Second Class

Never mind the controversy over Hindus on stamps, it seems the Royal Mail have made an even bigger faux pas.
At Famous For Fifteen Megapixels, Stef points out that there is a notable worrying difference between the people on the first class and second class stamps. I don’t for one minute think this is intentional or even some kind of corporate Freudian slip, but as Stef points out, the results of thoughtless tokenism can be counter productive.

Watching a TV show or ad where a Black actor has obviously been drafted in to play the token ethnic friend in a group of middle class white people is truly cringe-inducing.

However, I think there is a difference between the kind of crow-barring that Stef refers to (yoghurt adverts, sitcoms etcetera), and creative projects that have diversity as a central message. The Christmas stamps fall into this latter category, along with the aborted British Airways ‘world colours’ livery, which apparently I was the only person in the country to like.

11 Replies to “Second Class”

  1. I disagree with tokenism totally, I, for one, would much rather be chosen on merit than for the fact that I am the token female or token Taffy.
    Now to Multiculturalism, I wish it didn’t have to be a subject to promote. We are all of the same human race, someone’s culture, sexual orientation, music tastes, political views, hair colour, (I could go on and on) are for them and their associates to deal with – we are what we are after all.
    The more we keep highlighting the differences the deeper the divide becomes.

  2. I need to comment on the BA Tail flags – I liked them but that was not the place to start to be “inclusive” and “one-worldish”. It is a huge corporation and for its survival needs to be identifiable

  3. I remember seeing how colourful the South African airways planes had become, and I suspect this rebirth triggered the change in BA. Had they kept a central recognisable theme, it would have worked.
    I’m amused by the idea of a committee trying to decide what is “balanced”, but thats just where we are at now. Its not malign, and should pass when the fear resolves.

  4. Now to Multiculturalism, I wish it didn’t have to be a subject to promote.
    Maybe, but with all the intolerance abound, I think its something that needs to be addressed. But ‘multiculturalism’ is problematic, especially when you realise that all ‘cultures’ in the ‘ism’ seem to have a patriarchal character. A better word for a better value is simply diversity.

  5. Why do we not have special stamps for Ramadan…etc?
    Because the state religion is C of E. That is why we have big cultural/institutional (media, retail etc) celebration of Christmas and not the festivals of other faiths. Everybody who *chooses* to live in the UK made that choice knowing that C of E is the state religion of this country.
    I think it would be nice though if we *did* have stamps for other religious festivals, we have stamps to commemorate plenty of extremely obscure things/niche interests, so why not commemorate something that has meaning for lots of people, and gives a visibility to and demonstration of respect for/interest in/knowledge of other faiths.

  6. Disagreeing with tokenism:
    Would you rather have your social group be represented in a token fashion than not represented at all? I know I wouldn’t.
    I also think it’s a necessary (albeit offensive) step along the journey to equality of respect and opportunity and representation for all.

  7. Rob,
    First of all, I did not make any “statement that this country is C of E” as you claim, though I wish now that I had.
    I simply pointed out that C of E is the state religion of this country. This is not a racist/anti-diversity statement or otherwise, it is just a simple statement of fact. You can check it if you like, it is true.
    I was trying to explain why it is not surprising or offensive to me that christian iconography gets pride of place in terms of commemorative stamps and so forth in this country. Just as if I moved to a country whose state religion was Islam, I would know in advance that christian iconography might have little or no visibility, and certainly that Islam would be the most visible and the most represented religion. Would it not be arrogant in the extreme to expect things to be otherwise? It would be nice if the government did a nod towards my religion as an acknowledgement of the contribution I was making to the society though.
    I also think there is rather a difference between “ascribing religions to states” and “ascribing religions to populations”. Most states do actually have an official state religion. I do not believe that referring to a state’s official religion (ascribing religions to states) is in anyway problematic as you claim, or constitutes ascribing that religion in a blanket fashion to all citizens of said state. Saying that this country is C of E is a) true as long as C of E is the state religion, and b) not the same as saying that its people are all or even mostly C of E.
    I would also like to add that it is not anthropomorphic arrogance to refer to certain characteristics of states when they have them. To say that Britain has an official state religion is not the same as saying that Britain believes in Jesus, or goes to church (when’s the last time you saw a country in a church?).
    I also think it is fair to say that a state may have ‘beliefs’ (as demonstrated in practical terms) even though very few of its citizens may actually share such beliefs. I think it’s fair to say for instance that Britain ‘believes’ that theft and murder are wrong (not counting on the global stage, obviously), as evidenced by the laws in this country and their application. This, despite the fact that plenty of people do commit theft and murder. This country ‘thinks’ that 24-hour drinking is potentially ok, even though there may be plenty of its citizens who disagree. I think it’s also fair to say that Britain is rather more equivocal in its position on rape and prostitution, for the same reasons as before (laws and their application).
    It is the laws and rules of the country’s official institutions and bodies of power that designate its characteristics, and not always the majority view. What about the war in Iraq? This country believed that it was ok and right to do that, even though (I think) most of its citizens did not.
    I reserve the right to refer to my country’s characteristics without fear of spurious censure on ‘anti-diveristy’ grounds.

  8. I don’t deny that this country is officially C of E. Nor am I saying that you’re being somehow anti-diversity to point out this fact. That’s not the substance of the earlier post, nor the reason for referring to it in the comments here.
    You are totally, trivially right to say that people should expect certain things from a country that has a state religion. This is merely a practicality based on the state of affairs As They Stand.
    What I’m saying (in the earlier post, I may add) is that having a state religion at all is stupid and misleading. Anthropomorphism is a great word for it. You can’t argue with a religion like you can with other political points, so the analogy with other laws is misleading. I suppose the near impossibility of voting out a state religion with some kind of referendum is a way out… and the fact we have not done that yet is also crap.

  9. Anthropomorphism is not a great word for having a state religion. It is a misuse of the word anthropomorphism. See my previous post. If you called it divisive and potentially dangerous, that might be closer to the mark, but I think I would still disagree.
    So what things do you expect from a country that has a state religion then? Do you expect the same things from a country whose prime minister is not a member of the state religion? And what things do you expect from non-state-religion countries (eg china, old ussr?)
    You demonstrably *can* argue with a religion just as you can with political points. No offence, but look at Martin Luther. Whether you can argue with a law that is already on the statute books on the other hand is debatable (as it were). Defence lawyers try, I admit, but they are often not successful. The C of E does not send people to prison or community service, or even to hell. Worst they can do is excommunicate you. The law is not so benign.
    I think you misunderstood the analogy with laws. The analogy was that as belief or thought is to a person, so a state religion or a law is to a nation, so whether or not one can argue with a religion or a political point really does not speak to whether the analogy was misleading. There’s a difference between an analogy with isomorphic mapping, and anthropomorphism, even if your isomorphic analogy is with humans or humankind. To have a state religion is not the same as claiming that all of the population have certain (or any) religious beliefs. If it were the same, *then* it would be fair to call it anthropomorphic, but it is not, therefore it is not fair.
    I do believe that religion has no place in political affairs, and I do think it’s exceedingly dangerous that people can use their religious beliefs to justify attempts to control, oppress or murder others. But I don’t think the fact that our country has a state religion really speaks to this issue. Since our state religion has relatively little political or indeed cultural power not shared by other religions, I see no need to vote it in or out.

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