The Obscurer

Category: Society

Concerning Immigration

There are, no doubt, some genuine concerns around regarding the matter of immigration; but there are undoubtedly some racist reasons for opposing immigration too. When we say “It’s not racist to want controls on immigration” then, whatever else we’re doing, we’re also placating racists by telling them their racism isn’t racist.

Genuine concerns about immigration tend to include such issues as the increased pressures that migrants bring to GP services, school places and the housing stock. We could cut immigration and that, along with a heroic dose of ceteris paribus, should alleviate these issues. But this broad brush approach would also mean we would be indulging the racists in their racism.

Alternatively we could respond to pressures on GPs, schools and housing by, you know, employing more GPs, expanding schools and building houses. This cunningly targeted plan should deal with those genuine concerns, meaning the only ones left are those that are intolerantly racist.

Show me a genuine concern around immigration and I reckon I can show you a solution which does not require tighter immigration controls, and so does not include the collateral damage of placating, indulging or tolerating racists and their racism. Sometimes the obvious needs spelling out; but for all of us opposed to racism, whatever our other concerns, the path we should choose seems pretty clear.

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Always The Bridegroom, Never The Bride

There are a handful of arguments against gay marriage, and they’re all pretty shit. Watching a Newsnight discussion on the subject yesterday turned out to be a frustrating dialogue of the deaf, but that’s half understandable. It’s difficult for the pro-gay marriage brigade to listen to and engage with the antis when the latter aren’t really making any sense. Here, seemingly, are the main points against gay marriage, and if these have been expanded upon elsewhere, and my objections either been put forward by those in favour of gay marriage or answered by those against, then it hasn’t happened within my earshot.

  • Marriage is a vital institution; important to the very fabric of society, and to tamper with it would be crazy.
    Let’s take that as read, for the time being, for the sake of argument. If marriage is so vital, surely extending it to other sections of society is a good thing? More importantly, just what does anyone think will happen if we tamper with this cornerstone institution which is suddenly so brittle? Literally, in what way would marriage be destroyed and lose its purpose? Even at a best guess, just what will be the terrible consequences of gay marriage of which we are being warned, because I’ve not heard anyone explicitly state what they think might happen, just some airy-fairy notion that bad things might. Personally I need more to go on before I agree with restricting others’ rights.
  • Marriage is an ancient tradition, and has always been between one man and one woman; to allow gays to marry is not to amend but to totally redefine it.
    Perhaps, but this begs the question why has it traditionally been between a man and a women? Did some philosophers get together to devise a societal institution and look at all the alternatives? Did they test the concept of gay marriage by way of Socratic dialogue including a full review of all the available empirical evidence before finally settling on the idea that this new fangled “marriage” thing was best served by only being between and man and a woman? Or has marriage been solely between partners of the opposite sex because of convention; because homosexuality was ignored, illegal or considered an abomination by various people at various times? And if so (and it is) is that any reason to stick with the status quo?

At heart the anti-gay marriage lobby is against gay marriage because they don’t like the idea of marriage between gays; but they know that this is a pathetically week argument on its own, as shown by the briefly ubiquitous Milo Yiannopoulos last night openly stating that he thinks straight relationships are superior to gay ones but failing to give a reason, because there isn’t one, because they’re not. So to bolster their case he and others engage in a reductive, circular argument drawing on the historical fact that marriage has always been between a man and a woman; but the reason marriage has historically been between a men and a woman is because historically people like them didn’t like the idea of marriage between gays. Which is where this paragraph came in.

Anyway, this is before we even get onto the other nonsense excuse heard last night and seemingly made up on the hoof that marriage is about bringing up your own biological offspring – obvious bullshit for several obvious bullshit reasons far too obvious and bullshitty for me to waste my time with here – and the old canard that marriage is the best way to build a stable relationship for said children, a cart before the horse argument since surely it’s rather more likely that it is stable relationships that do more generally lead to marriage.

Finally, though, I will concede one point; the fear that if gay marriage is legalised equality legislation will force churches to carry out gay wedding ceremonies against their consciences. Now, I have my doubts here – churches seem to find lots of reasons at the moment to refuse to marry people they don’t want to, and I don’t see why that would change – but funnily enough this issue is in the same ball park as the subject of that post; you know, the one I didn’t write about last week. So perhaps this will give me the kick up the arse to get it finished.

So consider this a rapid-fire teaser post to another thing possibly coming soon. Something to look forward to, you lucky people.

Getting Sniffy

Just what is the problem the TaxPayers’ Alliance has with West Midlands Police? A wee while ago I wrote about their criticism of the force’s disgraceful plan to equip their staff with shirts. I also said that “you can consider this my last post on the TPA”, so to get out of that statement on a technicality, kindly consider this to be a mere coda rather than a stand-alone piece in its own right. Because now the TPA has swung into action once more, highlighting another flagrant waste of public money.

WEST Midlands Police has been accused of wasting officers’ time – and taxpayers’ cash – by bizarrely setting up a Twitter page for a crime-fighting sniffer dog.

Their two-year-old Labrador Smithy, who has been dubbed an internet scent-sation, now regularly posts tweets on the social netwoking site.

Writing the occasional 140-character tweet? Outrageous! This sounds like a job for the joyless fuckers at the TaxPayers’ Alliance, who opine…

It difficult to see how putting a dog on Twitter is supposed to benefit the people of the West Midlands.

The tweets aren’t even casually informative, they’re just nonsense dreamt up by a member of staff.

This silly PR stunt is a just a diversion from real police work, and with cuts being made Smithy should probably keep his nose to the ground and concentrate on the job.

Just how diverting is this Twitter account? What real police work does the TPA fear was left undone when this magnum opus was being composed:

Training went well ! but that is not the end of my handlers day; we, will still get a walk later, the great benefits of being a Police dog.

Well, that’s got to be a couple of murders West Midlands Police could have solved right there, if they hadn’t been so diverted! What about this one:

Duty time 8am till 5pm today…..I’m staying at home, as Drake is working at a football match, my fellow canine will update you later !

So now we have two dogs tweeting! What next? Three? Here’s another:

Off today and tomorrow, chilling, lapping up my growing internet following…gonna get either a new ball or bone out of this, claws crossed.

Days off? DAYS OFF? Why do police dogs need days off? Yet more public sector waste! And what’s this?

A request re a missing person please RT http://www.west-midlands.police.uk/np/coventry/news/newsitem.asp?id=1040

What’s that all about? Just as the TPA said: dreamt up nonsense that is not even casually informative. But it gets worse still when you look at this story.

Smithy’s trainer PC Terry Arnett said: “It was just something he wanted to do.

“He felt he and his team weren’t getting the praise they deserved and the next thing I knew he was tweeting.

“We’ve had to have the keyboard adapted so he can type, but apart from that it’s his way of letting people know the important work he and his pals do.”

And how much did this adapted keyboard cost? And guess who’s paying?

You know, the more I read about the TaxPayers’ Alliance, the more I’m beginning to think they are double-agents on a deep-cover assignment designed to ridicule and discredit small-government ideologues.

Cover Story

You’d think, the way some people are talking, that we’re all unable to step outside our front doors without seeing someone dressed in a burka (a word I fear I may spell differently each time I use it on this post). The issue of the ubiquitous burka (or burkha) – or should that be the ubiquitous issue of the burqa (or burqua) – has certainly been in the media recently. Last week, the once-reputable Allison Pearson wrote of “Burkha Rage” in her Daily Mail column; then, on Monday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy took advantage of an historic special session of the French parliament to speak of banning the item of dress; and by yesterday that story featured on both Question Time and This Week, both of which I actually managed to bother watching for the first time in an age.

The Allison Pearson piece has already been taken apart by Anton Vowl, amongst others, so I will try to be brief. Pearson opens her article with a little story.

On a train to London, a young woman wearing a burkha, with only her heavily made-up eyes peeping out, did not have a valid ticket.

