Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Togetherness in Morley

The Morley Observer & Advertiser comes out on Wednesdays. This week, a few things caught my eye.

On page Five, there is mention that the Town Council precept will remain the same and I would have voted against putting it up anyway (I'd like to see it come down). This is good news for Morleians but it does rely on us drawing from reserves again this year, some £55k. The Reserves are higher than normal for various reasons but the current spending level is not sustainable in the longer term and we will have to cut our coat according to our cloth which means less spending or more local tax. I go for the former, unsurprisingly...

In the letters pages, there is a kerfuffle about some comments made in a letter from a BNP supporter last week, related to the Literature Festival. I have to say that the words went straight over my head as I could not recollect taking offense at them (and can't be arsed to to rooting around in the recycle bin).

I read Letters to the Editor with my Cynic filter engaged, namely- what are they saying, why are they saying it and is there more to this than meets the eye?

Some of my fellow politicians, however, probably more concerned about the forthcoming election battle in May than I am, have their PPS filters engaged (Political point Scoring). The letter headlines are "Shameful attempt at brainwashing", "Approved reading?", "Desperation setting in" (from a different BNP supporter) and "Come to the Forum" about our Leisure Centre. Letters three and four will probably result in further banter next week.

Over on page 12, the news is about "Stewie Mac" (his radio name, or at least that is what I call him). He has announced that he is standing again as a Leeds City Councillor in May, although last Wednesday he told me he was still undecided. He will be cringing at such a lengthly article and a picture of him from his days as a Marxist Bingo caller back in the swinging sixties. (Have you played Marxist Bingo? It is a bit like ordinary Bingo, except that when you win, instead of HOUSE! you shout PROPERTY IS THEFT!) There are some revealing comments on why he is an independent rather than a Morley Borough Independent. I like SMc, he is perceived by some as a loose cannon, exactly what the same people think of me!

Finally, on page 19, there is the "Morley Together" campaign launch, where "...organisations and businesses in Morley are being challenged to sign up to a campaign to tackle racism and xenophobia." Of course the principles of it are exemplary, even if the grammar isn't (there is a comma before an "and", I'm picky about that sort of thing) but it is from Colin Challen our MP and I do wonder if it is a localised Morley thing or a national Labour thing wherever they are losing ground to BNP. I read this with an increasing sense of unease as the tone implies that if you are not with us, you are against us.

I consider the term Racism to now be devalued to the point where Racist is a knee-jerk response to any opinions someone else doesn't agree with, or where the reactor feels that something should not be said out loud based on received wisdom, even though the statement may be patently true. Is it racist to say that in black street culture school isn't cool? Of course not. Is it racist to say Paki shop? it depends on the context, but generally, I would say no, even putting to one side that being Pakistani is not a race but a cultural grouping. Up until relatively recently, it simply referred to a local general store trader open for extended hours ran by a family business originally from the Indian Sub-Continent. It still does of course, but now there is the worry that someone (undefined) might take offense.

(As an aside here, I was in my local Premier Store recently which is ran by a Sikh family. A girl in the queue in front of me was talking on her mobile and as she was about to get served she said "I'll be about five minutes, I'm just buying some Fags in the Paki Shop." She then realised what she had said and looked sheepish. The owner and myself exchanged knowing smiles! I was tempted to tell her that she should have called it a "Sikh Shop" but wouldn't have wanted the owner thinking that I was taking the piss.I also suspect that she wouldn't have known or cared about the cultural differnce between the various Asian groupings...

I'd probably take offence to someone referring to "Pakis" in an offensive or ignorant manner but I much prefer Bigotry as the more accurate term rather than Racism. The other nuisance is that "Paki" is a shortening of "Pakistani" which is a bit of a mouthful with four syllables. (I never got concerned being called a Brit in Saudi, but did get uncomfortable over there on one occasion with a number of Scots (& their Wives) that I had a working relationship with but I didn't know too well, when it became apparent that they rather resented the English and their good natured taunts weren't that good natured).

Back to the campaign. It has wisely stayed clear of a number of Cliches that sound increasingly ridiculous in the political correctness backlash. It doesn't mention issues, it uses tolerance instead of respect and it doesn't emplore us to celebrate diversity.

Personally, my own value system tells me to follow the path of polite indifference. It sounds a bit harsh when said cold but so does "So what?" to cold calling salesmen!
Polite is the tolerance bit. I see no reason to be rude to people because of their own beliefs but it doesn't mean that I have to respect the beliefs they hold. Indifference simply means I'm not really interested in the detail of all of the mumbo jumbo in the baggage people and cultures carry around with them. Indifference does not make someone a racist in the same way that I choose to be indifferent to Opera, Modern Jazz, Football and Dogging. This doesn't mean that I am a cruel heartless bastard, just that I get interested in things, people and culture for some particular trigger reason of my own choice, rather than being told to.

We are seriously screwed up in this country over the whole business of being nice to victim groups, the various minorities having now being calculated to actually add up together as the majority of the population!(see We're (nearly) all victims now). It must make the do-gooders wring their hands in dismay when they realise that many of the victims often hold even more intolerant views than white van man.

I rather like the No prejudice, no preference strapline which I stumbled across recently at UKIPHome. An interesting blog but how mainstream UKIP it actually is I'm not certain. It is parodied here.

So, should any organisation I'm involved in sign up to Morley Together if the letter pops through the Chairman's letterbox? Colin has even said that we can approach him to take the pledge. Sorry Mate, I'm uncertain at this stage and somewhat cynical. I'd like to see the invite and maybe even chat with CC to try and work out his motives, because driving the BNP out of Morley has a big benefit for the Labour vote. For now, I go with polite indifference vergalised as No thanks, I'm not interested. Treat it like a pushy car salesman trying to close an unwanted deal, or a Jehova's Witness wanting to know if you believe that God is your Saviour. Dust down your assertivenes techniques, starting with broken record.

No thanks, I'm not thanks, I'm not thanks, I'm not interested...

No comments: