Some thoughts on racism

I apologise for covering another British matter, but believe this is of relevance and, I hope, interest to all.

A white, middle-aged and very middle-class historian called David Starkey appeared on a television programme last week to give his thoughts on the week’s anarchic scenes. Whether he intended to or not, and he probably did just a little because he has previous when it comes to being provocative (he was labelled “the rudest man in Britain” by the Daily Mail, serial offenders indeed, and memorably called Scotland “a feeble little country”), he kicked a hornets’ nest several times with remarks that were instantly met with accusations of racism. It was a hornets’ nest that nobody is allowed to upset.

The poor hornets’ nest (and before you say it, I’m not insinuating anything whatsoever about the wealth of, or associated morals held by, the hornets residing in this nest; and I use the analogy because I like it, it’s not chosen because said hornets bear any type of resemblance to anyone or anything, nor does their behaviour remind me of anyone or anything or anywhere) had received a good weltering by the time the credits rolled, but it would continue for days. I couldn’t help but feel that the most frantic kicks came from outraged liberals and self-appointed upholders of political correctness who didn’t want to aggravate the hornets’ nest at all but just couldn’t help themselves. You could say that it was reminiscent of the feral youth trying to boot their way into Foot Locker to steal as many pairs of trainers as they could carry away without needing to adjust their hood-and-scarf combo. Wait, I didn’t say that last part. What I meant was…

Now, I’m white, but I’m neither middle-aged nor middle-class and possess but the tiniest fraction of Starkey’s knowledge, life experience, observational nous and temerity for winding people up, with even less of his unabashed vanity, yet stone me (don’t take that literally, I’m not advocating violence here), I happened to agree with him just a little. I winced at the way he said what he did and gritted my teeth expecting the wholly inevitable backlash, because he didn’t select his words as carefully as he might have done and it was, ultimately, the hornets’ nest of all hornets’ nest which he chose to kick. Yet I thought he made some valid points and they deserve consideration, not denunciation.

Aren’t some people over-reacting? I don’t mean those who are most entitled to take offence, rather those sharing more in common with Starkey who are going out of their way, it seems to me, and appear rather desperate to be seen to be attacking the bigoted views of a silly old fool as though that will restore calm and stop further unrest on the streets. If we’re trying to understand the reasons for rioting, why is it not acceptable to consider every possible explanation, however innocuous, including the role of language and rap music in popular and gang culture and its influence far beyond its expected target audience? Like it or not, a key aspect of this black culture – and it’s OK to say this because black people admit it too – is an utter disregard for the police and the rule of law. That’s not to say that aspects of white culture do not share this same disregard; just glance through the nearest newspaper if you think anyone would be that silly to try and say that white culture is, well, whiter than white. It is simply a part of black, gangster culture. Not even a tiny part, unfortunately.

Why not ask ourselves why white youths are looking to black music, specifically to gangsta rap, for answers and role models, believing it to contain more relevance to them and to offer more much-needed encouragement than other types of music? This in a country where, just like the USA where most hip-hop originates, the vast majority of not only authority figures such as politicians, police and teachers are white, but also most successful individuals as reported by a predominantly white media. Why not seek to address these issues?

I know something about racial stereotypes, being Celtic and not Anglo Saxon. As I’m Welsh and have at numerous times been subject to the oh-so tedious assumptions so favoured by my English neighbours, as have my Scottish and Irish friends (only a bit of fun, naturally, don’t take it to heart, Taffy/Jock/Paddy), I’ll resist the temptation to build on the theory that England has never successfully repressed its dirty, imperialist desires and still has one hell of a superiority complex which has carried over from The Days of Empire, not wishing to upset English friends with far more enlightened views of the world of which they are but a tiny part. I’ll save that for another time and place. Dr Starkey, though, in part because of his age and political views, is a product of this very ugly, supercilious Englishness. He probably doesn’t mean anything by it, he just can’t help himself. Cambridge-educated, precociously clever, unashamedly Conservative with a great big ‘C’ whose 1950s BBC accent betrays his Cumbrian, Quaker upbringing. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. (Better not, just in case.)

I tire of it, the stereotyping, and don’t accuse every boorish joker of being racist; I simply note first, that they’re arseholes and second, that this type of racial abuse isn’t nearly as serious as that which has been experienced for centuries by black or Jewish people. Those are the real hornets’ nests.

Starkey’s most offensive comments were that David Lammy, a respected black member of parliament, sounds white because he’s educated and well-spoken, unlike so many of the youths – or yoofs – we have all heard demonstrating a peculiar and much-mocked street language recently. It does raise the question: does an inability or reluctance to pronounce words correctly, and to form intelligible sentences that those beyond your peer group can comprehend, help make you employable? Hardly. (Half of all black youths in England are unemployed, apparently.) To prove the point, Starkey read out something which had been written by one of the looters, aged 18, to give an example of just how poor the standards are. If his aim had been to criticise the education system, it would have been an ideal source. Point duly noted, anyway. As it happened, there was another point made: it revealed the girl’s utter contempt for the police and blamed the riots on them (for killing a black man whose criminal record we have yet to fully discover).

Regardless of these two helpful points, Starkey was actually attempting to highlight the quality of speech demonstrated by black youths. Forgetting for a moment the lazy assumption that he must have been equating black with bad, white with good, he did just that and it spawned an amusing YouTube video. It is obviously unfair to compare someone of 18 with a professional more than twice her age and used to public speaking. Their skin colour is irrelevant, age and profession much more so. Still, I don’t think that makes Starkey a racist, rather guilty of a thoughtless comparison between a rioter who uses lazy language and a professional who speaks very well, both of whom happen to be black. I don’t believe he was saying black is bad, just that the way the 18-year old chooses to speak isn’t ideal. Don’t forget that, embarrassingly, she was chosen to be an Olympic ambassador. Don’t forget either that her parents shopped her to the police after seeing her on TV, which I think takes great courage and should be applauded.

By the same token, of course, we can assume that Starkey thinks regional accents are as bad as adopted ones. But I doubt he was saying that, in spite of his betrayal of his own regional accent. All he said was that “this Jamaican patois that’s been intruded in England” is not very becoming. Listen to Starkey speak. No doubt, in his view, we should all speak properly, with correct enunciation, as he does. The evolution of language is all well and good, but it should be understandable. An academic would say such a thing.

Can we not say the same for Estuary English or Mockney, the imitation of working class Londoners’ speech for so long cherished as Cockney? (Go to London and try and find an authentic Cockney. Good luck, you’ll need it. Was that racist? People like David Starkey have priced them out.) Indeed, the middle class has been pretending to be working class for years. Mick Jagger started it. Damon Albarn and Lily Allen do it, to give but two examples of middle class kids trying not to be in an attempt to fit in, to gain some sort of authenticity and credibility, ultimately to ingratiate themselves with the folk who will buy their albums and make them even more middle class. Most amusingly of all, Mike Skinner from The Streets is from Birmingham. Brummies don’t sound anything like Londoners. I’m sure Starkey would have an opinion on this, too.

Starkey’s is the snobbery that kept regional accents off television and radio for so long, preferring instead the plummy and equally artificial tones of Received Pronunciation, the standard or Queen’s English spoken in the Home Counties, as favoured by those with power and influence. This is how it’s been for generations and someone like Starkey, who has gained a lucrative television career out of it and worked his way into it, would be understandably sad to see it replaced with something less cultured. That’s not so outrageous, surely. We all moan about ‘dumbing down’ often enough.

Don’t we all speak a hybrid of American and Australian dialects these days anyway, thanks to the likes of Neighbours, Dallas and Dynasty. The American influence, regardless of its colour, on British culture in particular is immense. Ask the French how they feel about it. It won’t have escaped your attention that if the films and television series from the USA are not set against a bright backdrop of huge houses, sports cars and all the latest mod-cons, where everyone is beautiful and gets an easy ride and an even easier moral message to digest at the end, it’s a gritty underworld to be feared. There is no in-between. In the latter, the music is loud and the language is threatening; in the former, the riches are taken for granted yet, in reality, are unattainable to most viewers. Police are shown in a negative light, women are objects to be used. Everywhere are images of violence, drugs and sex. We’ve had that for 60 years now, ever since the television entered our homes in the 1950s.

Is American culture as much as, maybe more than, black culture not the real problem here? I think analysis of this would be much more helpful, believing, as I do, that the riots were about greed and believed need and America has given the world the impossible dream to chase, encouraging everybody to worship material wealth, leaving most people thoroughly depressed and disillusioned by their failure to accumulate it.

Consider MTV’s Cribs, to give just one example, which is one of the most vile programmes ever seen. It serves as a platform for celebrities, many of them black as you would hope, showing off their wealth. What can motivate you more than to see someone from a similar background becoming successful when you have very little? It’s such a shame that they – we all – are impressed most by fickle possessions.

Most tactlessly of all, Starkey declared that “whites have become black.” Cue unrestrained eruptions of rage and much grinding of teeth. Be honest, there were probably also many nervous nods in agreement, particularly from the middle-aged who have little idea what their children are saying much of the time and privately curse the many influences on youth culture just as their parents would have cursed their influences and had their own cursed before them. Few famous names will come to Starkey’s defence for fear of being similarly labelled, but some whites as well as Asians have embraced black culture to the point where, as Starkey said, if you were listening on the radio you would no longer be able to guess the creed of the speaker – as if that matters. We can all acknowledge this and it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. I fail to see what is so wrong with a simple cultural observation, although, again, I accept that ‘the black way is the wrong way, the white way is the right way’ is too tempting not to pick up and run with. I just feel we should resist that temptation for the sake of better understanding. David Lammy, I would assume, was only mentioned as an example of someone a generation closer to the majority of rioters than Starkey, crucially, who black youth should look up to and be inspired by instead of other less favourable influences.

Try as we might, we cannot forget Sacha Baron Cohen’s Ali G comedy creation – a white kid, Jewish if memory serves me well, trying to be black. From the way he talked to the way he dressed, he wanted to be black. The character was amusing to most people, other than British rabbis, but soon came controversy over the exact subject of our laughter. My take was that the joke was on Ali G and the embarrassing lengths to which he’d go in order to keep up his pretence. Was it racist to laugh? I hope not, because I did a couple of times.

Take Eminem, the exemplary ‘Wigger’ (because I’m white I guess I can say that in the same way that it’s OK for black people to use the disgusting N-word?), who has done very well for himself by embracing black music. An obvious role model for white youths who are desensitised to violence, not in the least offended by the misogyny and homophobia found in his lyrics, accepting of drugs and crime as by-products of street life even if many of them would not entertain the idea of experimenting with them. (Surely we should be more concerned about this than what David Starkey thinks.) He has become rich and famous and has given something back to society, in the form of the charity he founded to help disadvantaged youth, for example, as well as the acclaimed protest song, ‘Mosh’, which encouraged young people of all creeds to register to vote in protest against the Iraq war.

In this sense, some whites have become black. Presumably Starkey thinks that’s a bad thing, as is his right to an opinion however controversial, because he already gave an example of a solitary black person’s attitude towards the police, society and criminal behaviour which few would ever consider positive. That makes sense, even if one opinion does not speak for the entire black community.

I doubt that anyone sensible would attack positive prejudice or allophilia, possessing a highly favourable attitude for a group that is not your own. Those that do show empathy for another group are least likely to be prejudiced against them. Yet the blurring of lines of distinction may well unsettle certain people, people like Starkey we now assume. For them (if I can use ‘them’, I think I should be able to seeing as I’m using it against a white group), it was easier when things were strictly black or white, and white has always ruled, in which case I would most certainly consider somebody racist for advocating the continued suppression of a minority group. But Starkey didn’t indicate that this was his view or say anything of the sort. Speaking about the attitude of rioters to the police and shops looted, I don’t think he was claiming anything more than white kids followed the message most commonly found in a very small part of black culture, i.e. resist the rule of law and do what you want. As a good historian, he had a source to support his claim.

I would hope that none of this was a slur on the millions of immigrants who have made England their home, or of multiculturalism per se. One aspect of black culture that is not to Starkey’s liking does not account for the many others which he may wholeheartedly embrace. And how do we know that there aren’t any? We suppose, by making assumptions based on his appearance, age and voice, that he’s a bigot who is out-of-touch with modern society. Is that not also a small-minded and prejudiced view? An openly gay (no, I’m not homophobic, just stating a fact) man living a comfortable existence in a considerably richer part of London than those who rioted, Starkey doesn’t understand black culture but neither does he have to. He’s detached from the poverty and lack of opportunities. That doesn’t make him a sad, misanthropic racist, merely someone who is entitled to mourn the passing of more traditional values which, in our blinkered view of the world, we often assume to be white. What he mourns, as we all should, is intelligence and respect – qualities we need in society. Through his hard work and by traversing the albeit clearer pathway to education, he bettered himself. He’s entitled to point out that youngsters can aspire to do more with their lives than behave with appalling disregard for their communities and criminal actions. He did not get the chance to clarify his points, so keen were the other guests on the programme to say the right thing and perhaps prevent him from saying something even more inflammatory. We’ll never know.

I won’t waste time or space listing all the good things about black culture which Starkey may or may not champion. For one thing, that would be redundant on a musician’s blog (having talked lovingly so many times about Soul, Blues and Motown), as well as highly patronising. Neither will I list all the bad things about white culture, which would take far, far too long. But at no point did Starkey imply that every facet of black culture is bad, just the existence of criminal gangs and a suspicion of the evolved language that these disaffected youths choose to communicate their angry thoughts.

Those who took part in the riots came from a range of ethnic backgrounds and, as a mass of snarling thugs, they did not target shops based on the colour of the proprietors’ skin; they went looking for the goods they sought after. It wasn’t what Enoch Powell warned of: race riots. In cities with multi-ethnic communities living and trading side-by-side, the properties and possessions of no single group were targeted by another; all were fair game for robbing and the looters ransacked as one, many of them admittedly orchestrated by gang leaders and, as I mentioned previously, television reports showed more black faces than white or Asian. I don’t know why; I fear we’re not allowed to question why. Race remains a factor because, as I also wrote previously, black males are more likely to be stopped and searched by police; indeed a black man was killed by the police sparking an initial protest. The controversial death of reggae musician Smiley Culture in the presence of the police was mentioned in one of last week’s many debates, I noticed. Suspicion abounds.

To rap music and gangsta rap in particular, widely condemned for as long as I can recall for its violent reflections of inner-city hardship. To make a sweeping generalisation about it, it clearly does purport values which are misogynistic, materialistic and anti-authoritarian. Listen to any song from SPIN’s ‘Best Rap Songs of the Year… So Far’ list, for example (how beautiful the violins on ‘Came Up’ by G-Side featuring S.L.A.S.H., by the way), and you’ll notice themes which are very much anti-society. Not even small society, David Cameron; there’s a long, long way to go before your Big Society catches on here because this is real me-against-the-world stuff. There is no society in these songs, Margaret Thatcher would love it.

The first track on the list, Killer Mike’s ‘Burn’, discusses the fatal shooting of an unarmed black male by police in 2009, which led to riots in Oakland, California.

“It seems a nigga can’t get a job, but I can get arrested”

Police harassment of black youths, borne out of racism, it is argued, is something that the pioneering N.W.A., who popularised the genre of gangsta rap, were commenting on in the late Eighties. Tracks such as ‘Fuck Tha Police’, for example, which advocates violence against police officers, further generated the belief that the police, as a distinctly racist force, cannot be trusted and should not be respected.

“Fuckin’ with me ’cause I’m a teenager
With a little bit of gold and a pager
Searchin’ my car, lookin’ for the product
Thinkin’ every nigga is sellin’ narcotics”

Sticking two fingers up – or just the one on each hand, which is less British (I hope that wasn’t racist) – to authority and its doubters is another common and not particularly tasteful example of how rappers command their respect through proving others wrong, thus creating figures of resentment for others to distrust – in this case, teachers and law-abiding people who didn’t welcome crime on their doorsteps. Here’s Biggie Smalls, the Notorious B.I.G., and ‘Juicy’:

“This album is dedicated
to all the teachers that told me I’d never amount to nothin’
To all the people that lived
above the buildings that I was hustlin’ in front of
That called the police on me
when I was just tryin’ to make some money to feed my daughters”

Very few of these rappers, it seems, are cheery Lily Allen-types, although they may well also be pretending to be something that they’re not. Life isn’t cheery for them. Hustling is a common theme and, as with the above example, is always entirely justifiable and respectable in the eyes of hip-hop rather than acknowledged for in some part being morally reprehensible. Says Rick Ross on ‘Mafia Music II’:

“You know we hustle to the key of life
Moving weed and white before we learn to read and write
So fuck a tutor, pay attention to my shooter”

These aren’t the messages you want young people, least of all children, to absorb. The values found in these songs were demonstrated in the looting and attacks on police. People were not afraid of the law and they wanted to steal. Nobody disputes this. Nobody can dispute that society breaks down when a section of it believes that the only worthwhile education is the one taught on the streets and that respect is demanded through violence and fear, machismo and pack status rather than earned through traditional achievements.

In the rare cases where artists have made a successful living from their tales of crime and managing to evade the law, whether those tales are truthful or fantastical, they do like to brag about them. Rappers are fond of materialistic boasting. Take Stalley’s ‘Slapp’, for example:

“Remember when I didn’t have a pot to piss in
Now I got windows to throw it out of
And 12 door speakers to blare it out of”

None of this can ever be positive. If youth listen to this long enough and believe in it strongly enough, although it doesn’t programme them to steal, of course, just as the video gamers aren’t compelled to go on a gun-toting rampage after adopting the role of hitman via games console, it does provide the rationalisation that crime is only to be expected and should be excused so hard is life and so easy the rewards for those brave enough to challenge the powers that uphold such an unfair, corrupted society.

Neither should we forget, though, the staggering rivalry between hip-hop artists of East and West Coasts throughout the Nineties which culminated in the murders of the Notorious B.I.G. (his record label, Bad Boy Records) and 2Pac (his label, Death Row Records). It seems that even the names of the labels have to shock.

These are all generalisations, I know. To suggest that all black kids listen to hip-hop, let alone find themselves inspired by it to commit violence, is of equivalent ignorance to saying that all white kids listen to Mozart and enjoy nothing more than a spot of grouse shooting, which is as disgusting a notion to my mind as it is to the many black people who share a distaste for this dishonourable music scene.

Oh how we whinge about the politicians’ aversion to straight-talking bluntness. When somebody gives it to us straight, as Starkey has, we’re horrified. We have to be horrified because if we’re not, we’re no better than the social transgressor who said something to make us uncomfortable and paranoid in the first place.

What a way to shut the debate down with just one nasty word: racist. It spares us from having to look at a dozen relevant and connected issues, I suppose.

Author: FEd

Features Editor of David Gilmour’s official blog, The Blog (‘Features’ previously being its rather naff title), affectionately – or lazily – shortened to ‘FEd’.

82 thoughts on “Some thoughts on racism”

  1. I personally have become very concerned by the way our society has become obsessed with wealth,status and stardom but without the emphasis on rewarding talent. I am concerned as the father of seven year old triplets as I am finding that it is difficult to shield them from how shallow society has become.

    It is also difficult to listen to anything that the government says as it is dominated by people who are never going to be affected by this age of austerity. I can also see the resentment of the majority of the population as we find ourselves in a situation not of our making but are expected to pick up the tab.

    What we require is for those who can pay more to do so in order that we get the country back on its feet quicker.

    We then require a more responsible tax system that distributes our country’s wealth fairer in order that the events of last week become a thing of the past.

    1. Hear, hear.

      How comfortable David Starkey’s world is. Per hour, he earns more than anyone on television. He’s a million miles away from not only the underclass that made up the largest part of the looting mob, but also the struggling working and middle class.

    2. I just read that Starkey didn’t have many great advantages as a youngster, his family was a normal working class one, Starkey was disabled by club feet (usually requires years of treatment and affects the confidence of a child) and also got polio.

      It appears that he was highly intelligent and did well at school despite all this and went on to a top university and excelled.

      He may be a million miles away from the underclass but he worked hard to get where he is. Shouldn’t we consider him to be a shining example of how someone can rise to riches from a lower class?


  2. I really enjoyed reading this amazing piece of writing. It made me think about a lot of things and I would like to write them, but I don’t have enough time these days.

    I’ll find a way to read the comments, though.

  3. On the face of it, David Starkey’s comments certainly appeared to be very racist to me. They came across as ‘whites can do no wrong and blacks can do no right’.

    Like many others, I do believe that Gangsta Rap is one of the many factors that contribute to crime and lawlessness in society, but we can be pretty sure that not every person (black, white or otherwise) who took part in the riots, likes that sort of ‘music’ anyway. I suspect the homophobic lyrics of some Gansta Rap songs may be at the root of why Mr Starkey hates black culture so much.

    IMHO, David Starkey is an offensive, pompous ass… unfortunately, he seems to revel in that ‘fact’ too.

    1. I suspect the homophobic lyrics of some Gansta Rap songs may be at the root of why Mr Starkey hates black culture so much.

      I didn’t think of that. That’s a good point.

      He is an offensive, pompous ass.

    2. Come on now. 😕

      David Starkey listening to enough rap to realise that some lyrics are homophobic??? You jest! :))

      Are the people (predominantly black?) who make Gangsta Rap homophobic? That’s a form of discrimination, is it also incitement to hate?

      I remember a hotelier or Bed and Breakfast or something that refused to give a room to a gay couple and they were prosecuted and found guilty of whatever that crime is. I remember a case a very long time ago when someone selling a house stated in his advertisement, “to a white family only”. He was found guilty of whatever you call that crime. I’m sorry I can’t remember what the laws and charges are specifically. But it’s all hate of one group or another and against the law.


  4. We’d like a David Gilmour surprise appearance in the concert of The Wall to be held in South America for 2012.

  5. Yo F’eddy, another masterpiece and one of such perspicacity and length as to be impossible to summarise, let alone comment on, in 1500 characters.

    As you say, this particular hornets’ nest is always accompanied by a great deal of dancing around to make sure (via parenthetic asides and self-qualifying remarks, lest someone else qualifies what one could just as easily have qualified but chose not to in the desire to keep within your character limits) that the least offence is caused to the greatest number. In fact, being charitable to Starkey and recognising the context in which his remarks were made, the purpose of debate and discussion is to be able to say what one thinks in the spirit of intellectual debate if one is trying to reach a greater understanding. Starkey is accustomed to the rarefied environment of academic debate, where, like the cliché of professional sport, one can kick seven bells out of one’s opponent on the pitch and then shake hands and retire to the bar (or Senior Common room) for a restorative glass of port.

    In the end, the point he makes is a rather weak one, possibly because the debate didn’t really get on to the meat. Certainly any connotation that black = bad and white = good was very unfortunate as I don’t really think even “big C” Starkey thinks that. It’s just a historical fact that the sort of things he does approve of are out of sync with a “fuck you” anti-establishment message, wherever it comes from.

    Speaking as a white, middle or should I say professional class man from the non-aligned English East (“do different” is Norfolk’s motto) I share a concern that adopting a culture which, on the face of it, promotes lawlessness, mysogeny, rampant in-your face materialism and a world where women gyrate and men “hang tough” is not likely to lead us to MLK’s promised land.

