Trevor Phillips Gazing Into The Abyss: “‘Political Correctness’ Caused Rise Of Populism”

What happened to Trevor Phillips? Just how did this former champion of race relations go from spokesperson of the National Union of Students to the Chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality- one that fought the tide of stop-and search instances by the Met Police around black men. Nowadays, he’s predisposed to saying that there’s a lot of black-on-black crime that nobody anywhere is willing to talk about. It is of course, not true that nobody is willing to even to discuss, and his views on multiculturalism “encouraging separatism” isn’t amongst the unsayable either – It’s not like you can’t find a Daily Mail columnist espousing those views. At least with the latter opinion, I can firmly say that Phillips’ stance of multiculturalism isn’t a recent development. Pretty much a lot of his statements on race relations in the UK are not recent. But what is a recent comment based on this line he’s been walking on to suggest that the current wave of populism in 2016-2017 is largely due to ‘political correctness’. He also has a new documentary coming out this Thursday called Has Political Correctness Gone Mad?, in which I hope to review by the following week.

When thinking about how Phillips got to the stage that he did, I assumed that he may be simply getting older and that it might be a generational gap. I actually remember discussing this very point with a close friend of mine last summer, after she was recounting a documentary he did the year before “Things We Don’t Say About Race That Are True”.  But I’ve come to realise what an insulting assessment that actually is. Why don’t we see Lee Jasper telling black youths to pull their pants up? Why isn’t Darcus Howe regretting his activism of over four decades? The fact of the matter is, at some point Trevor Phillips got cynical.  He’s more or less come to oppose anti-racist efforts as they currently stand. Some of which he helped in building.

Once upon a time, Phillips campaigned for better pay among ethnic minorities, and for more spaces for ethnic minority presence in executive positions, and against racism within even the elite of liberalism in UK Politics. Now the assumption is that he caught the ‘New Labour’ bug when they came to power in 1997 from his good friend Peter Mandelson, with a later unsuccessful run for Mayor London, and his chairmanship of the Commission for Racial Equality and later Equality and Human Rights Commission was fraught with controversies arising from the divisiveness of his leadership, his statements on ‘multiculturalism’ encouraging separateness among different communities only further encouraging former left-wing compatriots and other public speakers within the Black British community to denounce him. It seems from close observation, Phillps’ stances may not have from merely old age, or even exposure  to New Labour ideology per se – but a logical extension of an ideal for Black Britons to aspire to: For Phillips, equality means being allowed the opportunities to aspire for the best in the society that you live in – the young Phillips interpreted practices such as stop-and-search rightfully as an obstacle, as harassment by the authorities on the basis of race is as form of victimization and one of these social roadblocks; during his time in political activism, Phillips identified more in the workplace, and within the establishment itself. In fact, the few hazy moments he had during his time in New Labour was during the run-up to the 1999 mayoral election, which turned Ken Livingstone from ally to enemy – He felt that he was being passed over because of his race. Phillips sees racial equality in terms of the positions available to them. A sort of “self-made person of colour” although I imagine Phillips would now reject the POC terminology as being too ‘politically correct’. And yes, acceptance to a Britishness standard is part of that. From this, we might be able to see where Phillips opposition to multiculturalism comes from, since he seems to advocate a form of “cultural assimilationism” in its favour.

To this end, he has taken to shoe-horning his bedbug in cases which have the barest of connections – like 21st century populism. I’m expected to accept that ‘political correctness’ is what gave America Trumpism, Brexit over here, and Labour in shambles. I’m expected to bear responsibility for white anxiety around around acceptable language and behaviour, which is really what he’s talking about in terms of ‘political correctness’ for why the wave of alternative right washing away progressivism. As bad as post-Brexit UK seems to be, it has not completely sank under the new reactionaries. But what has Trevor Phillips offered beyond providing cover for the Colonel Blimps of the media and political establishment? How is his tea parties with David Goodhart changing his mind about Muslims in Great Britain, when he is half-parroting them? Can he really claim that we’ve become a society too polite to properly discuss British society and its minorities in light of all this? Even before Brexit, Nigel Farage was on Question Time in what seemed every fortnight while bemoaning the BBC’s descent into “left-wing propaganda” where you can’t say anything yet he somehow was verbose and loquacious enough to find multiple ways of not saying anything. Certainly not about immigration and the Arabs who threaten to subvert ‘core Christian values’ in the UK. I mean, really. Did these people come out of nowhere? Or were they emboldened by a quiet, bitter subsection of the population angry about Britain changing that Mr Phillips thinks that they’re opinion is worth courting? Surely when ostensible liberals and progressives use the rhetoric of the illiberal while when Jack Straw who was then Home Secretary made comments on Asian men seeking “young white girls as ‘easy meat’” in response to the Rottherham sex trafficking scandal, they only stoke the fire, right? This tactic never disarms the far-right. It emboldens and legitimises them by making it appear that there is a problem that the “liberal establishment” are too weak to challenge effectively.

Since Phillips has pretty much the same opinions as two years ago when he produced “Things We Don’t Say About Race” documentary, I think that it might be fair to ask that given the rise in anti-Semitic attacks, and other hate crimes since Brexit, whether its worth noting the concentration of wealth in households in Jewish and Cypriot communities? How exactly is telling ethnic minorities, especially migrant communities to aspire to Britishness useful when the notion of Britishness is so nebulous? Surely migrating to another land , learning the language, paying taxes and citizenship applications would be enough. But Phillips seems to think that not prompting isolated communities into some nebulous concept of Britishness will turn the tide against demagoguery.

The problem is, this demagoguery has been here building and gaining strength, often accompanied by an admittance or the use of their language to encourage them. Demagogues don’t give rational answers, and they don’t want conversations either. All they want to do is bellow simple solutions which often have one group benefiting at the expense of another. They care for nothing but an authoritarian playground. Phillips is right that we don’t need to hold our tongues and be bold. But let’s also call a spade a spade: More often than not, suspicion of communities with ethnic minorities is what creates tension and division, and not any leftover ‘incompatible values’ the people from those communities supposedly have. This is not helped when a commentariat and other influential figures cast fears on migrants entering before they even get off the boat. It’s almost certain Farage’s campaigning with a “Breaking Poster” depicting a large queue of migrants helped in tipping the scale of the Brexit vote. Racist rhetoric is real in the UK, and it’s not always shy or subtle in its message. Polite encouragement, appraisals or even silence when its coded is only making racists bolder in their language. This isn’t a time for complacency, or giving excuses for reactionaries. There’s only one tactic that we can borrow from them – and that’s a clear, blunt and unsubtle message in telling them to sod off. Make that a universal standard of Britishness.

 

 

#britishness, #multiculturalism, #political-correctness, #politics, #populism, #race-relations, #society, #trevor-phillips, #writing

Digital Ink – ‘Call Me The Greatest’: A Poem About Muhammad Ali

ali

Overview

Two days ago on what would have been Muhammad Ali’s 75th birthday, I’d finally completed my poem. On paper. It took me more than six months to complete. Yeah, I started it round the time that he actually passed. Then largely left it only giving sporadic updates between the months. Admittedly, there are some people who might find it inflammatory or otherwise have problems with the tone. But then, I tried to keep it in spirit of the man who was never too shy to give his thoughts about the world he lived in. We need more people like him especially in this currently hostile global climate. And without further ado, my poem:

Call Me “The Greatest”

Don’t call me ‘boy’. You’re not my old man.
I know more about manhood than even you suckas can understand.
Don’t call me ‘nigger’. Cos I know the true worth of myself.
Call me that again, and I guarantee you won’t be in good health.
Don’t call me ‘Clay’. I no longer take ties to that slave name.
I will instead, till the day I find my true family again.
Don’t call me a ‘coward’. I never cared for Nixon, LBJ or Kennedy
Don’t ask what I can do for my country, ask what has my country ever done for me?
I’m not a draft dodger, I’m a conscientious objector
I ask the Almighty to grant peace as I prostrate towards Mecca
I also pray for Allah’s guidance in the ring as I wear the leather.
And as I tell these, I hear a condescending voice say “Yeah man, whatever”
So I walk through the assembled crowd, and get close to the person that was so loud
As to dismiss, tried to drown my voice with his sound, and said to him
“Well, aren’t you clever?”
The crowd laughs, but the man asks, “Muhammad, look, I understand why you’re angry”
“I think I speak even for a lot of us when I say, you should look for reasons to be happy”
And so I look at him, arms crossed, smiling and I reply:
“I’m not angry, Anger is not my personality. Anger is my status.”
“Anger is the mode used by our brothers and sisters, to deal with an entire nation that hates us.”
And so the man said, “All right, all right, we’ve got that much so far”
“Tell you what – why don’t you tell us what to call you? Why don’t you tell us who you are?”
So now, I smirk as I have the man’s attention
There’s a large enough receptions as I prepare my voice to bounce across three dimensions
Who am I? Call me “The Greatest”. ‘World’s’ my middle name.
Dozens of suckas in a hurry to challenge me, those dozens get knocked down all the same.
Sonny Banks, Archie Moore, Henry Cooper, Sonny Liston.
All of them recognise when my fist hits them like a piston,
I make stars crash to earth, I make giants tumble.
Ya think I’m cocky, but when you’re as good as me, it’s hard to be humble.
I’m the Black Storm, I uproot trees, and blow men off their feet.
I’ve made men who call themselves invincible, taste defeat.
Even spectators feel my thunder as I strike men down with and tear them asunder.
My lightning attack with blistering speed
And boxers feel, onlookers watch, and all others read
And all will know that I am *indeed* the Greatest..
On this earth, I reign supreme.
My fist of justice allows even the downtrodden, to once again dream.
Finally dream of the absurd, the ridiculous. And perhaps even the obscene.
Dream the impossible, until they finally realise, that impossible is nothing,
That’s what they call me.
The man stood there – At a loss for words, until he asked me:
“Should I call you ‘The Greatest’ or Ali?”
“Both”, I reply. “Both is what you should call me”
He replies back, “I can assure you Mr. Ali, remembering that will be as easy as sliced bread”
As he turns to walk away, I tell him “Hold on, man. I ain’t done yet!”
I briefly chuckle when I see the man’s whole body stop and react with dread.
He became a little bit more respectful, in response to what I said.
“Come on, man! Ya’ll thought I only had one name?!”
“If I get irate with you, you have only yourself to blame”
And so he said, “Aright Ali, please tell me another of your names”
“I suppose other titles make sense for someone of your fame”
So I ask him, “What’s your name, sir?”
And he replies, “Me, my name’s David. You can call me Dave”
And I reply back, “My name’s Muhammad. It means worthy of praise”
Suddenly a voice from the crowd yells “Worthy of praise is right! That guy twice beat Frazier!”
“How were you still standing against Foreman? How did you stand up against Shavers?”
I explained that he knocked me down once, but I whooped his butt all the same.
That said, no matter how often we trash-talk, belittle and call names,
When the match is over we embrace and stand as titans all the same.
But then I briefly apologize to those still waiting to hear my name.
They call me “Father”, at least that’s true of my sons and daughters,
And to watch them grow and mature, and have families of their own, is an unparalleled honour.
Call me “Brother”, it was when I was a young man that i understood its importance,
Now that I’m older and wiser, I’ve reunited with a wider family, knowing that title’s true significance.
Call me “Son”, whether it be Louisville, Kentucky, or Africa, home is the place that I yearn.
And the older I become, the more I discover that I have much to learn
About life’s lessons, and if the audience takes away of those lessons, take away these
Small tips on how to be the greatest if you please.
Firstly, greatness is made up of more effort when just talent,
Thinking you can coast by anything without preparing? That’s just simple arrogance.
Second, greatness is built on a lot of victories. But you can also lose.
Whether you can stay defeated, oh that’s something only you can choose.
Before greatness, there must come humility. No really, it’s true!
Because I got to where I am because of my family, trainers, tutors; and my faith in the Most High too.
My skill put lots of men on the canvas. Some matches over before they even began.
But there’s no other measure of greatness than when you turn fierce enemies, into greatest friends.
My grandchildren asked me whether they’ll call me The Greatest forever.
I tell them that even The Greatest wonders, expects and accepts that there may come along someone greater.
But if and when they do call you The Greatest, my advice to anyone and everyone in this great audience remains:
Mould your talents with effort, take time to prepare and better yourself,
Be proud enough to show your talents, be humble to know when you need help.
Offer the hand of friendship to willing foes, and most important to let everyone know,
And never, ever forget your name.

#digital-ink, #muhammad-ali, #my-poems, #poetry, #writing

Let’s Get Political

Hey readers,

As a lot of people know, discussions on politics, religion and to a lesser extent, sports are regarded as so potentially contentious that several websites and message boards giving an outright ban on these topics so that they won’t spread division among the followers or something, or because they don’t want their comment section all clogged up with pointless name-calling. Or at least that’s the assumption.

 

Unfortunately, I am one of those bloggers who are somewhat interested in turning his writing webpage into a personal online soapbox. From time to time. I do have (at least I’d say) pretty strong political stances, and those stances will eventually drive me to provide commentary on these rather hot-button topics very, very soon. You are warned:

  • The bumpy road to Brexit (possible u-turns ahead).
  • 2020 or bust…(The likeliness is that it’s gonna be bust for the Labour Party).
  • The impending inauguration of Donald Trump.
  • (Possibly) And There Was Much Rejoicing…Awful People Who Lost In 2016.

I didn’t want to make a list of things because that invites urgency to actually do them. So at best, you’ll see three of them within the next month. The last of them may or may not happen, but this brief overview should at least give you an idea of my stances. Kind of. Actually nothing at all.

#politics, #writing

New Year’s, Old Fears?

Instead of getting plastered with friends out in Central London (or Clapham as I was invited to) like a regular 25-year old, (or maybe the one’s that I see in VICE magazine), or at least trying to salvage the other invitations that I received, I instead went to bed trying to sleep, and tossing and turning for several hours. Forgive me for not being the most optimistic about New Years’ Day 2017, because many of the same problems that I had 24 hours before in the previous day, have a bad habit of bleeding over to the next day. And becoming a walking black hole of misery to suck my friends into (which is, I believe ultimately what I became online) is not how I intended to celebrate and/or kick-start the new year. It’s a weird form of damage control, but damage control it is. Regardless of how miserable someone feels, it is unfair to deliberately take away someone’s happiness, or guilt-trip someone for being happy, or not paying attention to you simply because you’re  not Mr. Sunshine or Lady Joy of the Bliss Kingdom.

If there’s anything that I’m guilty of, it’s the idea that I might’ve made other people feel guilty for having a good time. Or in the process of having a good time. Right now feels really rough, and my therapist can’t be there 24/7, so I try to reach out to my friends, or at least the ones that I trust, but I also don’t want to drag them down, or emotionally exhaust them with my problems. People don’t see New Years’ as a time to be airing out problems, but problems I do have. It would be wonderful if every horrible thing that happened in the past year could be wiped clean as soon the clock strikes 12, but that doesn’t happen.

In the end, I have my own cross to bear. And I, and only I alone will have to deal with it. My situation with the job that I previously lost will have to be dealt with by myself. I’d like to thank everyone that gave me advice on the steps to go by, and I hope that they’ll get a chance to read this. But it’s for me to do the heavy lifting. The holiday period has not been the most encouraging time to get these things done.

I suppose that my fears for the New Year are these:

*That my (ex-)boss will get vengeful and try to screw me over. It’s this fear that started my latest round grappling depression. All the things that I was excited to take part in last month and this one, and my relationships or perhaps my perception of them, have been affected simply because he wouldn’t accept my resignation, and told none of his staff that I left. I took steps to defend myself by asking for employment advice, and contacting the HR, but so far, they’ve been unsuccessful.*

  • That I could alienate all the friends that I currently have. I don’t have that many friends. Certainly not a lot of ones that I regularly contact, or anything resembling a large social circle. Or a lot that I consider close (which I suppose is the point). Or much of a social life. I know a number of them have been helpful to me during this period, but I’m afraid that I might’ve taken it too far, and used them as crutches. These people have contributed a lot to my life, but I don’t know if I’ve done so in the same way to them. And so I isolate myself. I initially viewed it as I quite painful, but necessary. I was told other things to the contrary, and I believed them, but now, even with the possibility that it’s the depression talking (and it almost certainly is), I’ve done it again. I don’t want to drag people down, but I don’t want to scare them away either. One’s got to give.

