Thursday, August 23, 2007

Booze Britain

Britain should consider making the legal drinking age 21 as it has "lost the plot" when it comes to regulating alcohol, policy wonks claim. The news comes a week after an advertising campaign for Carling Black Label lager featuring the slogan ‘get pissed and glass someone’ was greeted with universal condemnation. Think tank Public Policy Research (PPR), the British Medical Association and the charity Alcohol Concern all expressed the need for a change in the law.
One could be forgiven for thinking that the bit about the Carling slogan was true. After all, according to the self-appointed experts, the drinks industry is brain washing young people into acts of mindless violence. It’s funny, because whenever I see an advert for alcohol it usually features young people enjoying themselves and thinking about having sex with each other. The message recommending mindless acts of violence must be coming from elsewhere.
I do think there is something wrong with British culture. You don’t have to be a Daily Mail reader to see that we are visibly more thuggish and unpleasant than most other European nations. Go into any city centre on a Saturday night and you will see a tide of human scum wash out into the streets at closing time, attempting to crush and drown everything in its path. It’s well known that the French, Spanish and Italians don’t have quite the problem with alcohol related violence and yobbery that we have.
But the reasons are, as always, very complex. Raising the drinking age to 21 won’t make a jot of difference; the suggestion is completely laughable. Like most authoritarian forms of social control, it comprehensively fails to understand the nature of incentives. Getting wasted on cider in a recreation ground at the age of twelve is a national rite of passage. If kids want to get alcohol, they can do so easily. Drugs are illegal and obtaining them is no problem. People rarely avoid an illegal activity only because it is illegal. Rather, they tend to do so because they believe it is immoral, and the threat of punishment is often extraneous. People, quite rightly, don’t see why drinking is in itself wrong. Therefore, in order to stop people drinking under the age of 21, an extraordinarily draconian punishment would be needed to function as an incentive. Such punishments should be handed out only for the worst crimes, and all but the most hysterical, foaming-at-the mouth Daily Mail columnist would agree that drinking isn’t one of them.
Among the labyrinth of factors that influence social behaviour, there is one which the media is reluctant to acknowledge. A quick glance at the newspapers, both tabloid and broadsheet, reveals a climate of constantly stoked fear and panic. The rolling stock of topics include: terrorists disguised as burka-clad Muslim women, foreign criminals sheltered from deportation by human rights legislation, paedophiles lurking on every corner, filthy hospitals, asylum seekers, immigrants taking our jobs, homeowners being arrested over injured burglars, insurmountable personal debt, spiraling house prices, health scares, political correctness gone mad, market crashes, knives, guns, priests being arrested for simply saying that they think that homosexuality is wrong, cancer, cancer, cancer and more cancer. Many of these point to genuinely problematic issues, but the reports come to us swathed In alarmist rhetoric, sweeping generalisations and unargued assumptions employed to cultivate an atmosphere of paranoia and intolerance. Meanwhile, busybody health pressure groups and the ever encroaching nanny state are given a complete monopoly on the good life. The message is that the purpose of life is to live as long as possible and in constant fear of death. Never mind living well and enjoying life. There’s just not enough time!
It is no wonder that people feel hopeless. Many fear the world, hate their jobs and hit the bottle at 6 pm on a Friday night. Some get violent. With National Pride little more than an empty slogan, there is a British tendency to celebrate the worst things about our culture. Getting arrested and being featured on the TV programme ‘Booze Britain’ becomes a badge of honour. Each day we are offered not a single thing to feel optimistic about. And for this the parasitical British media must take a large share of the blame.

Below: a foreigner, yesterday

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Richard Dawkins: Mind Cop

Richard Dawkins: Mind Cop

Animated Series Watch in awe as Professor Richard Dawkins systematically destroys the comforting delusions of happy, normal people, replacing their vague, inoffensive belief systems with a description of human consciousness as an indeterminate quantum reality occupying four-to-five dimensional phase-space. With only a set of completely baffling non-recursive algorithms with which to make sense of their lives, these people of laughably average intelligence fail to grasp the meaning of it all and wander down to the garden shed, drink bleach and blow their fucking brains out. Meanwhile, watch in awe as Professor Dawkins sensibly abstains from love, sex, listening to music and all other non-rational activities. Episode One. Professor Dawkins discovers that he has a stick up his arse.

I’m all for Dawkins outing bullshit snake oil peddlers and ‘spirit-mediums’ who manipulate the grieving and vulnerable; these, quite frankly dangerous charlatans have it coming. But extending the circle of unreason to any system of thought that cannot be proven empirically or logically threatens to wipe away most of the things that make life worthwhile.

If people were truly rational, they wouldn’t fall in love. Painting, architecture, music, sex, gardening; none of these are rational. Magical thinking extends well beyond the major world religions and into all aspects of human endeavor. Private systems of ritual and symbolism have shaped countless great works of art. Hawksmoor’s churches, William Blake’s poetry and Alan Moore’s comic books would never have seen the light of day without the influence of madness, ritual, obsession, passion and the occult. Reason and creativity are, quite simply, uneasy bedfellows.

Religious and magical thinking only becomes a problem when it dictates social policy. Just as the moral dogmas of Imams and Priests should not dictate the law, the cost of spurious remedies should not be fronted by the tax payer. In a society with tax-funded healthcare, separating church and state means separating science and superstition. Medicine is about solving the problem of illness. There is no point in medicines that don’t work.

But in their privately funded private lives people should be left to believe and buy whatever comforts them, however ludicrous or offensive we might find it. Tolerance means putting up with things you disagree with so long as they don’t directly affect you, on the understanding that you may well do things that others disagree with. If I remember correctly, that is what liberalism is all about.

Hitchens: Sweating, trembling freak show

Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens are wrong about religion. It does not poison everything. Rather, it is often used to justify poisonous acts. But the major genocides of the last century have been committed in the name of class war, nationalism and racial purity, not religion. People do very bad things for all sorts of horrible reasons, and sometimes for no apparent reason at all. Without religion to justify their acts of carnage, they just find something else.

And talking of Godless genocide…

Don't Think I've Forgotten (Cambodia's Lost Rock And Roll)

This film is still in production, check out the trailer. It puts the 80's British music press's class-obsessions into perspective, to say the least...

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Groovy fascists

A rather odd piece by Stephen Moss, the gist of which is: Hitler banned music by Jews, but listened to it himself, therefore he wasn't actually a Nazi; he was a 'man apart' from the cult of Nazism he had helped create. It's not clear whether Moss is sarcastically attacking a position that in fact nobody holds, or expounding it. Either way he sounds rather like a stupid person saying something stupid.

Surely the only sensible conclusion we can draw from the revelation is that as well as being a Nazi, Hitler was also a hypocrite. Hitler was like Viz Comic's Victorian Dad, 'studying' pictures of naked Amazonian tribes late at night in order to ascertain whether they are suitable for those of a lesser mind to see. A hypocritical fascist! Who'd have thought it! Well, those fascist types have really gone down in my estimation now.

Friday, August 03, 2007

1 x 1 = 11

I've been enjoying the Facebook group 'F*ck You- George Galloway and Ken Livingstone'. The Right Honourable Member for Bow and Bethnal Green, who has just been suspended from Parliament, has long been allocated a special corner in my reservoir of disgust.

The Respect Party candidate, who was swept to power on the back of a motley collection of alienated anti-war voters, misogynistic, homophobic, Jew-hating Islamists and nasty little Trot agitators, has taken part in just 13% of parliamentary votes, preferring to spend his constituents money on cosying up to dodgy, self-appointed 'representatives' of Britain's Islamic community, touring the world with his clownish lectures, pretending to be a cat on Big Brother, and arguing with Christopher Hitchens. In May 2006 he surpassed himself by stating that it would be morally justified for a suicide bomber to murder Tony Blair. Regardless of what anyone thinks of Blair, this statement shows up Galloway for the murderous thug he is. Tony Blair was in the embarrassing position of deposing Saddam Hussein then having to sit back and watch as his own people hanged him. Not easy for a Labour administration who is rightly opposed to capital punishment, but an intervention would have undermined the sovereignty of Iraq's newly democratically elected government. Blair wanted Saddam tried for war crimes. Galloway just wants Blair dead.

Perhaps it's not surprising; Galloway was an old chum of the Ba'athists. A brief glimpse of his foaming, fire and brimstone speeches shows how he epitomises the 'any enemy of America is a friend of mine' dogma of the unthinking Left. An ideology that recognises only two extreme positions on an endlessly complex and constantly changing world is no better than the Bush administration's old 'With Us Or Against Us' nonsense. Even Bush has now toned down the bellicose rhetoric. Galloway hasn't.

A crudely dualistic weltanschung is okay for adolescents (I was a member of the Socialist Party Of Great Britain when I was twelve; it didn't last), but it's not okay for a careerist money-launderer who is paid from our pockets.

Maybe that's just a complicated way of saying: