Mixed legacy and cultural appropriation

[3/22/17 Edit to add audio from soundcloud]

On Friday I had a half-hearted attempt to explain to our 8-year old why I wouldn’t wear green, and why I could NOT celebrate St Patrick’s Day. It’s really quite staggering the level of cultural appropriation St Patrick’s Day has achieved. A celebration of the worst caricatures of the Irish, drunk, leprechauns, and four leaf clovers

Then today, on reporting the death of Martin McGuinness, former deputy first minister, and A former Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) leader. I was listening to BBC Radio, and among the people to be quoted was former British Prime Minister John Major. I never held Major in great esteem but what he had to say, for the most part summed up my feelings.

I do think that is unforgivable and will neither be forgotten nor forgiven when one looks back on the legacy of Martin McGuinness, and I don’t excuse any of that. I cannot find any redeeming quality in what he did over those years.

But I do recognize what he subsequently attempted to do and the part that he subsequently played in building a peace process.

Go 3-generations back and you’ll find Protestant Irish blood, my grandfather’s parents were from Northern Ireland, but that’s not it. Ireland was a non-issue when I was growing up, it was rarely mentioned. sure, we knew what was going on. Events like Bloody Sunday and “the Troubles” had been constantly in the news since 1969.

What followed was years of activity in England and London, throughout my formative years. Starting in 1972 with the Aldershot barracks bombing, and stretching through the Old Bailey Bombing, I was first working at the Rupert St market in London in 1974 on Saturdays. That year was the worst year for IRA bombs, they killed over 50-people, and injured more than 1,000. This included throwing bombs in two London night clubs. Bombs were behind and inside Post boxes, in publish rubbish/trash containers

Through the remainder of the 1970’s it’s hard to explain the content I had for the Irish people. In the summer of 1980, I took my first business trip to Dublin, and during that trip was spat at, and had lighted cigarettes flicked at me while walking down the street, because of my accent. And so it was, that the Irish were just Persona non grata.

We spent most of the 1980’s in the USA, specifically in New York. At that time, fundraising for the IRA in New York and Boston was a big thing. The likes of Adams and McGuinness were often on TV News giving very one sided views of their campaign against the British Government, and the British people.

Having returned to the UK and joined IBM, the random bombings carried out by the IRA continued, while often focussed on military targets, they were not always. Two IRA bombers blew themselves up in our town center while trying to set and detonate a bomb. I was working at the London computer center for the TSB Bank, on an upgrade to their software early morning in London on April 24th 1993, when at 10:27 am, the Bishopsgate bombing occurred. Their office off St Dunstans Hill was just half a mile from the bomb site, we heard and felt the blast. It followed another massive City of London blast in 1992 at the Baltic Exchange(now the site of The Gherkin).

So, no I was never in a bombing, as far as I’m aware none of my family were impacted by a bombing, but somehow it seems like asking a New Yorker to celebrate Al-Qaeda day on September 11th, to expect me to celebrate St Patrick’s Day.

As I said to the 8-year old, I’m happy you are having a fun day, I’m glad there is peace now in Northern Island but I can’t really dress up.

BBC Radio 4 – Faking It: Trump and the Media

Time to take a step back from the precipice or increase the pressure?

In this BBC Radio 4 audio program, Alan Rusbridger, former Editor of The Guardian, talks to journalists and news consumers across America in dispatches from President Trump’s ‘running war’ with the US media Alan asks why the media has been cast as Trump’s ‘opposition party’, how they are responding to the dilemmas and opportunities the new administration brings and whether the President is right to claim that the ‘mainstream media’ has lost the trust of the American people.

Listen here: BBC Radio 4 – Faking It: Trump and the Media

Republicans and Democrats: The Hypocritical Team

>JOSEP GODED has a great example of the all too common hypocrisy of the US two party system.

Since its beginnings, Wikileaks has aroused both hatred and veneration among its followers and detractors as much as any other worldwide organization. However, what is most striking is that a large…

Source: Republicans and Democrats: The Hypocritical Team

Skinheads, Mods and youth subculture

In my medium feed at the weekend was a link to a post titled “British skinheads in the 1980s were young, pissed, and stylish as hell“. I scanned through the pictures, read the accompanying text, and see just a very small slither of a culture and a style that I and my friends wouldn’t have been associated with in 1972, and would have rejected. Yeah some of us were involved it fights at Football matches, it was of it’s time.

As I sit here today, my clothes are still inspired and styled by those days, I’m even comfortable with a #1 haircut. While Richard Allens books Skinhead, Suedehead, Boot Boys, Skinhead Escapes, Smoothies, Terrace Terrors, Boot Boys and the final Mod Rule chronicled a generation, it’s unlikely that any single person experienced more that a few of the fictionalised events as youth culture was moving too fast.

Where I grew up in Hemel Hempstead we were almost exclusively white, and with London our nearest big city which had been hugely multicultural, for hundreds of years, racism just wasn’t a thing. So the toxic, hatred filled skinhead imagery of the 1970’s – 80’s just doesn’t ring true for me.

There are a few interesting videos online, two of the best by Don Letts. Letts was the DJ at the Roxy Club and before that, Chaguaramas, and we were there on New Years Eve 40-years ago at the Clash gig, we walked out, our time had passed. Letts films, especially the story of Skinhead, and it’s predecessor, the Fred Perry Sponsored, Subculture of British Music and Street Style take a serious look at the genre. I’d love the chance to talk to Don one day.

Sweden, Refugees and that Trump thing

Even before the Trump administration, America has taken pitifully few refugees and asylum seekers from the crisis it started in the post 9/11 era. This is especially true when you look at it’s geographical size, and financial strength.

At 20x the size of Sweden, and over 18x the GDP, America has taken just 10% of the refugees Sweden.

By now anyone paying attention will have heard about the debacle of Trumps speech where he attempted to justify his Executive Order on Immigration by pointing to “what happened in Sweden last night”. If you have not, you can read the whole thing here.

Lets do what we’ve been asked, and not take President Trump literally, and assume he was talking about a trend in crime caused by refugees. Trump himself said he was responding to a report on Fox News, forget about the voracity for getting information from Fox News if you are the US President. (See *1 for additional opinion).

I’ve been to Sweden a number of times, mostly to Stockholm, and Gotenburg but also had a fabulous speaking engagement in Malmo. It’s an amazing place. It’s worth though putting the refugee issue in some context though, irrespective of what may or may not have happened.

Sweden

Geography:
Size: 173,860 Square Miles, slightly larger than California. 65% of which is forest and approximately 30% lies north of the article circle. Which means the main inhabited part of Sweden is about the size of the US State of Georgia.
Population:
Population: 10,019,400 with approximately 5-million people employed, of which almost 70% are in Unions. Again, that makes it similar to the US State of Georgia in terms of population.
Economy:
6th most competitive economy in the world;
Tax:
One of the highest tax rates;
Welfare:
One of the most developed welfare states;
Unemployment:
Stands around 7.5% in January 2017;
Healthcare:
Medical coverage is universal and at only nominal fees; Infant mortality rate is half that of the USA;
Child Welfare:
Guaranteed kindergarten places for ALL 1-5 year olds; All school children receive free school lunch, many also get breakfast.

Immigration, Refugees and crime

Sweden provides a very attractive destination for refugees. And so they have come, in huge numbers. According to the CIA World Fact book,

Refugees (country of origin): 52,707 (Syria); 23,886 (Iraq); 21,501 (Somalia); 20,203 (Eritrea); 13,064 (Afghanistan) (2015)
Stateless people: 31,062 (2015); note – the majority are from the Middle East and Somalia

 

There have certainly been crimes by the refugees, and there have been a number of claims/articles on the scope and impact of crime, especially this, now infamous one.  The 2016 Swedish Crime Survey showed a small uptick in crime in 2015, with 13.3% of nearly 12,000 respondents reporting they had been exposed to one or more offenses, including assault, threats, sexual offenses, robbery, fraud, or harassment. But although the number is up from 11.3% in 2014, the survey says the numbers are around the same level as they were in 2005, well before Sweden’s refugee influx began.(*2)

There is no doubt that the number of refugees and asylum seekers will be having an impact in Sweden. Assimilation is hard in any new country, and Sweden is about as different from the middle east or North Africa as it gets. There is of course high unemployment among these immigrants, the Economist says three times higher than native born Swedes. Still, as a country Sweden has done a massive amount, and accept had a mass refugee intake.

AMERICA, FEAR UNCERTAINTY and doubt

By comparison, America, with a geographical size some of 20x that of Sweden even deducting the area accounted for by lakes and rivers, and with a GDP that is over 30x that of Sweden, has taken just 10% of the refugees.

While the Syrian crisis isn’t a direct result of the Bush Administration lead invasion and overthrow of Iraq and Afghanistan, and the humanitarian crisis that followed; there is a link to the Arab Spring that followed the influx of migrants all across north Africa. More than 11-million people in Syria have lost their homes, and more than 250,000 have been killed.

Yet, America, through it’s already extensive and tough vetting(apparently not extreme enough for President Trump), has taken the following refugees.

Refugees (country of origin): 16,370 (Democratic Republic of the Congo); the US admitted 84,995 refugees during FY2016 including: 12,587 (Syria); 12,347 (Burma); 9,880 (Iraq); 9,020 (Somalia); 5,817 (Bhutan); 3,750 (Iran)
Despite what President Trump claims, there is no empirical evidence that immigration increases crime in the United States. In fact, a majority of studies in the U.S. have found lower crime rates among immigrants than among non-immigrants.

Even if you believe the reports from the right wing, and nationalists about crime, that’s no reason to further stop immigration by desperate people, who’ve mostly lost everything, including members of their families. America has it’s own problems, but they are nothing like those of the refugees from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, we can and must do more and at least as much as Sweden.

 

(*1) He almost certainly got this bee in his bonnet from Sebastian Gorka who at one time was a regular writer for the Gatestone Institute who a year ago, published the infamous Sweden: Rape Capital of the West. Even the Gatestone Institute has separated itself from the author.