Wednesday, February 15, 2012

2012 - 7

Too Much Time on My Hands

Sitting, doing very little but enjoying the fact that for a week I can do nothing if I so choose, I started to have some strange ideas. Like the sitcom called The Paul Stevens Show, which could be about anything whatsoever, but does not have anyone in it called Paul Stevens, not even by association. I just liked the idea of a show that's title has nothing whatsoever to do with it.

How about Jesus Loves You - a sitcom about the return of the messiah as a 21st century Lothario and sex addict? I mean, if you want to really upset people, he lives in a flat with his multicultural friends David - a Jew, Mohamed - a Muslim and Baldy - a Buddhist. They would also have an insidious landlord, probably an atheist and a neighbour who is a extreme porn actress. What's not to work?

Ignorant Racism

When I was growing up in Canada in the 1960s, my mum and I would, during the spring months, go searching for frogs and toads. I was fascinated by these creatures (and I'm pretty sure my mum had a soft spot for them, considering she would hang over the edges of ponds, with her arms sank to their elbows, searching under banks for all shapes and size of amphibious creatures.

We had a basement - a kind of utility cellar - in most of our houses, but when we lived on Caledon Mountain, we had a basement that was as big as the house I live in now and at the far end was a twin sink - 2 concrete sinks - which my mum used mainly for doing the washing. This was where we would store our catch; sometimes as many as 30 assorted frogs and toads, in a sink, with rocks and enough water to keep them happy. I even had a favourite - a bull frog (a big bugger) called Charlie.

I also used to grow my own frogs. In March or April when the first spawn appeared, I would come home with buckets of the stuff with the intention of having my own frog army. Now you and I have probably known the product of these eggs as tadpoles, but in Canada, especially in the days when casual racism, sexism and non-pc was the norm, tadpoles were called... polywogs.

Oh dear.

I have a relative who, bless his heart, is quite old now, heading towards his 90th year. He has always referred to black people as 'darkies' and there isn't the faintest whiff of intended racism there. And Fishwife works with a black guy who he refers to as 'coloured' all the time! I even pointed out to him that black people find the term really derogatory and his reply was to say that his mate didn't mind. I even pushed it and said, 'has it ever occurred to you that he might feel awkward about telling you not to say it?" It was like I asked him an easy question in Aramaic.

I remember having a conversation about racism with an Indian friend many years ago. Sanjay was a thoroughly westernised Ugandan Asian with parents from Gujarat. He had embraced western and white life so much, the only thing that made him different was the colour of his skin. Being of Indian origin, he grew up calling Pakistanis Pakis, had no problem calling Chinese people chinks and often referred to himself, ironically, as a wog. It was this he based a lot of his argument around...

This was probably the early 90s and PC was not yet the burgeoning presence it is today and he said that racism was largely dead in this country and he meant it. He felt that most of the Asians, Africans, West Indians and Chinese had lived here long enough to have naturalised children, who were gradually embracing western culture more and more and were themselves to blame for the culture of casual racism that remained. Remember this was less than a generation from Love Thy Neighbour where the expressions 'sambo' 'chalky' were rife and were accepted for many years. This was also a generation that had Jim Davidson! Sanjay believed that other races ability to adapt and not be offended by slurs, which in many cases were not meant in any derogatory fashion, was the key to moving on. He believed in a multicultural society and truly believed that by the time he was an old man racism would be reduced to isolated incidents; because every one would grow to tolerate ignorance and ignore it.

However, he was concerned. He felt that too many white people were growing angry about their perceived treatment of other cultures. He said to me, 'the thing that will bugger up race relations in the years to come will be white pinko liberals.' He went on to say that it is easy for people who have no concept of a reality to oppose what they see as an injustice. He also said that his late father, who lived here for 20 years and never learned more than a dozen words of English, used to say that the 'abuse' he got from kids and ignorant idiots was no worse than the kind of thing you would hear on the streets of Mumbai (or Bombay as it was then). Sanjay said his father, who worked for many years in the Indian equivalent of the Merchant Navy before moving to Uganda, claimed that every country in the world is racist and that the UK had dug a big hole for itself with the introduction of the Race Relations Board.

It's easy to say this, but when I was at school we had a number of Muslims; probably many more than most schools at the time and none of the girls were ever covered up; none of the boys ever showed anything but respect and not the hint of misogyny that seems to pervade the young Muslims now prominent on TV and the 'net. I wonder if things would have been different had Sanjay's idea of turning a blind eye to casual racism had remained and grown and eventually either died out or become as inoffensive as the word twit?

I remember talking to a Pole, who had grown up in Ireland, a few years ago; he said that everyone hates everyone else, really, but we have to share the planet and ignorance is often far better than wars. Actually, he was a really fascinating young man, I should tell you about him sometime.

Speaking of Wars

If you trawl through some of the blogs out there you will see there are as many arseholes as opinions, which at least confirms the old adage. I do something that probably has a neologism, but for me if, on a week like this, I find myself with an hour to spare and I don't fancy Bejewelled Blitz or Scrabble, I often click on a friend's blog, then randomly pick one of his links, have a scan or a read depending on the content and then look for another link, and then another, so I eventually get as far away from my initial friend as I can - a bit like the reverse of 6 degrees to Kevin Bacon or whatever that thing is called.

Often I find stuff as boring and banal as my own, occasionally I find things that I struggle to fathom; in that I'm not sure if it's for real or not. On Monday night, the wife was in bed by 10pm and after checking the TV schedules, I saw that the Family Guy episodes on BBC3 and FX were ones I'd already seen and I didn't fancy watching one of the 300 unseen episodes of stuff I've got on disc; so I went on line and did a bit of random blog reading. No, I'm not going to tell you I found some of the most amazing blogs I've ever seen, because I didn't. But as I got closer and closer to the heart of the USA, I noticed a lot of them had a similar theme running through them - they all seem to think that we're heading for a Third World War!

If you look at history for parallels you'll certainly find some, especially if you're a conspiracy theorist; but I have to say that the usual way of clearing up economic messes is to destroy the planet and then rebuild it; it certainly clips a few off the population numbers and lots of things need rebuilding - but usually all the countries who do this borrow money from others and that's where all the problems start.

The scary thing is that it's probably already started if it's going to happen; the elements that is. All we need now is for someone to do something really stupid and all of our current woes will be irrelevant.


Want cheering up after that rather dreary snippet? How about this: It's best viewed in yesterday's middle pages of The Guardian, as a photo montage, but these pictures, especially the black labrador, the Belgian tervuren and the border collie - if they don't make you chuckle then you have no funny bones!


I am currently listening to the new Ulrich Schnauss & Mark Peters album called Underrated Silence.
I am not reading anything.
You know what I watch on TV.
We won £140 at the pub quiz last night - thanks to Roger's nimble fingers (hah!) and for me remembering Gallagher & Lyle.
The wife got absolutely hammered last night.
I'm going to the pub tomorrow.
I said on Saturday, the worst thing about this week is it will go too fast. Look, it's Wednesday already!

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