Once We had empires run by emperors and kingdoms run by kings. Now we have countries run by…?

An Uncomfortable Truth

June 8, 2020

Black lives matter. Well, of course they do. But as a slogan for our times, it is basically a RACIST rant. All lives matter. Black, brown, yellow, pink, off-white – they all matter! To suggest only black lives matter, is to turn your back on well over half the human race. And surely that can’t be right.

I understand it is a form of words rooted in frustration and the ongoing struggle against the cultural constrictions of our times. But, I repeat, it is a racist message. It highlights and reinforces division. To use racism to fight racism is the road to hell.

The outrage that has gripped many nations in the wake of the death of George Floyd in the USA, is likely fuelled by resentment over Covid-19’s extreme impact on black communities. In the UK some of the most disadvantaged sections of society have suffered dreadfully because of the disease. People of Chinese, Indian, Pakistani, other Asian, Caribbean and other black backgrounds face a much higher risk of death – of between 10% and 50% – compared with white Britons from Covid-19. People of Bangladeshi background face the greatest danger of dying from the disease, according to a review by Public Health England. Their risk of death is double that seen among white British people.

The failure to tackle the disproportionate number of deaths of black, Asian and minority ethnic people from coronavirus fuels simmering tensions over racial injustice in Britain today. It is time we took the bull of structural racism by the horns. Be open, be honest. We aren’t going to get rid of racism overnight, but there are a number of things that can be done. As Mark Hendrick, the MP for Preston, recently said:

“Racism has bedevilled our societies through the generations; but the economic, social and health inequalities highlighted by the coronavirus pandemic have exposed racism in a way humanity has never seen before. Long after this crisis is over, we will be judged on how we sought to eradicate the virus of individual and structural racism by dealing with the conditions that have created it.”

Racism in the UK has changed significantly since I was a child. You no longer see signs in windows stating ‘Rooms To Let – No Blacks, No Foreigners’. Even so racism is as ill-understood and consequently remains as unaddressed today as it was way back then.

The Macpherson report published in February 1999 concluded that the investigation into the death of Stephen Lawrence “was marred by a combination of professional incompetence, institutional racism and a failure of leadership by senior officers”. This institutional racism, the report explained, is “the collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture, or ethnic origin. It can be seen or detected in processes, attitudes and behaviour which amount to discrimination through unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness and racist stereotyping which disadvantage minority ethnic people.”

Among its many recommendations, the report suggested that the police force boost its black representation, and that all officers be trained in racism awareness and cultural diversity. For a short period of time, activity took place that trained police officers to understand what “less favourable treatment” looked like and who and why it should be avoided. But as soon as the coalition government came to power almost all equality training was stopped.

“We tell ourselves that good people can’t be racist. We seem to think that true racism only exists in the hearts of evil people. We tell ourselves that racism is about moral values, when instead it is about the survival strategy of systemic power. When a large proportion of the population votes for politicians and political efforts that explicitly use racism as a campaigning tool, we tell ourselves that such huge sections of the electorate simply cannot be racist, as that would render them heartless monsters. But this isn’t about good and bad people. The covert nature of structural racism is difficult to hold to account. It slips out of your hands. You can’t spot it as easily as a St George’s flag and a bare belly at an English Defence League march. It’s much more respectable than that.”

Racism is a societal issue that is present in many institutions. A person of colour within the UK is four times more likely to end up in prison than their white counterparts. Four times more likely to be detained under the Mental Health Act. BAME people account for over 50% of all stop and searches despite accounting for less than 15% of the population. Though, statistically, BAME people are more likely to access higher education than their white British peers, they are still far more likely to be unemployed afterwards. Whether it’s due to racial bias, pack mentality or anything else, our institutions seem like they’re built to preserve the status quo and lock BAME people out.

So, we should ALL reflect and closely inspect the lives we lead and ask ourselves how can we challenge discrimination in its many and often subtle nuances? It’s the responsibility of each and everyone of us to help work towards a fairer and more just world – a world in which rewards are give for merit and effort, not skin colour. It would also be good to remind ourselves (I include government here) that a state of paralysis is not one from which change can occur.

As Steve Taylor, Ph.D. wrote recently: “It is also helpful to remember that there is no biological basis for dividing the human race into distinct “races.” There are just groups of human beings — all of whom came from Africa originally — who developed slightly different physical characteristics over time as they traveled to, and adapted to, different climates and environments. The differences between us are very fuzzy and very superficial. Fundamentally, there are no races — just one human race.”

the breath of God

May 2, 2020

Wealth was the power to set things and people in motion; and in America, therefore, wealth came to be frankly regarded as the breath of God, the divine spirit immanent in man. God was the supreme Boss, the universal Employer.