    Of course, we should not ignore the fact that if any grouping is entitled to feel a bit “chippy” it is the black urban poor of the good ol’ USA which crossed the Atlantic in chains, was raped, enslaved, fought over, impoverished and demonised in the Land of the Free where all men (well you know, WASPish, not hornets, men) were created equal. You can see why those who eventually obtained wealth and power and did so by creating their own rules might want to stick up one or two fingers to the society that kept them down. That’s all very understandable but it doesn’t make it the way forward for everyone, not least because they adopt the worst practices of the society they both despise and aspire to.

    However, I happen to believe that the basic principles of what one might call the Liberal tradition will guide us along better. Tolerance, the rule of law, freedom of expression and action provided it does not harm others, a good dose of enlightened Government to ensure that opportunity is open to all and the riches of society percolate to the least well-off. None of that is specific to any race, gender, creed, age.

    In fact, although it’s unfortunate that his philosophy got so ravelled up in the superstition of religion, a certain dissenting trouble-maker from Palestine pretty much summed it up … to love each other as one’s self. Everything else would just be noise if we could manage that. Wouldn’t it?

    1. It’s very unfair of me to go on and on for so long and then only allow you 1,500 characters in response. I’ll change that. In the meantime, please write as much as you desire across multiple comments and I’ll merge them as one at this end, as I have done here.

  6. Beautifully spoken. I’ve never really broken “racism” down in that type of manner before and it was refreshing to read.

    Having grown up in the American South I’ve come to the conclusion that knowledge and truth are enemies of a homophobic culture. We as a human race are made up of red, yellow, black and white and there’s only one planet here for all of us to share. I believe that’s on one of the Albums, but I also don’t believe a chuckle here or there would or should throw us into the category of being homophobic.

    My two pence worth.

    1. Thanks, Bruce. I just don’t understand how it can be helpful to drown out anyone’s opinion with accusations of racism the moment they sound as though they might be over-stepping the mark. Everyone knows that parts of white culture are morally repulsive. Everyone knows that the two greatest crimes against humanity were committed by white people against people of colour and followers of the Hebrew faith and these atrocities in which so many were complicit should never be forgotten or forgiven. Obviously I realise that ‘white culture’ is a vague, ignorant, catch-all label that cannot work, as is ‘black culture’, but so is ‘English’, Christian’, ‘Conservative’, even ‘Man’. How far do we have to go in our use of language to avoid offending someone?

      As you say, we only have one world; we should try to understand the good and the bad parts of every culture so that the good wins through for everyone’s sake.

      Actually, I’ll mention this because it supports my point about feeling uncomfortable around such discussions. At first, instead of writing “[the moment they sound as though they might] over-step the mark”, I wrote, “get too close to the bone,” but thought I should change it for fear of association with thoughts of the crude, animalised images we’ve all seen depicting black Africans as savages with bones through their noses, engaged in cannibalism and voodoo. So I changed it to “sail too close to the wind,” but then I thought of slave ships. (And now that I’ve mentioned this, I think it would have been better not to, because I didn’t need to. Is the fact that I mention it an admission of guilt for having these thoughts flash through my mind, or just proof that I’m a generally thoughtful person cautious not to offend? Either way, it makes me neurotic.)

      The topic is so delicate, so sensitive, we even fear that an innocent idiom can cause upset and leave us open to a sickening accusation. That’s what many of the people attacking Starkey are trying to over-compensate for and why we all need to chill out.

    2. Quite right F’ed – I plump for your latter option by the way.

      It’s important to remember that the ugliness of prejudice is in the intention, not the words, but that’s why we always have to be careful in written forums when we don’t really know each other and can’t weigh the words against what we know of a person’s conduct, history, manner of delivery, body language and all the rest of it.

  7. Anyone who attempts to defend Starkey’s comments and offer a better explanation for what he presumably meant, as I would hope to, is going to be assumed a racist and I certainly don’t want that accusation aimed at me.

    We all now live in fear of being labelled racist. But most of all it is the whites that fear it the most. I am equally at home talking about white trash, black trash, pink trash and there is plenty to go round.

    This fear of being labelled a racist has silenced healthy debate about many things in our lives including these riots.

    I have lived my life the way my parents taught me, honouring and respecting my elders, knowing what is right and wrong. As a nod to Charlie Gilmour, I have attended many protests over the years but I do it orderly and without any malice. Was the sentence harsh? Perhaps but ultimately his behaviour reflects on us all when we take things out on others… even people in authority (sorry David, but I suspect that privately you may have thoughts along this line as well). I know if I did something like this, my Dad, bless him, would have said, Son, I love you but you reap what you sow. Take your punishment like a man. (Well, he was old school. 😉 )

    Back to racism… whites always seem to be the nasties here. I always hear how whites are so racist. Fact is huge portions of the world’s population have it in for others that are not like them. Most wars are over religious or ethnic differences.

    What really bugs me is that so many people hide behind this shield of “oh, this person is being racist to me” that they can justify almost anything without pointing a finger at themselves. First coming to a country welcoming them with genuine open arms and then exhibiting behaviour that perhaps is fine where they come from but not in their adopted country. Then being criticized for it resulting in the cry of we are being discriminated.

    I think a lot of whites feel frustration. Where I live in Canada, I can get on a regular bus and be the only white person on it. That is a very odd feeling trust me. I tend to feel like a stranger in my own country. Is this feeling racist? No, to me it is one of sadness and this can easily alienate you from the rest of the immigrant population.

    Immigrants don’t understand why I feel like this. They are just too happy getting here to contemplate why I sometimes look upset. I think people like to be in identifiable groups. They feel comfortable in them and can relate to them. This is the same in a country. Where there is multiculturism there is the possibility of alienation.

    For example, suppose I take 750,000 Judeo-Christian whites from across the globe and plonk them in Islamabad. Right away they start building churches and synagogues in local neighbourhoods. Next they would like the laws changed to allow alcohol and pork (at least the Christians) to be served in restaurants and shops. Then each family starts to have 4-5 kids and they clamour for their own school system. How do you think the locals would feel about this? Isolated? Their way of life being eroded, even threatened? I’m sure all would come into play. The fact is that most “white” countries in the West are more accommodating and welcoming to new immigrants than the country they left. … but to many we are still racist and unfair.

    There were a lot of white celebrities that quickly attacked Starkey’s views, distancing themselves from them. I wonder where they live. Perhaps In an all white neighbourhood? Mixed? I bet one of the loudest bleaters, Piers Morgan does not live in a Hispanic area.

    My point is that the stigma over being called racist has silenced people. Made them put up with behaviour and antics that would not have been tolerated 60 years ago when our countries in the west were more white. I think that immigrant groups where consistent trouble comes from need to look within themselves and correct what’s wrong. Not blame others for being racist when critical.

    Cheers, Howard

    1. Fair points, Howard. I have a friend who worked in Saudi Arabia for many years and I feel very uncomfortable just thinking about the many cultural mistakes one could so easily make. Just look at the advice given by the British Embassy.

      Most of the pious celebrities who are so offended live in the posh parts of town, no doubt, and don’t have to worry about such mundane things as waiting at bus stops or train stations at night, which is not very pleasant when gangs of youths are nearby. It’s very easy to be liberal when issues do not apply to you, isn’t it? I’d quite like to see curfews introduced, actually. I’d like to see how many parents can control their children when the law states that they must and how different communities, with their varying family values, would react to such a thing. It would be an interesting experiment.

    2. Wow, you’ve opened a floodgate of memories, Fed!

      I had a roomate in college for 3 years, and she was the best roomate I’ve ever had! She lived her life mostly in Saudi Arabia (aunts in India, but she ethnically Pakistani) with her extremely minority Catholic family. This was pre-Gulf War One. I learned much about Saudi Culture (her older brother was her chaperone in Saudi) and I learned to love Indian cuisine in our kitchen kabob parties, hosting our families, ethnic apartment residents and their families and students alike! She made her own spices and chutneys, and I was a very willing test subject: lamb, chicken, yogurt, lime, and sour mustard, yum! The Frugal Gourmet was also our friend! 😀

      She immigrated to Canada and married a theater director! She was absolutely seamless with accents! Picked up TX twang instantly! I’m sure her Canadian French is perfect!

