damage is done

Shot through the heart
And you’re to blame
You gave Islam a bad name (bad name)
I played my part and you played your game
You gave Islam a bad name (bad name)
Yeah, you gave Islam, a bad name

Deborah, Swansea

Bravo Deborah, a tour de force. Although it seems slightly familiar to me, I hope it’s all your own work?

~

And so ends our poetic celebration of Britain. Let this stand as a testament of our resolve in the face of political correctness and multiculturalism gone mad. Join us next week in the Arts and Culture section, when we’ll be seeking submissions of paintings and sculptures that capture the failings of the NHS.

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A Furtive Action

A bill has been passed by the Seanad this past week which, if ratified by the Dáil, will introduce gender quotas into Irish politics. The bill requires either gender to be represented by at least 30% of a party’s candidates in a general election. This is set to be raised to 40% within seven years. Parties that do not comply with these enforced quotas will have their State funding cut significantly.

The Seanad is fairly useless at the best of times, having been invented by Bertie Ahern in the late 90’s purely as an excuse to keep David Norris busy so he’d stop bothering everyone at the water cooler with meandering stories about James Joyce. With this proposed change to electoral practises the upper house shows itself to be embarrassingly antiquated and wholly ignorant of any kind of progressive politics in promoting an absurdly limited and simplistic policy of affirmative action. This pathetic attempt at legislation makes two specious assumptions: firstly, that there is a problem with the present situation and secondly, that this proposal will act as the solution.

Conveniently, this decision by the Seanad came just days after International Women’s Day was celebrated. It is difficult to imagine now of course, but there was a time, before the inaugural Women’s Day, when people could appreciate the achievements of women throughout the whole year, or indeed over the course of some, or even many years. God be with the dark days before tokenistic gestures and patronising nonsense shook some sense into us all.

It should also be pointed out that, seeing as this year has but three hundred and sixty-six days, and that the number of causes worthy of remembrance and adulation far exceeds this figure, the eighth of March was also International Uncles Day, International Adopted Orphans Day, International Raccoon Day, International Cat Day, International Dog Day, International CatDog Day, International Day for International Days of  Commemoration, and International Day for Sentences that Have Gone on Far Too Long Now at This Stage.

One of the most vocal proponents of this new legislation has been the 50/50 Group, which advocates a 50/50 split between men and women in Irish politics by the year 2020. This target is referred to on their website as ‘Equal Political Representation’. Of course anyone with a basic understanding of the word ‘equal’, or even the phrase ‘common sense’, will realise that this situation would be by no means equitable.

Leaving aside for a moment the undemocratic systems that would have to be implemented to force such a ratio (beginning with ridiculous bills like this one), let’s examine the idea of a truly equal and representative political body. Numbers would be split practically down the middle along gender lines, as suggested, but what of the many other divisions within our society? To be truly equal would necessitate a certain amount of black candidates as well as white; Chinese and Polish as well as indigenous Irish; gay, bisexual and transgender as well as straight; candidates chosen to represent different religious beliefs, disabilities, and countless other categories of candidate, all in order to appear ‘equal’.

At the moment there are twenty-five female TDs in the Dáil, as well as 18 female Senators. Many more women ran unsuccessfully in the last election, and even more campaigned to be chosen by their relative parties for the ballot. There have been many mutterings about the reluctance of the patriarchal politicos to nominate female candidates for election within the parties, but this is a matter for the parties themselves. It should come as no surprise to people that stagnant, traditionalist parties like Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are implicitly old-fashioned in their views. Any woman, or man for that matter, who doesn’t want to run for a party with these attitudes is free to run as an independent, or to set up their own party.

Interestingly, the fact that women are in the minority in politics is almost exclusively seen as a negative thing. Certainly when it comes to decision-making on topics of national interest, it is important for women to have their voice heard, but this could be said of any sectional interest group, and is the reason why our politicians are accountable to the constituents that they represent.

But when examining the reasons for such marginal representation in the political sphere, there is an argument for women taking a certain amount of solace, and even pride, in their meagre numbers. Politics is far from the noble service it is made out to be. More often than not, especially on a national scale, it is ego-driven, primitive chest-beating; a cacophony of small men with loud voices, wielding instruments of war and economy like a toddler would his favourite toys. In an Irish context, most politicians fall breathtakingly short of even a veneer of competence in most of their endeavours. Many are educated but few are intelligent. The majority of our representatives essentially comprise an old boys’ club of tired hacks who play out petty squabbles while the rest of us look on with a mixture of sympathy and vague disgust.

Politics is very much the construct of men, embodying and in turn magnifying all of our foibles and weaknesses on a grand stage. If I were one among the supposedly marginalised Irish women, I for one would be heartened by such a stark reality.


Don’t You Know About The Word?

A disability rights campaigner has written an article criticising comedian Ricky Gervais for his use of offensive language on his Twitter page. Personally I find it more offensive that someone of Gervais’s calibre has succumbed to this grammatically bereft conveyor belt of inanity from people who have unlearnt the art of the inner monologue. If texting has become the graveyard of the English language then surely Twitter is the all-consuming hellfire that expunges all manner of syntax, spelling and original thought with its demonic lust for poorly expressed clichés, unashamed product placement and the most profound abuse of the exclamation mark since it was fondled in the copy room by an over-zealous semi-colon at the punctuation Christmas party.

The word that drew the ire of the writer in question is ‘mong’, a word of which Gervais does seem to be quite fond. While the word is basically comparable to ‘idiot’ these days, it does have a history of use as a pejorative term for the disabled. It stems from the Mongoloid classification ascribed to sufferers of Down Syndrome, a term coined by John Langdon Down himself, after whom the condition is named. Down saw similarities in the facial features of his patients and those of the vast ethnic group of Asians labelled simply as Mongolians at the time. Given that the prevailing ethnic theory in those days was something in the region of “White man is God, everyone else is sub-human”, I suppose we can forgive John his appallingly racist choice of nomenclature. Political correctness has since seen the word relegated to a relic of a simpler time, until of course people like Gervais use a derivative of it and somebody takes offence.

The gradient of offence taken at the use of certain terms is interesting. In the above article the author cites the following question from a blogger as the most sensible reaction to Gervais’s use of the word: “Just a thought, but if you think ‘mong’ only means ‘idiot’, why not just use the word ‘idiot’?” I’m sure Ricky does use the word idiot, as we all do quite regularly. In fact one of his shows is called An Idiot Abroad, in which the eponymous idiot travels the globe and does idiotic things. Of course, anyone who is familiar with Dr. Henry H. Goddard’s classification system for mental retardation that was drawn up in the early 1900’s (and who isn’t?) will know that ‘idiot’ is also a term that was used to describe a mental disability. The word was used to describe a person with an IQ of less than 30; ‘imbecile’ and ‘moron’, other words used frequently today, were also terms included in the system.

So why are these words acceptable? Probably because they were used so often that their original connotations were forgotten, something that is likely to also happen with the word mong if it is allowed to proliferate and become part of an everyday lexicon. Censorship and labelling words as offensive do nothing but draw attention to their original meanings, which would otherwise become unimportant as the word evolves. People from older generations may be shocked to hear young people calling each other ‘retards’ or ‘faggots’ but the fact is that these insults are used in a completely new context, for the most part. It is only on the rare occasions that they are used vindictively in relation to disability or sexual orientation that the debate over their use becomes complicated, and any offence taken can be fully warranted.

Inevitably this episode has raised the issue of censorship of comedians, specifically the question of what, if anything, should be a taboo subject where comedy is concerned. I would be of the opinion that everything is available for parody as long as it’s more funny than it is offensive. Whether it’s religion, race, disability or whatever, by all means use the subject for comedy if you can make it funny. People don’t have a divine right not to be offended and they can simply ignore any comedy that doesn’t appeal to their sensibilities. Any hateful comments masquerading as comedy that simply target these groups or individuals won’t be funny, and are therefore just offensive. There’s a not-so-fine line between the brave, intelligent satire of someone like Louis CK, and the brazen, wilfully ignorant bleatings of the likes of Jim Davidson.

As for words like mong that still upset certain people, hopefully their original meanings will become obsolete with continued use. At this stage as a society we should have moved past the point of mere words being allowed to cause any kind of distress, no matter what their connotations are. Or maybe we’ll always have certain words whose ability to insult and injure is inescapable. Perhaps some of today’s nondescript words will one day be regarded as insults of the highest order. ‘Bieber’ may yet become an outrageously inappropriate slur hurled at simple young men with learning difficulties. The term ‘Glee’ will be used to taunt roving gangs of homosexuals. But worst of all, people whose opinions, and indeed existence, are deemed to be entirely irrelevant will forever be known as ‘Tweeters’. I’d take mong over that any day.


Sanctimony of Marriage

A few weeks ago an article appeared in The Irish Times concerning the treatment by Iarnród Éireann staff of a same-sex couple on their way home from a march supporting gay marriage. The relevant details are in the link provided, but the situation can be summed up in the succinct reply the men were given when they protested their case: “Irish Rail doesn’t recognise same-sex marriage.” How admirable of such an organisation to step out of their remit of having people driven around in trains and branch into holding strong opinions on weighty moral and societal issues. Obviously the company does, however, recognise a PR disaster when they see one as they were quick to issue an apology.

Gay marriage is quite a contentious issue at the moment. New York officially legalised it this year, and there is currently an ongoing debate in Australia after the gay brother of politician Bob Katter criticised his sibling’s remark that gay marriage “deserves to be laughed at and ridiculed.” It’s quite impressive that a hick Australian politician can find the time to sneer at the idea of same-sex unions in between asserting that Muslim immigrants are ruining the country and complaining that Aborigines get preferential treatment. Incidentally Katter also refutes climate change, and admits to throwing eggs at The Beatles in 1964 as an act of ‘intellectual reaction against Beatlemania’. Indeed.  It’s people like him that make you sorry we didn’t find somewhere even more remote to send all of our criminals back in the day.

The usual argument against allowing same-sex marriage is that the sanctity of marriage must be protected. Marriage is the union of a man and a woman and exists mainly for the purpose of procreation, so they say. This of course ignores couples who can’t, or simply choose not to have children, and conveniently glosses over single-parent families, as well as the sheer amount of straight couples that are truly awful parents. Procreating is easy, it’s the next part that requires a bit of effort.

There is also the slightly more pressing matter of our planet being hugely overpopulated. In a hundred years time there’ll be 9 billion of us perched on the only mountain-top that hasn’t slipped underwater, huddled around watching the world’s last drops of oil burn away, cursing all that time we spent inventing nuclear weapons and thinner phones when we should have been relocating to Mars. If anything we could probably do with a few married couples who don’t plan on producing any more mouths to feed.

The religious conservative right is, of course, the loudest voice calling for the integrity of marriage to be preserved. The polemicist Christopher Hitchens made an interesting point a few years ago that if any group should embrace the idea of gay marriage, it is the conservative right. He notes that the gay movement has moved away from the idea of being different and set apart from everyone else, and has expressed a willingness to conform to conventional societal norms.

He states that gay marriage is an example of the socialisation of homosexuality, given that marriage is such a fundamental part of human society, and the fact that many within the gay community now want to be classed as husbands and wives like everyone else. He is absolutely right but obviously such a daring display of logic and reasonable thinking will not dissuade the right wing from inarticulately and loudly voicing their grievances.

The arguments about preserving marriage as it is are interesting because such rationale is not applied uniformly. Changes to law and social tradition are often welcomed if viewed as positive progress. For example, not so long ago voting was the exclusive preserve of men who owned land. Now it is a right for all adults. Most sensible people don’t see this as an erosion of values. Rather it is simply a reflection of changing values. Society is dynamic and is constantly evolving, and the law has to keep up if we’re to progress. The view persists, however, that legalising gay marriage will somehow cheapen the whole thing. Although I’m pretty sure that with Vegas weddings, the astoundingly huge divorce rate, constant infidelity, and people playing Kelly Clarkson for their first dance, the gays couldn’t possibly cheapen it any more even if they tried.

Most of the opposition to changing the status of marriage is based in religion, especially in countries with a strong religious conservative base like America. Even himself is guilty of it. Incidentally I’d imagine Jefferson and the rest of the founding fathers are just over the moon with how their vision of a true secular nation turned out. Nice job lads. Many of these religious types are profoundly un-Christian when it comes to certain matters, homosexuality being a prominent example.

Refusing to mind their own business, they seem intent on telling everyone else exactly why they’re going to Hell. Some of the hatred and invective directed towards certain groups of people by self-proclaimed followers of Jesus is somewhat at odds with his whole message. A wise man once said that it seems the more you talk about Jesus, the less you have to act like him. In fairness though, anyone would find it hard to act like a 2,000 year old Jew who’s lived in an ethereal paradise for most of his afterlife. The accent would be a nightmare to get right.

