Saturday, September 30, 2006

Borat Row...

Sasha Baron Cohen did have his moments as Ali G. It could be funny when he managed to trick establishment figures. His playing stupid act could be amusing and similtaneously clever. Having said that though, I was never a big fan.

Cohen always has walked a fine line between satire and reaction, but with his latest 'Borat' incarnation the scales seem to weigh on the balance of the latter. His
'Ali G' character may have been a rather cruel satire on poverty and ignorance (along with a crude racial stereotype) but at least people in Britain have heard of Staines. Likewise most white people here know some Black people, or at least know something about the Black community in Britain. Cohen's spoof did not bring the existence of this particular group to the attention of a public, or create any new prejudices. It's also worthwhile adding that 'Ali G' was not even supposed to be Black, but rather a white person ripping off that culture (i.e. a 'wigga' or a 'chav').

'Borat'(see link), on the other hand, is a different kettle of fish.
How many people in the West (especially the United States) had even heard of Kazakhstan prior to it being an object for Cohen's ridicule, let alone know anything about it? What Cohen is doing is simply trading on racial stereotypes that he imagines people will have about Kazakhstan or countries like it (Impoverished Muslim nations that were part of the former Soviet Union). Kazakhs are portrayed as a group of anti Semitic, incestuous misogynists.
I especially love this piece of 'comedy':

"When Mr Nazarbayev marked the start of his three-day state visit by dedicating a statue in front of his Washington embassy, along with a four-page advertisement for the country in the New York Times, Borat denounced the publicity as "disgusting fabrications" planted by the Uzbeks, "who as we all know are a very nosy people, with a bone in the middle of their brain"."

As 'we all know'? Really?

Cohen can say what the hell he likes, however abhorrent. I would be the last one to favour any State imposed censorship. Defending his right to express himself doesn't equate with having any support for what he says, or giving it any credibility. I can quite understand while the Kazakh government take offense at his movie. It is not a question of them needing to 'lighten up' or gain a 'sense of humour' at all (as the former Tory MP Neil Hamilton seems to think). Nor is it political correctness gone mad. There is very little that is either funny or true in Cohen's portrayal of Kazakhs. As the more discerning people noted in the comments of the 'This is London' article , if Cohen (or, even worse, a non Jew) decided to satirise the Jews of Israel the anti defamation league would have pulled the plug long ago. Or, at the very least, it would not be viewed as being acceptable. If anti semitism is not acceptable than neither should be any other type of racism.

Bernard Manning, who is openly racist, homophobic and sexist, is no longer thought of as being funny in liberal society. But Cohen acts under a different persona, and that seems to make all the difference.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Those who know my views understand that I am no militant secular atheist. In fact, I find that kind of proselytising almost as irritating as the evangelicals. This, though, has to be the scariest incarnation of the fundies yet. Seems these guys were directly inspired by their enemies in the East. It amounts to child abuse if you ask me.

The Return of Courtney Love....

I saw a good documentary on More4 the other night on the forthcoming return of my rock and roll idol Courtney Love (pictured left). Seems she has just been recording a new album. I look forward to it's release. Considering all her troubles the last few years she's done well getting it together so soon, especially as 'America's Sweetheart' took so long, six years in total after 'Celebrity Skin', her last effort with 'Hole'. Despite it's bad press I didn't mind America's Sweetheart, there were a few decent tracks on it. However it could have been better. It was true to say it didn't meet up to the standards of her earlier 'Hole' material. Perhaps it was, as they say, her problems which didn't help it. And they did, to be sure, overshine any impact her long awaited album would have had.

If the samples played were anything to go by it looks as if this new effort will be worthwhile. The songs have a far more acoustic feel to them than her previous works, a touch of Bob Dylan even. There seems to be more emphasis on the guitar and vocals and less on noise, as was the case with the heavy metal sounding America's Sweetheart. Courtney looked much healthier since she's managed to clean up. Let's hope she stays on track, as much for the sake of her daughter Frances as for her own.

Her lyrics have always had a special appeal for me. While they are obviously personal some of them could have been written for me and probably any other woman. As is the case with my other divas PJ Harvey and Kate Bush Courtney writes from a uniquely female standpoint.

Rock on, Courtney!
An interesting article in New Statesman on CCTV and the surveillence society.....

Thursday, September 28, 2006

I hope that John Reid does not become our next prime minister. Not too long ago he drew up a criminal justice package that would have made Michael Howard blanche, aiming to further fill an already overcrowed prison service. Here is an example reported today of the state of one of our prisons. While most evidence goes to suggest that prison is not very effective in reducing crime, and that short term sentences do not stop people reoffending (rather the opposite) politicians cannot let go of this right wing and populist 'tough on crime' agenda. It neither addresses the roots of crime nor looks at ways and means (i.e training, education, rehabilitation) to help those convicted break the cycle.

Rather than being a politician of guts he serves the agenda of the tabloid press. His proposal this summer to import the unworkable Megan's law into Britain is another example. Neither is he known for diplomacy towards the Muslim community either. The government's failure to recognise or be able to state the obvious (namely that foreign policy does play a part in the growth of terrorism) leads them down all these blind allies and are bound not to endear them to their audience.

The left's favoured candidate, John Mcdonnell, seems an honest and principled politician. Maybe too much so, alas. The chances of him winning are close to zero and most of his supporters probably know this. The only hope there is in the campaign is a possible resurgence of the Labour Left. The only hope for a more favourable government may be with Michael Meacher if he decides to stand, and perhaps even there the chances may be slight. But we certainly don't want to see a straightforward handover to Brown, so at least let there be a contest.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Hypocrisy of the Pro War Left - Update

This is a prime example of the hypocrisy and selectiveness of the pro war left, following on from my post here.

Again, I don't see her clamouring for intervention in Myanmar. Less about the actual well being of Africans, more of a way to assuage white liberal guilt. Neither is it unknown for a humanitarian crisis to escalate when the 'international community' threaten invasion of some kind. Let's hope it doesn't come to that.
This says a lot about the 'care in the community' for the mentally ill (i.e there isn't any).

Sunday, September 24, 2006

A Heroine for 'Our' Age?

An eulogy from the ghastly Julie Bindel on the 19th century feminist and social purity campaigner Josephine Butler, who was one of the founders of the National Vigilance Association.

It is quite typical for a person who thinks in ahistorical categories to deem Butler's views on prostitution to be applicable to and a blueprint for all times. Likewise Bindel disingenously fails to mention that Butler's opposition to prostitution initially sprung from religious grounds, and a desire to save 'fallen women'.

However, to quote the ending paragraph (Bindel quoting the feminist historian Jane Jordan):

""Butler would find the discussions on prostitution as 'sex work', and the normalisation and expansion of the sex industry today very odd," says Jordan. "She would want to know how we could have gone backwards after the huge strides forward she achieved".

Yes, Jane, it is unlikely that Butler would have understood the concept of 'sex positive' feminism, or would have had much truck with the libertarian view on prostitution. She would no doubt be outraged by the displays of 'public immorality' so common today. But what you and your co-thinkers forget is that Butler and her contempories would have had little truck with you or your contempories either, who encourage what they viewed as infanticide. Butler believed that abortion should only be permissable in the case of rape. Be as moralising as you wish, but please don't be hypocrites on top.

Butler believed that no woman could voluntarily enter prostitution. She could only do so out of either blatant coercion or economic and social forces beyond her control. Prostitution was therefore sexual slavery, and served as a metaphor for men's cruelty to women, and a world full of economic injustice.

This metaphor may be applicable in the cases of some women, mostly the trafficked migrants forced or tricked against their will. But to apply it to all sex workers is far too much of a generalisation, and unhelpful to those who do not perceive themselves as victims.

Even in the Victorian era (when the working class lived in more appalling conditions than they do now) it is doubtful that it could have been applied universally. Prostitutes today can not be divided into neat categories of high class call girls/drug addict victims so it seems therefore unlikely that Victorian prostitutes were simply courtesans or underclass laudanam drinkers.

Besides which, if the working class prostitutes Butler tried to save were all on some level forced (economically), then why didn't all working class women enter the profession, judging from the conditions they were forced to live in? Why was there a ready army of regular factory wage slaves of the female sex?

From a religious/moral standpoint prostitution is really not different from casual sex. It depends to some degree on our upbringing, but people do have differing values regarding sexual mores. Some will flout the mores of their age more easily and readily than will others if they find they don't resonate that much with them. For some people sex is simply more sacred than it is for others. An act, after all, is only worth as much as a person invests in it. Difference say, between, preparing fast food for a stranger or cooking a candlelit meal for a loved one. Or, on the part of the consumer, eating it. For some people sex is always a sacred and romantic act, hence not one they would be prepared to exchange for cash. A woman who is desperate for cash via severe economic and social hardship and engages in work she at heart considers to be against her values is more likely to be damaged by the experience than somebody who considers sex to be less sacred. Women who do not enjoy casual sex and have romantic concepts of sexuality are unlikely to make good sex workers. They will not have the mentality needed for the work. But it is wrong to universalise this and make this morality binding on all women. At heart it would be no less sexist and constraining than the old virgin/whore myth. Yet this is exactly what Bindel and her allies do. Butler could not fully move beyond this, and the dictates of her time probably made it impossible for her do so. Butler was *of* her time, the Victorian era. She was not 'ahead' of it as Bindel preposterously claims.

The mentality of Bindel is no less Victorian than that of Butler. Butler believed that no decent woman would willingly engage in what she considered to be an immoral act. But her advocacy for the female sex and women's rights prohibited her from wishing to condemn women she knew to be vulnerable, shunned and outcast from polite society, as being immoral. Hence the view of prostitution as abuse was the only logical way out of this, as with the other social reformers of her age.

But times have moved on. The Victorian age is now known for it's purient sexual morality, an age when women could not even bare their ankles in public. Hence the sexual views of Butler and other middle class reformers must be seen in terms of their social background and the time they lived in. This can be recognised without dismissing all the causes they fought for, and their campaigning against misogyny and sexist double standards. Butler did the right thing in opposing the contagious diseases act with it's discriminatory nature, and the stigmatisation and despair it would have brought to many women.

There is a good article here on the panic in the late Victorian age surrounding the phenomena known as white slavery, the disputes as to whether or not it existed (or at least it's prevalance) and the formation of the National Vigilance Society prior to the publication in the Pall Mall Gazette on the alleged rape and abduction of English virgins for sale.

Butler may have been a heroine, but of the Victorian age, not for ours.
Misbah Rana - Update

This blog had a brief mention in the Berliner copy of the Graun for it's coverage of the Misbah Rana(aka Molly Campbell) case. It is indeed tragic that her mother is unable to respect her daughter's wishes here, who seems by all means to be in safe care (see link). And neither can I blame Misbah's sister for highlighting the racism throughout, not only on the part of the British authorities but also the media coverage, on the blogosphere as well as the mainstream media. Misbah had been brought up a Muslim like her siblings, and was clearly unhappy living with her mother and with her lifestyle. She was not allowed contact with her other relatives.

Whatever the case, the attitude of her mother cannot be endearing her to her daughter any further. Was she forced to return no doubt she would resent her mother forever.
Let's hope, therefore, that this does not happen. Thankfully it looks as if by the time this will be resolved she will be deemed old enough to make up her own mind anyway.
On a Lighter Note.......

I was almost put off of Arctic Monkeys when Gordon Brown was said to be a fan. That he is more of a Coldplay man seems more in character for the dour chancellor.

At least I can say the chancellor and Coldplay come in for almost equal loathing on my part.

I hope we will see at least some kind of leadership challenge to Brown. If, however, he does take the throne as Blair's successor we may see a few minor changes that although rather cosmetic will at least result in some more accountability for the government and a bit of decentralistion, if nothing else. But I won't hold my breath. No real and substantial policy changes will be on the cards, all the rest is pretty much spin. I recall the handover from Thatcher to Major in 1990, and something tells me that this will look pretty similiar. History has a tendency to repeat itself, after all.

On the charisma score I don't hold Brown much over Major, either. If a snap election is called, I for one cannot be so sure how Brown will fare over David Cameron.

Friday, September 22, 2006

The Politics and Presumptions of the 'Save Darfur' Campaign....

Although I don't agree with all his views, 'Lenin' writes a pretty good blog. There are a couple of good articles on 'Lenin's Tomb' on the recent 'Save Darfur' campaign. There were also a couple of good pieces in the Graun by Simon Jenkins and Jonathan Steele. I would have a minor quibble with Lenin for his support of one of the rebel factions, but on the whole he is spot on here. Do read the links from his post too, they are very interesting.

The mentality of the campaigners appears to be at best naivety (at least on the part of the third world supporters), and at worst a very patronising form of white liberal guilt with a dash of post colonialism. Things are not as black and white as the media portrays them (i.e Arab militias/nomads bad, African farmers/rebels good). Neither has it been a simple case of Arab v. African. Contrary to the common wisdom that may have been received, one of the leading rebel groups is an Islamist one, as 'Lenin' pointed out. And all the people involved are Africans, whatever their other ethnic make up.

Few wars are ever as simplistic as today's media portrays them, with the simplistic good and evil divide. There are inevitably shades of grey. For example, Bosnian Muslims were the West's good guys in the Yugoslav tragedy. Yet the Western media did not mention that Itzebegovic, the man they supported, had been a supporter of the Nazis during WWII. Nor that he wished for Bosnia to be an Islamic State with all that would have entailed. He was far from the tolerant multiculturalist they portrayed him to be. Bosnian Serbs had always lived in the region side by side with Muslims. Yet they were portrayed as invaders and only Muslims were granted the title of 'Bosnian'. The Western media failed to address the fact that acts of ethnic cleansing had occured with Serbs as the victims of Muslim death squads. Much was made of Serbian prison camps, and the likening them with Hitler's death camps was a recurrent theme. Yet few people cared to mention the fact that every side had prison camps. Franco Tudjman of Croatia was a far more virulent nationalist than Slobodan Milosevic, and was responsible for the ethnic cleansing of Serbs from the Krajina region in the republic. He was also known for nostalgia for the Nazi puppet Ustashe regime, and it's paraphenalia. Yet this outspoken racist was the West's man, aided by the German State. The Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) aimed for an ethnically pure Albanian State. They not only targetted Serbs but Jews and Roma.
These guys moved from being terrorists (which was Washingtons first description) to 'freedom fighters' when it was deemed to be in the interests of the West. Sadly some of the left fell for this too, and praised the neo fascist KLA as being national liberation warriors. There were atrocities on every side of this brutal war, which the demonisation of the Serbs would not allow for.

Truth is always the first casuality of war. Darfur is no exception, and it's coverage and motivation of Western concern should be treated with as much scepticism as the Balkans should have been (and in fact were by the more discerning and intellectual left at the time). For one, the rebel factions have committed atrocities too. The conditions that have led to this war are complex, but one factor that has pitted nomad tribes against settled farmers is an ecological one. There has been a shortage of resources, mostly water in the wake of a drought. If global warming continues as predicted then we can sadly expect more wars over resources or lack thereof.

'Genocide' has been thrown about so indiscrimately that the term is getting close to losing it's meaning. It was defined after WWII to give a name to the Nazi Holocaust. It meant a deliberate and calculated policy of ethnic cleansing, or other measures that would have the desired result of eradicating an entire race or ethnic group. The definition is framed not in terms of result but rather intention. This is what makes it difficult to prove. This is why Saddam Hussein has not yet been found guilty of it in regards to Kurds or Shias, and why Milosevic languished so long in jail before dying of natural causes. Despite the cries of the campaigners for intervention in the Darfur region, there is no evidence that genocide is taking place there. The United Nations have not accepted that it is. Rather it has been a bloody civil war where as so very often civilians have not been distinguished from rebels. If this is what defines genocide then the British and US governments would be in the dock, even for crimes as far back as Vietnam where entire villages were destroyed on the grounds that they were harbouring Vietcong. Israel would be in the dock for failing to discrimate between Palestinian civilians and combatants. But this is not what defines the term.

In fact, the concept of genocide is very prone to manipulation for political ends, which is why it perhaps should be gotten shot of (although it is doubtful the establishment will drop it as it serves well as a propaganda tool, conjuring up visions of SS squadrons). War crimes should perhaps simply be called war crimes in the 21st century for those who wish to be even handed. For one, proving the intent of a group or government is no easy task, as has been shown. The end result of a war crime (namely mass death) is easier to show and more convictions would result. But the West would not want this as they could more easily find themselves taken to task for it. The United States has in fact consistently opposed the creation of a criminal court where itself would not be exempt.

To take another example of manipulation of 'genocide' for propaganda purposes - the massacre of Muslim men by Serb militias at Srebenica is used as a prime example. Yet, unlike many of the other crimes during that war, this was in fact one where the perpertrators did in fact make at least *some* distinction between combatants and civilians. Women and children were evacuated, while men of combatant age were lined up and killed. Tudjman's death squads in Krajina, on the other hand, made no such distinction. This is not apologising for the crime, just pointing to the facts which the media underplayed. The Western media also failed to point out that only the centre of the town was demilitarised. The outskirts were still being used as bases from where Muslim militias would raid Serb villages. Before the massacre took place the major combatants fled the region and left the rest of the men to their fate. It is not unlikely that the crime was played up to prompt public support for Nato intervention in Bosnia, and that Itzebegovic and his militias knowingly sacrificed the town for this purpose. The whole tragedy aided the West in their support for the break up of the former Yugoslavia. The demonisation of the Serbs was in their interest as they were the only force in the region who opposed this, much to their own long term cost.

Krajina seems to fit the definition of genocide more easily than does Srebenica but this is not the view of Western governments or the medias. A prime example of the problematic nature of the term. Likewise, accordinmg to the United States, Srebenica was an act of 'genocide' whereas Falluja (where US troops decimated a large proportion of an entire city with the aid of chemical weapons) was not. Faulty logic and definitions.

