Saturday, 26 May 2012

The Guardian on Shakespeare

I have a new post on GraunWatch.

A writer named Emer O'Toole has written a piece for the Guardian claiming that the plays of Shakespeare are little more than an tool of colonial/imperialist control over the world. As I tend to see Shakespeare's plays as having been very central to British culture for centuries, I take issue with her here.

As the owner of the blog says, this isn't necessarily the "Guardian line" on Shakespeare. But I believe this line of thinking is all too common, and needs to be subjected to strong critical analysis wherever possible. Too many people are getting away with some very woolly thinking.

The subject was also discussed on David Thompson's blog (in the comments section of this post). The point was made that education and thought in the UK is being influenced by a strong anti-patriotism - quite common, I think, in the pages of the Guardian and Independent, and in the output of the BBC.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

The dishonesty of the left on racism

So I understand that in the BBC's ongoing fight against racism, they interviewed a lady (alas I don't have her name) on the radio, who gave a few opinions on the subject. Sadly, it seems that she rolled out the argument - completely discredited in my view - that 'racism' only exists within a particular power dynamic or relation. The idea is that black people cannot be guilty of racism by definition, because they have less power in UK society.

There are so many problems with this argument. Ask a white man being beaten up by several black men - if he thinks he has much greater 'power'. How exactly is this power defined? And where does this idea leave the problem of racism between racial minorities? Does that not count as racism any more? Isn't one rule for white, another for blacks racist in itself?

But today I want to focus on the basic hypocrisy behind all this. Anti-racism was once a noble sentiment. I was under the impression – I think we all were – that racism used to mean something like the following:

“a wrong done to (or a dislike taken towards) someone, on the basis of their ‘race’ or skin colour”

It meant this for a long time, and the fight against this sort of racism had much moral sway. But at some stage a deeply dubious subclause was added (by some) so the new definition became:

“a wrong done to (or a dislike taken towards) someone, on the basis of their ‘race’ or skin colour, but only if they are on the wrong end of a power relation

Never mind that this ‘power relation’ was undefined and undefinable, everyone knew what the point of it was – to provide a specious rationale for saying that black people could not be called ‘racist’ under any circumstances. Now the only racists were white people. Put this way, it becomes clear where the actual discrimination by race lies. Some want a political stick to beat white people with.

The (creaky) reasoning behind it could be – for all I know - that  white people have “too much” or disproportionate power in the United Kingdom, so that any means are justifiable to try and reduce that power.

But if the meaning of the term “racism” is being casually altered to put one set of people in power and kick another out, then anti-racists are not acting from principles of equality and justice, and merely playing politics, as dishonestly as any politician ever did.