It’s a Fake

They get the music right, and there is some big hair, cardies and drainpipe trousers—though none of the boys have Wham! style haircuts. Russel T. Davies continues with his self-hatred: the positive portrayal of older White men is limited to those who support the pharmaceutical narrative and whose sexual desire is (presumably) domesticated by having a partner. Older Black men lose points if religious, as that is shown as at least comic if not sinister.

Women gain points for being secular, metropolitan and preferably ethnic as well as for dedicating their lives to the service of (young) gay men. Mothers are mostly monsters but redeemed if fat, disabled or married to ethnic males. Davies gives himself the opportunity to address female self-sacrifice but basically gets a monster mother to blame a young woman for being a fag hag—without the show narrative taking responsibility for that accusation or showing the least interest in her personal life—and leaves it at that.

Brian Mullin, writing for the Los Angeles Times, finds that It’s a Sin doesn’t even advance the portrayal of people diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. I used to believe in that pharmaceutical narrative (I don’t now) but I take his point. Davies is very good at only one thing: the portrayal of young gay male jouissance. In this series he simply makes the equation that joy = death.

Davis also airbrushes drag queens, and their internecine war with m-f transsexuals, out of the 80s gay scene in which they literally played a starring role. Instead he’s opted for vaguely sketched cardboard cutouts of “trans” characters, dotted about the set, never centred and never defined. Lesbians are limited to sitting around tables agreeing with gay men and the main character (effeminate and never shown in the least attracted to women) is shown as ridiculous in pondering bisexuality—the only mention of that sexuality at the time of its major struggle for recognition in the lesbian & gay community.

The most grave sins of the series are those committed against Africans portrayed as backwards (with zero recognition of indigenous efforts to resist or even debate the social and biological harms done by corporate pharmaceutical interests from the global north) and, ironically, against young gay men.

This series continues the profitable trend of pushing drugs. Like all the other AIDS stories, It’s a Sin dismisses the proven connection of poppers (ubiquitous in gay discos then and widely used in gay sex) with Kaposi’s sarcoma and ignores the fact that 47 gay men didn’t just turn up coincidentally at a New York hospital all with the same cancer, Michael Gottlieb was studying low T-cell counts in two cities and actively recruited patients. All of whom were long term massive drug users.

The HIV/AIDS hypothesis (at least the Gallo version, there are others) has been the blueprint for all subsequent viral drug and test advertising campaigns—most successfully with “Covid”—and will be used again if the public are stupid and uninformed enough to swallow “Monkeypox”. Predictably, this latest series, like all the others, is being used to push for more public money for the pharmaceutical industry. So it can kill even more people. That’s not an act of charity. It’s a sin.

Cartoon graphic of two dark-haired men staring at an image of a pill bottle on a wall

Thanks to Mohamed Mahmoud Hassan for releasing his image Medical Insurance into the Public Domain.

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Ash Wednesday 2022

A university library is not one of the places I would associate with Ash Wednesday, but that’s where I am. I debated going to the “Vigil for Ukraine” down the road but I know me. At some point I might have found myself on my feet shouting WHEN’S THE VIGIL FOR YEMEN? Or the DRC. Or Canada, Australia and New Zealand for that matter. When’s the wake for all our school kids? For our elderly? For all those top sportsmen suddenly collapsing on the playing field?

I’m not going to comment on Ukraine other than to say:

  1. It’s been going on for 8 years. Do you really think the WEF-controlled media and Governments focussing on it right now is a coincidence?
  2. If you want a critical evaluation (including the above point) I recommend as your guide, because she says what she can evidence and distinguishes that clearly from what she can’t, Whitney Webb.

[Whitney & Ryan Cristián in discussion on this.]

Meanwhile this is the third year when my elderly mother hasn’t received the ashes and heard the words “dust you are and to dust you shall return”. Actually last year I did an impromptu ceremony for her myself, burning the Holy Week palms from last year. She bears it well. Unlike most of her contemporaries she doesn’t mask (unless manipulated into it) and isn’t vaccinated. It’s probably why, ages with the Queen, she’s still alive. That and her faith, her excellent nutrition and her positive outlook.

One of the reasons why I come to the university library is to read the student newspapers, to see what their concerns are. The issue in the plastic shelves is from September last year. Presumably “Cos of Covid” (CoC). What are their concerns?

