Mixing the teams up

Its a shame when you miss a post and the associated discussion first time around. Last month David at Minority Report bravely tackled the sticky subject of inter-racial breeding

Its a shame when you miss a post and the associated discussion first time around. Last month Minority Report bravely tackled the sticky subject of inter-racial breeding in Mixing the teams up.

A telling point halfway down:

Recently, a popular stress on cultural identity, has worked to apply fresh paint on racial boundaries.

This reminds me of an article I read recently. A argument against inter-racial relationships, by a mixed-race American who married a white woman, is surely worth a read. Dell Gines post (found via Clive Davis and Booker Rising) asserts that since the pool of eligible black males has decreased in the USA due to social problems within those communities, if a white woman dates/marries one such eligible black man, she is reducing that pool even further. Black women are of course free to date white guys, but in both cases, the end result is the decrease of the black community. The erosion of the black community is a negative effect of all this.

My response is to reiterate that cultures are not fixed. They change and evolve over the generations. Black culture is certainly to be respected, but can and should it be preserved? (The same, of course, may be asked of white culture). The answer to all these questions is “probably not!” Even if the insidious eugenics proposed by Gines were employed, and a black racial purity was preserved in the USA, the black culture itself would change anyway. So why not accept this, and let black and white cultures merge with each other? As the author Hanif Kureishi suggests, multiculturalism is the idea that “purity is incestuous”. That cultures change into something else is not necessarily a cause for concern.

Revolution now, stasis later?

We are still in the innovating, barnstorming phase of this technology, and the rules for its proper use are being hastily scribbled out.

That the Internet is a radical innovation, on a par with the Printing Press, is an oft-repeated mantra, and with good reason. It excites me to think of these decades as a time that profoundly changes society, like the Industrial Revolution of the 19th Century.

Jeremy Clarkson, of all people, made a very pertinent point on last week’s edition of Who Do You Think You Are? while he was slagging off enviornomentalists. Admiring the architecture in Huddersfield, he remarked that the industrial revoluton could not have occurred, had the environmental constraints we have today been in place 150 years ago.

So it is with other regulations such as town planning. I was in Glenrothes earlier this week, where the post-war new town atmosophere seems soulless and homogenised. Its all roundabouts. What a relief to return to the mangle of buildings that make up Edinburgh’s Old Town, where ancient buildings, subjected to countless ad hoc modifications and uses, give it charatcter and keep it alive. I would never seek to now abolish town planning or building regulations… but part of me yearns for a time of rapid change and progress.

This is why I am drawn online. It is interesting to watch new online societies, like The Committee To Protect Bloggers, at their fledgeling stage, and to see blogging standards and web ethics evolve. We are still in the innovating, barnstorming phase of this technology, and the rules for its proper use, its ‘best practice’ are being hastily scribbled out. I am glad I am here, and participating. In 150 years, will the codes of practice now being devised be entrenched? Will the standards and methodologies be codified and fixed? Perhaps our sites will need a licence, planning permission, and a signature from the ever-so-expensive Institute of Chartered Web Designers?

Crazy Creationists

I am not Morph… The idea that we were made from clay is demeaning.

I am not sure whether I am more scared of a British Police State, or an American Religious one. In the same five minute bulletin, I also heard that eleven parents in Pennsylvania USA are suing their school board, which has decreed that since evolution is just a “theory” it must be taught as such in schools, and only presented alongside alternative theories such as “intelligent design”, a form of creationism.

I continue to be both annoyed and puzzled by the shallowness of the “intelligent design” lobbyists, for a number of reasons. Why do they find evolution so offensive? What is wrong with being descended from monkeys anyway? I think it is demeaning to suggest that we simply appeared, perfectly formed, from the dust. I am not a clay model like Morph. The evolutionary struggle gives us a nobility, a triumph against ridiculous odds. How fantastic it is to believe in a theory which says that over the millenia, my ancestors evolved slowly from the trees, to the point where I can now be talking to the world from a laptop computer… And what rapture when I realise that despite the arbitrary and unjust nature of evolution, my genes and I have had the good fortune to succeed!

Why God cannot be described as a force of nature, or indeed the architect of the laws of Physics, has never been fully explained to me. For an omnipotent God, that should be a bagatelle! If one persists in beleiving in a God of the Abrahamic (i.e. Jewish/Christian/Islamic) ilk, then surely She would have the power to kick-start evolution at the beginning of the Earth. Since God is outside of time, She would presumably have the foresight of everything and everyone, including you, me, and Charles Darwin.

Why undermine the science that has introduced us to the idea of adaption, and therefore why species may become ‘endangered’? Why undermine the science that allows us to understand and cure genetic diseases?

Geologists deny that the earth created in six days. They say it is 4.55 billion years old. Are their theories criticised too? And if so, should we listen to what they have to say about volcanos, earthquakes, and tsunami?

Even if evolution is a theory, it is by the far the most rigorous we have. While we know we have not described the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about evolution, there is huge intellectual gulf between a few paragraphs in Genesis, and the mountains of peer reviewed experiments and tests that together make up the cannon of evolutionary theory. Let Genesis into science labs, and you may as well let in the Spaggeti Monster, and the Fundamentalist Aesopians. Its enough to make you tune in to MC Hawking.

Update: I found a quote from W.N.P. Barbellion:

I take a jealous pride in my Simian ancestry. I like to think that I was once a magnificent hairy fellow living in the trees and that my frame has come down through geological time via sea jelly and worms and Amphioux, Fish, Dinosaurs and Apes. Who would exchange these for the pallid couple in the Garden of Eden?

Crazy Congress

I would of course feel the schadenfreude if DeLay is convicted… but Justice takes priority.

Competing with the news of high-jinx at the UK Labour party conference is the story that Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) has been indicted on charges of electoral corruption. He allegedly channelled illegal corporate donations to Republican candidates for the Texas legislature. The plot thickens when we discover that his accuser, attorney Ronnie Earle, is a Deomocrat.

Is there a case to answer, or are these political manoeverings? Both men seemed pretty earnest and pretty dour on the news bulletins, so I don’t know who to believe. This seems another classic case where the benefit of the doubt will be given to those who’s political opinions match your own. I confidently predict Clive’s excellent blog will come down in favour of Rep. DeLay – at least for now.

I would of course feel the schadenfreude if the accusations to be true, as it would reinforce my long held suspicions of US Republicans, and would undoubtedly harm the party’s chances in forthcoming elections. However, there is a chance that the allegations will not hold up to scrutiny, which would be a terrible thing for the Democratic cause. Good will only be done if justice prevails, of course.

Crazy Conference

We can’t use terrorism laws to bully pensioners, can we?

I turn my back for a moment, and the world goes crazy. All I did was watch The Ring Two for an hour or so, and three crazy events have hit the headlines at once.

First, we hear that an 82 year old man has been ejected from the Labour Party Conference for heckling Jack Straw over Iraq. Now I welcome this sort of vocal exhibition of democratic rights, prompted by the party’s failure to have a proper, cathartic debate about this problem at any point in the past two and a half years. However, I do understand the need to keep some sort of decorum: noise-mongers should be ejected.

What is totally unacceptable is the idea that terrorism laws were used to prevent the pensioner from returning to the conference! Need I ask what threat this man posed? Terrorism powers should be used sparingly, on the basis of evidence gathered carefully and methodically by the security forces. Applying them to what was obviously nothing more than a public order issue is dangerous, offensive, and bordering on the totalitarian.

Stressing Similarities

Multiculturalism is about stressing similarities as well as celebrating differences

Integration won’t work, when community leaders are always stressing the differences. So says Sunny, the editor at Pickled Politics. Finding common ground, and treating each other with much more than just “toleration” is the whole point of multiculturalism. It is not simply a case of living side-by-side without interaction.

I would have thought that an artwork which emphasised the similarity between the three Abrahamic faiths would be welcomed by Britain’s top art gallery… but apparently this not so. John Latham’s God Is Great has been banned by some reactionaries at Tate Britain because it features slightly damaged Holy Books. It was anticipated that someone might complain, so I suppose it is a pre-emptive reaction against the reactionaries! If pressure groups can affect change without actually saying anything, then clearly they do have the influence that Pickled Politics ascribes to them.

Against Homogenisation

Foreign languages are alternative ways of thinking

In recent days, a few media outlets have mentioned the amusing The Meaning of Tingo. It is a compendium of words from other languages that name rather specific or complicated concepts, that have no English counterpart. My favourite is Backpfeifengesicht, “A face that cries out for a fist in it.”

The preservation of languages is the first front in the battle against homogenisation. People who speak in a different way also think in a subtly different way too. For example, there is a real conceptual difference between “I had a dream” and the French “J’ai fait un reve” (which means “I made a dream”).

We need these alternative ways of thinking, in politics and art. They can remind us that things may not always be what we preceive them to be, and they can help us solve problems.

Running Amok/Ambling Along

I love the organic nature of cities

Bridge, by Tommy Perman

I recently attended the opening of Running Amok/Ambling Along, an exhibition by a friend and colleague of mine, Tommy Perman. His work centres around the idea of urban spaces, and how mandkind interacts with these environments.

