Monday, 2 June 2014

"If you have a racist friend, Now is the time, now is the time for your friendship to end"

Like many folk I have a fairly diverse and disparate selection of people who are my friends on Facebook. Some are family, some are lifelong close friends, some are fellow bloggers from back in the day. There are also those that aren't really a part of my everyday life anymore but once were; people I went to school with, old work colleagues, etc. I think it's fair to say, without causing any offence, that while there is nobody in that group of people I dislike there are obviously some whose friendship I value more than others.
Recently, a smattering of my Facebook friends have taken to posting or sharing opinions that I find, at best, distasteful and, at worst, simply racist.
So what does one do about that? The lyric I've used as a post title suggests the answer is simple, but is it?

I don't necessarily want to disown anybody, after all in some capacity they are my friends. Also I'm a big wuss who hates the idea of being disliked so I probably wouldn't have the bottle. Perhaps I should engineer a situation where they want to unfriend me, like when you're too scared to dump a lover so you behave badly toward them in the hope they'll leave you (which, in my experience, never works anyway). Maybe they'll read this, see me for the namby pamby wet liberal that I am, be terribly offended by my human being- defending stance and discard me from their news feed forever more. Who knows?

I can't help but feel that lately it has almost become cool to be racist. Not towards black people obviously, that's just wrong. However, anyone from the Middle East, the Indian sub-continent or the eastern lands of our own continent are all clearly fair game. Basically anyone who has the cheek to come and live here in the UK.

Why do people come here? I believe the VAST majority come to our little island to make a better life for themselves and their families, to get away from poverty and a lack of opportunity and, in some cases, because their very lives are at risk if they remain where they are. I know that there are many, many people who do not share my view. And not all of them read the Daily Mail.

So, what are the reasons and justifications for this rising tide of hatred towards one's fellow man? Judging by the things I've seen cropping up on my news feed, they boil down to a few main points...

  • They're all terrorists!
Hmmm, this rather akin to saying that all swimming creatures are sharks or all Americans are gun-toting psychopaths or all 70's TV personalities are sex pests. Actually, scratch that last one. Point is
that while there may be a tiny proportion of crazy jihadists who want to do us harm, the overwhelming majority just want to live their lives in their own way, by their own beliefs and with their own cultural identities. Just like I do and, I would imagine, just like you do.

  • They cover their faces!

Ban the burkha, they holler. Why? It makes them feel uncomfortable, they say. Well, truth be known, the sight of a burkha-clad lady makes me feel a little uncomfortable too, but then so does a burly
skinhead with face tattoos. As far as I know there are no groups proclaiming a need to ban the bruiser. I know which one I'd rather be stuck in a lift with.

  • They come over here taking our jobs / benefits!
Oh they do like their cake and eating it, these people. In my experience, and I've been unfortunate enough to have been out of work a bit over the last couple of years, I've never met an immigrant
while at the job centre, nor on the pointless courses they make you go on. Like everything else, it's all about the minorities. Unfortunately, it's only the minorities that the right wing media like to tell us about, a story about a decent hardworking family that have settled and thrived in our country since arriving here from Warsaw or Riga simply isn't news. As for taking our jobs, well that's just plain silly. This country, like many other western nations, just could not operate without the immigrant workers. How many people do you actually know who need a job but can't get one because a foreigner has taken it, honestly, how many? And I bet the Britain First brigade wouldn't turn a Bulgarian surgeon away from their loved ones in a life or death operation scenario, would they now?

  • How come we spend billions on overseas aid while some people in this country still struggle to get by without the basics, like super fast broadband or a HD TV? 

There are, arguably, 196 countries in the world. Our little island, reportedly, has the 6th strongest
economy of all those nations. It doesn't take a mathematician to realise that there are therefore 190 countries on this planet that are worse off than us. These countries contain actual, living, breathing people. Human beings just like you and me. The amount of money we spend on overseas aid is 0.7% of the government's annual spending. Now I'm not so naive as to suggest they aren't some problem scenarios; the idea of India having a space program while we help to feed their countless genuinely destitute citizens is something I find very troubling. On the whole though, we give overseas aid to those people who genuinely need it, for food, shelter and clean water. For disease prevention. In a nutshell; to stop them from dying. I feel very strongly about this, if you think overseas aid should be stopped you are basically saying "I want those people and their children to die". Anyway, they'd only grow up to be job-stealing, benefit scrounging, Burkha wearing, Jihadist terrorists wouldn't they? So your doing us all a favour, right Racists?

I started composing this post before the recent elections where Adolf Farage and his UKIP party made frightening progress. It would seem that maybe I'm now in the minority, just a stupid bloody hippy who doesn't mind sharing his country with other human beings from elsewhere on this planet.

I'd like to give the final word to a friend of mine who had this to say after those election results...
"Good fucking Christ, Britain. Living in this country is like being trapped to a chair surrounded by braying morons that are setting fire to the curtains because they are cold."

Thursday, 22 May 2014

"... But I am profoundly shallow"

Was going to do a post today about Racism, Adolf Farage and other such heavy stuff to coincide with us Brits going to the polls. However, I elected to have a couple (?) of pints whilst in not-so-sunny Morecambe and now I'm mostly thinking about tits.

Monday, 12 May 2014

"Got to spread the word to all the non believers yeah"

It's the 20th anniversary of the birth of Britpop and there is a lot being said about it. I read a piece the other day that, quite frankly, made my blood boil. I would link to it but I can't find it and you wouldn't thank me anyway as it's very long, deeply dismissive and, in my humble opinion, written by someone with a holier than thou attitude about the whole decade. Or in simpler terms; a load of bollocks by a total bell end.

The thing that really got my goat amongst the accusations of Britpop causing cultural contamination that is still poisoning us to this day (?) and the routine dismissal of many talented people who made some excellent music was the lack of any real acknowledgement that a whole load of people had a whole load of FUN during the mid 90's. I know I did, and it know my friends did too. They were truly halcyon days. Obviously, a lot of that was due to my age at the time and where my life was at, but for those of us with a penchant for "alternative" music it was a time where we rose up and took over the mainstream. It was glorious.

Growing up my musical tastes were firmly rooted in the 80's, I loved ( and still do) the electronic music of the time. Depeche Mode, Duran Duran, Erasure, Pet Shop Boys, New Order, OMD, Nik Kershaw, Human League, etc. That was my bag. By the start of the 90's though, many of these were floundering or sounding a bit tired. Not Depeche Mode obviously who were entering their imperial phase. Musically speaking I was a bit lost in the early nineties, I didn't really get the whole Rave scene (which, looking back, was a bit of a shame) or Grunge which completely passed me by. I did discover Del Amitri who, although dismissed by many as MOR, would act as a bridge for me from my synthesised adolescence to my guitar based adulthood.

Then came Blur and Oasis. You could argue that Parklife changed my life. I loved that album and it opened my ears to new possibilities. The defining moment though came a little later on...

I had recently had a change of department in my workplace. I was working with a chap called Carl, who was always telling me about the bands he'd been to see and who he was listening to. Well now I was sharing an office with him ( it really wasn't an office, it was more a large indoor shed that we called "The Barn") and listening to his CDs. One day I was taken by what I was hearing and asked Carl who it was. Shed Seven he told me. Now, oddly enough I had heard of them because I'd played on the same bill as them (sort of) some 18 months before at Fibbers in York when I was fronting a band while living in my native Wakefield, but that's another story.
Anyway I liked what I heard and then Carl told me they were playing in nearby Northampton soon and I should go. So I did.

Now it's not like I'd never seen live music before, I was a veteran of over ten years of concerts. All kicking off with Kajagoogoo at Leeds town hall in 1984. Post-Limahl I should point out, it's not like I wasn't cool! You'll note the word "concert", for that's what all the performances I'd seen had been.
When I went to see Shed Seven at the Roadmender in Northampton, well that my friends was a gig. I still consider it my first proper gig. Hundreds of people packed into a sweaty little room, no seats anywhere, no video screens and no synths. Instead there was a moshpit. I'd never seen a moshpit before (not much call for a moshpit when you see Erasure) and the experience completely blew me away. It was utterly thrilling and somehow made the thumping music visceral, primal even. Myself and my friends (and even the ex-wife) went on to become seasoned moshers after that. We spent the next two years or so going to loads of gigs, literally hundreds. Sometimes we'd do four in four days. Sometimes we'd sit at home at tea time with nothing planned before getting frustrated, checking the NME gig guide and going off at the drop of a hat to see some band somewhere. Memorably we once went all the way to Portsmouth to see Super Furry Animals in such an ad hoc fashion.

So back to Shed Seven. They'll always hold a special place in my heart after that first gig but there is more to them than that. Alright, so they were never gonna be Radiohead or have the cultural weight of Blur or Pulp but they did have some cracking tunes. Dolphin, Disco Down, Getting Better, She Left Me On Friday ( she also, most excellently, "rode off on a donkey"), Chasing Rainbows to name but a few. Most of all though they were a really great live band, I went on to see them many times after that first night in Northampton and they never, ever disappointed. You were guaranteed a fun night, jumping around with your mates to some great songs bashed out by four guys who clearly cared about making sure everyone did just that.

Today and back in the day you'd rarely see their name without the prefix: Britpop also-rans. My prefix is: The mighty.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

"...and then I'll tell you some more about me"

They say you should never go back. I don't know who they are but I hereby defy them. 

Recently, I've found myself, on several occasions, either having something to say or having a desire to be listened to. To actively communicate in a way that would be out of place on the likes of Facebook or Twitter. The realm of social media is a bit too restrictive these days if, like me, you have a propensity for waffling on a bit. 
So where to waffle? 
The old school social media world of Blogland seems the ideal place to me. A place I've not visited for some time but once called home, where I met wonderful people, where we marvelled at each other's lives and, for the most part, had a jolly good time. A bit like Bognor Regis but without the ex-wife! 

I don't have any great plan, no manifesto or flag to wave. One day I might leap to the defence of the much maligned Shed Seven (that day may well be tomorrow), the next I may spout forth my thoughts on Adolf Farage or I might ponder on whether mini chedders are actually a relatively healthy alternative to crisps or whether I'm just kidding myself. Who knows? Not me, that's for sure.

And you, lovely reader, are welcome to drop by whenever you bloody well like.