  • Accommodation (or lack of, CoC)
  • Administrative chaos, CoC
  • Online exams, CoC
  • Sexual violence (cause: toxic masculinity)
  • Impact of Texas Heartbeat Law on “women, BIPOC and transgender people” (sic.)
  • Phobophobia (sic.)
  • Terrorism
  • Mental health (lots of new counsellors)
  • Student stereotypes (not true)
  • Self-care
  • Lookism
  • The Arts
  • Covid tests
  • Mars
  • Women’s sports (no mention of biological males in them)
  • Paralympics

[Heartbeat Law]

I have great affection for the students in general and my own in particular. Sheep without a shepherd, mostly, they are trying to find their way in a world mostly out to confuse them. Because the confused are easier to control. So many have been vaccinated with these uncontrolled substances, experimental drugs used on an unsuspecting population in callous privileging of profits over people. They regularly miss class due to adverse reactions. So far, no-one has died.

But others have died in my extended family. Of course this is put down to coincidence. To compare the mortality of the vaxxed and unvaxxed is to be a conspiracy theorist – but only if your conclusions are not those sanctioned by the State. Likewise all the “sudden death”, CoC, of course. What else could it be?

So this Ash Wednesday I sit alone in a university library, wishing I was in a world where I had a symbolic mark of death on my forehead – wishing I wasn’t surrounded by a heartbreaking number of young people naive enough to have allowed death to be injected into their arms.

Dust you are and to dust you shall return.

Black and white drawing of skull and crossbones

Thanks to Dawn Hudson for releasing her image Skull and Crossbones into the public domain.

Heartbeats Under a Lone Star

The chances are that your stance on the recent Texas Heartbeat Law differs not at all from that of (at least) the majority of people you recognise as family, your close friends and your social media mutuals. Their stance, of course, is determined by their collective identity. Broadly, very broadly (because these terms are colliding and confused these days) Left or Right:

The Leftwing will believe this law that prohibits abortion (termination of pregnancy is a euphemism when the intent is always to kill, not remove) after the fetal heartbeat is discerned is the most insidious attack on female emancipation (they’d say women’s not female because that adjective, for reasons that no-one has yet explained, is now shunned by feminists) since the Epistles of St Paul. Well, okay, they won’t, because hardly any of them have ever read any of the Bible.

The Rightwing will believe that the Heartbeat law is the first step, long-awaited, towards making America great again (which apparently they feel it was, at some unspecified point) and one that drives back legions of devils (and/ or feminists) and protects women, children born and unborn, and is due, somehow, to the divine favour currently shining on one D. Trump who will yet reascend the Presidential throne—as long as they all Trust The Plan.

Both Left and Right are utterly convinced (and very self-congratulatory about it) that they, and they alone, really support the well-being of women. Ditto for children and this smug sensibility extends to the Left with the ethical sleight-of-hand that:

A) The products of abortion are no more than fetal tissue and the fact that foetus means baby in Latin is neither here nor there.

B) Abortion care includes what is being killed in the womb (or someway outside or even completely) as it’s selfish to bring unwanted children into this big bad world so it’s no more than kindness to kill them.

In my view (goodbye social media acquaintances) both sides are almost entirely hypocritical and don’t actually give a damn about the welfare of women and the idea that they actually care about life in or out of their womb is, if it weren’t so tragic in consequence, laughable.

Why do I say this? Is it just to stir up both sides so they’ll read my book on the subject? Well, they’re very welcome to but, as it was published some years ago and annual sales have risen to about the price of a posh fish supper (and I’m vegan) I don’t really see that as my major motivation.

It may be that, despite the above polemic, I see good women fighting each other over this and wasting so much valuable time and energy in a screaming match that in its modern form is at least a century old and doesn’t even attempt to be a debate. I was very careful when I wrote that book (and the many women on all sides that I reference are well worth reading) but I’m not convinced now that being careful accomplishes anything so here’s my thoughts:

The Left is hypocritical because if they actually cared about the welfare of women they wouldn’t ban any information (including personal testimony) on the often profound physical and mental stress caused by abortion that can last for decades.

The Right is similarly hypocritical because they make it so very difficult, socially and economically, for so many pregnant women to feel able to give birth—and to bring up a child with decency.

The Left concede more rights to lobsters than to babies that survive initial abortion attempts (a saline bath sounds very clinical but its purpose is to burn the skin off the screaming baby) and only refer to such situations by focusing on the distress caused to staffers! As for the findings of human pain studies in utero, they just don’t want to know.

The Right misrepresent the Biblical tradition (which is ambiguous on the moment of ensoulment) and typically promote an anti-maternal economics that ignores completely the prophetic tradition of hospitality to the stranger, care of the widow and the orphan, leaving the edges of the field for the poor to glean and forgiving debts in the year of Jubilee.

Both sides save face, reject all and any critique of their stance (selective abortion is racist, classist, ableist and sexist—and precisely those same prejudices, along with religious sectarianism and demonisation of other faiths, create a climate of snobbish rejection of pregnant women by communities intent on keeping up appearances and producing progeny of the right sort).

What’s the solution?

1) Realise that someone’s stance on abortion is likely to be coherent with their view of pregnancy (baby or blood clot) and reinforced by the collective ideological identity they value.

2) Accept that criticism of your own stance is possible—and that you may even learn from it. At least you might earn the right to be heard if you demonstrate an ability to listen rather than keep shouting THEM down.

3) Try to see your side from the other (and there aren’t just two sides on this) and acknowledge the possibility of your opponent being motivated by as benevolent an intent as yours.

4) Agree to disagree, if that finally is inevitable but ask yourself what part of the project of your interlocutor might overlap with your own.

5) Try to be honest with yourself about your real motivation regarding ostentatiously adhering to the ideological purity of your familial and social circle. Is that badge of honour more important to you than strategically collaborating with someone they despise—for the real well-being of women and children?

6) Ask yourself how much you and your cronies actually do, practically, to support women who want to give birth and bring up their children well. If you had access to the resources of the other side, how much more could you do? Would you be willing to work with them for that—knowing they’re still campaigning to change the law in a way you utterly oppose?

7) Consider the expression of ambiguity on this issue. How do you deal with it? Sweep it under the carpet or allow the uncertain voice of what “the woman who had been Jane Roe […] Norma McCorvey” called “the messy middle” to be heard?

Chrome stethoscope with yellow rubber cover looped over a red image of a heart

What’s Wrong with the Resistance?

I’ve just left a chat group on Telegram because I couldn’t stand it any longer. Like many, I don’t have much free time — and an unrelenting flood of repetitious, unevidenced, incoherent and hysterical posts about “the Cabal” does nothing to inform and persuade people to resist the developing technocracy and everything to reassure them that its resisters are all crazy.

Left-leaning friends (current and former) may be relieved to hear this. Typically unable to distinguish between pointing out the historical roots of Big Pharma in poison gas manufacturers, such as I.G. Farben, and denial of the Shoah, they’re unable to reason clearly because they confuse categories.

For example: if I say it’s a Tuesday and the calendar says it’s a Tuesday and Adolf Hilter says it’s Dienstag, does that make me (or the calendar) a Nazi?

A real example: Alison McDowell, excellent on the links and repercussions of the 4th Industrial Revolution, blocked me on Twitter when I pointed out her (obvious) ignorance of the Catholic Church. Among other instances was her oohing and ahhhing over a post about “Masonic crosses” which even the original poster eventually conceded were simply a variety of crosses illustrated in a Masonic book. (Still not got it? The category “Masonic” applied to the book, it could not be assumed to apply to every illustration of traditional Christianity referenced in those pages. Especially as Masonry isn’t Christian.)

In fairness, Alison is quite candid about the fact that she couldn’t tell a Maltese Cross from The Maltese Falcon. She just didn’t like me pointing it out. I point things out. It’s why I lose friends. And save lives. Also, her Da Vinci Code style amateur exploits in the wonderland of Roman Catholicism (as I say, she’s amazing on Geo-Political Economics) are small potatoes compared to the Frito-Lay-factory-short-of-a-fish-supper crazy going on online right now about “the Cabal”.

Let me try to summarise (no, I haven’t read it up in depth and I don’t intend to):

The Cabal is a sinister leftist right wing communist elitist Black Jewish Catholic Alien reptilian, em, cabal, of gay trans paedophile vampire vegans funded, em, by themselves, who came from Outer Space to this Flat Earth and tried to convince us it was spherical by founding The Catholic Church and Black Judaism to really worship Satan, who is, em, them, by means of The Pyramids, The Eiffel Tower and Big Ben. Oh, and, y’know, religion, Netflix, NASA, and stuff. Antarctica is a Circular Ice Wall beyond which (it is known because no-one can get there) there is All Sorts of Alien Tech. Like they can blow this shit right up! They govern us by means of Mind Control and drink kids’ blood. The Moon Landings were faked cos there’s no Outer Space. We’re not gonna believe what those Aliens say!

Source? All over the Internet. Apparent source? Every Tom, Dick and Harriet with a 2-dimensional account with 15 identical followers that opened sometime in 2020/21. And all those influenced by them, including some vulnerable people with shaky mental health.

There are also celebrity influencers and though David Icke of course springs to mind, he appears to be speaking (of the struggle between the limbic and mammalian brains and the frontal cortex) metaphorically and may be simply a rather dramatic New Ager who believes in Universal Consciousness and Higher Things. He also, very clearly and very sanely, preaches specific resistance to the ongoing violations of human rights and civil liberties.

My concern is both with the ones who don’t (such as trust-the-plan Simon Parkes) and the ones who urge people to take part in illegal actions that are as unlikely to succeed as they are likely to alienate the general public.