Back to Darfur - To have Western troops in the region would be a disaster. It seem the powers that be are aware that invading another Muslim would not be a good public relations exercise, and they are already tied up elsewhere anway. Hence they suggest bringing blue helmets from India or Bangladesh.

One cannot blame the Sudanese government for not wanting the United Nations in their country. The United States attacked Korea under a UN mandate, and sanctions on Iraq were done on UN auspices. Sudan has long been aware of the West's hostility to it. The US bombing of the pharmaceutical factory in Khartoum is not that long ago. The country was accused of harbouring terrorists, notably Bin Laden. It is not paranoia to suggest that the West may have strategic or other interests in the area, such is always the case everywhere else where there is talk of invasion. Rather it is naivety on the part of the 'pro war' left to take their 'humanitarian' rhetoric at face value.

Why do the 'muscular liberals' not call for intervention in Burma, or the Congo where a war has been raging for over a decade? What is different about the Sudan? The media attention given to it, maybe?

A perceived case of Arab racism against Black Africans is the rationale, which is far too simplistic. It fails to address the causes behind the war and the history of the region.

But in practicality I would not take the view that nothing should be done. I tend to go along with Steeles view, that the African Union Mandate should be extended with financial and some military (not personnel) back up from the United Nations is given. The Sudanese government does not appear to have a problem with this.
Children and Criminality....

This appears to be a reasonable proposal. How can a child of ten bear criminal responsibility when he or she has so few other rights that apply to adults? Some laws are there for children's protection, of course. It is true that a child of ten, for instance, would not be in a position to consent to sexual activity. So we cannot expect children to bear the same criminal responsibility as adults and be punished in the same way.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Could this be the start of a social revolution in Mexico, or what the Trotskyists call 'dual power'?
Germany and the Rise of the Far Right....

It may appear incongruous at first glance that a country that has lived through the horrors of Nazism sees an upsurge in support for the far right (see report). But weighing up the economic conditions and the failure of the mainstream parties to address the problems facing this region, is it really all that surprising?

The political centre has long been failing people on the margins of society. This is not specific to Germany but seems to be a worldwide trend. The 'centre right' and 'centre left' now look almost indistinguishable. The far left has long been in crisis and has not fully recovered from the ideological defeat it suffered over a decade ago. This partly explains why the extreme right are able to pose as the radical alternative to a failing status quo.

In fact, the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS), what was formerly the SED in East Germany, now seems to have become part of the establishment again (see link).
This goes without accounting for it's association with the failed DDR State and 'actually existing socialism'.

Probably many of those who voted for the far right are not Nazis, many of them no doubt naively see the NPD as a protest vote.

However, I shall say something in favour of the Left Party/PDS. At least they are able to muster 25% of the vote in the former DDR in the first place, despite their tainted past. Which is more than can be said for any similiar organisation in any region of this country, where even as little as 6% in the polls is seen as something positive by their supporters (no offence, Jim).

As for what they do with power - I will believe when I see it that any British left wing party will govern any differently than the PDS. But as long as they repeat the same tired formulas I will very much doubt it. Part of the reason for the left's terminal decline in Europe (I'm not talking of Latin America and it's vibrant resurgance of radicalism) is it's failure to move with the times, it's incurable dogmatism and anti intellectual tinge.

Is it therefore any wonder that some people see the far right as the only radical alternative?

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Religion and Freedom of Speech...

Following the pope's comments yesterday which outraged Muslim opinion, the Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci died of cancer aged 76. Fallaci had stood trial on defaming Islam in her book 'The Rage and the Pride', following the 9/11 attacks.

I do not wish to give credibility to Fallaci's musings, which were of a bigoted and racist nature. But her right to voice her views, however abhorrent, should have been defended. That is democracy. If one viewpoint is curtailed then whose will be next?

The pope is a different matter somewhat. He will not stand trial for what he said, and is clearly in a more powerful position than Ms Fallaci was. But what were his comments? The offending remark in question was not his own invention, it was a quote from a medieval scholar which he went on to admit was 'startlingly brusque'. It seems what gave offence was his view which conceded that the spreading of faith via violence was 'something unreasonable'.

His crime here appears to have been one of hypocrisy, as Christianity has not always been spread in a peaceful manner either. And it may well be argued that the remarks were not conducive towards building good relations between Muslims and Christians.

But was the response to it in any way rational? I think not. Due to the state of current world politics it is understandable to some extent that the Muslim world may feel over sensitive and somewhat under seige. But this does not justify the reaction which occured. No religion has any right to view itself as being immune from criticism. The response was that of the fanatic. Burning effigies is an act of hate, of simulated violence. Perhaps those who took part in the activity would like to consider the feelings of the world's Catholics. But bigots tend only to care about their own feelings.

It is also worth asking as to who in today's world believes that spreading faith through violence is something 'reasonable' - nobody who is peace loving or belongs to this century for that matter either. If Muslims do not hold proselytising through violence to be a tenet of their faith (as I am sure most of them do not) then why this reaction? They could simply point to what the truth of their belief actually is, and ask the pope for a clarification of what he meant or a retraction if the statement was innaccurate. All the burning of dummies does is seemingly confirm the existing Western prejudices concerning the Muslim world. These people really are not doing their own religion or it's public relations any favours whatsoever. The same with the demonstrations against the Danish cartoons. The cartoons may well have been a provocation using racial stereotypes. But the demonstrations did not take place for this reason. They took place because a cartoon of the prophet was printed, and Islam forbids such depictions. But not everyone shares this faith, therefore not everyone is bound to obey it's rules.

Neither should they be forbidden from criticising this faith lest they get a court warrant or symbolically burnt. If these criticisms are innacurrate or a distortion of actual belief then feel free to challenge them in return. But through dialogue and reason, not through fanatacism the like of which saw a Sikh play banned in this country and plagued 'Jerry Springer the Opera' on it's tour with the result that it will be unlikely to be shown again in the theatre.

I have respect for genuine religious belief, I am no militant atheist. What I have no time for is fundamentalism of any stripe - Sikh, Christian, or Muslim. It has nothing to do with race, simply religion. And the right to freedom of speech.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Porn, Feminism, Censorship.........