Olaf Stapledon
Last and First Men

The Easter Message

April 13, 2020

Sad to think that the UK’s Labour party is destroying itself. It seems to have an obsession with trendy-left-wing identity politics, which has systematically and almost surgically removed its traditional voter base.

Does the Labour party ever want to win an election again?

It looks as if the answer is NO!

The whole mess is simply made worse by the fiasco of their ‘lack of leadership contest.’

Corbyn, bless his flame-red cotton socks, should have done what all others have done in his same position, and GONE! Departed! Taken his leave! Buggered off!

The candidates bidding to lead the scrapheap of Labour need to realise that reassembling the party’s support in its traditional backyard should be the Number One priority – yet it has barely been mentioned by the party’s senior bods.

We are witnessing the slow death of a political party, because the party appears lost in a wilderness of self-indulgence, divorced from all political reality!

On the doorstep, Corbyn went down like a bucket of cold sick. I voted for him, I like him, the electorate do not – we needed to realise and act sooner – not by creating more factionalism and division, but by Corbyn himself backing a unity candidate to take over.

Things may have turned out differently had this happened sooner, it needs to happen now.

Sarah Williams
London-centrism and a manifesto the size of a novel: a Labour candidate on what went wrong
Left Foot Forward

writers make up stuff

December 7, 2019

A recent letter in The Oregonian compares a politician’s claim to tell “alternative facts” to the inventions of science fiction. The comparison won’t work. We fiction writers make up stuff. Some of it clearly impossible, some of it realistic, but none of it real – all invented, imagined — and we call it fiction because it isn’t fact. We may call some of it “alternative history” or “an alternate universe,” but make absolutely no pretence that our fictions are “alternative facts.”

Facts aren’t all that easy to come by. Honest scientists and journalists, among others, spend a lot of time trying to make sure of them. The test of a fact is that it simply is so – it has no “alternative.” The sun rises in the east. To pretend the sun can rise in the west is a fiction, to claim that it does so as fact (or “alternative fact”) is a lie.

A lie is a non-fact deliberately told as fact. Lies are told in order to reassure oneself, or to fool, or scare, or manipulate others. Santa Claus is a fiction. He’s harmless. Lies are seldom completely harmless, and often very dangerous. In most times, most places, by most people, liars are considered contemptible.

Ursula K. Le Guin
1st February letter to the editor of the Oregonian

(Now that’s what I call “Dragon Wisdom” – P)

The border

November 19, 2019

The border is a line that birds cannot see. The border is a beautiful piece of paper folded carelessly in half. The border is where flint first met steel, starting a century of fires. The border is a belt that is too tight, holding things up but making it hard to breathe. The border is a rusted hinge that does not bend. The border is the blood clot in the river’s vein. The border says stop to the wind, but the wind speaks another language, and keeps going. The border is a brand, the “Double-X” of barbed wire scarred into the skin of so many. The border has always been a welcome stopping place but is now a stop sign, always red. The border is a jump rope still there even after the game is finished.  The border is a real crack in an imaginary dam. The border used to be an actual place, but now, it is the act of a thousand imaginations. The border, the word border, sounds like order, but in this place they do not rhyme. The border is a handshake that becomes a squeezing contest. The border smells like cars at noon and wood smoke in the evening. The border is the place between the two pages in a book where the spine is bent too far. The border is two men in love with the same woman. The border is an equation in search of an equals sign. The border is the location of the factory where lightning and thunder are made. The border is “NoNo” The Clown, who can’t make anyone laugh. The border is a locked door that has been promoted. The border is a moat but without a castle on either side. The border has become Checkpoint Chale. The border is a place of plans constantly broken and repaired and broken. The border is mighty, but even the parting of the seas created a path, not a barrier. The border is a big, neat, clean, clear black line on a map that does not exist. The border is the line in new bifocals: below, small things get bigger; above, nothing changes. The border is a skunk with a white line down its back.

Alberto Ríos
The Border: A Double Sonnet


November 19, 2019

In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of.

Analects, VIII

unspeakable results

November 18, 2019

One need only watch totalitarians at work to see that once men gain power over other men’s minds, that power is never used sparingly and wisely, but lavishly and brutally and with unspeakable results.

E.B. White
Party of One, On Democracy