*That none of my dreams will come into fruition. I understand that this is not something that I can just expect to happen this year, much less overnight. But I guess the real fear, is that I’m no closer to realizing my dreams than when I started. I’ve been doing drawings for ten years. I’ve also been writing…stuff, whether they be on paper or on the net, including poems for a bit longer. If the concrete in my brain would go away, I’d reflect and be happy that having a play out, even a 10-minute one, is actually a remarkable first step.  But that might be all there is. I don’t want that to be true, so I keep at doing both, even if I get hard on myself for focusing on one and not the other. I don’t know if I can hold a job, or hold on to my friends, but I can express the pain of not having either, or at least the uncertainty around them.

Last point: If you’re some of the friends that have helped last month, and are currently reading this, you have my deepest thanks. Please forgive my depression taking a hold of me. I don’t want to be a burden to anyone. I just want to live as best a life as I can with the people close to me. I still for some reason, believe that with enough effort, it is possible.

Notes

*I was hoping avoiding mentioning that altogether until everything was resolved, but I guess it caused too much damage to not acknowledge.

#depression, #doubts-fears, #mental-illness, #new-years-day, #writing

Why I Started Writing Again

If not my first, this would’ve probably been expected to be my second post, but who cares?

I’ve attempted to do this many times. I must have had started three (technically four) blogs on the web, and my most “successful”, for lack of a better word, was called “Opposing Bullshit”. Very SFW, that one was. So why try again? Why, when it’s so obvious that I as an online presence lack in staying power, when it comes to writing? It could very well mean that by even the end of the month, I abandon this blog altogether.

Blogging for me, has been quite paradoxical: Any of the posts that I wrote down are very public posts in the ocean the World Wide Web, they were incredibly opinionated pieces, and yet the only people who even knew of their existence were those that I could really trust. Very much like this post. And at the same time, I wanted to make just about enough of them to get me noticed in my spheres of interest.

Several months ago, I was asked by a team of filmmakers what I would focus on had I continued with Opposing Bullshit. Hell, I probably still could. I remember giving a vague answer. And to honest, I can be blunt (of course I can, it’s my own damn blog), I still don’t have a clue what specifically this blog is gonna be directed towards. What I promise that I won’t do, is try an imitation of Charlie Brooker, and be overly edgy or whatever the hell I was thinking when I was a 19-year-old writing that stuff.

So why am I doing this again? Well, as is a recurring theme in my personal life, Decembers, for any and every reason, tend to be dark periods for me. I still remember my father’s first nervous breakdown ten years ago. As for myself, it’s always a time where so many things go wrong or not as well as it could, among the multitude of happy pictures that my eye catches, makes me even more miserable, regardless of how real they are. It gets to the point that, in my feelings of inadequacy, I close down the accounts that my friends and peers can contact me on. I even, and not always in the most pleasant of terms, tell people not to contact me, unless through a select few means. There are those kind and brave enough to be willing to contact me, but I don’t know whether or not, I’ve become too much of a burden and pushed them away.

In experiencing feelings of alienation, I’ve willfully alienated from several friends believing that they’re better off without me, and will forget me, but these are lies that my mental illness has told me, and prevented good opportunities for me to spend time and/or communicate with people that I care about. The worst part is, I know they are lies, but in light of the things that I say and do, I’m also worried about the damage I might do to the relationships that I already have.

Ultimately, reading these: the first of which of is a series of tweets by J.K. Rowling:

It is these series of tweets that while didn’t take away the pain that I was feeling, encouraged me to at least write about this, and other things that I might be interested in. I don’t know if “astonishing fortune” is coming my way. But I do know that it’s much harder to find if I cut the treasures that I already have out of my life.

I’ve also taken the time to read this article. It’s been very helpful to read to try to same sense of what is real to me, and what isn’t:

https://themighty.com/2016/02/lies-mental-illness-tells-you-and-what-you-can-say-back/

This accompanying video was pretty good. Hopefully, it’ll do good to others that suffer from mental illnesses:

So, is this blog primarily going to be about my struggles with mental health? No, not exactly. But it is going to be a topic addressed here quite often…so long as I don’t abandon this blog like the last one. I started writing again because in the emotional nadirs, doing this at least keeps me focused. It’s one of the things that I can truly say that I’m good at, and that I hope to get better along the way.

#blogging, #mental-illness, #starting-a-new-leaf, #writing