Monday, 17 October 2011

Can we at least TRY and have an intelligent debate about Occupy protests?

First things first: I'm with the Occupy groups in spirit. I'm not there in person because I have other commitments but I am ever thankful that there are those who put themselves out on my behalf and on the behalf of others to further their cause. So yes, I wholeheartedly support the protests.

I could of course, just leave it there and assume that people will understand that it doesn't mean I want to overthrow the government. It doesn't mean I want the banks to fail. It doesn't mean I want an end to capitalism in all it's forms. Unfortunately, it's clear I can't do that at all because many people, particularly right wing people, have it in their heads that anyone at the Occupy protests is an ultra left anti capitalist anarchist. That simply isn't true. No doubt there are some there and most likely they will be some of the most vocal and high profile amongst the protests but they are not the majority so lets not pretend otherwise please.

Some detractors have quite astonishingly dismissed the protests as a serious movement in their entirety because of the signs claiming that those taking part represent the 99% of the population that are suffering the effects of the recession. They say such claims are nonsense.

Of course it's nonsense. Those writing the signs know it's nonsense because anyone that can legibly write knows that no group, however large & diverse properly represents 99% of the population. But that's not the point. An effective sign doesn't really work if you have to include disclaimers along the lines of "we do not claim to accurately reflect the wide spectrum of political opinion found amongst 99% of the population. We do however represent a cross section of society within that 99% that feel unable to effect a better form of demonstration than direct protest".

Others have pointed to the supposed hypocritical actions of anti capitalist protesters queuing to get a coffee from Starbucks. They ignore the fact that this isn't an anti capitalist protest and those queuing most likely do not claim to represent true/pure anti capitalism. But even if they were anti capitalists, there's nothing wrong with making use of the current system whilst campaigning for a new one. Ironically, capitalists see no issue with using socialised healthcare while calling for it's destruction.

The really nasty ones opposed to the protests reel out tired old clich├ęs about protesters - they should get a wash/job, they're benefit scroungers, they don't live in the real world. The idiocy of such claims is of course that we are in the grips of crippling unemployment. Heating and Fuel is, for many, approaching (or already is at) a prohibitive level. Benefits are being cut and those claiming them demonised by society at large. As for the real world? It's easily argued that those who have found themselves driven to protest by a lack of any other options are the ones living in the real world and those who have kept their jobs and benefited from low interest rates are the ones living their existence in a fantasy.

There is, at least on this topic, a middle ground to be found. We need banks and we need bankers. Our economy relies on profit making businesses and so obviously it's not in anyone's interests to destroy those businesses that still return healthy profits. The flip side of that is that people & small businesses are desperately struggling to stay afloat and it's not a particularly fair or even moral society that allows a tiny section of society to continue to amass enormous wealth, especially when it is often at the expense of those who can least afford it.

That doesn't mean we must throw out capitalism entirely and adopt a pure socialist way of governance but it does mean we must look to find a better balance. That's the conversation that has to be had and that's what the protests are trying to instigate. It would be nice if, just for once, those in power paid attention and didn't go straight on the defensive.

Homosexuality & The X-Factor

I'm an X Factor fan. I'm not in the slightest bit ashamed of that. I know all the arguments against it and pretty much agree with each & every one. It is cynical TV and contributes little, at least in positive terms, to the music industry. It glorifies public humiliation and subjects people, often young people, to unacceptable and artificial levels stress. But, it is absolutely fantastic television and the highlight of my Saturday night (were I younger, free & single this may not be the case).

This post isn't about the X Factor though. Well, it is & it isn't. It's not about any particular evils the X Factor may commit whether related to LGBT issues or not, though there clearly is cause for such a post. No, in this post I am referencing the X Factor because in many ways, the audience and participants provide a glimpse of society in the UK today. That society, for me, whilst incredibly tolerant (through choice or legislation) of homosexuality still has a way to go before homosexuality is accepted, without reservation as an equal sexual orientation as heterosexuality.

Consider the amount of overt heterosexuality on display during any episode of the X factor; Judges referring to how much a good looking male artist will appeal to young girls, highly equalised or romantic interaction between the acts and dancers who are always the opposite sex to them, male contestants talking about the key benefit of success being the ability to get girls. I don't have any problem with any of this. It's perfectly normal and within the boundaries of what is appropriate for Saturday prime time TV.

Now imagine that when you watch the X Factor this Saturday you see this: A judge tells Frankie Cocozza that teenage boys are going to fancy the pants off him, Johnny Robinson performs a romantic song and dances intimately with a good looking, half dressed male dancer and the Judges tease Marcus Collins about rumours he has had his way with 2 members of The Risk.

I can't guarantee it but I imagine the editor of The Daily Mail, Paul Dacre, would spontaneously combust with equal outrage and excitement. The really sad thing is that, on this occasion, the Daily Mail wouldn't be alone. It's highly likely other papers would focus heavily on X-Factor's homosexualisation, they'd just do it with a little more tact. What's more, they'd do it safe in the knowledge that they'd be on safe grounds.

The fact is that for much of the population, tolerance does not equal acceptance. There is still very much an undertone of 'got not problem with gay people as long as they don't flaunt it in public'. This way of thinking is wholly unacceptable and it cannot be allowed to continue unchecked and supported by the public because whilst it remains, homophobia will also continue. Those same people who proclaim they have no issue with homosexuality etc. are the same people who also proclaim that homophobia is wrong, not realising that the two ways of thinking are inextricably linked.

As I said, I'm not accusing The X Factor of being in any way a homophobic TV show - it clearly isn't - but I would love, dearly love, for The X Factor to be brave enough to break down the barrier that still exists and not just show tolerance of homosexuality but give it equal footing and credence and to stop pretending that it isn't prevalent in our society. It may seem unfair to land that burden on The X Factor but as the nations most watched & discussed TV show, I can't help but feel that morally, they should.

Lack of Service

Just a quick note to apologise for this blog going quiet for a while. I could reel out a load of excuses about a busier personal life (which happens to be true) but the real reason is that it was getting progressively harder to a) come up with a subject that I really wanted to write about and b) write something completely original.

There are no shortage of genuinely gifted writers on the internet who put across their arguments in many superior ways than I am able or inclined to do. However, being the best political blogger was never my objective. The reason I started the blog in the first place was to articulate my opinions and arguments in a better format than something like Twitter. I can't deny that I have missed the immensely satisfying feeling I get when a post is completed and published, or when someone says something nice about it.

So; I shall get back to it.