Last night I attended the end of a meeting hosted by the Alliance for Workers Liberty on the issues surrounding porn and censorship, in the wake of the government's proposed ban on 'extreme violent pornography'. Some interesting points were raised, including the vagueness of the law. What exactly would constitute the materials in question, and how would one know if they were breaking the law? Could a couple be arrested for engaging in kinky sex and videoing it purely for their own consumption? Some anti censorship feminists raised the view that the ban is not really about sex but more of an excuse to give the State more power over individuals. Sentiments which I pretty much agree with.

One of the most interesting speakers was a gay man who confessed to enjoying S&M. He questioned the common discourse of women as victims, and pointed to the pornography involving dominant females and submissive men. He also pointed to the fact that sex workers more commonly have clients who wish to be dominated rather than the reverse. It is relatively rare in comparison for a man to pay a woman to be submissive. Some of the most succesful sex workers are dominatrixes.

Freud viewed male sexual masochism to be a 'feminine' perversion (using his own language) in which the male takes the submissive position usually associated with the female. Interestingly enough some anti porn feminists have echoed this thinking. Perhaps this is true for some. But what occurs in the human psyche tends to be far more complex than to be reduced to one formula for all.

The same man told of his experience in meeting people who had been in abusive relationships who turned out in fact to be sexual submissives or masochists, they just were not aware of it at the time. His recommendation was that they discover that sexual masochism does not have to entail putting up with abuse, and find a supportive community where they could act out their desires in a consensual way. It was a very interesting observation to make, and an insight I believe to be true in many cases. I have long speculated on the sado masochistic nature of many abusive relationships, and questioned the simplistic approach taken by many feminists towards domestic violence when it comes to women. Camille Paglia mentions the sexually charged nature of many such relationships. This would also go a way to explain why many victims return to their abusers.

This is what makes radical feminist analysis such a sham. Some adherents of this school of thought were forced to recognise lesbian S&M as being a valid expression of female sexuality. But hetero S&M? May as well forget it, as not only would you be backing up norms of sexual inequality and patriarchal relations, you'd also be consenting to abuse. The unequal relations between men and women prevent this from being valid. Besides, we have often been told, masochistic fantasies on the part of straight women do not even come from us, rather they are 'induced' on the part of the patriarchy and thus not a valid form of female sexuality. How patronising and sexist to assume that women are mere receptacles, internalising male ideas and thus having no independent sexuality of their own. And who dares give themselves the arrogant right to define what can and what cannot be legitimate forms of female sexuality?

Both the State and the rad fems would do well with keeping out of people's bedrooms. The rad fems are all the more insidious as they claim to wish to liberate women - but in reality all they are doing is making a new code of conduct that is as constraining as any patriarchal ideology ever was. Female sexual masochism is still a rather taboo subject, and I do suspect this is partly the reason why some women find themselves in abusive relationships where they have little control over what happens to them. The same can be said for male submissives, to an extent. But they seem to have more outlets. Female sexuality is still a bit of a dark area, and some men would probably be embarrassed were a woman to ask him to take on the dominant role. Likewise women may be afraid or embarrassed to ask.

To get back to the starting point - pornography is not inherently oppressive of women. Some women as well as men enjoy it, a factor that is neglected in much discussion of the issue. Why shouldn't visual imagery be a legitimate expression of male (or female) sexuality? It predates capitalism by a long stretch, hence the left rhetoric of 'the commodification/objectification of women by capitalism' is empty phrasemongering most of the time. Katie Price (aka glamour model Jordan) is not groaning under the weight of her oppression/objectification. She is quite happy and doing quite well from it, thanks. The idea that she is any kind of a victim does not stand well with her own thoughts on her career. Capitalism may well market on female beauty and sexuality, but does it not do that with everything? Why should sex be singled out as being inherently different or worse? Most critiques are really a veiled form of Victorian prudity - 'obscene' images offending their taste. In which case they shouldn't look at them, quite simple really. There may be an argument for not having porn on brazen public display lest it offends some people, but let's not pretend there is anything radical about this. There is nothing inherently different about 'left' or 'right' critiques of sexual imagery, the rhetoric is simply emphasised differently. Also the right have, in recent periods, seized upon the liberal rhetoric about the exploitation of women.

Sexual objectification is something human beings all do to each other to some extent. When we see a person we find sexually attractive we initially see them as a sex object, only later do we find out more and see the other sides to them. Women do it to men too - Hollywood actors spring to mind. Yet I don't see men groaning under the weight of their oppression by the evil female gaze.

Sex positive feminism does exist - yet it is given nowhere near the media coverage or has the prominence of the dour neo puritans with their Victorian morals disguised in 'radical' sounding rhetoric. Sadly much of this rhetoric is seized upon and echoed by the political left as well - probably due to male liberal guilt and political correctness. Most notorious for this are the now broken 'Scottish Socialist Party' with their puritanical feminists and neo Calvinist morality.

It is long overdue that the left awake from this. Perhaps in opening these matters for discussion the Workers Liberty group may just be heading in the right direction, although a few male (and female) voices of conservative feminism did spring from the floor.

The issue of the exploitation of women in the sex industry should not be treated differently from the exploitation of workers in any other industry. Sex work should not be singled out for special treatment that thus stigmatises. It is disingenuous to demonise an entire industry and by implication the people who freely choose to work in it by stripping away their free will and making all of them victims. If anybody is forced or coerced the issue is one of sexual abuse, filming it being secondary to the act itself. Otherwise, workers in the sex industry should have union rights and protection given to other workers, as well as respect. Perhaps porn should come with a fair trade stamp, hence that will assuage any worries about the ethical nature of the product.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Five Years (and a day) On.......

It may be a day late due to my short time away, but I couldn't resist adding a comment on 9/11. Has the world really changed that much since that fateful day? It may look so. But there has been no major shift in global policy. US foreign policy was aggressive prior to that. I remember too well the bombing of Serbia, along with of course the bombing of the Khartoum pharmeceutical factory under the misconception that it was a chemical weapons factory. The hunt for Bin Laden began before 9/11, and political Islam still perceived as a threat to US global hegemony. The policies that inspired 9/11 were in place before then - the uncritical support for Israel, the backing of corrupt Arab dictators etc.

What 9/11 did do was give the powers that be a rationale for stifling dissent via anti terror laws. It gave them a rationale for waging more war, thus creating more fanatics. Iraq is now a recruiting ground thanks to the efforts of George Bush and Tony Blair. The relatively carefree atmosphere at home has been lost, maybe for good. One memory I do recall prior to those events was a sign in Charing Cross tube over a sealed rubbish bin. It stated that due to the lack of bomb threats the bins would again soon be in use. It never came to pass of course.

While I remember the victims of 9/11 I also remember the victims of the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon. The list could go on and on.
Against Seperatism...

It was a long time ago, but I used to be terrfied of nuclear war in the 1980s. I remember admiring the women at Greenham, and also my conservative mother telling me they were a bunch of extreme man hating lesbians. I thought she was caricaturising them at the time. But after seeing this piece and thefollow up I see her comments were not far from the truth. It has long been tactics such as this which has alienated opinion from otherwise progressive and liberal causes, and give the tabloids all the ammunition they need.

Yet these simple facts seem to elude the hapless Monbiot, whose male liberal guilt enables him to put a positive spin on this nonsense. As for the 'safe space for women' stuff he can cut out that patronising bilge. We are not children, and not all of us regard the world as being such a dangerous place for us poor little things we need a 'safe space' away from it. So thanks for your attempt at chilvary, George, but on second thoughts - no thanks. You can keep and shove it.

Monday, September 11, 2006

As long as He Needs.......

Reading this story the other day, I was reminded of the fictitious archetype in Dicken's 'Oliver Twist' - the relationship between the murderous Bill Sykes and his abused girlfriend Nancy, which culminated in Nancy's death via a brutal beating by his hand.
It was a similiar scenario in many respects - one of which being an older man taking advantage of a vulnerable young girl.

My initial feeling when I read of Ms Bryl going back to her abuser was one of exasperation. Why would anyone go back to a man who had persistenty beaten and psychologically abused her for so long, especially when she had such a caring mother?

Then I recalled Nancy expressing in the novel the foresight that Sykes would eventually kill her. Yet she still stayed with him. It is curious that somebody expressed the view that victims of trafficking (forced prostitution) bear a similiarity to victims of domestic violence, that they often go back to their abusers. Although it seems far from unlikely, there is as yet no concrete evidence that Beata had worked as a prostitute for the man she was involved with, as was the case with Nancy. But whether she did or not is incidental to the ultimate dynamics of the relationship, although it certainly would have played a large part. I have seen it happen myself - young women returning to abusive relationships seemingly against all common sense, and against the best efforts of family and friends. Not all these women are sex workers, although the illegality of this particular profession leaves women more open to abuse than they otherwise would be.

These relationships often have their own dynamic and they are more complex than a simplistic analysis akin to that of 'Stockholm Syndrome' will allow for. They are more complex than many feminist analysis will allow for, in which suggesting that women like Nancy or Beata played some part in their ultimate fate is akin to blaming the victim. Such an analysis is often crude and indeed unhelpful in understanding the psychology. It is far more than fear that keeps the victim in a relationship like this. The dynamics between the victim and the abuser often have a sado masochistic quality, and they are very intense relationships. In the musical adaptation, after a beating from Sykes Nancy croons 'As long as he needs me'. Who knows, perhaps Beata felt the same way about whoever it was she met her end at the hands of. Perhaps this was why she returned to him.

And in a perverse way men like this do ultimately 'need' the women who are at least on some level 'willing' to be their victims - be it through naivety, loneliness or whatever other factor. A friend of mine, a sex worker, shared with many of her co-workers a crush on a local pimp. I'm certain she even knew he was a brute, he had even told her of what would become of his 'girls' if they crossed the line too far. But love that is young and obsessive doesn't see in terms of common sense, as men likely to take advantage of it will no doubt know. The laws of attraction don't work how we would always like them to. It's quite plausible that many such men will mistake what is adolescent loneliness or neediness on the part of their potential victims as admiration for their superficial and stereotypical virility, as was the case with the cheap hood 'Vinnie' in his estimation of the desperate drag queen 'Georgette's' hopeless crush on him in 'Last Exit to Brooklyn', the Hubert Selby Junior novel.

There will always be some manifestations of the human psyche and sexuality that will be beyond the reach of any amount of feminism or philanthropy, or familial concern.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Before I go....

I'm off to sunny Bournemouth for a few days to catch the belated return of summer. Hopefully the weather will keep up so I can spend some time soaking it up on the beach and getting a swim.

But before I go a note or two about footwear. I was curious to read that Doc Martens may be coming back into fashion. As far as I have personally been concerned they have never gone out. I am one of the few people who still proudly owns and will wear a pair during the winter ahead. I never caught on either with the dance music or the all round replacing of them with sneakers.

I do this much for the reasons given in the comments. Sneakers (one symbol of American cultural imperialism) do not go as well with dresses as they do with jeans or combat trousers. This is not the case for my DMs, which I can wear just as easily with a dress or skirt. I often get a few comments about them. Perhaps when they are more of a common sight again I will not stick out so much like a sore thumb (or foot, as the case rather is). A mixed blessing as I like to look different, I still haven't grown out of that.

While I may hope for them to be more ethically produced than Nike trainers have been, I don't hold out too much hope for this somehow, the only real downside. C'est la.
The Surprises of Science and Life....

Science always throws up surprises, and so does life. This story is a classic example. As it points out, it does raise issues about the case of Terri Schiavo last year, the brain damaged woman in the United States last year who had her feeding tube removed at the behest of her husband.

It was a tragic case where there were no easy answers, the respective families not even being on speaking terms. However, this is one prime example of why we should err on the side of caution when it comes to life and death issues. Ultimately the will to live can be very strong. Perhaps the view that Terri had some level of awareness was not just wishful thinking on their part. We will not know now.