      She taught me to honor, laugh and enjoy my own culture and how to learn from and appreciate other cultures from within. She still lives in Canada with most of her family. They experienced many of the Saudi restrictions you list, which is why they left. Her brother married a Texan and they both teach at the University where we studied.


    3. Good points, Howard. Often it seems that those who remain where they were born are forbidden to notice and comment on cultural shifts occurring around them, when home is no longer “home.” Culture (which is behavior writ large, we should remember) has some correlation with racial/ethnic background (because we learn how to live, in large part, from those with whom we directly share genetic material), but this does not mean that comment on cultural shift is comment on race any more than someone’s skin color dictates their behavior (which it does not, for anyone I’ve lost in this long sentence).

  8. Another thought provoking post Fed, I’m having to read it again frequently to digest it all, I’ll try to comment, probably bits at a time. :))

    To start with though, last week I spoke to someone here about the rioting going on in Britain. I think I was expecting to spread to all our cities. Apologies to Scots, Welsh and Irish readers. However, it was confined to some English towns and cities.

    We have to wonder, why not the other home countries?


    1. We have to wonder, why not the other home countries?

      Good question, Ash. I can’t answer it. I anticipated copycat rioting in Wales, I must say, but a few skirmishes – in Cardiff – came to nothing.

      There’s plenty of poverty, social deprivation, unemployment, welfare dependency, broken homes, failing schools and general resentment of the Conservative Party in south Wales. Plenty. A lot of people are finding the cuts harsh, as you’d expect when you consider that Wales has more public sector workers than England (almost 30 per cent of all employees in Wales work in the public sector, whereas the UK average is closer to 20 per cent).

      As for multiculturalism, I wouldn’t say that there is the same diversity as in London, Birmingham or Manchester, even in Cardiff. At the risk of inviting controversy, I’d say that Wales has more Asian communities than black, with gangs of youths mostly white (and just as feckless as the ones seen on TV lately). This map showing the ethnic breakdown of England and Wales is quite interesting. As you can see, across all of Wales there is a percentage of not less than 80 per cent ‘White British’.

      Actually, let’s be honest about it, most immigrants to Wales are English.

      You’ve got my brain whirring now, in need of figures and graphs.

  9. I have to say that in some ways I don’t see this as much as a race issue as it is a culture issue. It just happens that the majority of the culture is black but there is certainly quite a bit of white in there too.

    I grew up in a city and went to a diverse school. I had black friends, I had white friends. There was no tension. But we also had kids who were “bad” kids in the class and some were white while others were black. Those were the troublemakers. Years later I learned of one of those troublemakers (who I was kinda friendly with too, he was actually a nice kid just caught up in some bad stuff) was killed in a gang stabbing. By the way, he was white. And although there was a strong disco movement at the time, he liked Queen and Led Zeppelin.

    Fast forward to high school. We moved by then and I was in a school with predominately white kids. But there was still a bad element around. In fact, one kid was killed by his brother’s best friend during a drug transaction that went bad. These kids mostly like metal bands such as Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden.

  10. And Eminem is a perfect example. He is product of his surroundings. On the heavier side you have Kid Rock. And music such as punk, speed metal and death metal have just as many anti-establishment songs as rap. Personally I just don’t care for rap but I do enjoy Kid Rock and punk and some of those metal bands that talk about bringing down the man. Difference is that I know where to draw the line between what is being expressed and adopting it as a lifestyle.

    But your message reminded me of this which was delivered by Bill Cosby back in 2004. I think he cuts to chase better than anyone and when this was released he was both applauded and criticized by the black community. Yes, for those that don’t know, he is black himself which just makes his message even more powerful and yet some still felt he was a racist. Go figure. It is worth the read.



  11. This post, FEd, Oh mon Dieu! I’m feeling so miserable not being able to read it…

    I think that people aren’t born racists, children for example are not by nature racists. But fear and ignorance lead to racism so they become racists. The media are to blame too, racism is perpetuated by the press, TV, etc… Even the left-wing here is constantly accusing the right-wing of racism just for political purposes. Another example, French football boss Laurent Blanc (no pun intended) has been accused of racism just because he used the word ‘Les Blacks’ in a speech. Yes, it’s a very easy way to shut the debate down with just one nasty word: racist.

    BTW, children are not by nature racists, but they learn very quickly how to use racism, I have been called racist several times at school just because I punished a black or maghrebian child who didn’t behave.

    1. Michèle,

      I can’t see you being a racist. I’m sure you punish those that need it and not because someone has a certain color of skin.

      But the interesting question would be: What is different with the kids that are behaving badly versus those that are behaving well?

      And I agree that children are not by nature racists but children do recognize differences rather quickly. So some are more pensive when they are confronted by something that looks different than what they are used to. They don’t necessarily embrace it right away unless they are told it is OK by someone they look up to. Kinda along the lines of parents telling kids to not talk to strangers. So fear and ignorance leads to racism but so do the actions of those around them.



  12. ‘Lo all.

    Absorbing comments again folks! Thank you. Fed, once again most posts are barking up the same tree. Indeed the only time I had a twitch was your self referral as being “neither {not going to mention} or middle aged”. So what’s wrong, huh, with being middle aged? It’s coming your way soon, trust me. 🙂

    On my trip through life I have been lucky enough to work with people of all “lets call it, shades and faiths” that includes Your breed too. Funny, all my mates from the West are Called “Taff’. 😉

    It gives me the pip why DS’s, words can cause so much damage and controversy. After all we’re all a bunch of mongrels are we not? I wondered why there was so much of a {not going to mention} thing, going on in the press, when Obama was given status of being the most powerful man in the world. Even Bob’s old fella was a mongrel.

    We are all a bit 50/50, 30/70 etc. in some way or another. Fundamentally we are all human beings, some are born greedy, some learn to be.

    Off topic. There’s been a severe lack of music. 😉 Check dis bloggers, it will make you feel good. Have fun all.

  13. Fed said,

    To rap music and gangsta rap in particular, widely condemned for as long as I can recall for its violent reflections of inner-city hardship. To make a sweeping generalisation about it, it clearly does purport values which are misogynistic, materialistic and anti-authoritarian. Listen to any song from SPIN’s ‘Best Rap Songs of the Year… So Far’ list, for example (how beautiful the violins on ‘Came Up’ by G-Side featuring S.L.A.S.H., by the way), and you’ll notice themes which are very much anti-society. Not even small society, David Cameron; there’s a long, long way to go before your Big Society catches on here because this is real me-against-the-world stuff. There is no society in these songs, Margaret Thatcher would love it.

    It occurs to me that maybe the musicians (?) / performers who record and sell Gangsta Rap and Rap with its anti society themes, are not so different a tactic to the one employed by other musicians to “sell” their music.

    I went to a concert with my nieces recently and my thoughts during the ear splitting screaming that went on were that this band has seized on a formula that kids love. A few lines, then a sing along bit then a chanting of yeah’s or hoi’s or some other sound they can all join in rhythmically to. The kids loved it, I really felt old sitting there thinking I’d seen it all before and it was just so predictable.

    My nieces would hear no criticism (but I played the dutiful old aunt scowling at young people and the racket they play, they love that too, you see).

    The young performers have to find a niche and nurture what works to get sales. Some kids like Gangsta, same as some people like war computer games? Maybe? Maybe they play something their parents hate but the dreadful lyrics are taken to heart? I have to say, I think rap is appalling, it makes me want to smash up my hi-fi (again!) the minute any comes on the radio or TV.

    Two of my neighbours’ kids plays it really loudly with the windows open, it makes me want to go out and cut my trees and shrubs so I can put the shredder on to drown him out! Revenge! 8)


  14. I’m laughing to myself at something that just happened as I sent my previous comment to the blog, and led both my daughter and I to the same conclusion about poor language and picking it up from your peers.

    I was trying to describe the sons of two of my neighbours. I got a mental block about where an apostrophe should be and asked my daughter. . .

    I said, “Sometimes I forget the correct way to say or spell because when you don’t read, write or hear the correct way very often. . .” We both laughed as she finished the sentence, “Yeah, you forget and can’t tell right from wrong any more.”

    ash :))

    Take offence at what you think is me insulting the people I read here, go on. . . I’ll tell you about young family members and homework or scrabble and texting. Texting????

  15. Bravo again Fed, your journalism is right on. What a net you have cast? White and Black, Yin and Yang. White collar and Blue collar.

    Religion and Politics, the list goes on without saying anything new.

    Women’s rights. Mary Magdeline, she set an example.

    Jewish suffering. Why haven’t they solved this Palestinian dispute?

    Rap music, at least it has mellowed to a point that I can listen to the new style in a peaceful manner without going out and getting a gun and threatening someone. To each his/her own.

    The Blues and Rock and Roll. One is Up, the other Down. Life’s expressions in musical form.

    Balance. Right and wrong, hot and cold. See where I’m going?

    The tips of the scales are imbalanced, and biased, wherever one goes because of beliefs, -isms, and schmisms (new word Fed).

    The Governments can be blamed, wholeheartedly. But the parents have the utmost responsibility to raise their children to know Good and Bad.

    The cycle continues.

    Be Well, and Peace, we need it! :v

  16. I do believe there is a problem with the ‘Starkey had a point’ angle, I’m afraid. Essentially, he was saying that the riots were the result of black culture; where whites kids were involved it was because they had ‘become black’ and when black people had not been involved it is because they had become or sounded white. It is utterly appropriate to apply the term ‘racist’ here. Does that shut down Starkey? Clearly not.

    Nor is there any significant evidence, as David states here, that white kids turn to rap culture for role models. Find me one white kid who listens to only rap, and only violent rap, and I’ll concede a point. Rap has its roots in social protest and self-improvement. Like Rock music, some branches became misogynist, glorified violence and promoted negative cultural values. It does not compute to blame a musical genre for behaviour, beyond the fact that all cultural artefacts articulate a sense of belonging to those who subscribe to them.

    I have heard people state that Starkey was right because we do have a gang culture problem. Well, yes, we do, but Starkey was saying it was specifically a black import and infestation of urban London. Well, any sensible study of Caribbean history and immigration would indicate that any gang culture infiltrated those (multiple) cultures from outside. It is not, as Starkey stated, purely and originally ‘black’.

    All of Starkey’s points were factually unsubstantiatable. Challenged for empirical evidence, he could provide none.

    1. I didn’t know much about David Starkey before all this. I think I’ve seen him on TV, well, I’m certain I must have seen him on Question Time, but until now I’ve not paid much heed to him.

      I saw the programme that sparked this off, there were also two authors, Owen Jones and Dreda Say Mitchell, and the interviewer.

      I got the impression that Starkey was about to make a point in comparison to Enoch Powell’s speech. However, before he actually got to what he was trying to say, the conversation went off at a/several tangent/s.

      I would have been interested to have heard more. I thought the entire piece was far to short with the interviewer trying too hard to be one of those strict ones trying to force an agenda. She seemed to jump too quickly to racism.

      I thought Owen Jones was a stupid boy trying to sound like he knew what he was talking about, some stuff you can’t learn from books or in short term observation, by his youth, he hasn’t had time for long term observation, this is one of the reasons I wanted to hear more.

      Dreda seemed too quick to jump on the semantics of a word, I though she was going to be one of those people who’s only real argument is, “I’m black, I’m educated too, you don’t know what you’re talking about” types. However, I’ve since read more about her and realised she’s very much better than that so I wish I’d also heard more of what she had to say.

      As for Starkey, I’m glad I didn’t know his (deserved or not) reputation before seeing this. Learning a bit about him after the event made me think that he too has experienced prejudice of one form or another.

      They were all cut off far too soon.


      1. I do like Owen Jones and have plenty of time for his opinions (he has blogged about this), but I thought at the time and still think that David Starkey should have been allowed to clarify his remarks.

    2. Interesting, thank you for that Fed.

      Interesting last two paragraphs where he seems to say on the one hand Starkey may well cause the country to now start fretting, “whispering”, over racism but on the other hand he says maybe we should discuss it!

      Did I read that right, is that what he meant?


  17. I could not read all of what F’Ed wrote. It has got a lot of good points, but I did not have the patience or the time to read it all.

    I think there is a serious void in our culture in which the rules no longer apply. I’ve seen this on all sides of the racial/economic/class divide. This is what made the rioting possible in London this summer, in America in the mid 90s, and in countless other places. People think in terms of “us” and “them,” failing to realize we are all more alike than different. People want to find someone to blame for their various misfortunes.

    This talk about “white” and “black” is, at best, horrendously misguided. I don’t think such talk helps, it only increases the sense that there is an inequality. And the use of proper language does not have anything to do with propensity towards violence. It is only an indication of the way we were spoken to as a child. Class? The poor bully the kids in their neighborhood because that’s what they can reach. The wealthy can bully everyone, via policymaking and such, because their money and influence are much further reaching. Always “stick it to someone else” and do it to them before they do it to you. THIS is the hole in our culture which must be filled!

  18. I was thinking about this:

    Why not ask ourselves why white youths are looking to black music, specifically to gangsta rap, for answers and role models, believing it to contain more relevance to them and to offer more much-needed encouragement than other types of music?

    Trying to answer, I’d say that maybe white youths are looking to that kind of black music’s role models because they don’t trust anymore those their own culture offers them.

    Even if I could agree with this reasoning in some measure, what I find wrong in it is that the role models these white youths are looking to are not actually the black culture’s ones, but just those the mass media as MTV have interest in showing them and us all, in order to make us consume, as we would do with any other new product.

    Sorry for being always so critical, but I don’t even find it so strange that the white youths could like the “materialistic, misogynistic and anti-authoritarian” message of gangsta-rap, as, in the end, our society is not less selfish and anti-social than the one described in some of those rap lyrics, but just expresses the same messages in a more hidden way.

    Coming back to the previous topic, anti-social feelings are, in my view, a normal result when your society tells you that you have to consume to exist, than doesn’t even care about giving you the possibility to live in a decent way. These kind of contradictions (and our society is full of them) can only generate aggressiveness and deviance.

  19. Speaking about gangs, I once studied that one of the most important functions of the gang is giving the people who join it a clear identity and a new feeling of membership. Gangs’ model is not at all anarchic; on the contrary it is strictly regulated and hierarchical.

    This makes me think that, maybe, if young people feel the need to look to the gangs as they were models to follow, it is because their lives are lacking of reference points and aims and that makes them feel unsure towards the future and in need of someone they consider a “winner” (so, neither their parents, nor the teachers) who says them what’s the right thing to do.

    Maybe, our overstimulating society just makes some people frustrated and lost and I don’t think it has always to do with race. This (more than fashion and natural youths’ anger) might explain why also some middle-class, white youths without serious problems could so often feel the need to speak and behave as they came from a “ghetto”.

    1. What is really interesting if you think back is that Robin Hood and his Merry Men were nothing more than a gang as well. They would rob from the rich and give to the poor which essentially was to themselves. Yet Robin Hood is put forth as a folk hero except that in reality he was really a thug.

      And remember that race had nothing to do with his actions, it was a matter of society.

      Pirates were also early gangs. And even today we still hear of pirates that are terrorizing the seas.

      I think these are two good examples of early gangs and the influence for them was not a particular music but instead the circumstances they were put into. Of course there are more examples we could discuss but sometimes when you look back at history it will provide some answers to behavior today.



    2. That’s interesting, Andrew.

      By the way, I was speaking about this with my boyfriend a couple of days ago and he also thought about pirates as a historical example of gang. 🙂

  20. While I agree with most of your sentiments, what has this got to do with David Gilmour? This is Gilmour’s website and his blog. Why are you using it to vent your personal opinions?

    1. Then you should ask for a pay rise. You are doing an amazing job.

      I said that too. 🙂 Anyone who listens to rap in the line of duty deserves a pay rise. Surprised you didn’t resign Fed. :))


    2. Well, we know David has a black Strat and he has a red Strat but how come we never hear about a white Strat? Does he have something against white Strats?



  21. I found this article while surfing the web. I didn’t know the author (bell hooks) before searching on Wikipedia. I think what she says is interesting and I particularly agree with her on this point:

    “Mainstream white culture is not concerned about black male sexism and misogyny, particularly when it is unleashed against black women and children. It is concerned when young white consumers utilize black popular culture to disrupt bourgeois values.”

    1. I’d say this (the quote) is entirely logical and not in the least mysterious, racist or negative – people in one group (no matter what the group) will care more about a given problem (whatever the problem) when it moves from an outside group to the first group. It’s not that “black male sexism and misogyny” isn’t recognized as a problem outside black circles; it’s that the level of concern correlates with proximity.

    2. I think I feel a bit insulted by that actually. Is bell hooks saying white people don’t care if black women and children are abused by a black man?

      I think there are far more people concerned and care if black males abuse black women and children. The same way we care if any male abuses any woman or child.

      I can’t get the first link to work so have no idea in what context you provided us with the quote Alessandra so please don’t think I am arguing with you, I’m arguing with what bell hooks said. 🙂


    3. Ash,

      I’m sorry the first link didn’t work. I have no problems with it, so I don’t know why you couldn’t open it.

      Here is another quote from the article. I hope it will help to clarify the context:

      “The sexist, misogynist, patriarchal ways of thinking and behaving that are glorified in gangsta rap are a reflection of the prevailing values in our society, values created and sustained by white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.”

      I don’t think bell hooks meant to criticize white people as individuals, but the white culture as a system.

  22. I ordered shirt from Gilmour shop UK, but never got the ordered stuff.

    Order Number: JR759810000685
    Order Date: 26 July 2011 13:49 GMT

    Sent several mails and contacts, but never got a reply or the ordered stuff.

    Why do I get no answer from Gilmour Store till today???

    Really worst service here!

    1. Juergen,

      I’m very sorry to hear this. I have passed your complaint to David’s manager, who will make sure that the problem is resolved at once.

  23. Watch the movie, “The Help” when it comes your way. I lived through this and can say it was unbelievable but “ignorance is bliss but it’s better to be wise”. This movie shows racism in a personal way and unfortunately many who think they are not racist are the worst.

  24. Sorry FEd, I’m completely off topic.

    I’ve just been told that animal testing of household products was banned in the UK last week. The person who told that to me had read it on Facebook, so I searched the web for an official confirmation, but I couldn’t find it. Does anybody know if it’s true?

    I do hope it is.

    1. I’m confused by the message from the UK government, which is that there will be a ban on animal testing for household products, but we aren’t saying which products we mean and we aren’t giving a firm date. Unless I’ve missed an update, the latest from the BUAV is this.

      1. Isn’t it always the way? It seems they love to be vague, which shouldn’t surprise us considering that the huge corporations involved in the tests are usually major party donors. It makes me sick. There is absolutely no need to subject animals to horrific laboratory tests for the sake of either cosmetics or household products. I’m quite sure that we have more than enough of these products already without needing to explore new possibilities.

    2. I’m quite sure that we have more than enough of these products already without needing to explore new possibilities.

      Personally, I already had enough of most of them. Thinking about hygiene from a rational point of view, which is what I’m trying to do when I go shopping, water, bleach and Marseille soap would be enough to clean almost everything and they’re also less expensive than all those useless new products they would like us to buy.

      Here is a petition I found, if you are interested.

      Sorry again if I went off topic. I just can’t resist speaking about these issues.

      1. Please don’t resist, it’s a subject close to my heart and I have already signed the petition. 🙂

        Give me some good, honest white vinegar over these over-packaged, colourful, patronising assortments of harmful chemicals that we are brainwashed into believing will change our lives for the better, any day. As you say, it’s less expensive and much kinder to nature, starting with those poor creatures experiencing a tortured existence in cages, being so horribly abused by pointless scientists for our vanity and convenience.

        We talk about a broken and sick society. We need look no further than these laboratories for evidence of humanity’s sickness, because what kind of evil person wants there to be cruel, agonising experiments conducted on another living thing for the sake of some product that nobody really needs? Most of us want the torture to continue, clearly, because we still keep on buying the hundreds of stupid, unnecessary products made by a select few dominant multi-national corporations (whose name is always marked on the packaging should we bother to look for it). This entirely needless, gratuitous cruelty exists only because we fund it through a perceived need for these stupid products. In reality, there is no need just a lot of obedient slaves to marketing indoctrination buying whatever crap we’re told to buy.

        I’ll blog about this one of these days.

    3. Isn’t it infuriating? You walk down an entire aisle or more in the supermarket and all these things are made to look lovely and make our lives better. Very clever people design the packaging so it catches the eye, various colours and scents are designed to coordinate with your home decor. They keep on changing the formulations and colours and smells to catch your eye.

      We think we’re buying the same thing or an improved version but really it’s a ploy to keep us loyal to their brand. What people don’t know is that every formulation changed product has to be robustly tested for safety because there is a slight chance some new (ordinarily innocuous substance) might make other ingredients become more reactive therefore dangerous.

      Here comes the real reason for continued animal testing. If a customer suffers an injury, soap in the eye, soap in a cut something simple like that, You won’t be able to sue them for recklessly selling you a dangerous product. They have all the safety data to back them up so it was your own fault if something in your environment coupled with their product caused you harm.

      Not only that, this part enrages me. We already have massive pollution problems, sales marketers encourage us to take chemical pollutants into our homes so they smell better. Kill germs that are actually good for us because it keeps our immune systems stimulated and which we evolved to be able to deal with anyway!

      Fed, Alessandra, I’m with you.


    4. we still keep on buying the hundreds of stupid, unnecessary products made by a select few dominant multi-national corporations (whose name is always marked on the packaging should we bother to look for it).

      While I had always thought that ‘Les cornichons Maille’ were French gherkins, grown and produced in Yonne by a family business, I was just disgusted to realise yesterday that they were actually a product of Indian cultivation and that the brand ‘Maille’ was owned by Unilever. 8|

      I should have paid more attention to the packaging , yes, but now, will I have to boycott gherkins? 😮

  25. Turn my back for a second 😉 and I miss two important topics. Brilliant editorial FEd. So, when is the thesis being published?

    I spent the better part of 10 hours of the 15 or so hour-long flight back contemplating the why’s and wherefores of the two most recent topics on the blog and, to play devil’s advocate, I think the collective “we” tend to be reactionary and forget that race and rioting (as we refer to it today) has been ongoing in one form or another since the dawn of time.

    The transition from the archaic homo sapiens to the humans we now are has been fraught with conflict throughout the ages. Our initial development, no doubt, was determined by the availability of food (I guess water would be a good start) and shelter from the elements and possible predators. I cannot imagine that we started out any differently than another species attempting to find its next meal, procreate and seek protection from harm. Presumably as hunting and gathering territory became less productive, the species ‘packed’ up and moved along to where they likely encountered other species and others, similar to themselves (also in search of “greener pastures”). Surely a ‘good’ conflict or two arose about hunting grounds and I’d bet a lot that these ‘folks’ didn’t look exactly alike either and had different hunting and gathering habits. That probably scared the crap out of them.

    Whoa! The dudes in their not yet fully developed brains were probably conjuring up all sorts of ‘fight or flight’ reactions.

    Moving right along over the thousands of years and the migration of homo sapiens over what might have been Pangaea (after all we don’t really know for sure although it seems perfectly logical to me considering the tectonic plates are in constant motion), different ‘ethnicities’ of homo sapiens crossing each others’ paths would have become more frequent and resulted in more conflict over territory, food, etc. and I can almost visualize them battling it out, stealing any ‘tools’ that may have been developed, the males having their way with the females, taking charge over the ‘weak’ ones, wrecking their dwelling and some semblance of ‘authority’ starting to develop … the “inborn need to dominate, possess” as Vincent Price so eloquently narrates on Alice Cooper’s The Black Widow.

    In amongst all of this, there were geological conflicts taking place such as global freezing, volcanic eruptions, global warming, more freezing, etc. which would’ve led to the mass eradication and migration of many species including our archaic selves. Some of our “archaic selves” might have been isolated for thousands of years because of a particular ice age or whatever geological phenomenon might have been occurring and never crossed paths with another like us. Other than a few spats, these might have been relatively conflict-free times depending on location.

    Who knows exactly what the earliest recorded conflict is but we can be certain it was a power struggle involving territory, beliefs, control of the resources and the ‘weaker’ of the species. Not knowing all that much about the history of conflict it’s difficult for me to expand much on this thought process. Suffice it to say that from the Spartans, the Asian Wars and the all-too-many religious wars that have been fought over the ages, we’ve been name-calling, raping, pillaging and getting up to all sorts of societal mischief for what we think we believe.

    In our misguided attempts to right the wrongs of the past, I think we’re mucking things up and going a little over the top. The collective “we” are to blame for our current state of affairs. We have allowed government in to our homes (by electing them) and dictate to us how we discipline (or not) our children and then blame government for not doing enough to safeguard us from the looters and rioters. We claim to be fighting for our freedoms and yet we have given up the very freedom to take responsibility for ourselves, our actions, our children, the world we live in, the animals we keep and then discard.

    We pontificate about right and wrong yet all have differing views about what that is. We sanitize our idiom, scrub our literature of undesirable name-calling and labeling for fear of being perceived as racist, bigoted, or whatever else comes to mind.

    Do we have the right to change the facts or to read meaning into something that was not intended for the sake of not stepping on other’s toes?

    Some practice tolerance in the face of intolerance and I wonder whether that makes them the weaker of the species and will be their undoing giving way to intolerance becoming the stronger. In my view there’s a double-standard when it comes to race relations. For every Nelson Mandela, Ghandi or Mother Teresa who believed in the collective humanity regardless of ethnicity, there are the likes of Julius Malema or Malcolm X who advocate/d the eradication of white people. Anti-white comments and lyrics are largely ignored while anti-black, anti-Muslim, anti-Mexican become a media controversy. Why, I wonder, is racism within different ethnicities (whites excluded) over-looked. In South Africa it’s called “tribalism” amongst the different black tribes yet if a white wo(man), who does not embrace multi-culturalism claims that same “tribalism”, they’re considered racist. Sadly, I just don’t see the difference.

    I’m terribly torn on the topics. Deep down I have a belief that this is all part of the human quest for the ultimate truth (warts and all), its evolutionary process, if you will, but I’m by no means a scholar of the human condition.

    On a completely different topic, Happy (belated) Birthday to both Alessandra and Sharon!

    1. I’m planning on organising a mass exodus from this planet. I’d appreciate the names of anyone who’d like to come too and particularly the names of people who have information on HOW to leave the planet.

      Applicants will be carefully vetted for selection to join us. I’m afraid Floyd fans will always have first refusal. Abba, Take That, and Bee Gee fans need not apply.

      Individuals whose previous employment we don’t approve of will be refused a place. Bankers, animal testers for cleaning fluid and cosmetics, politicians especially the ones who say “Now, let me be clear about this”, are specifically prohibited from applying anyway so don’t waste our time, we know who you are.

      Physicists are most welcome.

      Any help, bloggers, in organising this will be greatly appreciated.

      ash (most of you have already secured your places, so please don’t fret.)

    2. …people who have information on HOW to leave the planet.

      Dreamers know how to leave the planet…

      Also those, alone, in the dark, listening to David’s music…

    3. Oh no Ash, it appears I’m disqualified as I do have a ‘pre-teen’ soft spot for a hanful of pre-disco Bee Gees (New York Mining Disaster 1941, First of May, Melody Fair, etc.).

      That’s okay though … I’ll try to hold the fort down here and send news. 😉

    4. The politician(s) I singled out for exclusion due to their use of the phrase, “now let me be clear about this”, does specifically not include President Obama. It may well be that he uses that phrase a lot but not as much as David Cameron (from his lips it seems to be code for, “I’m about to tell a fib”).

      I like President Obama and he is most welcome to come with us when we leave earth. The other one can rot in hell.

      I just wanted to clarify this point in case any American bloggers coming with us took offence. Please see this.


      1. Is it part of a hypnotic routine, Cameron’s “Let me be clear,” do you think? When he says that, we slip into a relaxed state and don’t mind that he’s destroying the country?

        I also hate “There’s no daylight between us.” What the hell is that supposed to mean?

    5. “There’s no daylight between us.” What the hell is that supposed to mean?

      :)) You’ve got me there.

      How about ;

      That’s because it’s night time.


      Big mistake with the superglue.


  26. I’ve spent the last week or so mulling over Thoughts on Rioting and Thoughts on Racism and the ensuing responses (so much to digest and it’s got my head in quite a spin!) My pastor’s sermon on Sunday was Understanding the Times, and it was alarming to see how well it fit the current topics. His thoughts are that the three most detrimental things to our culture are individualism (it’s all about me), relativism (it’s all about what I think), and consumerism (it’s all about what I want).

    It all really boils down to selfishness. I know I’m sticking my neck out here because it appears many of your readers are anti-religion, but if we would apply Biblical principles and the teachings of Christ (loving our neighbor, forgiveness, meeting the needs of others, etc.) how different would our world be?

    1. I completely agree, Morgan. We have become so self-obsessed.

      Strangely, I’m reminded of Jim Jones and the People’s Temple (a head’s clearly spinning here, too). Without thinking about how that experiment ended (I use “experiment” in the loosest sense of the word, as I know that some speculated that it was really a CIA experiment all along), it began as a beautiful mixture of hope, for the downtrodden in particular, preaching Christian faith and socialism and offering a better world. False prophet, no doubt, but how appealing Jones’ message of integration, collectivism, etc. All the conditions for a similar ‘cult’ are present today, maybe more so. It makes you think, doesn’t it? I’m surprised that more people haven’t upped sticks and tried to establish a new community with like minded souls based on a shared belief system, far from the rot that’s infested our own society, actually.

    2. Morgan,

      Even if I’m atheist and anticlerical (it’s the rich and politically powerful part of clergy that I disapprove, of course), I rather agree with your pastor, at least on individualism and consumerism.

      I think differently about relativism, though, as I believe any kind of faith in absolute truths can only make the social change harder and reinforce the separation between those who rule (because, they say, have the truths in their hands) and those who have to obey.

      In my view, critical mind, scepticism and disagreement are exactly what is lacking in our society; encouraging them would help us all to break free, for example, from the false needs consumerism has imposed us.

      In its true meaning, relativism doesn’t mean that each of us can feel free to do what he/she wants, without trying to comprehend the others, or even doing harm to them. If some of us are now behaving in that way, it’s not relativism’s fault, in my opinion; it’s because our egoistic culture is making us unable to feel empathy with our fellow being (not to mention animals and environment) and that, in the end, is like saying not-humans.

  27. Oo, it sounds terrific Ash! And I know just the place!! Let’s set the controls for the diamond dwarf star! Shine On You Crazy Diamond! 😀

    Thanks for the birthday wishes Pavlov! What a wonderful post, I enjoyed every word. I got an infectious case of giggles at your use of “global freezing,” is that under copyright?

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