Challenged by the guard, the young woman gave a litany of excuses. She had left her bag at her boyfriend’s, he had bought the ticket, she had no money on her…

My friend Jane, who was in the same carriage, noticed how the guard became nervous as the Muslim girl presented herself as an innocent in a society she didn’t understand.

Instead of issuing a penalty fine, the guard backed off, shrugging his helplessness at the other passengers.

So imagine my friend’s surprise when she got off at the same station as burkha girl and saw this ‘penniless innocent’ whip out a credit card from under the folds of her dress with which she promptly bought a Tube ticket.

Jane was so incensed she sent me a text message, explaining what she’d witnessed. It ended: ‘Attack of Burkha Rage. Grrr.’

Grrr indeed. Now, to me this seems to be a straightforward case of common-or-garden fare-dodging, an activity that I suspect cuts across all demographics and which many of us have engaged in to some degree. I know I have; in my cash-strapped days on the dole my favoured technique was to simply stare out of the train window as the guard approached in the hope that he would mistakenly assume he had already checked my ticket, something that worked a surprising number of times. That said, fare-dodging is wrong. No question. What I can’t see, though, when reading this story, is how the fact that this particular fare-dodger sported a burka is in any way relevant, other than the assertion that “the guard became nervous as the Muslim girl presented herself as an innocent in a society she didn’t understand”, a questionable claim that seems to be undermined by the previous statement that “burkha girl” had issued a “litany of excuses” to try to escape paying, all of which suggest a definite au-faitness with British society in general and what is expected of one when boarding a train in particular.

Now, it is increasingly a good idea at such a juncture to point out I am not bandying about any allegation of racism here, lest I am accused of closing down debate on such an important matter. However, I also feel it is important to call things as you see them and that to hide behind euphemism can render any debate worthless, and so I do hope Allison Pearson and others will allow me to be suspicious of the motivation behind choosing to define the term “burkha rage” by illustrating it with an incident in which a burka itself, while present, appears to play no significant part; or indeed any part at all. While it would be wrong to jump to any obvious conclusion and cry “racism”, so it would be wrong to prematurely exclude the possibility that an element of racism may be present. Otherwise, Pearson’s friend’s story could just as appropriately be about “Hush Puppies Rage”, “Timex Watch Rage” or “M&S Underwear Rage” if we were to discover that these items too were worn about the person of the protaganist in this tale, and for all it would matter. Anyway, Pearson assures us that at the end of the day her friend Jane “is not a BNP voter.” No? Well, perhaps she should be.

Meanwhile, Sarkozy’s suggestion that – were he to get his own way – the burka would “not be welcome on the territory of the French republic” because it oppresses woman is similarly stupid; a piece of logic so daft that debunking it shouldn’t really need doing. Sadly, based upon the reaction of much of yesterday’s Question Time audience to the issue (not to mention that of Michael Portillo following on This Week) I’d better had. As I see it then, there are two broad groups that any potential ban on the burka is going to affect. On the one hand there are those women who choose to wear the burka of their own free will; here, the government will be instructing people on what they can and cannot wear, a bizarre state of affairs. On the other there are those women who are forced to wear the burka, trapped as they are in some form of domestic subservience; they will perhaps welcome being freed from the tyranny of having to wear the burka, but will still, all other things being equal, remain trapped in that same form of domestic subservience. So why fucking bother?

If, then, the intention of such a ban is to empower women who are stuck in an abusive relationship, then it seems to me to spectacularly miss the point. There are many, varied and complex ways that we can assist people in such situations that I can and will readily support. In any event, however, the empowerment of women didn’t appear to be a concern of many of Sarkozy’s supporters in the Question Time audience last night who seemed far more keen on fighting other battles. “When in Rome…” complained one opponent of the burka who, in the interests of ensuring a free and open debate, may not be racist. Perhaps he feels that Muslim interlopers should adopt indigenous methods of domestic oppression? There are plenty to choose from. Another audience member decried the fact that politicians refuse to debate this issue for reasons of political correctness, apparently oblivious to the fact that he was a member of the audience of a political debating programme featuring a debate between politicians on the very issue he complained no one would talk about. I wonder if he gets similarly confused and incensed when he hears the likes of Nick Griffin complain about a political correctness that means that only the white, native population of this country is discriminated against in being denied the opportunity to form their own exclusive organisations; perhaps so much so that he has considered taking the opportunity to join Nick Griffin’s BNP, an exclusive organisation formed exclusively by and for the white, native population?

