30 December, 2008


Failing in Falinge

I must admit I'd never heard of the place, despite growing up about 12 miles away. Apparently it is pronounced to rhyme with fail - whinge, which seems either appropriate or ironic, depending on your take on the matter. Perhaps they ought to consider renaming it. Suggestions on a postcard please.

This Rochdale district seems to have come to presumably unwelcome national notice as a result of a GMTV (sic) investigation into poverty and long-term unemployment. Parachute in Lorraine Kelly and Mark Heyes with a few fashion tips; that should sort it out. Since then Falinge has been held up by various newspapers as an examplar for the sickness benefit culture.

The benefit-dependency issues have been discussed elsewhere. Here I am more interested in the Daily Mail's report. Predictably, the Mail contrives to spin its report into an attack on "asylum seekers" by selecting as its sample interviewees one Celestine Sejemani and his family.

In fact the asylum-seeking aspects of Mr Sejemani's case do merit further attention in their own right. Mr Sejemani claims to have fled ethnic violence in the Congo, violence which resulted in the death of two close relatives. He claimed and was granted asylum in the UK and elected to live in Rochdale because of the presence of a Congolese community there. (Congolese in Rochdale? Ee bah eck, bugger me, thur's a turn oop for t' books! Whatever next?) Having achieved ILR status and having settled in, he sent for his "partner" and child to join him. They have since had three further children, born in the UK. Mr Sejemani receives disability benefit on the grounds of his eyesight problems, claimed to be the result of being imprisoned in the dark when he was being persecuted in the Congo. He claims to be unable to work because of this disability.

I have a number of impertinent questions.

Firstly, why is he unable to work? The Mail makes great play of the family's giant flatscreen television, which Mr Sejemani claims is necessary because of his poor eyesight. Evidently he is partially sighted, not blind. I know a number of brave people, entirely without sight, who undertake complicated daily commutes to work in Central London. If Mr Sejemani's limited eyesight prevents him from working in his original trade of mechanic, doubtless he can be retrained for something more suitable. And why is his "partner" being paid as a full-time carer?

Turning to Mr Sejemani's claim for refugee status, he claims that his father and sister were killed because of their ethnicity. It is reasonable then that he would wish to flee the obvious danger to his own life. In his situation, why did he flee to the UK? If he was in fear of his life, it should have been possible for him to flee to a part of the Congo or into some neighbouring country where his ethnic grouping is dominant and where he would have been safe. Or were there perhaps additional motives behind his choice of destination? I wonder what they might have been. If, for some hard-to-imagine reason, it was absolutely "necessary" for him to flee to Europe, then why did he not flee to Paris, the old colonial power, and claim asylum there? (The wording of the Mail article seems to imply Congo-Brazzaville, but if we are talking about Congo-Kinshasa instead just substitute Brussels for Paris; it makes little difference to the point.)

People are displaced all the time because ethnic tensions boil over. They move back to the comfort and protection of their own tribal group. Why did not Mr Sejemani do this?

His "partner" ("long-time girlfriend" per the Mail) is even more intriguing. While Mr Sejemani fled to the welcoming arms of the UK's welfare system, partner Pierette and their child remained in the Congo. Were they somehow magically safe from the attentions of the thugs who had driven out her man? Why did they not pick on her as a proxy for the now unreachable Celestine?

There are huge holes in this story. If Mr Sejemani was persecuted and was in fear of his life as he claims, then he deserves our sympathy, but unless alternative means of saving his neck and those of his family were demonstrably unavailable, he is not deserving of our protection. Even if the UK were his only practicable immediate bolt-hole, that should not mean a right to permanent settlement and family reunion in this country, merely temporary protection until a suitable solution could be found back in his homeland.

We simply cannot afford to fling open our gates to every last waif and stray in the world without destroying our country. On the steam wireless this morning, someone was banging on about the Bangadesh general election and the problems that country faces. When the tide of "refugees" and economic migrants has overwhelmed Britain until it, like Bangladesh, is a failed state with 150million largely Third World inhabitants, will the countries of Africa and Asia accept us few remaining Europeans desperately seeking "a better life"? Can't see it myself.

It will all end in tears.

21 December, 2008


That's not very politically correct, is it?

So I'm travelling back to base on the train. Four young White women are in the next seating bay. In their twenties, in appearance and sound English middle-class and educated, more Blackheath than Woolwich, but you get the point.

And one pipes up and says, "Johannesburg? If you keep your head down you won't get shot."

Maybe the guys at South Africa Sucks have a point after all.