But ultimately this shows that no life should be treated as expendable, whatever the level of awareness. Such is not a criteria to judge the ultimate value of human life.
It seems that children are now fearing the ever increasing intrusion of the eye of Big Brother into our lives as it extends to them. State surveillance of this scale is generally used for people's repression rather than their protection, so there is no reason children should be an exception to this.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Wars on Drugs and Terror......Two Failures.

Yet another example of the failure of the so called 'war on drugs'. I wonder what dilemma this must be creating for Mr Blair, when the results of this particular war are running contrary to the aims of the 'war on terror' (i.e by creating more Talibanis).

The solution should be clear yet our politicians who are too cowardly to admit the failure of the prohibition policy will not admit this, at least not for a long time.

It is to legalise all drugs, thus bringing the price down. This will stop addicts from commiting crime to finance expensive and illegal habits. It will enable the State to regulate the supply, as it does with tobacco and alcohol. The drugs will no longer be filled with impurities, thus making them less of a health hazard.

This will enable third world opium and coca farmers in Colombia and Afghanistan to grow their crops and sell them legitimately on the market. Large criminal cartels will lose a major source of their income.

Meanwhile the Western powers should withdraw the hated military presences from both Afghanistan and Iraq, presences which are fostering resentment and ultimately terrorism. These wars have strengthened the phenomena the West claims to be fighting against. People do not like living under occupation. Neither do hungry and poor peasant farmers like to see their livelihoods destroyed.

Quite simple, really. Why these truths elude the likes of George Bush and Tony Blair remains a mystery.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Porn and Censorship.....

A good piece from Carol Sarler on the proposed ban on violent internet porn. Mrs Longhurst's passion, is, she points out, understandable. But it seems highly doubtful such a ban
would have saved her daughter Jane from the violent death she met at the hands of a man she believed to have been her friend (see here) .

I have long been of the opionion that material does not drive people to violence - it is those inclined that way already who will be drawn towards such material. Or simply people who are a tad perverse. It is quite conceivable that people will find material stimulating that I, for one, would find abhorrent. Yet this doesn't mean they will act on it with a non consenting party. Many people may view all kinds of strange material and not act on it full stop. Thus is the nature of voyeurism. Ordinary People have all kinds of bizarre fetishes. None of which are the concern of the State unless there is the nature of non consent.

And where does this stop? Much material is violent. Boxing is violent and it is real, not acted. I don't get off on it. The men who participate in the sport are mainly working class and poor when they start out, as are many women involved in the sex industry. Yet I don't call to ban it.

I recall the scare about snuff movies, when it turned out that much, if not 100%, of the material involved actors feigning death. In which case it is not really all that different from most Hollywood 'action' blockbusters. As to why some people get kicks out of watching similuated death - it's one of the mysteries of the human condition. Better consult Freud and his musings on the relation between sex and death. The Hollywood movie 'Crash' (the earlier one involving a couple getting off on road accidents) also springs to my mind.

There is no evidence to correlate the viewing of imagery with real sexual violence on the part of individuals, despite the views of the anti porn campaigners. Even Mrs Longhurst concedes that she 'can never know 100%'.

Regarding censorship per se - Sarler is 100% right to point out that the consumers of any imagery should not be treated the same as the producers. I would include child porn in this. Those who produce such imagery should be prosecuted as children are not in the position of consenting to the making of it. But prosecuting the viewers will not stop the producers, nor will it address the fundamental issue of child abuse. And it does raise the issue of privacy and the policing of the internet. It really should be none of the State's business what people view online. Nobody likes the idea of a third party knowing their internet whereabouts. Measures should simply be taken to prosecute those who do make imagery of children, or sell and purchase them for sex.

Naturally it is a different matter with adults. They can consent. It is infantalising to suggest that the participants (at least the female ones) are unable to consent. When there is a matter of non consent and force the perpertrators should be prosecuted for kidnap and rape. Not for the distribution of obscene or violent imagery. Assault, rape, murder etc are the most important crimes. Filming of oneself commiting such atrocities is secondary to this.

It is fair enough that material be labelled and warnings attached if it contains scenes of graphic sex and violence. But it is not right for a nanny State to shield material from the public. Ultimately censorship will not stop sexual violence, and it is an authoritarian measure besides, giving the State power over what we can and cannot see. As Sarler States, government ministers should get out of our bedrooms and not keep promoting illiberal and populist measures designed to appease the constuency of the 'Daily Mail' (never mind the 'radical feminists' who have an unhealthy obsession with porn).

Proto Eugenics......

Tony Benn is absolutely right when he likens these proposed policies with eugenics. It warrants state interference in personal lives to a level almost unknown in this country, which was one of the only ones, in fact, not to pass an eugenics bill prior to Hitler's reign in Germany.

People in 1920s United States, for instance, were coerced into not reproducing by forcible sterilisation. Other times and places there has been bribery in the form of cash. This may become policy in regards to drug addicts in Scotland.

Maybe this ideology may also be rooted in New Labour's roots with Fabianism, with it's middle class base and it's open distrust of both working class self activity and of the class themselves. Hence the patronising attitude. Notable fabians, such as George Bernard Shaw, Beatrice and Sidney Webb, Havelock Ellis and H.G Wells were supporters of eugenics.

Couples who do not come from idealic middle class backgrounds nor live in idealic circumstances as did the Webbs and their modern day counterparts must take heed. Any present or past addictions or mental health problems? Troubled childhood? Any contact or usage of the mental health services? Claiming benefit? Working class? Had better watch out if any of the following apply.

It is, however, unlikely that middle to upper class drug users or alcoholics, the idle rich as opposed to the idle poor, or eccentric aristos with mental health difficulties will find themselves the target of these policies. History speaks against this, and so does the class system and the way society is organised. It has always been the working class who are vulnerable to this and it will doubtlessly continue to be so. The rich are immune from this as they tend to have the resources to keep the State out of personal lives. The poor are not so lucky.

Thankfully I have two savoury allies in the form of Benn and Anastasia De Waal. The Tory Party are on my side, but I don't mind that as they object on civil libertarian principles. While I am a small fry in the blogosphere I hope people take heed and oppose any such policies. Again, where will we stop? It is down to 'first they came for.....' again.
Does Criticism of Israel lead to Anti Semitism?

My fellow blogger Mark Elf
  • posted this today. I agree with the thrust of his post - namely that anti Semitism should not stop legitimate criticism of the Israeli State, or it's activities.

    Nonetheless I would point out that the Palestinian issue can be used by some people as an excuse for their own anti semitism. I have encountered this in the past from a range of people, and I believe so has Mark. The self hater Gilead Atzmon
  • most strongly gives weight to the lie that criticism of Zionism is anti semitism, to use one famous example.

    Male feminists and Bullying......

    I've noticed something about male feminists - that when it comes to treatment of actual women, rather than their abstractions and the feminist women they see it to be their chilvarous duty to protect against the big world both of other men and women who may question their ideas, they tend to be quite nasty little bullies. I was threatened with violence by one, and stalked online by another when I dared to question the premises of his feminist wife. Both these events were due to my position on abortion. I have had tons of sexist (and yes, even sexual) online abuse dished out at me by right on males on the web. The women whose honour they were outraged about and who they were 'protecting' did not care about sexism when it came to me, either.

    There is a great pamphlet I would recommend. A few enlightening words of experience on male feminists in there too. A pity it is not online, you'll have to order it. Many women who embrace ortho-feminism often have had a bit of a shit time with men in their lives. Perhaps it is inevitable that they attract creeps like these, if it is true that history repeats.

    Victim based ideologies attract these men because of the pyschological need they have to step in on a white horse of fake chilvary, and take up this mantra as a reason to feel self righteous and justified in their compulsive bullying of other people, women included. And of course the mantra that 'women are oppressed' (ie victims in need of protection) suits them down to a tee. If this was not the case the need for them and their chilvary would, of course, be redundant. They have their stake in female victimhood so they are unlikely to let the premise be challenged (God forbid by a woman!) without a big fight. Even if these means stepping down off their horse and throwing a few blows at 'non pc' or 'male identified' women who neither want nor need their 'protection' - and even worse dare question their own victimhood!

    Ultimately is suits men of this character that women remain victimised. A woman who revels in her own 'victim' and 'oppressed' status and bases her politics upon it is vulnerable to attracting a man who will display the characteristics of a brute - as self proclaimed victims will inevitably attract potential abusers or bullies. He will, of course, claim sympathy with her politics.

    Bullies often put on a veneer of chilvary and protectiveness to attract a mate who may be unconsciously looking for such a thing or at least susceptible to it. In the current climate what better veneer to put on than that of a right on male feminist, who is ready to apologise for the crimes of his gender while insisting he is on the side of the woman against the evil patriarchy? It is a middle class, educated and sophisticated version of the brutish Stanley Kowalski depicted by Marlon Brando. And all the more insidious for that reason, as at least the Kowalskis' of this world are open about it.

    Do Not Feed!

    Due to the persistent annoyance on this blog by one of the creatures pictured beside, I temporarily turned moderation on to my comments. I've edited this post and now deleted the offending comments. Moderation is off, but any more trollish remarks will be deleted immediately. Freedom of speech entails the right to disagree, it does not invoke the right to be a sanctimonious, arrogant, and conceited little brute. No amount of libertarianism on my part allows for the right to abuse others, virtually or otherwise. Enough said, comments and post are now edited. The troll in question knows who he was and he is no longer welcome here. Any further posts from him will be deleted as he cannot engage with me respectfully.

    Saturday, September 02, 2006

    Culture Clash.....

    It may be surprising to some that this girl seems to prefer the Muslim culture of of Pakistan rather than her native Scotland. But it is an ethnocentric and arrogant view to assume she has not made a free decision to live with her sister and father. However hurt her mother may feel by the decision she should let Misbah (as she chooses to be called) decide for herself. If you love someone you do set them free, as the saying goes.

    Ms Campbell will not gain the love of her daughter by attempting to force her back to Scotland against her will, by making the assumption that she knows what is best for the girl. In our society children have too few rights. They should be given the right to decide which parent they want to live with, providing there is no abuse taking place. There is no evidence of coercion taking place here, it seems Misbah has been mature enough to decide this is what she wants. Her mother should respect that. But the fact she refuses to even call her daughter by the name she chooses, insisting that 'they must get Molly back' speaks volumes about her attitude. Along with the initial insistence she was kidnapped, despite her protestations via phone calls and letters to the contrary. She seemed not to be thinking of what was best for her daughter when it came to the troubled relationship with the stepfather, who Misbah was told she 'had to live with'. It seems that as with so many other cases the mother here is putting her own wishes and perceived needs ahead of those of her daughter, despite her claims to the contrary.

    Friday, September 01, 2006

    Oh You'd Better Go Now.......

    Take a hint, Tony, and resign. The members of your own party no longer want you. Not only this but the opposition is beating them big time in the polls.

    You are looking more obstinate than did iron Mags in her last years, and it is not doing you any favours. Go gracefully and deflate that over sized ego of yours slightly. Put your party and it's wishes before yourself for a change. Yet this, I feel, is too much to ask, as from day one you were willing to sacrifice it, along with it's constiuency and it's ideals, for your own rise to power and the interests of the business class.

    Please do both your party and the country a favour. Let us know when you will be departing as your party have requested. I for one will throw a party that night.
    Two Tier Exams.......

    Britain's education sytem is ridden with class division as it is. So all we need to cap it is a different exam for private school students, which has seemed to be the practice.

    The Cnservative campaign to extend it to State schools will likely not result in fairness as it does not call for it to be universal.

    It will very likely be taught in high performing schools where the affluent send their children, leaving behind children from 'failing' schools in poor communities.
    If this exam is recognised while it is not being offered by all schools it will lead to further discrimination against the poor, both in higher education and in employment.

    We seem to be seeing a slow and subtle return to the old grammer/secondary modern system. The ethos of many of the so called 'academies', with their emphasis on religion, vocation and discipline rather than all round academic knowlege are another example. Save for a few squibbles there seems to be no major difference in policy in the programmes of the two main political parties on this.