Oct 24, 2005

Tim Lott plays harmonica while The Independant dances naked on the grave of post-colonialism

Carnage in the independant on Sunday as they valiantly attempt to wrestle with some Big Ideas but are alas, hopelessly and brutally defeated.

First Tim Lott who manages to wow us with the revelation that Britian is a little bit complicated, sometimes repressive and at other times not. Well stick me in a floral dress and call me Susan, who would have guessed? Surely anyone who's been following Lost knows that when you crash 60 people on an island, liberty and oppression, tolerance and prejudice flow back and forth with every new generic plot incident. Now, times that by a million (the people and the generic incidents) and he thinks this is commentary?

What's more annoying however is his repeated 'these aren't facts but I'm saying them anyway' attitude to journalism.

Figures about European homophobia are hard to come by, but it's hard to believe that homosexuality is less acceptable here than in, say, the macho cultures of Italy, Spain or much of Eastern Europe.

Let's rephrase that shall we: "Figures are hard to come by so the best thing we can do is fall back on our preconceptions of the European mentality." And what would Tim Lott have to say about the tolerance of a European article that assumed our attitudes to vegetarian must be hoplessly philistine because we all like roast beef and fish and chips?

If at first you fail to find statistics, make shit up, seems to be the motto here.

There is an every replenishing sump of resentment and violence that is always with us.

You don't have to go to statistics for this [oh, that's good - TJ]. Anyone who looks in their own heart [what? ok hang on a second] honestly enough knows it to be true.

What the flaming fuck?

There is an every replenishing sump of resentment and violence that is always with us.

You don't have to go to statistics for this. Anyone who looks in their own heart honestly enough knows it to be true.

This is truly incredible. The argument being, I can't find statistics for my poorly made generalisatiosn, so if you want to argue with them, you're not being honest to yourself.

Fuck off Tim Lott. Don't tell me what's true or false based on some spurious claim of knowledge of the inner-workings of all 60 million inhabitants of this 'complex' country. If you can't argue a point don't write a double paged commentary in a major Sunday newspaper. I know a whole bunch of people who could do a vastly better job.

And what kind of defeatest ethno-centric offal is this that he's passing off as an argument anyway? There is no reason we should be a replenishing sump of violence, unless we are conditioned to resent others in order that we are satisfied with the position alloted to us.

And what's the conclusion from his two pages of waffle and tripe? That we are always going to be violent and prejudice so its just a case of having tolerance... but (gasp) how tolerant should we be?

The question is now how far should tolerance go - that is to say, should we tolerate the intolerance of others?


No, no, no Tim.


That is not the question now. That was the question over 50 years ago when cultural relativism first reared its head. That is not to say it is not a valid question; on the contrary it remains of crucial importance, especially considering our schizophrenic relationship with regimes such as those in North Korea, Iran and Saudi Arabia. But it is certainly not enough to posit it at as the revelatory new conclusion of your thinking. That is fucking lazy. We have made it this far. Now this should be our starting point.

Even more worryingly however, he then goes on to give one small paragraph to answering a question that has been thrown about by the great minds of the second half the twentieth century. In his typical rabid bull in children's ward fashion, Tim manages to give this question a one word answer.


No to tolerance. So that's our solution is it.

How about, rather than crudely dismissing 'outdated' forms of tollerance in an entirely unhelpful (and indeed destructive as suggests carte blanche for those people who are all too willing to see any practise or ideology they don't understandas barbaric) manner, we begin by breaking down some of the crude generalisations and stereotypes that are the root cause of such friction and conditioned antipathy. Maybe by attempting to allow other cultures as much complexity and pragmatism as we are all too willing to lavish on our own, we can begin to generate a discourse that can go some way to finding some common ground and basic principals regarding tollerance and hopefully even mutual understanding.

But then maybe Tim Lott's right, the Independant simply isn't the place for such things; as we are shown elsewhere, in this article on the 'Woman who swapped London fashion for a Kenyan warrior'. The article is a fairly bland piece on some rich white girl who married a poor black man and is now using such a heartwarming story of cultural understanding to open a themed hotel. However it starts with this:

Outside a hut made of cow dung, a bull was slaughtered. Entrails spilled at the feet of a white woman in a burgundy suede dress, but she did not flinch as the Samburu tribesmen of Kenya eagerly scooped up and drank the dead animal's blood.

And suddenly we're proppelled back into the dark colonial fetishisms of Victor Hugo. The white woman, given the best British education, remains tough in the face of the animalistic silent black tribesmen. And it is the silence that is of interest here. We hear from the white woman, and her white family, and her white friends. And yet all we here of the non-westerner is this;

The family spend most of their time in the designer's elegant house in Karen, an upmarket suburb of Nairobi, surrounded by giraffes and warthogs. A few cultural differences remain - Mr Lemarti does not drink and often feels his English is not good enough to hold his own at dinner parties - but overall the two seem to have built a life together.

So the 'cultural differences' are that he still cannot be part of the cultural environment of her 'elegant' house and its dinner parties. He remains silent, mysterious - the other.

What kind of schlock colonial journalism is this? Full of enlightened white people and dark mysterious strangers, open-minded colonial kindness and strange tribal rituals.

As long as The Independant and others run this kind of narrow-minded bollocks as journalism then we, as cultures and societies, will continue to stare at each other blankly through a fog of incomprehension and useless tossers like Tim Lott can preach about the innate human capability for prejudice in commentaries with dick-all use but further reinforcing the social divides they claim to question.

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