Monday, 28 March 2011

Tanzania, U-Turns and RC

It is not exactly uncommon knowledge that superstition and irrational beliefs are rife throughout certains parts of Africa, where the combination of local shamanism and the insurgence of Islamic and Christian missionaries has resulted in a bastardised form of religion and pagan beliefs. It should therefore come as no surprise that a so-called pastor in Tanzania has been flogging his "miracle cure for all ailments" for the price of 500 Tanzanian shillings to the gullible (and tragically desperate) Tanzanian public. And what, I hear you ask, is the magical concoction that he uses? Herbs and water. Herbs and fucking water. Congratulations, you despicable little charlatan - you have succeeded in killing hundreds of people by convincing them that your own brand of homeopathic holy water is somehow superior to modern medicine. Yes, the medical services in Tanzania are rudimentary at best in certain places, but encouraging superstition and peddling your own moonshine horseshit is not exactly the way forward: the Tanzanian medical authorities have been involved to actually test the stuff he's selling, but one doubts whether their verdict will have any bearing on actions of such a man.

I have just downloaded the long-awaited AETV show with Ray Comfort as their special guest - I am sincerely looking forward to the bloodbath that will be Matt and Russell disintegrating this man's pathetic and dishonest PRATT arguments.

Slightly angry peace,

Charlie x

Monday, 21 March 2011

Attitudes To Race in France and Guardian Commentators

It would appear that the French section of my blog has been somewhat underused lately, mainly due to the fact that nothing much has changed: the majority of my students/pupils still mildly irritate me, there is a tad more sun than there was a month ago and some of my French friends got treated to a flurry abuse from a drunken Scotsman. So far so good, oder? However, there has been this vague nagging at the back of my head regarding the French attitudes towards ethnic minorities in what is essentially a relatively old-fashioned provincial town. A student of mine remarked a while ago that he "hated Arabs" for no particular reason, a Vietnamese girl was subjected to a volley of supposedly "Chinese-sounding" noises by her French peers, and one of the teachers at my school had to suspend one of her pupils for saying something along the lines of, "not bad for a black guy". Now, this is no indictment of France and the French as a whole, and I accept that these are isolated incidents, but it does make one wonder about the levels of tolerance afforded to young people about the acceptability of race-related conduct.

Speaking of which, I come to my second point of today: the Guardian. Being the one-man manifestation of coalition politics, I tend to read both the Times and the Guardian, though with a slight leaning towards the former. However, it has come to my attention that two of the more mainstream opinion writers, David Mitchell and Charlie Brooker (both of whom I hold in high regard), often talk about exactly the same subjects on the same weeks. This week it was the Midsomer Murders furore (of which I am thankfully blissfully ignorant), and in past weeks they have each talked about Nick Clegg's "Alarm Clock Britain" idea and the fact that football pundits are (unsurprisingly to my mind) complete bigots, in the same week as each other. Ok, so these were possibly some of the more high-profile cultural stories of the week, but surely they could come to some agreement to take it in turns? Otherwise it becomes rather tedious listening to two sarcastic people being sarcastic about things I really don't care about.

Peace x

Monday, 14 March 2011

American Conservatism

Having been catching up on PZ's blog over the last few minutes, my attention was drawn to a collection of responses to the catastrophic recent events in Japan by some illiterate American facebook users, some of which I shall quote here; see the link below for the full compilation. The mind truly boggles...

"ya know Japan, this earthquake is just gods way of getting you back for that Pearl Harbour deal"

"Eat a dick Japan! That's what you get for pearl harbour, karma son! Hahaha!"

"Hell yeah that's right japan 3-1 you may have had pearl harbour but we got Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and, since God is on our side, we have this. SCOOOREEEBOOOAARRDDD."

Yes, I concede that these views are (hopefully) in the minority, and that there are people who hold views of equal bigotry in the UK, but one is currently seeing a wave of right-wing activity across the Atlantic, given the recent rise of the Tea Party movement within the Republican Party and various ultra-conservative legislation being passed by Republican-run states (see the anti-choice law in Nebraska for a dangerous, inhumane example of right-wing politics at its most illiberal). Add to that the lack of acceptance of global warming, a frighteningly self-righteous attitude towards sectarian Christianity, the antipathy towards scientific education and the apparent spinelessness of the Democrats to stand up to these troglodytes, and the USA has a serious intellectual crisis on its hands. Since the change of government in the UK, the "special relationship" between the UK and USA has cooled somewhat, a change about which I am in two minds. Yes, we want to support a progressive, liberal president in Obama, but his liberalism certainly appears to have its limits when it comes to his attempts to appease the right-wing lobby.

There are about 100 other things I could say about this, but I don't want to be accused of ranting.

Yours sincerely and with love,

Charlie x

Monday, 7 March 2011

How Offensive Are Words?

Yes, yes, I'm back from my unnecessary holiday and can start blogging again so all 3 of you can relax now. Anywho, enough of that - I have something I actually want to talk about today.

There are 7 countries whose names end in "stan": Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. So far so good. Now, for 4, arguably 5 of those counties, it is acceptable to call a native of that country 1 of 2 things - either take the full name of the country and add "i" (Afghanistani), or drop the "stan" or "istan" (Afghan). This also works for Tajikistan (Tajik), Kazakhstan (Kazakh), Uzbekistan (Uzbek) and arguably Turkmenistan (Turkmen), though not for Kyrgyzstan, since the chronic lack of consonants would make even a Welshman struggle. You will notice, however, that I've left the most obvious one off, for equally obvious reasons, namely that it is offensive to Pakistanis. I would still argue though that the term itself is not intrinsically offensive: had it not been adopted by xenophobic bigots throughout the history of Pakistani immigration into the UK, the word would be, I'm sure, perfectly socially acceptable. So as a result of a minority of racists who elected to use the term pejoritavely, we have been robbed of a timesaving and otherwise innocuous word, despite the word carrying no inherent offence. I'm not advocating that that word be somehow reinstated - that would be extremely tasteless given the current climate - but I find the development of language fascinating and wonder whether what should be an insignificant word will find itself in the mainstream within 100 years or so.

On another note, I saw a man on a bicycle overtake a man on one of those disgusting motorbikes (about which I've complained before) going up a hill - I found myself most amused.


Charlie x