Now that the Scottish independence referendum has ended in a decisive defeat for the SNP and emotions associated with both the Yes and No camps have begun to subside, I may as well give my views on this matter.
To my mind there are few shibboleths as popular as the concepts of "sovereignty" or "self-determination"( first popularized by US President Woodrow Wilson at the Versailles Conference after WWI). Ironically had the "Yes" vote carried the day, the first order of business in an independent Scotland would be thr risk of the Shetland Islands threatening to exercise its own form of "self-determination" by demanding either greater autonomy or threatening to secede.
As for "sovereignty", to my mind this emphasis is reminiscent of former Conservative EU Commissioner Lord Chris Patten- " a man or woman in the middle of the desert, naked, starving and alone, is "sovereign"-and doomed!"
The pervasive belief, on both sides of the ideological extremes( UKIP and BNP on the Right, and SWP, NO2EU, Sinn Fein, the Green Party, Plaid Cyrmu and others), that you could "go it alone"(whether in the case of the SNP, Scotland, or Britain out of the EU), is to my mind the purest fantasy- every argument used to justify Scottish independence can also be used to call for "Brexit"(UK withdrawal from the EU) or conversely to call for the retention of the UK in the EU. The argument made by (oddly enough) those on the Left as well as the Right that a post- withdrawal Britain would be some kind of paragon of progressivism is absurd- it would be what Irish Republican leader James Connolly aptly dubbed "a carnival of reaction", a narrower, more mean-spirited polity free to reinstate the death penalty,(only Belarus has capital punishment) recriminalize homosexuality and abortion(all of these things are a decided likelihood if the UK withdrew from the EU(and by implication the European Convention and Court of Human Rights).
In conclusion, if patriotism is what Dr Johnson aptly dubbed "the last refuge of the scoundrel", then nationalism is manifestly the "last refuge" of the demagogue, esp as SNP leader Alex Salmond reminds me of the type of nationalist demagogue like Slobodan Milosevic!
Well I suppose that's a relief- I was afraid they were going to attack newly crowned "Miss America" Kira Kazantseva for her Russian background, since the mini-Cold War with the land of her fathers esp after Putin's seizure of Crimea and mischiefmaking in the Ukraine- but no, they "only" did so due to her work with Planned Parenthood.
Personally I've been inclined to be skeptical of the whole business of beauty pageants in general and "Miss America" in particular since Vanessa Williams of "Ugly Betty" fame was elected in 1983(she had to resign her crown after nude pictures of her surfaced). Critics(mainly African American) questioned whether Ms Williams was"authentically black"( due to her fair skin, auburn hair and green eyes- full disclosure she is also a Pisces like my favourite film star Drew Barrymore in addition to having green eyes as well( actually Drew's publicist says her eyes are "greenish hazel" but hey, why split hairs?) even though she had NEVER tried to "pass"( ie conceal her African American heritage), whilst white supremacists and other racists grumbled that a"darkie"(and other racist terms) should not be allowed to be entered in Miss America pageants.
(until fairly recently they weren't - hence "Miss Black America"pageants).
Had i daughters I most certainly would not encourage them to enter beauty pageants anyway as I think(even though I appreciate feminine pulchritude , irrespective of ethnicity and skin colour as well as the next straight guy), they reinforce the most regressive concepts not just of sexism but of racism itself( it's no coincidence that Ms Kazantseva is both blonde and grey eyed-granted, she is no more to blame for the colour of her skin, hair and eyes than was Ms Williams her predecessor, but has there EVER been a "Miss America" of Hispanic, "white ethnic" or Jewish background?).
Anybody think as I do?
PS I was mildly surprised to discover that an American woman of Russian descent could and did win the prize; I tend to think of Russian women(even though Ms Kazantseva was born in San Francisco)- save Raissa Gorbachev- as being more reminiscent of Rosa Klebb in that James Bond film "From Russia With Love" than say Raquel Welch!
Full disclosure: I have been a long time fan of my namesake Denzel Washington, my namesake thought not my kinsman, dating back to the time he appeared in the 80s hospital drama "St Elsewhere")
It never rains but it pours, last week in the London Metro I read a short article in whcih Denzel Washington, whilst in the course of promoting his new film "The Equalizer"( based on the 1980s TV series with Edward Woodward) which was shot in the Boston area, noting incidents when he and his wife Pauletta were accused of being a pimp and prostitute respectively( naturally any well dressed black couple HAD to be pimps, prostitutes or drug dealers -at least in the eyes of racist Boston cops!).
And now I have just read of an incident in which "Django Unchained" actress Daniele Watts(who is of course African American whilst her paramour is white) was arrested by LAPD detectives on suspicion of being a "hooker"(she and her boyfriend/husband were reporting making out in a parked car; some witnesses say it was full blown sex).
