Old Habits…

Sorry, couldn’t resist. Some politics links:

Seumas Milne writing in the Guardian’s ‘Comment Is Free’ about the Tories wanting to whitewash British imperial history in the schools. He takes the opportunity to remind his readers of the history which the rulers would prefer them to forget. Check out this paragraph for a scorching summary which you won’t hear every day:

The British empire was, after all, an avowedly racist despotism built on ethnic cleansing, enslavement, continual wars and savage repression, land theft and merciless exploitation. Far from bringing good governance, democracy or economic progress, the empire undeveloped vast areas, executed and jailed hundreds of thousands for fighting for self-rule, ran concentration camps, carried out medical experiments on prisoners and oversaw famines that killed tens of millions of people.

I had that going through my mind while watching a bit of the ‘Trooping The Colour‘ ceremony on the BBC yesterday and wondering what it would take for Englanders to look back on their history and state traditions with the same doubt and questioning as, say, Germans or Japanese. Well, I guess it’s pretty obvious – ‘we’ would have to fight a big war against other white people and lose… Also worth scrolling down through some of the comments to see what kind of readers Britain’s Leading Liberal Newspaper is attracting. My favourite was ‘Anarcher’s simple one-line dismissal: ‘I am British, and I am proud of our history.’

Comedian Mark Steel’s commentary on the IDF’s assault on the Gaza aid convoy, ‘Of course, they were asking for it‘. I especially liked this part:

That would be as logical as the statement from the Israeli PM’s spokesman – “We made every possible effort to avoid this incident.” Because the one tiny thing they forgot to do to avoid this incident was not send in armed militia from helicopters in the middle of the night and shoot people. I must be a natural at this sort of technique because I often go all day without climbing off a helicopter and shooting people, and I’m not even making every possible effort. Politicians and commentators worldwide repeat a version of this line. They’re aware a nation has sent its militia to confront people carrying provisions for the desperate, in the process shooting several of them dead, and yet they angrily blame the dead ones. One typical headline yesterday read “Activists got what they wanted – confrontation.” It’s an attitude so deranged it deserves to be registered as a psychosis, something like “Reverse Slaughter Victim Confusion Syndrome”.

Also, trust a comedian to draw the obvious conclusion which all the journalists are somehow blind to:

If this incident had been carried about by Iran, or anyone we were trying to portray as an enemy, so much condemnation would have been spewed out it would have created a vast cloud of outrage that airlines would be unable to fly through.

(See also the two-part Media Lens Alert, ‘Headshot – Propaganda, State Religion and the Attack on the Gaza Peace Flotilla‘)

Lastly, while the copy of the Evening Standard by my toilet is talking about British politicians who want Obama to stop bashing ‘British Petroleum’ because of all the pension money that supposedly comes from BP shares, this SchNEWS report comes into my inbox, and just leaves all the mainstream reporting I’ve seen in the dust:

BP has had over 8,000 minor and major recorded spills since 1990 alone. While all eyes have been on the current ecocide in the Gulf of Mexico, their Alaskan Pipeline burst in late May, spewing 100,000 gallons of oil into the environment. State inspectors say this occurred because “procedures weren’t properly implemented,” in other words – they didn’t give a damn.

The ho-hum lackadaisical attitude of [BP CEO] Tony Hayward is indicative of BP’s disaster response in general. It has been shocking to see BP’s slow response to contain the oil. There is a complete lack of any oil containment technology, beyond stringing some booms (vinyl tubes) over the ocean that deflate and blow away. While the oil industry has poured billions of dollars into riskier deep-water drilling, it has not invested in responses to the leaks and disasters that have increased four fold in the last decade.

As they say over at Media Lens (again), ‘We did not expect the Soviet Communist Party’s newspaper Pravda to tell the truth about the Communist Party, why should we expect the corporate press to tell the truth about corporate power?’

***

Hello to anybody visiting for the first time, after I finally got off my arse to publicise this blog a little. I feel like maybe apologising if the first post you see here definitely throws back to my older, indoor style of writing about faraway people & events that don’t touch my life in any immediate way.

Perhaps I could swing it like I did in the email I sent round, about politics and the media ‘growing on their own Disturbed Ground’. Or I could make the above more relevant to my direct experience by calling it a Useful Exercise in Applying Critical Thought which might come in handy when dealing with everyday matters. Or to have it as a ‘personal growth’ story I might include a paragraph agonising over whether & why I care about victims of the British Empire, pro-Palestinian human rights activists or those humans and non-humans killed or injured in the Gulf of Mexico, when I will most likely never meet or have a direct relationship with any of them*.

Maybe I’ll just say that it was what I felt like writing about today, and that I hope you enjoyed reading it. If not, stick around anyway cos I’ll probably write about something completely different next time :)

————-

* – (June 18) Oops! Maybe earlier I should have specified historical ‘victims of the British Empire’, because in one way or another I encounter its poison legacy in everyone I meet. Indeed, I consider myself to be in recovery from its desperate, grasping assault on my person (in the schools, in the churches, in the parenting atmosphere, in the media, in the political culture writ large…) – I know that I care about myself, at least sometimes ;)

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One Response to “Old Habits…”

  1. Ian M Says:

    On the Guardian commenters, here’s something ‘Hidari’ wrote on the Media Lens Message Board:

    What’s gone wrong with CiF is what the Guardian editors’ think has gone right with it: there is no obvious editorial ‘line’. So, whereas, in any normal ‘liberal’ blog, all the idiot American right wing commentators would be quickly identified as trolls and their comments deleted, on CiF they are allowed to post their stupid, ignorant comments as many times as they want. Of course the Guardian does indeed have a very definite editorial line but it is cleverly hidden behind their veneer of ‘objectivity’. The blogosphere ‘proper’ is much more honest. (post)

    I guess if your work prioritises an expanding business model your writing will appeal to as wide a demographic as possible. If, on the other hand, you prioritise the integrity and longterm viability of your community (even ‘just’ an online community) the audience you write for will narrow, insulate itself from Outsiders and gradually put up solid boundaries between ‘us’ and ‘them’. Globalisers have trained us to view this as a bad thing, epitomising small-mindedness, parochialism, racism etc… I don’t necessarily disagree, just I’m beginning to see more to it than that. Recommended reading on this: ‘Widening Conversational Scope: “Identity”‘, in which Willem Larson writes:

    We need to narrow our sense of identity and belonging, down to the smallest and most human of scales.

    We need to do this, because we need the “other”. We need the “not-us”. If we treat every stranger on the street as if they belong to that intimate circle of blood and village, than we leave ourselves wide open for abuse, consumption, enslavement. We also take away every opportunity for courtship, for ceremony, for sacredness and particularity of space and feeling.

    The host needs a guest; the village needs the out-of-towners. To honor and welcome, to show off and out-do. [...] If we can’t say who doesn’t belong, then our “welcome” doesn’t mean much.

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