Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Idiots of England

George Bernard Shaw is famously quoted as saying "England and America are two countries separated by a common language." (Similar quotes were made by Oscar Wilde, Bertrand Russell and Dylan Thomas, but probably not Winston Churchill.)

Fortunately for international relations, though, the two countries do share a common bond: stupidity.

Yes, there is abject idiocy in the country of Shaw, Russell, Wilde, Thomas, Churchill, and even William Shakespeare (who wrote his own plays, no matter what they tell in the movies) and Francis Bacon (who did not write Shakepeare's plays, regardless).

I suppose it should have been obvious: after all, Rupert Murdoch is from Australia, and David Duke was born in Oklahoma. And both countries were settled by the British, so we have to get it from somewhere, right?

(Understand that, in Australia's case, I'm using a loose definition of "settled" which includes "being sent in chains." You know, the same way that Africans "settled" America...)

The latest bit of idiocy that I've come across was, in fact, on Facebook. As I've mentioned elsewhere, my purpose for Facebook isn't so much as social network, as it is refrigerator magnet - I stick random pictures and videos up there, just because it gives me some place to store them that costs me nothing.

(I understand that there are people who use specialized sites like Pinterest for these purposes, but not me. I'm a maverick like that.)

Which means that if it isn't at the top of my home page, it isn't likely that I'll see most people's posts. So this has probably been around for a while, and I just haven't seen it. But now I have.

(Don't squint - transcription below.)

(Technically, I didn't need to block out her picture, because it wasn't a picture of her. But it was a copyrighted Disney image, so it's probably safest.)

What that said was (block pasted, to preserve the fascinating capitalization, spelling and punctuation):
racist to sing ba ba black sheep so now its ba ba rainbow sheep, racist to wear a poppy so even the england football team didnt wear them, racist to say christmas so now its happy holidays yet its not racist to celebrate eid, not racist to burn the st georges cross and not racist to take over our country. this is ENGLAND, dont like it? manchester airport, terminal 2... toodle fucking pip! Putt this as your status if you believe in true english rights
I, of course, had to reply - I can be an ass sometimes. But since it isn't my country, I had to actually research some of the issues.

A lot of it is just basic rhetoric: "true english rights," "take over our country," the Happy Holidays vs Merry Christmas crap (that's not "racist," it's just being polite to the 31% non-Christian Brits).

I thought the "yet its not racist to celebrate eid" was cute. Not only is it fundamentally wrong (it isn't racist to celebrate Xmas, either major Eid festival, or Chanukah - it's just rude to jam your religion in other people's face), but it also has overtones of "Scary Brown People!" So it's stupid twice.

Quick note: for those of you who don't know, "Eid" is the Arabic word for "festival," and is most commonly used in the West to refer to Eid ul-Fitr ("Festival of Breaking the Fast"), held at the end of Ramadan, or Eid al-Adha ("Festival of the Sacrifice," or Greater Eid), celebrating Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son to God (essentially the same story from the Old Testament, in Genesis 22).

But really, there are three major points.

1. racist to sing ba ba black sheep so now its ba ba rainbow sheep

This is an urban legend that crops up every so often, which is traditionally overblown by the right-wing press (even today). It's also inevitably shown to be complete bollocks (the publication of which is, after all, a Murdoch tradition).

2. racist to wear a poppy so even the england football team didnt wear them

On November 11, (Remembrance Day, once called Armistice Day), it's traditional in Britain to memorialize the fallen of WWI by wearing a poppy (it dates back to the John McCrae poem "In Flanders Fields - "In Flanders fields the poppies blow/Between the crosses, row on row"); a lot of veteran's groups use it as a fund-raising theme.

This year, the British teams were going to wear embroidered poppies on their uniforms for a Remembrance Day match against Spain, and the Federation of International Football Associations (FIFA) intervened. As they have approval over uniform design, they felt it "would open the door to similar initiatives from all over the world, jeopardizing the neutrality of football."

It had nothing to do with racism. Quite the opposite - it was all about keeping everybody as one big happy international family.

Of course, the really funny thing is that the whole "england football team didnt wear them" complaint didn't happen. FIFA agreed to allow black armbands, with poppies.

3. not racist to burn the st georges cross

Well, no, it isn't. Just rude and an overreaction.

You can find a lot of stories about Muslims burning the St George's cross (many of them badly sourced, oddly enough) in response to British actions they object to. And some of the stories might even be true. Doesn't make it racist.

See, the St George's cross (which, some of you might be aware, isn't the flag of England) is viewed in the Muslim world as a symbol of the Crusades. And, gee, who can fault them for that? That period seems much closer to the people of the modern Middle East than it used to, thanks to the actions of George II (or as many of us called him, Dubya).

So, it's good to know that it isn't just America which stands in danger of spiraling down the drain of ignorance and hatred. The Brits have these issues, too. I guess I'm relieved.

Or maybe not.

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