Whatever the reasons, religious fundamentalist types seem to love imposing their views on others. Imposition is the key term here, because everyone is entitled to their opinion but nobody has the right to impose it on another. Live your own life by whatever moral code you wish, but don’t force other people to live by your values. If you don’t agree with abortion, do not ever set foot in an abortion clinic with a view to availing of their services while you have a foetus inside you. If you don’t agree with gay marriage, don’t any time soon find yourself entering a civil union with a homosexual person. These are not difficult situations to ignore. In fact they are rather difficult to manufacture and would require quite a bit of planning. There are not many stories that begin with you telling the lads in the pub, “You’ll never believe what happened to me yesterday” and end with “Well I’d better head off, me and the husband are up early to go and buy some new curtains. Simon says blue is so last year’s colour.”

It is fairly apparent that we are slowly but surely moving towards a world where gay marriage is not an outlandish concept. Each generation of young people is by and large more liberal and tolerant than the last, so it’s basically just a question of waiting for the ignorance to die out. Which, thanks to modern medicine, can take fecking ages. This is invariably a good thing though. Hopefully if any of my grandchildren turn out to be gay my decrepit body will have survived long enough to enjoy the wedding. I just hope they’re not Kelly Clarkson fans.


Fitch of a Situation

It has emerged this week that the US fashion chain Abercrombie & Fitch has offered a ‘substantial’ amount of money to perma-tanned fist-pumper Michael ‘The Situation’ Sorrentino, of reality show Jersey Shore fame, on the condition that he immediately stop wearing their clothes. The show’s producers and other cast members have also reportedly been offered payment to ensure that the brand no longer features on the hit MTV show.

Anyone even vaguely familiar with this menagerie of obscenely tasteless individuals that passes for an entertainment programme will know that the self-styled guidos and guidettes that feature are rarely fully clothed anyway. You would have to be pretty quick to catch a logo on one of Situation’s T-shirts given that he spends most of his time pulling them up to reveal his day-glo abs, hence blinding the surrounding young ladies for long enough to confuse them into sleeping with him. When their sight returns hours later, they just assume that they somehow travelled back in time and had sex with a young, less articulate Sylvester Stallone.

The bigwigs at A&F, however, are concerned that even the most fleeting association of their wholesome brand with the show’s cast is bad for their image. Which in turn is bad for business. It’s funny, because I would have thought that a better example of bad business would be adopting discriminatory hiring practises and aiming advertisements at an extremely narrow demographic so that every single one of your staff and clientele looks like an extra from an American high school football movie. That is, a high school football movie set in the deep South before the schools integrated. Denzel can shop in Gap down the street, he doesn’t really suit our image.

The reality is that the company, having emblazoned all of their very ordinary and over-priced clothing with massive slogans, are now unhappy with any free advertisement that comes their way from the wrong kind of people. They don’t want little Lorenzo saving up his pennies so he can come in and buy that T-shirt that The Situation had on during that situation on last week’s show. That’s not a good situation. They’d prefer little Tyler to drag in his Botoxed mother from her Range Rover long enough to blow the best part of a grand in the place so that Tyler doesn’t look out of place at the beach party, where everyone meets up to whisper about surfing and unrequited love, like on The O.C.

Lorenzo and Tyler, apart from being wholly fictional, are also disgracefully simplistic stereotypes that I’ve created to make my point, but the fact is that A&F, like many other companies, have built an exclusivity into their branding. This strategy not only exploits existing societal and racial differences, but exacerbates them. Prohibitively expensive clothes aimed at rich idiots who pay extra for a brand name are not rare, but the difference here is the singular approach taken in the marketing of the products, which is deliberately and unapologetically aimed at young, affluent white people.

The fact that these brazen Abercrombie & Fitches are bold enough to publicly offer money to some cheap riff-raff that dared to sample some of its wares in front of an audience of millions of potential customers, shows just how comfortable they are with their own exclusionist policies. The Situation is a lucky man. To get paid to appear on a TV show documenting your alcohol-fuelled sexual exploits is fortuitous enough. But it is an exceptional piece of luck to then get offered a cash bonus to not look like a dickhead who has to pay a hundred quid for a shirt because he wants to look like a cast member from American Pie: The Mom’s Credit Card Years.

I do hope, however, that the show refuses to take the cash and censor the fashion choices of its stars. The best thing to do in response to such an arrogant request would be to deck out the entire cast from head to toe in their products from this point on. Mike could even get the logo tattooed on his six-pack so that it’s always visible.

Maybe after a while the company would come to realise that exposure outside of their niche is a good thing, and they might even get the secretary to take down that calendar from the 1950’s that they have hung up in the office. Either that or their image would become so tainted with their preferred customers that they would be forced out of business. And I have to admit, these are both very acceptable situations. Fist pump, brah.