Sunday, May 8, 2011

Layer 466 . . . One Wedding, One Referendum, One Assassination, Scottish Elections, FPTP, SlutWalking, the Guardian, and Praising Essays

The incredible weather continues. Temperatures have been reaching 26 degrees, with cloudless skies, and mostly no wind at all. The cyanothus trees and shrubs are in full blossom, as are the standard white lilacs. The first roses are out, the sunflower seedlings are nine inches tall, and it's late Spring already.

So what's been happening in the world? Something about a royal wedding, and something about Osama bin Laden. Also some local elections and a referendum. All very boring.

Meanwhile, here in the centre of the universe a friend of mine had someone walk up to her outside a local library and squirt a water pistol in her face, before carrying on down the street, squirting as he went.

At roughly the same time, in another part of our lovely borough, a drunk walked - nay tottered - up to me, stood right in my face, and said, "D'you know where sunshine comes from? Eh? Where it comes from? NOT FROM WHITE MEN!" At which point all one can do is either, a) punch out the lights of the poor pathetic drunk, who no doubt gets slighted and shunned several times a day on account of his nasty drunkenness and not his skin colour, or b) walk swiftly away. Instinctively, as a man of peace, I did the latter. It's not my place to tell him he's a nasty drunk and a racist. Who am I to judge? We all have our dark sides.


The elections for the Scottish Assembly turned out to be very interesting. The SNP, led by Alex Salmond, is now in complete control of the Assembly - much to the consternation of the other parties, all of whom seem to fear that there's nothing now to stop Scotland declaring its independence from Britain - assuming the people of Scotland agree to the proposition in a referendum.

As I've been saying for some years to my Scottish friends - why on earth wouldn't Scotland want to free itself from control from Westminster? The argument is supposed to be that Scotland does very well from its share of the UK budget, but this is surely bogus. No self-respecting individual makes themself an absolute servant to someone in return for slightly higher wages than they'd get if they were autonomous - so why on earth would a whole country want to remain in perpetual servitude if it didn't have to? Why would Scotland want to remain a vassal of Cameron & Osborne, any more than it wished to have Thatcher as its unelected dictator?

The SNP is an avowedly social democratic / democratic socialist party that believes in greater social justice - which is what the Labour party used to do, but does no longer. It's a party that puts the welfare of the people above the wellbeing of non-humans such as bankers, international financiers and oligarchs. It's a party that believes in public ownership of high quality public services, such as education, health, housing and social services. From the average citizen's point of view, what's not to like?

The loss of Britain's nuclear umbrella, and its trillions of wasted funding? Having to rely on NATO for military protection? (From whom? The English?) How scary might that be? Being put in the same position as Germany, Spain, Italy, Luxembourg and all the rest? How big a deal is that?


From the average English person's point of view the potential loss of left-leaning Scottish MPs from Westminster might appear to be a catastrophe. The prospect, under first past the post, of perpetual Tory government in England is grim indeed.

Looking on the bright side, however, it would finally reveal what a complete con the first past the post electoral system really is. How can you possibly call anything a democracy when English Tory-supporting shire counties can completely outnumber and outvote a small number of urban constituencies where the left-leaning working classes, on account of the land-grabbing Enclosures Act, happen to reside in their tower blocks, estates and terraces? And all the anti-Tory votes in the shires count for absolutely nothing.

People in England are, by and large, too ignorant to realise that they've been fucked over by the FPTP voting system - so much so that they've just voted overwhelmingly to keep it in perpetuity! The lack of any sort of proportional representation will guarantee perpetual government by Tories and their lackeys, if Scotland leaves the Union. Hurrah!

Polly Toynbee:




There's an interesting story in the Guardian this weekend, all about so-called sluts.

SlutWalking gets rolling after cop's loose talk about provocative clothing

Lecture to Toronto students ignites protests across Canada and US . . .

When a police officer from Toronto went on a routine visit to Osgoode Hall Law School to advise the students on personal safety, little did he know that he would unwittingly inspire a movement that has caught fire across Canada and the US.

"You know, I think we're beating around the bush here," Michael Sanguinetti began, blandly enough, as he addressed the 10 students who turned up for the pep talk. Then he said: "I've been told I'm not supposed to say this – however, women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimised."

Fast forward three months from Sanguinetti's unfortunate remarks, and a movement that was born in riposte to his loose talk has now gone international. "SlutWalking" is attracting thousands of people to take to the streets to put an end to what they believe is a culture in which it is considered acceptable to blame the victim.


The Manchester Guardian, born 5 May 1821: 190 years – work in progress

The paper has essentially changed neither its ownership nor its character during its long life

It is good to pause and reflect that the things that matter most – truthfulness, free thought, honest reporting, a plurality of opinion, a belief in fairness, justice and, most crucially, independence – do not change.


Bloggers take note:

In praise of … the essay

Michel de Montaigne crafted a personal and conversational genre which has been the preferred literary mode of free spirits

The best essays, like George Orwell's, are tough but not fanatical, delight in the commonplace and ambiguous and can see the world as easily in a ham sandwich as a morning rose. 

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