Tag Archives: Politics

Move along there citizen, nothing to see




Move along please, move along. No rubbernecking please, no stopping to gawp. Move along move along. Ain’t you people got homes to go to?


OK so it’s a blog. Never seen a blog before? Admittedly finding one sprawled on the pavement isn’t usual, but what did you expect? One minute the fast life, a hundred hits on a good day and then suddenly it’s lying in the gutter wearing somebody else’s underclothes and cordoned off by incident tape.


You see it was never meant to be like this. It all started off so innocently. I wrote a book. Nothing strange about that, everybody’s doing it now. Trust me in that one, everybody’s doing it. There’s so many folk out there trying to sell books I’m thinking of setting up as a professional reader. Not so much ‘Brother can you spare a Dime’, more ‘I will read your book for money. (Reviews extra, terms strictly cash in advance.)’

Anyroadup, I wrote a book see. It gets to be a habit to be honest, there are four out there in paperback, but that’s beside the point. Once you write a book you’ve got to sell it. This all means you have to ‘be’ on facebook and writing a blog and telling the world how good your book is.

So I’d write a blog. Do you have any idea how many people want to read a blog telling them how good my book is?

Given that my mother is no longer with us and the rest of the family are probably sick of me telling them, I suggest that the figure, in round numbers, is so close to zero as to make no difference.

So I write about other stuff. In a world degenerating into hysterical introspective madness as a chunk of the population discovers that it isn’t just nice people like us who have the vote, I’m supposed to write something light, frothy and incidentally, sell my book.


Oh yes, and ideally the selling the book would be done so subtly that people wouldn’t have to notice. It’s fair enough, you wouldn’t want your blog to degenerate to the level of the drug addled vagrant who stands too close to you and breathes the stench of cheap drink and rotting teeth into your face until you give him money to go away.


No, we’re looking for a certainly delicacy here, a certain tact and charm. I have come to suspect that the perfect blog is the equivalent of the expensive courtesan who will graciously condescend to reach out with an elegant and beautifully manicured hand to relieve you of your credit card.

Personally I think a more workable option is to pitch the blog as the perfect girlfriend. You know the sort, your mum is convinced she’s a nice girl, and you know better than that.


But anyway, cannot stand here chatting. Some of us have work to do, sheep to feed, a door handle to fix, books to sell.


Browsing? Or should I wait here while you make up your mind? Tell you what, just leave the money on the table and I’ll collect it when I get back.





Stereotypically me?


I was walking across town last night on my way to a friend’s house. Suddenly there’s a shout of ‘Hey you’ and a transit van pulls up next to me.

It turns out the driver is a lady from away. She’s going to start work at 5:30am tomorrow for one of the big building contractors and wisely has decided to try and find the site now. Anyway I wasn’t sure exactly where her site was but I knew where the main gates were for the company that the contractors were working for, so I tried to direct her to them.

After five minutes I gave up, got in the van to act as navigator, took her there and recommenced my walk to my friend’s house by a different route.

Now when you stop and look at this you can immediately see the gender stereotypes at work. Women cannot read maps but do at least ask for directions. In the reality she had a satnav, and whoever had given her the postcode got it wrong so her map got her to Barrow but no further. As for asking directions, she did that. I’ve done it in the past, but being male you only have to see the nervousness in the eyes of a woman you stop at random to become far more selective about whom you ask.

But what is it about stereotypes. Obviously we have gender stereotypes, but there’s a lot more out there. What are they for, why do we use them?

Some of it, at a crude level, is a ‘power’ thing. The stereotype is used to belittle, dehumanise and marginalise the group stereotyped; normally to the advantage of the group doing the stereotyping.

You know the sort of thing, “Men are all rapists.” “Women are all tarts.” “Brexit voters are all stupid.” “Trump voters are all billionaires or retards.”

It puts the speaker in the position of power, allows them to crush their enemies, to see them driven before them, and to hear the lamentations of their women. Actually it’s quite a popular technique at the moment. Admittedly a chap did suggest that you “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who mistreat you and persecute you.” But sheesh why do that when the current method of stereotyping them is working so well?


So who uses stereotyping? Well obviously the advertisers. They aren’t actually bothered about putting people in boxes, they’re merely interested in shifting however many fizzball combat monkeys as possible. So they’ll pull whatever levers are available and if the lever works then they’ll pull it. They don’t make the lever.

As an aside, putting some toys in pink or blue packaging is similar to the way publishers give different covers to romance, fantasy and thriller novels. It makes it easy for people looking for stuff to find it. They’ve effectively put their stereotypical view of their readers to work.

