Here’s the rest of my jolly list of ten things that make me pull my hair and scream about silly old Blighty…
6. The Daily Mail
For the non-Brits reading this, I’ll let Uncyclopedia explain what The Daily Mail means to us lot in the UK:
Often referred to as “Fascism with Oven Gloves on” The Daily Wail, also known variously as The Daily Hate, The Daily Heil, The Daily Bile, The Daily Hate Mail and The Daily Fail is a hugely popular British comic for those who believe themselves (usually mistakenly) to be members of the middle classes.
While I have nothing but quiet distain for comic-book newspapers like The Sun and The Star, at least everybody knows they’re comics. The Mail is different, it tries to fob itself off as a serious newspaper while obsessing over celebrities, immigration and Princess Diana like some demented old lady whose sole understanding of the massive cultural shifts of the last 100 years mean that “you can’t even call it a blackboard no more.”
And like that same batty old lady, The Daily Mail supported the British Union of Fascists in the 1930s. After over half a million British and Commonwealth citizens lost their lives in the ensuing fight against the forces of fascism, you would think the Mail would show some contrition, some kind of humility, some kind of…
…I don’t know… tact? But I suppose that doesn’t sell too many papers.
But what really gets my goat about the Daily Mail is its — quite frankly — piss-poor science reporting. As may of you know, I’m very much an armchair cheerleader of the sciences, and while it is not my personal forte (I’m much better at roaming the world in search of beer), I do have an ongoing interest in all things science-y. But while my ignorance of the mechanics of the universe is something I actively try to combat, The Mail doesn’t even try. For The Mail, there are no incremental peer-reviewed advances in medicine, only MIRACLE CURES!! There are no interesting asteroids passing within 0.1 AU of the Earth, only DEADLY ASTEROIDS ON COLLISION COURSE!! There are no harmless chemicals in The Mail’s periodic table, only EVIL CHEMICALS THAT WILL EAT YOUR FACE OFF AND SLEEP WITH YOUR WIFE!!
In the world of The Daily Mail, there is no such thing as climate change, scientists are ‘boffins’ and the paper is engaged in a baffling quest to classify every inanimate object into those that cause cancer and those that prevent it.
The Beano has better science reporting.
I will concede that the Mail did something noble once…
But the emphasis must be placed squarely on the word “once.” The fact that The Daily Mail is the second best-selling newspaper in the UK is just one more reason for me to add it to the list of 10 things I hate about the UK. For a daily update of the incredible lies, half-truths, distortions of reality and painfully uncritical press-release journalism, check out http://www.mailwatch.co.uk/
7. Prince Charles
I’m by no means a republican. I don’t envy the political systems of France or Italy (interestingly listed as ‘flawed democracies’ by the Democracy Index) and I believe that the American system of government is fundamentally flawed and unfixable.
My support for the institution of the British monarchy stems from three things:
1) there’s nothing socially, morally or politically wrong with having a constitutional monarchy (as evidenced by it being the preferred system of 7 of the 10 most democratic nations on the planet).
2) The Queen routinely receives a whopping 80% approval rating. Take THAT, Sarkozy!
3) Cultural identity is important (not important enough to kill for, but I’ll come to that later) and we’ve had these posh twits sitting on the throne for so long that it has become part of what makes Britain, well, Britain. Like Peperami and Doctor Who.
As our head of state (and head of the Commonwealth) the Queen’s job is to smile and nod and keep her gob shut. I like that. I don’t want my country represented around the world by some career politician – one that would no doubt blab his mouth off, own 70% of the nation’s media and slap ladies on the bottom like some kind of 1930s cartoon wolf.
In short, so long as they keep their sticky beaks out of politics, I’m more than happy to have a monarch.
