26 February, 2013


It's only words

The Archers and Woman's Hour are two Radio 4 programmes which help to keep me fit.  For a 64-year-old who takes less exercise than he ought and spends far too much time taking holy communion in the Church of St Tim Martin, the speed at which I can cross a room to operate the wireless's off-switch is really quite impressive.

Forty years ago, when it had gentle personality-based plotlines that developed almost in real time, I could cheerfully lend half an ear to the omnibus edition of The Archers of a Sunday; the aggressive whiny vulnerability of Walter Gabriel, the surprising underlying decency of his snobbish and permanently exasperated son Nelson, a sort of bucolic Brian Sewell lite, the bumbling if ultimately well-meaning chavvy stupity of Eddie Grundy contrasting with the conniving entitlement-mentality selfishness and greed of his father Joe — a man like a mangy ferret trying unsuccessfully to present a conciliatory smile but achieving only a menacingly toothy rictus.  All good stuff and actually quite enjoyable.  These days if a passing Catholic priest hasn't infected all the choir boys with HIV and Usha hasn't been racially abused by one of Tom Archer's genetically modified pigs within the first ten minutes the show is reckoned to be a failure.  So it goes.  That's progress I guess.

As to Wimmin's Hour, I have always found its patronizing, self-righteous and curiously self-confident casual misandry masquerading as feminism irritating beyond words.  Jenni Murray, when speaking ex cathedra, is spectacularly annoying, though I do suspect that she can be a nicer, more rounded person when she's off duty.

But it came to pass that, this morning I found myself actually listening to Woman's Hour.  I've had a heavy cold these past few days — not so much a "common cold" as downright vulgar.  All that sneezing and snivelling takes it out of you, tha knows, and when I finally surfaced at around 10:00 this morning I turned on the bedside radio to facilitate my slow readaptation to the waking state.  The more reasonable and relaxed Jane Garvey was at the helm, so I listened on.

But why did she let herself down in an item about the care of elderly relatives suffering from senile dementia?  It was mentioned in passing that two of the standard test questions asked of possible dementia sufferers, when being diagnosed, were
— How many camels are there in Holland?
— What is the weight of a standard hammer?
To which la Garvey commented, gratuitously, that these seemed to be "very male" questions.

Why, Jane?  Why?

22 February, 2013


I is a little confused

The Daily Mail, a popular celebrity gossip magazine which occasionally ventures, with varied success, into general news, has published the following item

Dinner lady sacked for serving Muslim children
with non-halal meat at multi-faith school

A bit harsh, I felt, given that

The member of staff has been dismissed after the 'unintentional error' on December 12 last year recently came to light.

(My emphasis)

I suppose she ought to count herself lucky that her hand wasn't chopped off or that she wasn't stoned to death for poisoning the children of the prophet with haram nosh.

But what actually puzzles me is, given that

All 1,400 students at Moseley school are served halal meat, regardless of their religion.

how it came to pass that the naughty non-halal meat got into the school canteen in the first place. The "dinner lady", one presumes, was involved in preparing and/or serving meals delivered by a supplier or from a central kitchen contracted by the council.  Unless the dinner lady was sneaking in pork sausages as an act of infidel defiance, the introduction of haram meat into the supply chain was the fault of someone outside the school.

Something funny about this, methinks.

20 February, 2013


You live and learn, innit?

On this morning's Today proggie we were treated to a little package from the great Mark Easton (website expansion on the topic here) which explained that the intercensus fall by 600,000 in the number of Londoners self-classifying as White British was not the mythical phenomenon of "white flight" in the face of a culturally and tribally hostile alien invasion but simply folk realizing the opportunistic capital windfall of the house-price bubble to fund their aspiration to live the good life in the bucolic paradise of, er, Westcliff.

An hour later we were treated to a nicely balanced talking-head session on the subject of the package, featuring Oona King, a decent Black Jewess who was found unacceptably diverse as an MP by the curiously monocultural residents of Bethnal Green and Bow, and Danny Dorling, a "professor of human geography".  Professor Dorling wondered aloud why the White middle-class were so keen to leave the capital as soon as they started to have kids when London's schools were so much better than those in the rest of the country because of the greater drive and ambition of immigrant parents.

Clearly I've got it all wrong.  I recant my former ignorance and prejudice.

I for one now welcome our new Black overlords and saviours!