On the other hand there are others who use stereotyping. Those who want to retain influence over the group they regard as their client state. If you can stereotype a group as victims, then it makes your virtue signalling so much easier as you wade in heroically to defend them.

Rather more worrying you can use it to try and control the group. Create a stereotype which makes the group you seek to control fearful, and then they might listen to you more. “Fear the Jews, they’re taking our jobs.” This technique has the advantage of being easy on facts, in that you don’t need any. So it’s possible to stereotype young women as the victims of assaults, when actually young men of the same age are far more likely to be assaulted. (Have you seen what those young men wear? Dressed like that with that they’re just asking for it.)


So what can we do about it? Social engineering doesn’t seem particularly successful, sometimes because the would-be engineers are trapped by the stereotypes. A quote attributed to a number of people is, “Give me a child until he is seven and I will show you the man.” So a lot of the ‘engineers’ try and get to the children. Yet frankly, in the UK at least, most children up until the age of seven are exposed mainly to the influence of their mothers with fathers less of a presence, and in infant and junior schools, male teachers are rare. So if this social engineering works, we have the men a previous generation of women have given us.
The other way to look at it is that stereotyping is just pigeonholing people. You come across a large group of people, you don’t want to have to spend the time dealing with them as individuals so you just lump them all together for ease of contemptuously ignoring. Stereotyping can just be a way of saving yourself the effort of having to think. Even better it reduces the chances that you might be wrong and have to change your opinion. Stereotyping is ‘safe.’

So what do we do about it? Well as a man who never touched a motorbike between 14 and 56 (when work meant I spend a bit of time on a quad) I’ve got two daughters with motorbikes. I could care less about sport, but only by making an effort. So if I’m going somewhere where I might be asked, I always ask my lady wife first for details of Barrow’s latest games etc. Not only that but she’s the one who’s keen on railways. So when dealing with real people I’ve never taken stereotypes seriously. Perhaps the first step in overcoming them is realising that they’re all real people? One thing I’ve learned over the years is that there are no ordinary people.

Anyway what do I know, I’m just some guy who started a blog to try and sell books. Shows you what I know doesn’t it?

In his own well chosen words, Tallis Steelyard reveals to us the life of Maljie, a lady of his acquaintance. In no particular order we hear about her bathing with clog dancers, her time as a usurer, pirate, and the difficulties encountered when one tries to sell on a kidnapped orchestra. We enter a world of fish, pet pigs, steam launches, theological disputation, and the use of water under pressure to dispose of foul smelling birds. Oh yes, and we learn how the donkey ended up on the roof.

As a reviewer commented, “Where to start with this review? First of all a health warning. Do not read this book when drinking coffee/beer/WHY. Neither is it a great notion to read somewhere sudden bursts of laughter could be seen as inappropriate.
I must confess upfront to being a fan of Jim Webster’s writing as he has a talent for making the most wildly inconsequential of observations seem matter of fact and perfectly believable. Any of the tales he weaves around the imaginary but utterly believable city of a port Nain are going to be chuckle worthy at the very least.
Therefore I approached the chronicles of Maljie’s varied and exotic life with great expectation.
I wasn’t disappointed.
In fact there were places where I actually howled with laughter.
Our heroine veers from situation to situation – rarely finishing without a profit. And some of her jobs are so silly and improbable. But you still keep reading and chuckling.
The ease with which Jim, in the guise of Tallis Steelyard (poet, visionary and unreliable witness) pilots this rickety craft through the shoals of Maljie’s life is exemplary.
But don’t just take my word for it. Read for yourself. But don’t forget the health warning.”

Come the revolution?



It was Plato who said “One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.” There again he also said “This City is what it is because our citizens are what they are.”

So I was minding my own business, honest I was. But then it broke out all over Facebook like a rash. One overpaid media ‘personality’ metaphorically slaps another overpaid media ‘personality’.

Yeeehaa, cat fight everybody.

I’m afraid that I’d let my two grandmothers judge Brand. They’d have scrubbed his mouth out with soap and water. I remember one of them using the phase ‘foul mouthed and ignorant’ to describe someone. They knew that good manners and basic courtesy was one thing that ‘they’ couldn’t take off you. But then my grandmothers were decent working people, they weren’t ‘edgy’ or ‘relevant’.
(This city is what it is because our citizens are what they are.)

Now I’m not all that old, but I’m old enough to have heard men sit and talk; men for whom Spain was the killing fields of their youth rather than a cheap holiday destination. If you want Anarchy, if you want Revolution, then I’ve talked to the men who tried the real thing. Revolution isn’t posturing on the media or even ranting on facebook, it’s hugging the ground closer than you ever hugged a lover. It’s clutching a cheap mass-produced rifle, nursing it like a child because it might keep you alive. I was told you can always tell the winners, they’re the ones who stand up unaided when the shelling stops. Apparently the dead have probably achieved a no-score draw. The losers are the wounded, depending on whose hands they fall into. If you want revolution, just look at Syria where they’ve got one. Revolutions aren’t discrete, something to be enjoyed solely by consenting adults. Once you’ve got a revolution, everybody’s got it. Pity about the old people and kids but hey, you wanted a revolution.
(This city is what it is because our citizens are what they are.)

And then you get people saying things like they want to kill Tories. Well here I can help. It’s a doddle, any fool can do it.

“Basically you kneel them along the edge of the ditch. Not got a ditch, why let them dig their own, and then you can chuckle as you watch the bloated plutocrats do some honest toil. Then you take your automatic pistol in your right hand. (You are right handed? Yes? Then start from the right hand end of the line so you’re not shooting across youself.) Place the pistol barrel at the back of the neck, if they’re blind folded then just below the blindfold. Then as you release the trigger, with your right knee just nudge the body forward with your knee, it’s tidier that way, more professional, the body should topple forward and the weight of the torso will bring the legs down after it. Then just move onto the next.”
“What if you miss? From this range? OK you might not get a clean kill but being buried alive will finish them off. After all there’s not many ever manage to dig themselves out with their hands tied behind their back is there. But if they’re lucky someone will finish them off with a spade so it’s not your problem.”
“Filling in the ditch? Lawks child, that’s where experience comes in. You have the next lot to be shot dig their ditch parallel to the one that needs filling, so they dig their ditch and fill the previous one at the same time. Told you we’d done this before. And don’t worry about there not being another lot. This is a revolution, there’s always another lot. OK they might not be what you initially meant by Tories this time, they might just be people the Party disapproves of, or troublemakers who upset some local bigwig, or just ‘enemies of the people’. (We get a lot of them.)”

(This city is what it is because our citizens are what they are.)

So you want to change the world? Here’s a tip. You’re not going to achieve anything on Facebook. Facebook is the circuses bit of our ‘bread and circuses’. It’s here as a displacement activity, so people can vent in the comfort of their own homes and then go and hunt down cute cat pictures. It’s here so that people can rant, mock, troll, whatever to their hearts content.
(This city is what it is because our citizens are what they are.)

How many people have ever been to an open political meeting? I went to one a few years back, so long ago I cannot remember the subject under debate. My excuse is that oldest daughter was at archery and I needed something to do to kill a couple of hours. Mind you ‘debate’ wasn’t really the right word for it. The entire audience was pretty well on first name terms with each other, they seemed genuinely surprised when someone new walked in, and even more surprised when I explained I’d come to listen to the discussion.
Because there wasn’t a discussion, it was a case of ‘we hold these things to be self evident’. The talks were a series of rants directed at their demonised opponents and they were greeted with enthusiastic applause by the faithful gathered in the congregation.
Doubtless there was some sort of mirror of this meeting being held elsewhere in town, where the rants would be in support of the opposite proposal and the congregation of the faithful equally enthusiastic.
But, Lord love them, it isn’t their fault. If everyone sits on their backsides at home and doesn’t take part, who is going to raise a polite hand and ask “I say, could you just run through that point again, it doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense?”
(This city is what it is because our citizens are what they are.)

In fact if enough people turn up, the two opposing groups might even work up the courage to hold their meeting in the same room on the same night!

If you want to change the world then walk out of the door and into the world and actually do something. Chat to an elderly neighbour, go and help out at a youth group, help at the homeless drop in or somewhere providing respite for carers. Some people out there are actually doing this. They’re the cement that holds society together, not cute catch pictures or witty political posts on Facebook.
(This city is what it is because our citizens are what they are.)

And politics? “One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.” If you don’t like the choice, then stand yourself. Obviously there’s a risk that you might get elected and have to take responsibility and do the chuffing job but hey, into each reign a little life must fall.
You never know, just by standing you might force the others to up their game; you might get people interested and involved. What is important is what happens, not how many ‘likes’ it gets.
Wonder how many people ‘unfriend’ me after this?
(This city is what it is because our citizens are what they are.)