At the event I was reminded of the organic nature of cities. I am entertained the thought of one set of people building something; then some other people extending it in a different archtectural style; and yet some more people knocking half the walls to reuse the space for something else. These mutated forms are what humanity has created as a collective, over centuries. They are as much a part of our history as the perfectly preserved stately homes under the control of Historic Scotland and English Heritage.

I enjoy revelling in these thoughts when I look at the antiquated prints one finds on the walls of pubs (which are themselves buildings that have gone through many uses and users). I like picking out the landmarks which remain, and the features which have been pushed aside due to the march of progress.

I see Tommy’s drawing in this tradition. Perhaps future generations will look at them, then close their eyes, and try to imagine what life was like in the twenty-first century, “the olden days”.

TABOLID SHOCKER!!

Don’t starve us of information

Tabloid journalism is unhelpful. It often purports to present the bare facts, yet emotive language is often used to impose values and opinions upon the reader. An article of only a hundred or so words simply cannot provide an in depth discussion of events, as a longer article can. A reader cannot form detailed and valid opinions with the little information tabloids present. Instead, he or she is forced to take the point of view of the editors. This is a dangerous state-of-affairs.CHOICE

It is argued that tabloid newspapers are necessary because people must be free to choose how much news they read.

This is an empty and dangerous argument.

If a man chooses to live alongside others, he has a duty to be well-informed. He has a duty to form an opinion. He has no right to choose otherwise. This is a crucial aspect of democracy.

Unless a man takes himself off to subsist in a cave, he will interact with other people. He has a duty of care to his neighbours.

Anyone who has the right to vote, has a duty to seek out as much information possible on all the political issues that effect the lives of his countrymen.

He cannot get this from tabloid journalism.

PATRONISING

It is also said (in a soft and kind tone of voice) that some folk find the broadsheets too difficult to read. “They do not wish to read longer articles with longer words.”

This is highly patronising.

All men have the ability to follow a detailed, logical argument, and form an opinion on what they have read. This skill is what sets us apart from the lower mammals. They should be encouraged use that skill at every opportunity.

By ignoring these abilities, we are demeaned. By reading the over-simplified news, we surrender our humanity.

Basra, and the benefit of the doubt

When commenting on any political issue, the real challenge is to present evidence that convinces people who are not already predisposed to your point of view.

I am in a dilemma, because I don’t know what to think about the happenings in Basra this week. I am also feeling quite frustrated, because I know that whatever I end up thinking, others will say that I am being woefully naive; that I have been conned by the conniving of The Other Side.

First, our attention has been drawn to some deeply suspicious activities carried out by our British forces. Questions are left unanswered: Why were the two SAS soldiers operating in plain clothes? Does that make them illegal combatants? Why did they have so much weaponry in their vehicle? And most worryingly, why did the British bulldoze a police-station in order to liberate these two men?

Despite this, and despite my distrust of the US/UK governments regarding this issue, I am not convinced that British forces are staging flase-flag operations, as some blog sites have been asserting. There are many possible reasons why these soldiers were carrying so much ordinance, other than for the purpose of executing a terrorist attack during the Karbala festival. Crucially, it is not clear to me how a false-flag operation would benefit a government which is politically committed to winning a War on Terror.

On the other hand, I recall just how frustrating it is when people dismiss a suggestion of underhand dealings. Many people simply did not believe that the great British Government would exaggerate or fabricate the reasons for going to war in Iraq. That they are still credulous allows Tony Blair’s misjudgment to go unpunished.

My only offering is one on political discourse. We have to recognise that there are good people in the world who simply give the benefit of the doubt where we do not; and vice-versa. I rarely grant George W Bush this benefit, even when he appears to be up against an Act of God such as Hurricane Katrina. But people with a more conservative outlook will do so. Conversely, I do tend to give George Galloway MP, the benefit of the doubt where others will call him a Ba’athist apologist.

So it is with the Daily Mirror hoax, and the recent events in Basra. Whether you side with the British forces or the citizens of Basra depends not on your analysis of the facts, which are scarce, but on how your political opinions have shaped your world view. Thus we have the camp of people who condemn the Iraqi police-force as an insurgent-riddled lost cause; and the group on the other side who claim that it is the British forces who have been provoking all the troubles.

When commenting on any political issue, the real challenge is to present evidence that convinces people who are not already predisposed to your point of view. You must think like your opponents, and present arguments that will convince them, even if your own threshold has long been surpassed. Shouting “it is a conspiracy by the oil-mongers” does nothing to convince those who genuinely believe that the Iraqi occupation is morally right. By contrast, the Abu Ghraib scandal was one issue that transcended the political divide, and caused journalists like Johann Hari to change their position on the war. The photographs of two sullen SAS soldiers are not such evidence. Whether you think that’s a good thing or a bad thing does, I suppose, depend on your point of view.