War on pap

This may sound harsh, but I’m sick of the media reports and popular chat about the Manchester bombing, and twice as irritated by the displays of flowers and heart-shaped balloons.

All those upbeat stories and vapid promises that the community will come together and won’t let this beat them? It won’t, and there was no community in the first place. That’s why people WHO LIVE THERE did it.

If you want community spirit, look at any city in Syria, where an incident like this is business as usual – on a quiet day. Look at all the other sectarian bomb attacks on rival Muslim communities or Christians throughout the Middle East in the last week.

Oh but of course, you can’t. Because the UK media has been so obsessed with Manchester it hasn’t found time to report them. And could it also be that the most recent unreported attacks would reflect badly on UK or US links to those perpetrating them?

But it wasn’t until I noticed that a TV adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s brilliant The Handmaid’s Tale starts tonight that I really thought this through and recognised something else. The terrorists have failed, not because Brits are strong enough to get over such attacks, but because they don’t even value the victims.

The thing is, this was an attack on contemporary Western culture, i.e. pop culture. Now pop culture (much to the annoyance of indie and “serious” rock fans) may well revolve around 13 year old girls, but it doesn’t actually like them. It just values them as consumers – or more precisely their ability to demand product from their parents.

That whole “princess” thing about daughters is a myth. As I keep discovering when talking to other parents, boys are valued, but for most lower middle class families girls are at best domestic workhorses to help around the house while they grow up, then married off ASAP.

And what is this strange 21st century obsession in such families for girls to learn to dance or sing? Witness the endless stream of girls from loser families who can sing a bit on talent shows. Even through the TV screen you can almost smell the desperation. If the audition doesn’t go well it’s back to the lottery and scratch cards.

Can you – seriously – imagine such families pouring all their resources into a girl who wanted to be, say, a scientist? Come to think of it, can you even imagine a bookshelf in the house?

And that attitude doesn’t just run through sink estates. It has long ceased to surprise me how, even in the wealthiest families, the choice of a daughter’s university is determined by the opportunities to socialise and marry into the right family, and not the chance of gaining top class tuition and rising quicker in a chosen profession.

Which is why I think the terrorists got it all wrong. They were trying a form of psychological warfare which in Muslim culture goes back all the way to Hassan i-Sabbah and the Assassins….. but they miscalculated.

Hassan i-Sabbah’s strategy enabled a small force to prevail over a much stronger one by striking unexpectedly and in a devastating way which so shocked the enemy that it lost heart. The point was to prove that you were not only invincible, but prepared to do nightmarish things to win. It was a way of keeping your own casualties to the minimum, and not even necessarily inflicting any on the enemy while absolutely terrifying them in the process.

For example, one fabled Assassin tactic (which often followed months quietly working your way into the enemy camp) was to leave a dagger dipped in poison on the pillow of the enemy commander or prince. The next day you sent him a note telling him to surrender.

For more contemporary examples, consider the films before the second Gulf War of Iraqi guards in bizarre training rituals that involved things like eating dogs. To Western observers this was plain weird, but for Muslims who regard dogs as haram to see fellow Muslims crazed enough to do this it would have been alarming.

There is also the Boko Haram capture of Nigerian schoolgirls for conversion and sale as sex slaves. It worked by striking right at the heart of everything the “enemy” held dear. These were girls with dreams of growing up and becoming teachers or doctors. Girls loved and supported in those dreams not just by their families but whole communities.

But it won’t work here because (sigh) while Brits pretend to indulge and put little girls on pedestals they do not actually like them very much. Especially when they stop being cute and try to act like adults.

No, if ISIS were really serious, and better informed, they’d have bombed Crufts. Or maybe they should find a way to hack all those fluffy kitten clips on You-Tube.

Or maybe not. Mistreat a dog in the UK and there’ll be a petition to bring back the death penalty. Child abuse? Mainstream Britain doesn’t even acknowledge it, unless it can be pinned on someone who is neither white nor Christian.


I don’t do privilege

I have been asked if I want to reconsider a previous piece on here about the death of two young men from vastly different backgrounds.

The answer is ‘No’.

The sudden death of someone from an ordinary background who tried to be less ordinary is always presented as a morality tale by the media and middle class prod-noses. Hints of drug debauchery will be over-played, even if in reality they were negligible.

We upstarts have to be lectured to, potential upstarts have to be given a warning. That is the way hypocrisy works.

The sudden death of someone from a privileged background will never be judged as ‘suspicious’ or ‘preventable’ by a coroner, even if it coincidentally and initially has the warning signs of an overdose of opiates. That is the way privilege works.

But it is not the way I work, not the way I look at the world, not the way I mark sad events. I have sympathy for the family and friends in both cases. But I do not accept privilege in life, and will not entrench it in marking death.

RIP, Toffee

This blog would not live up to its name if it failed to mention a death in the local bohemian community. So here goes.

In the last week or so, the sudden deaths of two young men featured in the local media. The death of one frequently and prominently, the other just marked by a brief police acknowledgement that a body had been found in unexplained circumstances.

The first was a modern celebrity, of the kind who seem able to be famous just for being famous, rather than for remarkable achievements. He achieved that fame off-island after appearing in a notorious TV reality show. Prior to that, on-island he was mostly known as the clueless offspring of a particularly obnoxious and anal entrepreneur, with all the uniquely Manx problems such kids have. Thankfully, I never had to meet him, but over the years have observed many such losers at close quarters.

Still, while he moved solely amongst people nobody of taste wants to meet, and did things which were the source of no delight or amusement to me personally, those who put up with him rather than lived off him deserve at least as much public sympathy now as they needed during his life.

The second young man I never knew by his real name, so at first the police report rang no bells. But he too was a human with friends, family, talent and life interests. If truth be told, the real tragedy is that while he had considerably more talent and imagination than his better known mortuary mate he lacked ways to use or express it.

He was an optimistic if under-employed musician of the kind found around any UK city music studio but rarer over here. Always claiming to be close to a big deal or break, he was a regular busker – and not too successful at that either.

Many Sundays he could be found with the ‘regulars’ at a free lunch for homeless and otherwise dispossessed people. He presented with the early symptoms of schizophrenia, probably needed help from the mental health services which he never got, and instead had only the informal network of a few others in similar straits and old school bohos like me who live as outside the law as possible.

His funeral was today – a private affair for those classy or privileged enough to know him. It will not be written up for the press, and there will be no public obituary, because we of real taste and wit do not lower ourselves to such kitsch. We leave all that to Sunday lawn-mowers, car-washers, and all the others Saint Jeff memorably dismissed as having pebble-dashed brains.