If so, then perhaps he can take Jane along.

In My Time Of Dying

The argument over a proposed policy of “presumed consent” regarding organ donation rumbles on. Well I say that; it rumbles on in the blogosphere at any rate. In the wider world – where according to this report around 66% of people support a policy where you would have to specifically opt-out of donating your organs in the event of your death, as opposed to the current policy where you have to voluntarily opt-in – I’m not sure there is the same level of debate. Based on the figures for Wales that feature in this report, while only 22% of people are currently on the NHS Organ Donor Register, 90% are willing to sign up for it; which suggest that if you are the sort of person who goes around presuming consent on the matter, you would be right far more often than you’d be wrong.

I have written before about how most objectors to a policy of presumed consent seem to have been blinded by their ideological instinct on the issue, bemoaning the “state taking ownership of our bodies”, and from what I have read this week I think that still holds. The main arguments put forward seem to be that such a policy would fundamentally alter the relationship between the state and the individual, that the state would now assume a degree of control over us when we die, and that we alone should decide exactly what happens to us once we are dead. Well, maybe; but consider

  1. You arrive home one evening to a terrible scene; your house cordoned off, police conducting a fingertip search of your property, a loved one apparently murdered. As things currently stand there is nothing to prevent you from approaching the officer in charge and announcing “The deceased is…was…a lifelong Libertarian; so I thank you, agents of the state, for holding the fort, but if you could all just run along now I think I’ll take over from here. If you could just tidy up after yourselves when you leave; that powder’s getting everywhere”; but I’m just not sure how far it would get you. Similarly, there is nothing now to stop you from printing off your own cards bearing the message “In the event of my suspicious death I refuse permission for a post-mortem” and carrying one around with you wherever you go; but alas I fear that should you end up on the slab your card will interest the coroner for only as long as it takes him or her to locates the nearest bin.
  2. If you die in testate, then as things stand it is for the courts to settle your estate. Unless you write a will, in effect opting out of this arrangement, then it is administrators appointed by the state who will divide up and apportion your property or debts, who will decide what goes to whom when you die. Either way, you end up paying inheritance tax. You may feel that it is wrong for the state to assume such powers, but it is still what happens under the current system. Now, you could of course argue with some conviction that there is a big difference between your property and your body parts, and you’d be right; in my case I can well imagine that my collection of Led Zeppelin vinyl LPs is far more valuable than any bit of me you could care to mention. I really don’t think you’d want my liver.
  3. I can make whatever arrangements I like for my funeral, organise an impressive do involving white horses, a gilded carriage, paid mourners and a wake at the Midland Hotel; but it could all be in vain. If my family decide instead that they want to pocket the money and chuck my worthless corpse in next door’s skip in the dead of night, hidden beneath a defoliated Christmas tree and that old chipboard from the garage that won’t fit in the boot, then unfortunately that is exactly what will happen me, and there is nothing I can do about it.

None of which means that a system of presumed consent is necessarily the best way to alleviate the shortage of donated organs; perhaps we should instead make more of a proactive effort to try to increase the numbers on the voluntary register first (one Doctor working in Spain’s much praised system states in this article that in itself “a change to presumed consent doesn’t improve the donation rate”), while a controlled market for donated organs could be considered. However, the point I’m trying to make is that I don’t believe a policy of presumed consent would in fact be quite the fundamental shift that some people are claiming; because the real fundamental is that when you’re dead you’re dead, and there’s fuck all you can do about anything anymore. And no government bill is going to change that fact.