Identity politics my ass

According to Simon Jenkins in the Guardian today the real problem in the world is that the left concentrates too hard on looking after minorities while blaming white middle aged, middle class men (and some women) for well, everything. And, ergo  Trump and Brexit are those poor snowflakes fighting back.

Well, I am confused because of course Simon Jenkins is a white elderly privileged man and he doesn’t seem to have had/be having any difficulty in finding fora for his views or indeed supporters for them. Here he is on the pages of a national newspaper (being paid handsomely I’ve no doubt) being all ‘marginalised’ with a mere 300o comments telling him that he is quite right and how they are all marginalised too.

I am a white working class woman – with a degree so don’t feel too sorry for me, but I don’t look around a see a world organised for my benefit. Most MP’s are still men, Presidents are still men, heads of corporations are mostly men, we still see sport on the TV mostly played by men, films are usually made by men, starring men with women as decorative additions who exist to talk about men. Notable literature is frequently the preserve of men (booker prize male winners outnumber the women 2:1) , TV news anchors in the UK are more frequently men than women, bishops are largely men etc etc. If you are non-white and/or disabled and working class you can often look in vain for people that are like you in certain fields (the judiciary for example). It is often possible to work the system better if you are gay AND upperclass (e.g. Stephen Fry and Sandi Toksvig) or Asian AND male (Sadiq Khan) or even working class, male and grammar school educated (Alan Bennett, Melvyn Bragg) but in general white, male, middle aged, middle or better income blokes seem to be doing ok.

In schools there has been concern that working class white males are left behind: girls do better in school, college and uni. But if your kids are white and male stop worrying, all the progress those girls are making is successfully undone as soon as they fancy taking on kids and a job – boom – males back on top as they don’t have career breaks to look after the blighters. Male jobs seem to pay better too in the private sector where the rates of pay can be kept under wraps.

White British males seems to feel aggrieved that they are targeted for criticism for violence and criminality, but the prison population is largely in the business of incarcerating men and of those only around 1 tenth are of non-UK origin, and white males outnumber non-white by three quarters. Murderers, rapists, burglars, car-jackers, drug dealers and childkillers are mostly white men. Next time you see an article about a child abuse ring that concentrates on the Asian ethnicity of the perps – remember that they are the exception rather than the rule! Of course women can be violent and cruel too, so can disabled people, so can gay and non-white people. But if you think that white men are being unfairly ‘got at’ for societies ills, think again.

By the way if you think that I’m a man-hating lesbian and that this is simply an outpouring of unjustified misandrist bile – I am a happily, straight married woman with male kids and I love them all dearly. I simply feel that to characterise the new world as being organised for anyone’s benefit other than straight white, middle income (or more) men is to be misinformed by a media largely dominated by well-off white males, while becoming so inured to life’s realities than you no longer see it anymore.

And Simon Jenkin’s assertion that this is the real reason that the left aren’t in power – well that is nonsense. Its been part of the civilizing process of the Western World to care about the rights and well-being of people who are not white, male and well off and that progress has not gone ‘to far’ – it’s simply begun to impinge on some of the privileges that the Great White Male enjoyed.

Modern politics is where it is because if you can blame someone on your street for your misfortune (real or imagined) it’s a damn sight easier than working out the economic and political facts of life. Blaming the enemies within is a much easier tactic than dealing with how to fairly share the obvious wealth that is sloshing around the upper echelons of society. You must have seen a toddler redirect a parents ire by quickly pointing to the dog or his sibling as the possible perpetrator – well that, my friends, is Nigel Farage, Donald Trump, Oswald Mosley, Enoch Powell and every internet warrior with a grudge. Politics isn’t getting less fair to white men, its getting more simplistic and accepting of the prejudices of white males. And I don’t know why or how that has happened.

If I had to guess I say that the main stream media has now got an echo chamber attached to it: the internet. And it’s a place that has long been dominated by male geeks. Its a place where men can go and complain to men about how the world is mean to them. And then it can watch happily while the MSM reports it as news. How does the left combat this and get people talking about real world problems of inequality, hate and poverty? No idea, but I suspect that someone is going to suggest that we should be ‘listening’ to white men – and not to poor white and black women.

 

To Milo

I don’t know whether you’re aware of Milo Yiannopoulos? He’s one of the chief spokespeople for the ‘alt-right’ (or right wing, Nazi, white suprematist, bigoted xenophobes, fascist sympathisers, but yeah, they’re preferring alt-right these days).  He writes and speaks nonsense for Breitbart amongst others including this piece of well, shite, for want of a better descriptor.

He includes an email address with his ‘writings’ so I thought it would be fun to send this

“Dear Milo

You have courageously added your (business email) address and I imagine this means that you are happy to answer queries on your posts? I mean it would be pointless to publish a contact email and then simply click on the trash button. Cowardly too – and I know you’re not like that.
My issue is this: I think that your satirical pieces are becoming a trifle too broad – I caught your article about feminism, washing machines and the pill recently. I know I’m a bit late to the game with this one, but I have been a wee bit tardy keeping up with essential reading recently. Now I realise that this piece was meant to wind up Feminists and what not, exposing them as ‘humourless’ and ‘prone to victimhood’, but really it just came off as a heavy handed and school-boyish. I mean, it was like you’d written the article to make fun of Breitbart instead, and it’s contributors and readers. Kinda like saying – look how dumb and asinine they are and see how these ‘silly men’ will fall for it and comment underneath with lots of ‘yay, go Milo’.
I mean, I know that you’re a clever and subtle social commentator: I know that you’ve be given the task of infiltrating the right to ensure that no-one ever takes them seriously. I find it extraordinary that anyone would ever take your views on anything seriously – that’s not kind of the point of you is it? You’re there just to prove that it’s impossible to be an intellectual and right wing, a Trump supporter and smart, well-educated and yet so ignorant.
But that Feminism article is in danger of blowing your cover – it’s too broad, too damn silly and self-congratulatory. Let’s face it, even some of the dumb-asses in the Breitbart ‘pen’ are going to see through that, and god knows, they’re really not very bright.
Milo, my friend. No-one is as big a shit-head as you’re pretending to be. NO-ONE. That smug, silly smile you adopt on TV, your views, your support of some of the stupidest men on the planet, Jeez Milo, they’re gonna know and when they find out that you’ve been taking the piss all this time – they are gonna kick your ass.
Wise up, row the dumb back a bit, moderate your stupidity a little, maybe throw in the odd wise comment, and you can keep on hiding your true liberal identity for years to come – and make sure that the right goes back into the toilet bowl of history – where it belongs.
You are a true hero of the left.”

Bummer

Well if we thought that the fall out from Brexit was a bit shit, that is nothing compared to the morning after the Trump before.

Here we are with a English synonym for fart heading up the world’s favourite democracy, after a campaign in which he showered anyone who wasn’t white and male with shit, and generally made the world simultaneously laugh at the US for their stupidity, and shiver inside if there was a chance he’d win.

Well, win he did. I’ve just had a look at a couple of NYT headlines and it’s apparent that  something went badly wrong (again) with polling because no-one saw that coming. My theory about modern polling is that instead of being a descriptor of how people are feeling in the moment, people are looking to polling as a sort of political weather forecast: so if the political weather is moving rightwards they have the confidence to go out with their political umbrella and vote the crap out of whichever wackjob they fancy…. safe in the knowledge, gleaned from the polls, that they won’t be alone.

Trumps supporters were clearly pissed off with the establishment in the US (just as those who voted for Brexit were largely putting a cross next to ‘fuck you’ on the ballot). Clinton was most likely perceived as a ‘same shit, different day’ candidate and, dear god, a woman to boot. The racism, misogyny, childishness and idiocy of their chosen candidate was not viewed as a problem – indeed it was likely that the more folk were told that they were dumb to pick him, the more likely they were to pick Trump. Nobody likes to be told that they are dumb.

Now there are a few things that we could learn from this (and Brexit). One: that a lot of normal people are not enjoying the benefits of our modern democracies. Their wages have stagnated, often their jobs are insecure, local shops are stuffed with cheap stuff from overseas (which is most likely where the few remaining jobs are heading) and life is not likely to get better for their kids. Two: that when governments, presidents, MP’s, Eurocrats and politicians of every stripe get into power nothing changes  – life stays exactly the same despite promises to the contrary. Three: that the press/media are more than happy to help identify who is to blame in this situation – but they themselves largely comprise members of the establishment or capitalists, who are (let’s face it) unlikely to put themselves forward as the ‘evil ones’. SO.. Five: When the world has a problem with capitalism it had been known to lurch rightwards and seek enemies within.

We could take all this on board and try to change the life chances of the majority, we could share around the benefits of capitalism more equally, we could reign in the powers of the rightwing ideologues who head up the press and media, we could make democracy do what its supposed to do (i.e. represent the people and work for them).

But the chances are that we won’t. Many people in the establishment will take this as confirmation that the voters are indeed as thick as pigshit, and that that if they want to be Trumped (which they clearly do) they are going to be Trumped good and hard. All those turkeys who voted for Christmas are going to find out what happens next (clue – it involves being stuffed and carved). It will give comfort to the racists (that the majority appear to agree with them), hope to misogynists (tremble if you are a woman) and fuel to nationalist paranoia. This is unlikely to end well.

The only consolation to liberals and lefties this morning is that compared to the US, the UK isn’t quite as bad. Yet.

Teeth

I recently visited the Facebook of the right wing Monmouth Tory David Davies MP to take issue with his suggestion that dental examinations should be used to prove the age of teenagers looking for refuge in the UK. I suggested that demanding that we see the teeth of migrants was sinister and rather called to mind the Nazi’s looking at the teeth of Jews during the hellish genocide in the mid-20th century.

I was immediately attacked for trying to allow ‘rapists’ and ‘terrorists’ into our schools and country (or a small number of under 18 year olds if you get your news from somewhere other than the Mail and the Sun) and told to stop exaggerating by comparing the succession of racist horrors in the UK to the actions of the Nazi’s and their countrywide supporters in Germany. This was on the one hand an insult to those who died and an insult to them (as upright citizens) who were merely pointing out the ‘facts’.

History teaching in the UK, as I know to my cost, is not always very good. All I learnt during my years in school was a little about the Romans in York, Henry 8th and the development of the Spinning Jenny. But I have read a lot of books and watched quite a lot of serious telly so I have made up for some deficiencies in my knowledge, but I accept that I may have got it wrong vis a vis how genocide happened in Germany.

Apparently it must have happened like this – 1942 WW2 starts and overnight suddenly everyone is a Nazi in Germany, Hitler dies, the war ends and its all back to normal with everyone suddenly respecting the Jews, Romany’s, homosexuals, communists, trade unionists and mentally/physically disabled people. And of course it’s been a forward march to enlightenment ever since.

I thought (in my ignorance) that hatred for Jews and minorities had been built up over time with smaller humiliations and losses of dignity, insults and other-ing, hate speech and intolerance – long before the machinery of the the Holocaust was in place. That bigotry and prejudice set the background for horrendous policies that should still shame everyone that took part in them (and everyone who knew what was happening – and did nothing).

We are not Hitler’s Germany yet, but I am not reassured that we are any more civilised, tolerant and forgiving than we were less than a century ago. And if we cannot be more welcoming to people who need our help now, and if we continue to tolerate bigoted and xenophobic speech, who can say with any confidence that we will avoid a repetition of the Holocaust.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Please read….

To the Parliamentary Labour Party
Some years ago, pounding the streets of my local town, trying to get Labour elected we frequently despaired of the PLP and the establishment media. The former gave us nothing to doorstep with: even deeply unpopular policy like the spare bedroom tax remained unchallenged until the end of the parliament, many MP’s had voted for a ‘welfare’ bill that was cruel and damaging – and what did the Labour leadership do? Nothing.
Meanwhile, the establishment media disembowelled the Labour party and because our supporters aren’t tax-avoiding millionaire peers, there was no prospect of counteracting the stories (or lies) that passed for news. My fellow canvasser and I were convinced that the only way to win people over to Labour was to build a grass roots Labour movement based on socialist values, and the conversations we had with people on the doorstep. We needed to offer help, but have a framework and an ideology (if you will) to deliver the help that was needed. 
I never voted for Tony Blair – much of that was down to being cussed, but I was also overseas through the greater part of his incumbency (which included being in Dubai when he bombed Iraq. Nobody in the ME gave any credence to the WMD btw). I remember being excited that we finally had a Labour government, but successive years of governance showed Mr.Blair’s Labour to be a chimera: we had a mandate for change and the country had an appetite for new policy, but all the Labour party gave them was the same old same old. Capitalism and big business did bloody well out of UK plc, the Labour party gave the poor ‘compensation’ and “stuffed their mouths” with tax credits. I loathed Tony Blair by the end of his stay in power, didn’t have much time for blundering Gordon and was heartsick about my Labour party.
I voted for Ed Miliband and hoped for the best, but he lost his political fire so quickly I wondered if it had ever burnt at all. He was destroyed by the press of course, but also by a Labour party that no longer understood what it was there for.
Let me be clear, we are not about giving capitalism the reins and making life a wee bit easier for the poor and left behind. We are not about dismantling the social security system in cahoots with the Tories. We should be happy to re-nationalise utilities and transport (we know that nationalised power and transport can work, as we have several other country’s nationalised power and trains making money over here) and we should make sure that the NHS remains free – free to use and free from the taint of privatisation. This is self-evident to me, but I couldn’t see any evidence at the last leadership election that these were the core values of the candidates. Kendall, Cooper and  Burnham all filled me with despair: Andy at least was prepared to countenance mentioning re-nationalising the railways. Kendal simply stated that she was not a Tory (while giving no evidence to counteract this impression), Cooper appeared to say, I’m a woman so I must be Labour. 
I wondered if there was an alternative to voting Labour – but of course there is none. I prepared to put a peg on my nose and vote for the least awful option. 
And then Jeremy Corbyn snuck onto the ballot. I remember a talking over a cup of coffee to a friend. We discussed the horribleness of the line-up and the late appearance of a traditional socialist on the ballot. This is how we framed it at the time – we know he can’t win, but god, it would be tempting to vote just to see what would happen.
As the numbers improved for Jeremy, I decided to vote for him. I didn’t know anything about him other than his left-wing politics. I knew he was a dedicated constituency MP and a rabble rouser and it was that combination which sealed it for me. Kendall would never rouse a rabble, Cooper wouldn’t know a genuinely socialist policy at 3 paces, Burnham would always follow the crowd.
Jeremy won. I was happy to support the Labour party again. I knew that the settling-in period for Corbyn would be tough, but I assumed that he would be given a grace period and help from the rest of the PLP.
How wrong I was. From the start he was briefed against, plotted against, rubbished by his own party, and the whispering campaign was supported by the left/liberal press so there was few voices raised in his support. It was horrifying to see how far adrift the PLP were from the people who did their legwork, knocked the doors for them and paid the dues that got them elected. The PLP seemed to think that losing 2 elections was some sort of ‘victory’ for how they ‘did’ things – as opposed to a damning indictment of their misunderstanding of the voters. 
The voters wanted credible, passionate politics and they wanted change. The PLP seemed to think that this meant the same sh*t in a different suit. 
And then Brexit came along. The Tory’s great big, enormous pile of steaming division and an open goal for a united Labour party.  But the chicken coup happened instead. And the PLP even screwed that up.
After Leadership election 2 – the PLP is now obliged to shut up, put up and work together. If they fail to do so we will not win another election in this decade. And it won’t be because of Jeremy Corbyn, it will be because the party is divided amongst itself, cannot accept (with grace) a democratic decision, rubbishes the membership, takes their money and bans them from voting, and plays all of this out with the help of friendly media moguls. (Who will of course stab them firmly in the back in the event of another general election)
PLP members point to dire polling and say Jeremy Corbyn is unelectable – and sure, we couldn’t win an election today. But really, who’s fault is it? A losing PLP which cannot change and believes that it’s their way or the highway, or a man who’s only real fault is that he represents ‘old’ style Labour and socialism. You can talk about the abuse and the anti-zionism, the misogyny and the hate, but anybody in the Labour party could tell you that was a ‘pre-existing illness’ pre-dating Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.
But there’s been numerous people talking about what is wrong, here’s a few ideas about how to get it right. 
1.
Stop dissing the leader now, give him the help he needs to foster a good impression in parliament and elsewhere, and act together. I’m not advocating Stalinist putting down of dissent, just a mature appreciation of how sh*t you look when you’re squabbling. 
2. 
Understand Brexit: it was a roar of pain from parts of the UK who feel forgotten. Many of whom now believe that it’s OK to be racist.  They wanted change  – some sort of change, and much of their information came from a press hostile to the EU and foreigners. The Labour party has not done much to counteract the anti-immigration message and bugger all to take racism off the agenda. We need to make it clear that racism is still something to apologise for, and ultimately ensure that those ‘left behind’ understand that it was white men in suits at the head of UK/ multi-national corporations, and bad government under white men in suits that made their lives precarious. We should not  say “I feel your pain” about ‘Immigration’ – it’s a nonsense, and dangerous.
3. 
Be passionate about your politics, don’t focus-group your beliefs into sound bites, make your case, take on the arguments, keep it brief but don’t patronise. Politics isn’t science, it’s an art, it should be about gut feelings and yes, even anger. (but always ensure that you have the facts at your fingertips). Anger is a difficult emotion and hard to manage – how do we know? Look at Brexit. But righteous anger (free from the taint of violence and bullying) can power change as various human rights movements can testify.
 
4.
You have the policy framework:  green energy, nationalised utilities and transport, the NHS and social security system (NOT Welfare), a great education for all, devolution of powers to the regions, redistribution of wealth, strong unions representing a strong, fairly paid workforce and so on. We don’t need new policy. The above are tried and tested, you lot – the PLP – just have to argue for them. Take the Overton window and drag it over to the left of the political spectrum. Oh, and get rid of Trident for chrissakes. Have you never heard of the ‘turning swords to ploughshares’?  Of course jobs will be lost, but money for re-investment will be freed up. And it’s vile anyway. Should you be making your daily crust making weapons of mass destruction? Of course not.
5.
Want a slogan? Labour. Just Fair

I voted for Jeremy Corbyn – I just had a look at the brochure that came with the ballot paper and sighed, virtually all the PLPs voted for Owen Smith and the vast majority of CLPs voted for Corbyn.  Awkward.

Maybe the PLP are genuinely convinced that this is the correct road to power, but I’m wondering whether electing a leader, publicly scorning him, organising an ineffectual coup, attempting to shame him into resigning, calling for a new election and trying to exclude the sitting candidate, putting up two terrible alternatives, organising a poor campaign against the leader (even as it seems that the leader is going to get a clear win anyway, thereby making them look a bit, uh, dumb), preventing paid-up members from electing the leader (even while their dues contribute to Labour funds), preventing long time members from voting, allowing LibDem donors and people who liken Labour members to “stormtroopers”a vote and doing it in the glare of the press, much of which is naturally unfriendly, really is the way forward.

 

Ban the Burkini ban

Dress and custom are ways we maintain boundaries or how we identify ourselves as being part of a certain group or community. I wear Converse with my bootleg jeans and grow out my grey hair because I want to be recognised as part of the alt-middle-age group (and not the M&S clothing demographic), Mods wear Docs with their fish-tale parkas, Sikhs wear turbans, priests wear dog collars and crosses, politicians are apparently obliged to wear a dark suit (if men) or plenty of chest-covering (if women), toddlers don’t generally wear business suits and business men don’t usually dress up in rompers and bootees (unless they are having some very special moments with grown up friends). Clothing is cultural, symbolic, loaded with meaning and a way of signalling your tribal alliances. It’s also a gender battlefield and deeply political.

For example, adherents of this religion must dress modestly, their heads must be covered at all times, knees and elbows should be concealed, fashionable or tight-fitting clothes are frowned upon. It’s terrible isn’t it, the strictures that Islam places on women? Except that it’s not Islam and it’s not women, these are the restrictions placed on some orthodox Jewish men.

It’s interesting to note however that no-one wants to rescue these men from the dress-code they live under, because they are men and if they decide to do something, it’s assumed that it’s their right to do so, and they have full agency. Muslim women who want to veil their heads are viewed as victims and oppressed, or foolish followers of male dictates – and in France at the moment, potential terrorists.

I hope I wasn’t the only one to be appalled at the pictures of four armed men obliging a lone woman to undress on a public beach. I assume that if you believe that these are foreigners who should observe our cultural norms, you would be happy to wear a hijab and face veil when you’re next in Dubai, and be happy if your grandma was forced at gunpoint to don a black robe over her one piece swimsuit on one of their public beaches? If you’re not, then darling, you’re a raving hypocrite. And an Islamophobe.

Oh, but of course, we only worry about women being oppressed by their clothes if they’re brown and foreign. If they’re white and young they might well be oppressed by  various other strictures: skirt too short = slut, skirt to long = frump, too much make-up = slut, too little = lesbo, too much chest on view = slut, too much chest on view = breast feeding mother = feminazi, but this is just part of our cultural values that women have to negotiate and that, brother, is that.

I don’t think that those who have been cheering on the French authorities for clamping down on burkini’s are actually defending women, I think they’re other-ing Islamic people and going after an easy target, the dress that defines them as different, because if they were really and truly worried about women’s rights and freedoms they’d allow the women in question to wear EXACTLY WHAT THEY WANT.