Question: would (white)cops have arrested a white star(James Franco, Tobey Maguire) for making out with a white female in a parked car- maybe, but I'm not holding my breath!
Sometimes you read things in the press that you can't make up even if you tried. Case in point: yesterday's London Times( Sept 11, 2014) had a front page story suggesting that prejudice/discrimination against the obese should regarded in the same way as racism or sexism.
As if to complicate the issue that very same issue contained an article suggesting that the phrases "geeks/nerds" should regarded as reprehensible as racist slurs like n-----r or y-d and today's edition of the same paper carried a readers' letter noting that whilst she would never use phrases like"fatty" or "fatso" to an obsese person's face, she(the writer was obviously a woman; no man would be referred to as "anorexic") found it nonetheless odd that people felt free to comment on her very slim build with jokes about being" skinny" or "anorexic", ending with the plea that "Slim Jims have feelings too!"
This seems kind of OTT to me- granted you can be bullied or insulted for being either too fat or too thin, esp at school, but for being a "geek/nerd"?
It so happens that my favourite sitcom "The Big Bang Theory" is based on a group of "geeks/nerds"( most notoriously Sheldon Cooper, played by Jim Parsons) and their continuing misadventures- I find it hard to think of it as the equivalent of "Stepin Fetchit" or "Jew Suss".
Surely we dilute the power of the concept of discrimination and prejudice by extending it to such arguably undeserving groups as the obese, markedly slender, or "geeks/nerds" who can at least either lose or put on weight( excluding cases of glandular problems)?
With apologies to those of my readers who may be "fat" "skinny" or "geeks/nerds", I for one am not convinced that your problems are on an par(and in some cases at least dying) with those suffering from racism, sexism, homophobia and Islamophobia!
Perceptive observers of British politics may have noted how quiet UKIP leader Nigel Farage has been as of late, esp as the deadline draws closer for the referendum on Scottish indepedence grows ever closer.
I have a pretty good reason for this sudden silence on the part of the usually voluble UKIP leader- every argument that he has advanced for "Brexit"(British withdrawal from the European Union) has/can also be advanced for Scottish independence( why should we Brits/Scots be ruled from a far distant bureaucracy that pays little need to our needs or sensitivities-be it in Whitehall or Brussels?) It may of course be argued that I am comparing apples and oranges but I think the same principle holds sway for BOTH the Union of 1707 and British membership of the European Union and also the need for both to be maintained.
For a start, how would the newborn Scottish nation defend itself? What would its relationship with NATO and the UN be like? These and many other questions have yet to be seriously addressed by the "Yes" camp( other than than vague and blithe assertions that somehow the "Sassenach"- (derogatory phrase for Englishmen in Scots terms)- would presumably provide- not only will Scotland get to keep the pound, it can even keep the Queen!
To my mind, there is far too little appreciation that in the 21st century, the world is far too interconnected economically and politically for any one polity to adopt a "go it alone "policy- be it the SNP(or the "Tartan Tories" as critics dub them) or UKIP.
As former Conservative EU Commissioner Lord Chris Patten pithily put it-"A man or woman in the middle of the desert, naked, starving and alone is "sovereign" -and doomed!" The prevailing fantasy on the part of sections of BOTH Right and Left that Britain(or Scotland alone) could effectively go it alone
is rubbish!( Sorry not just UKIP, SNP, Sinn Fein, BNP, Greens, Plaid Cyrmru, SWP and others too numerous to mention.)
Secondly, tacitly or otherwise, the "yes" campaign has played with the sort of extreme nationalist demagoguery( maybe not expressly supporting this language but not disassocaiting itself from it either) that has led to verbal and possibly physical attacks on English people living in Scotland and characterizing them as "colons".
The flip side of nationalism- as we saw in Milosevic's Serbia- is thinly veiled animosity for anyone or anything that does not correspond to the idealized concept of the "pure" nation- which one reason why I keep my distance from nationalism, be it, Scottish, British, Irish, Russian or any other group!
A name from the past- the so-called "Central Park Jogger" case- came bubbling up from the past when it was reported that the four men convicted of the 1989 New York "Central Park jogger"' rape and attempted murder were not only had their convictions quashed but are due to receive multi-million dollar compesnation payouts for their years of unjust imprisonment.
Given that the five men- all juveniles at the time of their arrest and convictions- were either African American or Hispanic and that the so-called "jogger"( who has since revealed herself to be Patricia "Trisha" Meili, a Pittsburgh born investment banker and now motivational speaker) was white, the racist overtones of this case were and are obvious( esp the references to "wilding" as if the five youths were a pack of ravening beasts in the media)- although I am NOT imputing any racist prejudice to Ms,. Meili herself, only to journalists and
Much like celebrated case of miscarriages of justice in my own country, "Birmingham Six" "Guildford Four" " Maguire Seven", there are no heroes in this sad story- only degrees of victims- one woman and five boys-whose lives have been indelibly marked by this case.