04 February, 2013


I now pronounce you man and husband

Call-me-Dave's ridiculous gay marriage bandwagon rumbles on towards its farcical conclusion.  I am reminded of one of Jeremy Hardy's funnier parodies of the Rev Blair in which Tone goes down to the yoof club to get on down wid da yoof, telling them that "Jesus was a bit of a rock and roller too, you know!" 

What puzzles me is that the settled opinion among the Righteous is that all remaining opposition to the proposal — proposal?  Binky, dahling, marry me!  Sod off, Charles, what do you think I am, some sort of wooftah? — that the irreducible minimum of opposition comes only from religious nutters  and from homophobic Tory backwoodsmen who'd sooner have legislation to have suspected members of the ferrous community publicly horsewhipped in the market square until they recant their vile perversion.

Hmm.  Well, I'm an atheist, as it goes.  Indeed I clearly remember the morning in Sunday School when I concluded that the stuff I was being taught was a bit thin in the Occam's razor department.  Obviously I didn't have the language to express it in quite those terms at the age of ten, but I was a precocious little smartarse and that is essentially what it came down to. And much as I appreciate the contribution of some organized religion as a cohesive social and moral force, I've seen nothing to overturn my position in the intervening 54 years.

As far as homophobia goes, well that's for others to judge, but as I have made clear before, I'm very much with Mrs Patrick Campbell on the matter: if they don't do it in the street and frighten the horses, then I'm not really interested in the activities of the local amateur brownhatting society.  Provided they wipe up after themselves and don't expect me to watch and applaud the more athletic sequences, that is.

But what has any of this to do with marriage?  In the argument over "same-sex marriage", marriage is presented, shall we say, as the public celebration and acknowledgement of a committed long-term loving relationship, sexually expressed or reinforced, between two people.  You can faff around with the precise formulation but that's the essence of it, the formal recognition of a hopefully permanent loving relationship.  And only historic and outdated prejudice limits the recognition of such a relationship to mixed-gender partnerships.

Well, that's all very nice, but why would society evolve such a thing?  Marriage is not this season's passing fad or even the reflection of some relevant but ultimately temporally or spatially localized social arrangement like, say, sumptuary dress codes.  Marriage is a damned-near universal human institution, uniting a man and a woman for the procreation of children.  Whatever the minor variations, and whether regulated by state, church or purely by strong socal custom enforced by the threat of communal opprobrium, that is what it always comes back to.  It reenforces the man's ongoing responsibility to support his wife and children, it encodes the clan relationships and responsibilities of the extended family, it defines the processes of inheritance of property and of status.  It is, in short, about the maintenance of social structure and continuity.  The pair-bond between the man and wife may be at the centre of the institution, but they are not the whole of it.

But what of childless marriages, ask the proponents of same-sex marriage?  An interesting point but I don't think it invalidates the paradigm.  Whether barren by intent or by unfortunate outcome, a childless marriage might arguably be seen as nugatory and indeed it is often regarded with disapproval or pity.  But it is accepted.

A gay "marriage" is not generally perceived as conforming or being able to conform, even in principle, to the core paradigm.  Even if the couple choose to raise children, there is artifice involved, such as adoption or the artificial insemination of one partner of a lesbian couple.

The point is that "normal" marriage is overwhelmingly targeted at the procreation and rearing of children into established and sustainable social structures, whereas gay "marriage" is, in the great majority of cases, little more than a public celebration of a long-term relationship.

Society is, on the whole, unsentimental.  It is about survival and about power relationships and projecting your genes into a successful future.  That society should evolve persistent structures to adapt the child rearing pair bonds of our hunter-gatherer ancestors to the more complex needs of settled societies with heritable property, this makes sense.  That society should evolve persistent structures simply to celebrate the pair bond itself, this makes no sense.

So there you have it, gay folks.  I think you're barking up the wrong tree.   What is your driver here?  Jealousy?  Malice?  Faux outrage at the denial of perceived "rights" and spurious equality?  The pizazz of the big "wedding"?  A need to pretend to be "normal" by playing mummies and daddies?

Civil partnerships adequately meet your acknowledged needs for a legal structure to cover the complications arising from intimately shared life and property.  That should suffice.  The only problem with civil partnerships is that government chose to ceremonialize them into "marriage lite" instead of implementing them as simple legal contracts prepared by a solicitor, thus creating undue expectations.

Right, enough of this waffle.   Me and a couple of my oppos are off down the woods with our twelve-bores to see if we can flush some nancy boys out of the undergrowth and teach 'em the error of their ways.

Pshaw, innit.

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