Having said that, I just can’t bring myself to support the concept of a King Charles III. The guy is an idiot, he cheated on his wife (and got caught), he is an active supporter of woo medicine and (most importantly) he can’t just keep his bloody gob shut. So I’m sorry Charlie-boy, you suck. If you cannot muster the same high level of approval as your mum, then that thing wot makes you King has to skip a generation – just bear in mind what happened to Charles I…
8. Cultural Relativism
Oo-eck, Graham, one minute you’re slagging off the Daily Mail, and then the next you’re jumping on one of their pernicious bandwagons. Before you accuse me of being some kind of double-agent, let me explain. The Daily Mail is anti-immigration. I am not. All that cultural relativism does is help confirm all the daft prejudices that Daily Mail readers have about immigration. “If we hadn’t let them in in the first place this never would have happened” etc. This is because cultural relativism has never, will never and can never work.
When I talk about preserving the monarchy for cultural reasons, it is only because it is harmless. Any culture that causes physical harm or mental anguish is not one that the human race needs to preserve. The Solomon Islanders are much better off now than when they were running about eating each other. The Chinese practice of foot binding has (thankfully) been swept away with the passage of time, as has the fine old game of throw-the-widow-on-the-funeral-pyre that proved popular in medieval India.
It follows that we should not be falling over ourselves to protect the rights of people to do horrible, stupid, misguided and morally bankrupt things to each other in the name of ‘culture’.
Sharia Law is the most blatant example of this, but what about the Northern Irish and their idiotic marches? What about the Jewish woman forced to sell her home in to pay for the ‘Get’ that will allow her to divorce her husband in the eyes of Goddy? What about the gay kid disowned by his or her parents for making baby Jesus cry (presumably)? What about the unfortunate child of Jehovah’s Witnesses who would rather let them die than give them a blood transfusion? What about the young girl of North East African descent who is taken home by her parents in the summer holidays to have her genitalia mutilated with a septic blade?
Honour killings, forced marriage, animal cruelty, sexism, racism, homophobia, sadism, slavery: they have all been justified by saying ‘it’s my culture’. This is when culture stops being about delicious food, amazing architecture and fancy dance moves, and becomes something a lot more sinister.
So it follows that attempting to set up a system in which people are told that everybody’s ‘culture’ (however you choose to define that word) is equally valid is obviously never going to work. We’ve got to stop using ‘culture’ as a trump-card that renders all argument moot and brands any dissenters as insensitive, or even more fallaciously, racists.
Just as the British flag has been hijacked by extremists to mean something it shouldn’t, so the word ‘culture’ has been hijacked by every yahoo who wants to defend something that is otherwise pretty damn indefensible. The upshot of which is that now (say) ‘spicy food’ is seen as part of a given culture, but so is some bafflingly cruel custom that nobody in the UK wants or needs. The word ‘culture’ is being used to trump human rights and human dignity.
The basic concept of multiculturalism is that you lump the rough with the smooth and it’ll all work its way out in the wash. The reality is very different. In making my argument, it would be helpful for me to split the word ‘culture’ in two. So let’s say ‘noble culture’, which we can group under headings such as ‘art’ and ‘science’ and let’s have ‘rotten culture’ which we can group under the headings ‘cruelty’ and ‘stupidity’.
There is a fine balance to be struck here, but it’s not that hard to achieve: Welcome to Britain, leave your unwanted baggage at the door, thanks. Of course you can bring your beautiful calligraphy, your ancient texts and your fabulous music, but the bigotry, misogyny and homophobia… well, I’m afraid they’re not welcome here, despite what Richard Littlejohn thinks.
So while I am a massive supporter of ‘noble culture’, I see no intrinsic good coming from ‘rotten culture’. All I see is misery, despair and isolation. And it is these facets that make cultural relativity so divisive and so problematic. By positively encouraging people to make little effort to integrate into the wider community we are doing nothing but contributing to the increasing ghettoisation of the UK.
This cuts both ways: British ex-pats who live their lives in foreign climes for years on end and never bother to learn the local lingo should be just as irksome to people as Pakistanis in Bradford who don’t learn English. If anything, it shows a basic lack of respect for the community in the place you have chosen to live. It doesn’t matter whether the natives are I-Kiribati, Aboriginal or Glaswegian, there can be no cross-community cohesion while we have this Balkanisation of communities… something that is achieved through the exploitation of cultural fault-lines: ie. the rotten stuff.
Kipling was wrong when he said that “East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet”. We can all agree that Lamb Rogan Josh is a good thing, that the Taj Mahal is beautiful and that Bollywood films are a bloody good larf. In these cases, East meets West and everyone has a great time.
But when it comes to the Indian caste system, we are faced with a situation in which one community is wrongfully stratified from birth and people are openly discriminated against by other members of their community for obscure and nefarious reasons. We can’t somehow incorporate that into our moral framework, our laws or our society. And the same goes for Sharia: we can’t have a community in the UK which runs itself on laws which ignore the last 200 years of social progress. A two-tier system system of justice and morality is most definitely not what the doctor ordered.
When David Cameron said a few months ago that ‘multiculturalism has failed’, there was hardly a mumble of dissent. He’s wrong, of course, multiculturalism has made the UK better than ever (think how dreadful food was in the 1970s), but I can see how for many, multiculturalism in the UK has been a massive failure: it has led to misery, bitterness, hate crimes, the regrowth of the British Nazi movement.
But this isn’t the fault of multiculturalism per se, it’s more the fault of having a ‘one size fits all’ policy when it comes to cultural matters. Branding something ‘cultural’ does not automatically make it worthwhile, necessary or good.
Overcoming our inherent tribalism while still retaining the ‘noble culture’ of our tribe (and learning from the ‘noble culture’ of others) is something that all of us should strive to achieve: whether we’re a native or an immigrant. After all, it’s a lot more difficult to say you hate any given minority when your best friends come from that very minority.
I’m very much a believer in the ‘melting pot’ society: schools that are separated by individual strengths, not by race, religion or creed. Communities that are encouraged to work together, not tear each other apart. Politicians that represent the aspirations of the country, not just their own narrow agenda. A UK where being intolerant, impolite and thuggish is seen as an affront to all our ‘noble culture’: a place where if I see a bunch of angry skinheads marching along the street shouting racist obscenities and I can gather my friends from all over the world and say “oh dear, how desperately un-British.”
9. The Film “Industry”
This deserves a post all of its own, but I’ll try and keep this brief: Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, James Bond, Sherlock Holmes, Dracula, Frankenstein… if we were to put the money that these BRITISH creations have made for HOLLYWOOD together, we would enough wonga to buy the moon.
Of the top 20 box office hits of all time, 10 were British inventions (I’m including the Titanic in that!), and 13 feature a British main character – sometimes even a Yank pretending to be British.
All eight Harry Potter films were filmed in the UK, with a British cast, British crew, British producer, and based on the books by a British writer. The last five films were all directed by Brits.
Deathly Hallows Parts I and II have (so far) taken a whopping $2,300,000,000 worldwide – just at the box-office. That’s not taking into account DVDs, downloads, spin-offs, merchandise, the World of Harry Potter or the fact Dumbledore is now the gay icon of the age. Put the entire series together and we are talking MEGAbucks, more than the annual GDP of some countries.
And where does all this money go?
Why? Because British people are stupid. Oh yeah, look at us producing a decent sit-com at a rate of about one per decade – aren’t we great? Occasionally we get enough money together to make a feature film, but instead of setting the box-office alight with our tried-and-tested intellectual property, we decide what the world REALLY NEEDS is another dreary period drama set in a swamp. Or a gangster film.
We’re useless, aren’t we? Too busy watching soap-operas instead of spinning our best ideas into box-office gold. Would it really have made ANY difference AT ALL if a British studio had paid to make the Harry Potter films? No. We had the tools, we had the talent. All we are missing is ANY LIVING BRITISH ENTREPRENEUR with a brain and a pair of balls. Somebody willing to invest 100 million quid, not on some god-awful building that they’ll demolish in 30 years, but on a safe bet that they will make over a BILLION POUNDS OF PURE PROFIT at the box-office.
EIGHT TIMES OVER!!
Do me a favour, the next time you’re at a party and some pretentious Brit says that “all Americas are thick”, punch them in the cock and scream “Tell that to Harry Potter!!”
10. The Weather
Ah yes. The weather. This is what the British do when the sun comes out: