Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Sectarians' Corner

For sectariana buffs, I was rolling on the floor and howling with laughter at a truly legendary exchange on Lenin's Tomb, a blog run by an SWP student with a lot of time on his hands, and judging by his choice of nick, a high sense of self-esteem.

Lenny's in a bad mood at the moment; apparently he's got exams coming up and he needs to get some serious revision done. So he's venting, I guess - and in that spirit Lenny has a few words of wisdom for George Galloway, following the controversy over George's recent comments about suicide bombing Tony Blair:

"He should have said that the only tragedy in the instance of Blair perishing in a suicide attack would be the loss of life on the part of the executor. He should have said that at least if we hung the cabinet, no innocent lives would be lost."

There you are George. Now stop being such a big soft git and listen to your uncle Len, get back to that microphone and land yourself in jail for incitement.

Also please do take the time to read the comments box - I know over 200 comments can be intimidating, but believe me it's worth it if only for the exchanges between Lenin's (considerably wittier) pal Meaders from Dead Men Left, and the one and only immortal internet warrior, Jim Denham of the AWL - I'm telling you, office boredom relief doesn't come much better!

Also, if I ever meet the guy who posted in that thread as "Sean Matgamna", I'm gonna buy him a pint. Daaaaamn funny!

Secular intellectuals throw down the gauntlet

Some of you may be familiar with the story about Asia House's recent cancellation of the MF Husain exhibition, at the request (or rather demand) of the "Hindu Human Rights Campaign". It was reported in Nick Cohen's observer column, which includes reports of claims from supporters of the closure campaign, that the exhibition is offensive to the sensibilities of UK Hindus.

Now, if you are a UK Hindu, you may be wondering exactly who the Hindu Human Rights Campaign are, and who appointed them as your representatives. You certainly didn't vote for them, and unless you happen to have met one of them, you probably haven't discussed your views on art with them, either. For that matter, if you're an Indian citizen, being part of a nation that at its last general election threw out a religious-communalist BJP-led government in favour of a Congress-led secular one, you might also find it odd that the politics of religion has any sway at all in the UK.

As it happens, it would seem that over 40 British-based South Asian academics thought exactly the same thing, and they've written an open letter, which was published in the Guardian amongst other places, urging that the exhibition be reopened, and telling a few home truths about self-appointed so-called "community leaders" in the UK:

"The Hindu Forum of Britain and Hindu Human Rights accuse Asia House of not ‘consulting’ with them before putting up the exhibition. But they are not democratically-elected representatives of Hindu populations or opinion in the UK and represent little beyond their limited and chauvinistic political agendas."

That's telling 'em, guys. Good luck to you all, and more power to your elbows.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Shameless Plug

Have a look at Jim's Big Ego's website. I don't have anything to say about it, beyond that I think he's fantastic. Funny, poignant and genuinely witty satirical music is such a rarity on the left, and it's an unadulterated pleasure to give a plug to the man whose tunes could be the theme to this.

We salute you, Jim.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Political Bloggers

At some point in the past few years, there was a point when the internet stopped being the furtive habit of sweaty middle aged men who live with their mothers, and became socially acceptable. Shortly after that, it went political.

The net is now, it seems, a serious political phenomenon, especially in the USA where the right initially stole a march with sites like The Drudge Report, but where liberals swiftly caught up (especially in the aftermath of the Howard Dean campaign) and now MoveOn and the Daily Kos go toe to toe with the right-wingers.

In Britain, the "pro-war lefties" of Harry's Place (with whose views on the war I don't agree, but who are always a good read) punch well above their weight, often providing sources that print and broadcast journalists are now obliged to follow. They also did a lot of work towards the famous/infamous Euston Manifesto, which is now provoking praise and derision in equal measure across the political spectrum.

But... then when the hell did this happen? I mean, think about the idea of bloggers as a political force; has it occurred to you just how scary that is? Hell, it means even a shiraz quaffing curry buff like me can become a political writer...

And if I can do it, then so can anyone.

Sign this. Now.

Talking of freedom of speech, if you cherish it then you'll take the necessary two seconds to sign this online petition against internet censorship. People get jailed and killed for bringining you information from some parts of the world, so it's the least you can do.

Religious fundamentalism, cartoons and stuff

OK, this is now a bit retro, but I've gotta post my thoughts on it.

You know, I always was in two minds about those Danish Cartoons. On the one hand, it seems to me irrefutably true that if you want to criticise religion, you have the right to do so, without fear of intimidation, death threats (or, indeed, of someone burning down a KFC halfway across the world, in bizarre protest at your actions).

On the other hand, there's something about Jyllands-Posten that gives me the creeps, and something about the general context of linking images of Muslims with terrorism that makes me vomit a bit, at the back of my throat. There was something that didn't sit easily with me, about seeing right-wing newspaper editors across Europe lining up to republish the things "in defence of freedom of speech". Where are they when the "oppressors" are vile regimes abroad, and not one of the most marginalised communities in Europe? Looking the other way and publishing other stories, that's where. Not to mention publishing story after story about "the rise of Islamic terrorism" amid a raft of "enemy within" stories since 9/11.

In the context of such demonisation, the whole cartoon debate takes on a different look, it seems to me.

I've had many, many arguments with people who argued that liberals and leftists should line up four-square behind the people at Jyllands-Posten, even to the point of having leftist organisations republish the cartoons. But for all the arguments, that's never seemed right to me. There's no excuse for feeding a climate of racist backlash.

Defend freedom of speech? Yes of course. Insist on that right being exercised in all circumstances? No.

There is a right to publish. But a right is not the same as an obligation.

Testing, testing, 1, 2, 3

Right then, let's see if this feller works.

This is a new blog from a moderately angry nouveau-middle-class leftwinger who could set the whole world to rights, if he only had a constant supply of quality red wine and Indian cuisine. A popinjay in search of popadums, if you will...

Watch this space for arguments, rants, sectariana, current affairs, and maybe even the odd bit of serious debate!