(Oh, and T-Mobile broadband is fucked again. Five DNS failures in a row before each URL loads is really not acceptable, guys. Get your fucking act together. Nor, frankly, do I appreciate having to do a gratuitous reload of an irrelevant static URL to reassure myself that the connection is present before pressing "Publish" on this post.

In November your entire network went off the air due to a database failure. At the beginning of this month us PAYG monkies were erroneously charged at some per kilobyte rate that would be just about acceptable for a call from the fucking Moon. This took nine days to sort out, during which Mobile Broadband was effectively off the air. Get it fucking sorted!)

(Very high swearing level in this post, I regret to say, almost approaching DK's self-indulgent standards, but regrettably necessary in this case, even for one of my startlingly extensive lexical resources (stop boasting, Edwin, even if it's true), in order to express my annoyance with T-mobile. When it works, it's excellent and far preferable to dealing, directly or indirectly, with the likes of BT. I get the impression that T-Mobile has started to commit heavily to the outsourcing/offshoring route. If that is so, the "benefits" are beginning to show.)


God give me strength

The steam wireless (aka BBC Radio 4) is on in the background as I get my morning Internet fix and reflect sombrely on what our benighted Government will find to sell off next. T-Mobile broadband seems to working again this morning; at least it has stopped dropping 50% or more of packets somewhere between here and the transparent proxy.

I am half listening to Sunday Worship, as it is currently called. Today a surprisingly Anglican-sounding service is coming from the Albany Road Baptist Church in Cardiff and my ears perk up in disbelief at one line from the current prayer:
Oh God who appeared to the socially-excluded shepherds...

I kid you not. And as the celebrant bangs on about refugees, I offer my own small prayer: Oh Lord in Whom I do not believe, give me strength to get through this day. Help me resist the urge to go down to the local Lee Jasper Memorial Drop-in, Self-Awareness and Consciousness-Raising Centre for Unemployed Single-Parent Disabled Black Lesbians and spray-paint rude words on the wall.

18 December, 2008


Wikipedia is spooky

About 10 minutes ago, I was sitting here idly surfing the jolly old interweb, looking at 1960s computer manuals (each to his own), while listening to the The World Tonight on the steam wireless with half an ear. The news reader (sounded like Mr Donaldson) said "About half-an-hour ago, the death was announced of ... Conor Cruise O'Brien". So I immediately look up Mr O'Brien's entry on Wikipedia. And, bugger me, somebody has already updated it to record his demise.

Spooky. I wonder if people realize quite how big a paradigm shift the Internet in general and the WWW in particular represent.

16 December, 2008


A cat among the pigeons

(Via Cranmer)

A Sikh cat among the Muslim pigeons, indeed. His Grace brings us news of an interesting dilemma for the ever so politically correct administrators of our schools.

In summary, halal meat is being served unadvised to children at a London primary school. A Sikh parent has found out about this and is complaining, halal slaughter being anathema to the Sikh religion. For all I know, the origins of this Sikh precept might well lie in the desire of the Gurus to distance Sikhism as much as possible from the practices of Hinduism and Islam rather than in profound theological considerations, but that is hardly the point. Them's the rules, Bro. Just as the spelling of modern Dutch reflects a desire to make Dutch as visually distinct from German as possible. So it goes, it's their language, Fritz.

Personally I have been an atheist since the age of 10, but I am nonetheless the product of a historically Christian North European culture which profoundly informs my cultural and social outlook. This, I think, is what people largely mean when they refer to the UK as a Christian country. The dwindling proportion of actively practising, church-going Anglicans, much touted by the Righteous Left in their relentless promotion of Islam, is beside the point.

I object strenuously to the presumption that, because I am a Godless Heathen, I am amoral and up for anything. And specifically in the present context the presumption that I would be happy to accept meat slaughtered according to halal or indeed shechita practice. Whether or not halal slaughter is cruel in comparison to pre-stunning is an interesting and worthwhile question. There is much about the mainstream slaughter of food animals in this country that merits attention, not least the large distances travelled under stressful and unfamiliar conditions to the few remaining abattoirs. But all this is moot. I object to eating halal meat in the UK on the grounds that it is prepared according to alien religious practice to which I do not subscribe and with which I am largely unsympathetic. I also object on the principle of bloody-mindedness: this is my people's culture, it is up to "them" to assimilate to our requirements, not vice versa. It is up to me which alien cultural foibles I choose to make accommodation for in my own country.

Of course, if my kids were at this school and I complained, I would be dismissed out of hand as a racist. I might even receive a visit from the police, and social services might give serious consideration to taking the sprogs into care. But here we have a complaint from a member of an Approved Minority. The powers that be have to listen and respond.

Let fur and feather fly.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?