The case of the recently murdered journalist Steven Sotloff raises suggestive questions about journalistic ethics- not least the wilful concealment not simply of his Jewish background but ultimately his dual citizenship of Israel as well as the United States. Whilst it may be argued that revealing his ethnicity/ religious beliefs and Israeli citizenship may very well have encouraged his ISIS captors to murder him as a"Zionist spy/Mossad agent"-Mossad is of course the Israeli Secret Service( they beheaded him anyway), I for one am inclined to be suspicious about anyone who wilfully conceals pertinent information about where they're coming from on a given issue( journalist Mary Kenny's pro-life /anti abortion views are at least explicable due to her being a practising Catholic which she has never concealed). Someone who covers such an issue as the Middle East and conceals his/her ethnicity/religious beliefs/nationality strikes me as being profoundly duplicitous!
British readers may have noted the story about the disappearance of a London teenager Alice Gross( her sister has set up a Facebook page entitled "FindAlice Gross" incidentally). Whilst any humane or decent individual(irrespective of race or sex) can only hope that she is found safe and well, for my part I have long been bemused by what media observers in both the UK and US call"the missing white woman/girl syndrome"( the all time champ of this trend must be Madeleine "Maddie" McCann) to exclusion of missing non-whites( African Americans, Hispanics, Black and Asian Britons) and missing boys and men(irrespective of their racial origins or skin colour).
Given that we all tend to identify with those whom we feel a kinship with and that print and TV journalism in both countries is the most notoriously lily white of professions, it is hardly surprisng that reporters tend to spend more time or show more interest when the missing person looks like either their daughter or the girl/lady next door.
Also, journalists tend to be middle class as well as white( hence missing people of either sex who are working class tend to attract less interest than their middle class fellows).
It now seems that EVERYBODY loves the ICC(International Criminal Court),- even nations that have previously opposed it. An Israeli human rights group(govt funded BTW) has announced that it will file suit at the ICC against a Jordanian born Hamas leader(jordan is the only Arab nation to have signed and ratified the ICC Convention), the UK has confirmed that a special team is gathering evidence against IS(Islamic State ) leaders on war crimes allegations and now the Russian Red Cross has announced it has begun collecting evidence of "war crimes" committed during the current conflict in the Ukraine( presumably NOT those by Russian forces but the ir Ukrainian foes)and submitting them to the ICC.
Personally I am inclined to be suspicious especially of this move: the Russian(and before it the Soviet) Red Cross and Red Crescent has long functioned as a camouflaged branch of the Cheka( secret police) and its successor organizations( OGPU, NKVD,MGB/MVD, KGB and presumably FSB) and Russia(esp under Putin) has has shown no especial interest in signing/ratifying the ICC Convention- so what gives?
You may have noticed that Lady Gaga along with the Beach Boys has announced that they will be playing in Israel despite the recent Gaza assault by the IDF(full disclosure: I follow Lady Gaga on Twitter even though I'm not a fan)-even though several singers and bands- such as Elvis Costello, Gil Scott-Heron, The Pixies, Massive Attack and others have expressly boycotted the country over its policies towards the Palestinians(others such as former US President Jimmy Carter, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, "The Colour Purple" author Alice Walker have been critical of Israeli policies, even usng the "a-word"- apartheid- to compare it).
Now Lady Gaga and the Beach Boys may very well argue that they are primarily entertainers and not ideologues and the politics of the situation is(to use a charming American saying) beyond/above "their pay grade" and besides, the money is too good to pass up. (In order to presumably break the growing BDS- boycott divestment sanctions- movement, Gaga and the Beach Boys are being paid top dollar).
Whilst I tend to agree with Sigmund Freud(1856-1939) that "sometimes a cigar is just a cigar" and that not everything is or has political significance, there are times when even the most decidedly apolitical man or woman has to ask him/herself "is this REALLY a good thing, never mind the big bucks?"
Given that Israel is well on the royal road to virtual pariah statehood( not only is BDS likely to grow in the wake of the assault on Gaza but there is a pending possible indictment by the ICC- International Criminal Court- over the 2010 Mavi Marmara assault by Israeli naval commandos- "Sayeret Makerel" or some such I think they are called), it seems like an extraordinarily BAD idea to associate with such a veritable prospective international outcast?
Whilst the comparison is inexact, i wonder if Lady Gaga or the Beach Boys would have played a gig in apartheid South Africa or the USSR during the Cold War?