Because it is no secret (they state it openly) that intelligence services are targeting resistance groups in person and online. What better way to derail the train bound for freedom than to send its drivers conflicting signals, place as many obstacles on the track as possible and, easiest of all, convince the passengers not to get onboard but to stay, patiently, listening for further announcements in the waiting room…in the deferential and ever-deferred hope of a celebrity saviour.

If religious education were actually taught in schools and church history in universities (based on historical fact rather than endless emoting and opining over present-day imaginary identities) then more people might know that the blood-drinking hypothesis was a 1st C. Roman imperial slur against the newly-formed Christian community and one that was diverted from their spiritual descendants to be used against Jews in most centuries since, including this one.

I do not deny the depravity of some human beings but the lesson of the Holocaust is not that Germans are especially sadistic but that good people can be gradually coerced into evil fairly easily, until it becomes banal.

That’s what we need to resist. Anti-Semitism, recklessness, agents provocateurs, clashes of celebrity egos, ignorance and stupidity will only get in the way of the diffusion of sane, sympathetic, balanced and well-researched investigations such as that of Cory Morningstar on The Manufacturing of Greta Thunberg. (Cory doesn’t deny the ecological problems of the planet but simply shows how big businesses is exploiting them, and young activists, in order to open new markets.) Or basically anything written by the amazing, and always responsible independent journalist Whitney Webb. (Whitney is always careful to state exactly what she can evidence and her analysis of political blackmail and international information technology is based on painstaking research.)

For resistance to be effective, the messages broadcast need to be sane, focussed and supportive of human rights and civil liberties. That means the administrator “owners” of groups and channels need to reduce repetition, weed out the crazies and ban prejudice. Otherwise all they will do is encourage either inaction or unsympathetic and possibly life-threatening confrontation with the authorities and the general public. What we need to be doing is appealing to hearts and minds. Warmly and wisely.

Thanks to Circe Denyer for releasing her image Halloween Whispering Clowns into the Public Domain.

No Bonking Down Under? “XXXX that!”

Ozzies have never been known to be backward about coming forward and here in the UK we regard our antipodean friends (and relatives) with amused affection.

No more so now when, despite living under tyrannical government for 18 months, the Australian reaction to the Covid bonking ban is evidentially “XXXX that!”

Far from adhering to Government advice to couples sharing a household to stop having sex and instead masturbate, wearing masks, not just at 1.5m distance but online, seriously, Australia is apparently experiencing a baby boom.

Just goes to show that, Mel might not, but these Sheila’s know what they want — and they won’t be satisfied with just another shrimp in the barbie!

What the Australian Government will be satisfied with is anyone’s guess. Horrific scenes of their police violence against civilians for not wearing masks (Ozzie cops don’t have a great reputation for civility) have circulated all over the globe. However, like that of their Kiwi neighbours, led by someone not famous at the moment for her promised “economics of kindness”, the Ozzie Government seems to be just following the orders of representatives of unelected global governance whose goal of depopulation is on public record.

Lovers’ footprints on sand

Thanks to Shagan Garg for releasing the image Lovers Steps into the Public Domain.

Both Sides, Now: Scotland and England

Reading Pádraig Ó Tuama’s In the Shelter: finding a home in the world, about telling stories in the shelter of the Corrymeela community, in the place he problematises in a poem’s title as ‘[the] north[ern] [of] ireland’, I think of an undergraduate essay I wrote for a course of Practical Theology, in St Andrews University in the late 1980s (a decade or so before the Good Friday Agreement was signed in 1998). In it, I identified the phenomenon of what is now commonly known in critical theory (and may have been then, but not to me) as ‘multiple selves’.

I wrote of categories of identity, of Us and Them, which were problematic because historically, culturally, linguistically and/ or ecclesiastically, they included the identity of the Other they attempted to exclude:

‘Protestant’ being rooted in the Pre-Reformation Church, which ‘(Roman) Catholic’ claims also to be in unbroken continuity with and which also, at Vatican II, accepted much of the protest of Martin Luther, 400 years on; ‘Scot’ coming from and returning to ‘Ulster’, territory which does (not) include Donegal and which is (not) ‘Irish’ and is also (not) ‘British’ – another humdinger of a category that can designate anything from ‘Brythonic Celt’, through a successful ‘Welsh’ (Tudor) exercise in propaganda, to ‘English’ and ‘Commonwealth’ and ‘United Kingdom’.

Each phrase that I have written in the above paragraph is so problematic that it would be quite reasonable to argue that it is a downright lie. And yet it tells a truth. I have not attempted to draw out all instances of contradiction and connection, overlap and oversight that are possibilities among all these categories of identity.

My point in the essay was that the only way to peace is to accept the reality of this blurring of identities and to tell our stories. Argument of the ‘you’re wrong so I’m right’ variety can’t do that. Mostly because it depends on asserting and maintaining rigid categories of ‘you’ and ‘I’, of ‘us’ and ‘them’. (Of course I’m thinking of David Hare’s wonderful play, Us and Them, and if you haven’t in your life yet seen a youth theatre group perform it then do so.)

The pain of the Referendum on Scottish Independence this year, before, during and after, was one which is not supposed to exist. We don’t have a word for that which, ‘over there’, (another quote from Hare) has been called Trioblóid/ Troubles, which Ó Tuama explains means ‘Bereavements’. Of course it really has meant that in both languages.

We don’t have a word in English, or in Scots, or in Scots Gaelic, or in any of the other indigenous languages of these islands for the Troubles between ‘English’ and ‘Scot’. We have had no way to express this pain – and because we can’t express it, the pain has nowhere to go. The attempts of ‘No’ voters to come to reconciliation have met with inchoate rage from those who are ‘Still Yes’, a rage that cannot find adequate words to express itself as there is no common ground to argue over; the decision to vote ‘Yes’ in the first place was met with some of the same feeling, mostly on the internet and over the border, but here in Scotland this decision, when not shared, was met with much sorrow, with hurt and with incomprehension.

A good friend of mine, a good friend and a good man, said to me, in a pub on Great Western Road, in Glasgow, at the height of it all, when I was full of the disenfranchised of Maryhill waving banners and having the hope of making a difference, and frustrated with him for not getting it: ‘it really pains me when you talk about Scottishness as a club, of which I am not a member’.

I was simultaneously ashamed, and annoyed with him for being awkward. He’s like Màiri Mhòr nan Oran, Big Mary of the Song, who was banned by her dour minister from singing inside the house and outside the house. Màiri Mhòr stood in the doorway of her house and sang. My friend is like that, awkward, and I want to trace his genealogy and add up the years he’s spent ‘here’ or ‘there’ and come to a decision: is he or is he not Scottish? But then I’d have to do that for myself, and that would be unnerving.

During the year I spent in California 1990-1991, while not marching with banners proclaiming NO BLOOD FOR OIL! (if the protestors kept them, they’ll have been well used since) I participated in groupwork on prejudice and liberation. Focussing especially on the negative media portrayal of Islamic/ Middle Eastern men (watch Sex in the City 2 for an instance) I discovered my deepest racial prejudice. I was anti-English. Which was awkward, since my mother grew up (when not evacuated to her mother’s people in the West Highlands) in a village that Miss Marple would have felt at home in, my grandfather was born within sound of Bow Bells and – though his father came from Germany and, perhaps, generation upon generation, from Israel – his mother was from East Anglia and her surname means ‘home’.

We need to listen to each other, both sides, now, in Scotland. Not rush to hug each other in a false reconciliation which only continues to ignore the pain which is unspoken since officially it doesn’t exist.

‘(Still) Yes’ voters need to hear how it feels to have the door of this exclusive club called ‘Scottish’ shut in your face, the shock and hurt of your dearest friends and neighbours and indeed family wanting you and yours politically over the border like Jock O’Hazeldean and the lady that was(n’t) his. Sometimes very aggressively. Sometimes violently. Sometimes thoughtlessly. I was shocked, then ashamed, when an old friend from Barbados was chipping in with his hopes and fears (for ‘No’) over the internet. ‘What’s it got to do with you?’ I asked him. He told me. I’m middle-aged, with more degrees than sense, and had ignored the fact (fiction) that Barbados is ‘British’.

‘No’ voters need to hear how it feels to constantly correct not just ‘foreigners’ but our southern neighbours, even living amongst us, when they conflate ‘England’ and ‘Britain’, again and again and again. Still. How it feels to be tongue-tied in yer ain tongue, which no teacher, correcting you, again, ever told you contained words footnoted in Shakespeare (for monoglot English speakers) incomprehensible in Oxford but instantly recognisable from Friesland to Scandinavia. How our myth of oppressed national identity that draws a clear line from the Clearances by anglicised lairds to the closure of the steelworks at Ravenscraig in the wake of the Thatcher years is so problematic that it would be quite reasonable to argue that it is a downright lie. And yet it tells a truth.

In Hare’s play, it gradually becomes reasonable to draw a line of separation, to mark it with a string, a fence, ever higher, finally, of course, with a wall. In Ó Tuama’s book, he quotes the Irish saying: Ar scáth a cheile a mhaireas na daoine/ It is in the shelter (shadow) of each other that the people live. He draws out the ambiguities of scáth among which, in English, are the idea of living in someone’s shadow, and of the shadow self. Embracing, accepting and celebrating my Englishness, overlapping and intermingling with my Scottishness, has been a great joy, a great challenge and a great liberation. I feel more whole, I also feel far more confident in asserting the Scots language. One does not preclude the other. I don’t assert the English language as there’s been too much of that already.

If we are to heal, if we are to live together in 2016 and beyond, in harmony, in whatever political constellation we democratically decide on, we need to come out from under each other’s shadow, and enter into our own. We need to shelter each other’s stories because even if they contain lies they tell truths. We need to stop arguing, stop denying our troubles and start sharing our heartfelt pain through telling our stories. Both sides, now.  uk-splat-flag

Thanks to Dawn Hudson for releasing her image ‘UK Splat Flag’ into the Public Domain.

 

 

Categorical mistakes

Coming across an RC priest-bashing piece of journalism the other day (while reading something worth reading from the same source – not from the same writer) I was struck by how much we still haven’t learned the main lesson of Aristotle: things tend to fall into different categories. In this piece of lazy reportage, one adult makes multiple attempts to invite another adult out socially. Apparently the newsworthiness stems from their gender (both male), their age gap (50 and 29), and the vow of celibacy of one of them. The writer in his profile describes himself as pan-sexual, so readers would not expect the presumed homosexuality of the presumed romantic intent of the invitations to be considered deviant and therefore newsworthy. We have the word of the recipient that he’s been textually ‘bombarded’ and a quoted text, which the writer and recipient apparently take as the depths of depravity: “don’t be shy”. I’m already bored.

So why was this unnewsworthy reportage written? Is it, for all the professed liberalism of the writer, playing on the presumed homophobia and ageism of the reader? The 29 year old (who has previously accepted social invitations from the 50 year old) describes the older man as “creepy”. Would this 29 year old male describe unwanted (presumed) romantic attention from either a female (of any age) or from his own generation (of any gender) with this term? The writer does not challenge this judgment.

Although ageism is growing in popularity among young White men and is especially endemic to the gay White male milieu, the end of the piece presents the real hook: clerical child abuse. Now that’s newsworthy! It’s just not relevant and necessitates the mention of some other Scottish RC priest entirely unconnected to this non-story. What’s the attempt at connection? That the priest, in his first and successful attempt at inviting the younger guy out, said he remembered him as an altar boy. No, it’s not the best line but he was maybe out of practice. Does the 29 year old say that, when he was a boy, the priest bombarded him with social invitations or in any other way harassed him? No. Is the writer therefore covertly collating adult (presumed) homosexuality and paedophilia? Yes.

What the writer is practicing is covertly homophobic, ageist and sectarian. What he professes to be practicing is moral panic over child protection; when the media-savvy ‘victim’ is 29.

This instance of a lazy categorical mistake (that conflates homosexuality and paedophilia, or an adult age gap with paedophilia, or multiple unwanted social invitations with sexual harassment – I admit it may be considered harassment) has repercussions. A middle-aged man, struggling with his vows, is publically embarrassed and his livelihood endangered. Do such journalists care? Riding on the wave of the moral panic over the O’Brien scandal some years ago (which did not concern children, yet child abuse was always mentioned) the Herald ran a similar story (there were a few cosy dinners before and after the adult male layman felt harassed by the priest in that particular story) and accused a priest of hypocrisy – without checking their facts. Held in high esteem by his parishioners, his RC parish church is one of the few in Scotland in which homosexuality is not condemned from the pulpit and remarried couples find a warm welcome.

This week in the news we’ve seen the categorical confusion of a bright boy with a terrorist – because of White Christian prejudice over his religion and the colour of his skin.

A few years ago categorical confusion led to the chilling murder of a man on the London Underground, because police couldn’t tell the difference between someone coming from a hot country and a suicide bomber.

It is an evil thing that we do when we confuse categories and choose to believe the thing worst possible about someone. This is not what the presumption of innocence is about, it forms no part of the social contract, it’s cheap thrill journalism and it has nothing to do with true religion.

For a reminder of what good we can do, when we refuse to confuse categories, read this account of what happened when a young, bearded, Arabic man in a scarf and khaki camouflage clothes, walked into a liberal Christian church, wearing a backpack, a few days after the terrorist attack at Glasgow Airport.

clock-1373644964Hyl

Thanks to George Hodan for releasing his image “Clock” into the Public Domain

The Other Refugees

On Saturday I attended the “Refugees Welcome” rally in George Square, in my native Glasgow, with my mother who was herself a refugee in time of war when for five years she forsook the banks of the Thames for the shores of the Irish Sea. My father’s people had crossed that sea three generations before and while my mother’s mother was from the West Highlands, her father’s father crossed the English Channel from Germany and his Hebrew surname dates back to an old story about an enslaved people fleeing for their lives across the Red Sea.

This isn’t the usual ‘everyone comes from somewhere else’ memo, true as that reminder is. This is about another group of refugees. Their cause cannot be proved to be as urgent as that of the millions who now face religious death squads, famine, disease, and the torturous labyrinth of the asylum process, should they be fortunate enough to even be admitted into it. Their cause is not, now, so urgent, not now, not at the moment but it has been so before and many of them fear that it may be so again. Not urgent, but important, and not just for them.

I, still, call myself a Roman Catholic, yet no-one blames me for the deaths of slaves and Christians in the Roman amphitheatres. No-one blames me for the blind spot the present pope has (for all his humility, simplicity and courage) about sexual ethics. No-one, at least no-one who knows my continued criticism of them, even blames me for the continued pastoral stupidity of the Roman Catholic hierarchy in Scotland or for the vile outpourings of blatant prejudice of its clergy-fawning press. In short, the people of my country do not hold me accountable for the evils of the rulers, past and present, of the political State most closely associated with my religion and not even for the continuing evils of some of my coreligionists.

Why are some Scots not using the same common sense with the Jews?

I know racist people and I know those who hate Islam because they hate religion (usually because of vile prejudice that stems from the influence of White, Christian missionaries). Such people do not convince anyone of goodwill or who has any grasp at all of European history. I am not going to argue against racism or against Islamophobia because there is no need: they are indefensible.

Apparently some Scots don’t feel the same way about anti-Semitism.

‘I am Jewish’ and ‘I am Israeli’ are not identical statements; neither are ‘I am Israeli’ and ‘I support the policy of the Israeli government’. I do not ignore the atrocities carried out by Israeli soldiers; neither do I ignore those carried out by British or American soldiers. I do not ignore the deadly game of chess that the colonial powers, notably Britain and France, played in 1948 in the Near East (no, the Levant is not the Middle East) nor the atrocities carried out by the Christian hordes of the Middle Ages (on Muslims, on Jews, on women) nor those carried being out today by Daesh. All this must continue to provide a context for the fear (is it paranoia?) of being ‘swept into the sea’ while the surrounding powers-that-be do what they have always done for the protection of the Jews: nothing.

My Roman Catholic coreligionists who display such culpable and malevolent stupidity are stuck in the past. When the four Scottish banks wouldn’t employ a Catholic. When you had to change your school name on your CV. When you had to be guarded with your surname. This clannish fortress mentality sees the compassion and common sense that caused a country to declare that ‘it’s time’ for equal marriage as a personal attack on all they hold dear. As if G_d were not Merciful and Compassionate!

But no-one blames me for that.

Can we please stop blaming the Jews?

Do I have to mention the cultural impoverishment that happens (not ‘would happen’ yes, disgracefully, we Europeans have experience of this) when the Jews are no longer here? Do I have to recall the eminent Jewish men and women who with clear-sighted intellect have graced our progress as a civilisation? The empresarios? The entertainers? The artists, novelists? Our friends, lovers and family?

Can we, together, as Scots, realise that knowing someone’s ancestral religion gives no clue as to their current political position in regard to the ideology of another country? If anyone wants to know my position as regards Ulster/ Ireland/ Eire/ The Six Counties they had better be prepared for an intensive course in history and cultural studies, if they have the temerity to ask me, or worse to presume to know what my position is without asking. Will it surprise anyone to know that my basic view is: it’s complicated?

What isn’t complicated is to stop making assumptions. A good friend this evening told me that he is thinking of leaving this country. My country. His country. He’s thinking of becoming a refugee. No, he’s not poor, he’s healthy and he has a UK passport. He won’t starve and he won’t be homeless. But if he goes, to Manchester, to London, to the USA, to Canada, to Israel, he will be a refugee. He will be fleeing from our refusal of Scottish hospitality, from our lack of canny commonsense, from our ignorance of kinship. My father fought and suffered years of imprisonment in a war waged by those who tried to wipe out the Jews and eradicate them from Europe. I cannot but take up his cause. Times have changed since the crossing of the Red Sea. These people are our people. These people are my people. Don’t let my people go!

The Jewish Cemetery

Thanks to Carlos Sardá for releasing his photo “The Jewish Cemetery” into the Public Domain.

Universal Suffrage

During my time at the Institute of Culture & Creation Spirituality, CA, we did an exercise in liberation: from a mixed group the teacher invited those in a certain category to walk forward and then gave the instruction, “look who’s with you; look who’s not with you”. All the colours of the gender and sexuality rainbow, all the shades of skin colour, the abled and disabled, the haves and the have nots…and those who had been incarcerated and those who had never known that restriction on freedom. The point of the exercise was to show that oppression takes many forms and some suffer multiple burdens (there were some in the class that got a lot of exercise that afternoon) while others are comparatively privileged (many barely moved).

The point about prison is that, in theory, convicts bring it upon themselves. We all know that, in practice, that ain’t necessarily so. However, even if we ignore all prisoners of conscience, all prisoners of war, all hostages, all the disappeared, all the innocent locked up for the crimes of others, taking the rap willingly or not, we still have the question of the limitation of universal suffrage. What are the criteria by which we as a society judge that someone is eligible to vote in a local or general election or referendum? And how are those criteria defensible?

An online timeline states, for 1928, “Effectively all women and men over 21 now have the vote” and the next page enthusiastically charts the struggles over class and gender eligibility and triumphantly states: “eventually all women and men gained the vote, but it took over a century of energetic campaigning.”

In fact there are several restricted categories, for a general election (I paraphrase):

  • Members of the House of Lords;
  • Citizens of the EU (excluding Ireland, Cyprus & Malta) resident in the UK;
  • Non-British and non-qualifying Commonwealth citizens;
  • Persons convicted of criminal offenses (not civil offenses and not on remand);
  • Those guilty in the last 5 years of corrupt/ illegal practices in connection with an election.
  • Those under 18 years of age.

The common law restriction on grounds of mental incapacity has been abolished (although the bar to anyone acting as proxy to someone incapable of electing a proxy stands).

There is an ancient example of an attempt at restriction from Greek myth.

There is Olympian concern for humankind who now have fire (from Prometheus) but lack the art of war (to defend themselves from wild beasts) which is a part of the science of politics  – comprised of the virtues of justice and respect – which has not been given them. Zeus dispatches Hermes, who asks:

“Shall I distribute them as the arts were distributed – that is, on the principle that one trained doctor suffices for many laymen, and so with the other experts? Shall I distribute justice and respect for their fellows in this way, or to all alike?” “To all” said Zeus. “Let all have their share. There could never be cities if only a few shared in these virtues, as in the arts.”

(Protagoras 322c-d, in Guthrie/1982/54)[1]

So even though the Classical Greeks some centuries after Homer did not practice universal suffrage, they respected the value of this foundational cultural myth in recognising the sense of citizenship as universal and as a divine gift – at least enough to quote it.

Nowadays we appear to feel ourselves wiser than our philosophical ancestors. We judge that someone who has broken the law is not eligible to decide who should make the law. This concept of eligibility is confused. A person who lacks the capacity to understand the law is not a criminal. A criminal (being of sound mind and understanding the difference between what is legal and illegal – a difference not the same as that between right and wrong) chooses to break the law. That is a choice, the older word for choice being ‘election’.

In another cultural foundation story, that of the Garden of Eden, choice is the first gift given after life itself. The story tells of our ancestors making the wrong choice but it does not go on to say that the gift of choice (between right and wrong – and later between obeying and breaking the law) was revoked.

Greek and Hebrew cultural wisdom concurs in valuing the exercise of human choice, whatever that choice may be.

Why do we consider ourselves wiser than our cultural ancestors? Is this not the great sin of hubris to refuse their inspiration? Is it not our duty to rail against our unjust penitentiary system which appears to disproportionally convict and reconvict people on the basis of their race and class and literacy and convenience to big business rather than on right and wrong? Are we right to continue, (all of us citizen voters and all the Lords too, by commission or omission) to disenfranchise the very demographic that might have the most poignant plea for more humanity in our uncaring society? Are even the most hardened of convicts not capable of canny choice of the next government who will make and unmake laws to rule those they love? Hellenophiles may consider that Socrates himself was once a prisoner, considered criminal. Jews have so many kin to commemorate that were not considered POWs but criminals . Even hardened Tory Christians may recall that Christ himself was a convict.

I have been in a cell in what archaeologists are almost certain are the ruins of the Praetorium of Pontius Pilate. It’s impossible to stand upright inside. I have visited convicts in modern prisons. How do we enable them to be upright citizens if we continue to refuse them this dignity divinely given and one which they may use with devastating effect to right the wrongs of the sick society that put them away? Or is for reason of that fear that we continue to keep them in their restricted position?

When you next walk into a polling station, ask yourself these questions:

Who’s with you?

Who’s not with you?

Why?

rusty-padlock-and-chainRusty Padlock and Chain photo by Alex Borland in Public Domain

[1] Protagoras and Meno (trans. W.K.C.Guthrie) Penguin, Middlesex, UK. The original Greek is non-gender specific and refers to ‘all’ and to ‘people’ not just to ‘men’.