Bit of a serious title today – but I think the topic is serious too. Gordon Brown finished off an interesting article the other day with this phrase: Girls should be able to study in a classroom, free of fear and without the need to demonstrate on the streets. This is a basic right; ensuring [...]
I love Us vs Th3m. Consistently focussed on what’s web-interesting; occasionally rude in the nicest possible way; of late, perfectly innovative as anything on the Internet needs to be to have the right to demand our attention.
This piece, for example, on sinister-font usage is fabulous. (And if you want a better gander at Portmeirion itself, I’ve got a few photos I took one glorious day we spent there.) But whilst stories about evil typescripts may feed our playful paranoias, the fronts of the battles for other hearts and minds are being fought vigorously – maybe violently too – on the very same web. And the battles being carried out are anything but playful – or benign.
Bob has a piece which – at least in my perception – carefully follows up an idea I saw tweeted the other day. I think it went something along the lines of: “Criticism of Israel might not be a result of anti-Semitism, but it could quite easily lead to more anti-Semitism.” Who bears the responsibility is complex, for me that is, but the reality is clear: in the scurry to condemn and criticise, the even-handedness of traditional mainstream journalism, of any journalism in the event, gets lost in the horror that reaches our screens. The genocides of other decades have quietly been swept under the carpets of non-attention – meanwhile, that which is visible has us reaching for ancient prejudice. The terrible outbreak of Ebola in Africa at the moment is one such example: whilst those who were dying were Africans themselves, the story has lain suppurating with little attention for months. Now important aid workers of other nationalities are dying, suddenly the media empires decide it is time to let on, and so stories are getting published asking whether the disease could reach our shores.
Nothing like self-interest to provoke a wider interest. (Now keep a pin in that idea – we’ll come back to it.)
I’ve also seen posted on various mainstream media the details of a public-relations document of US origin which the Israeli government spokespeople are apparently following “slickly” to the letter. One of the issues raised is the “apartheid” the Israelis are pursuing: the assumption that Jews and Palestinians can never live together, nor must be allowed to. As the term “apartheid” is anathema to the US body politic (quite rightly so, too – especially with the history of their own Civil Rights’ Movement to the fore), it would appear Israeli spokespeople are trained to sidestep the issue with methods of clever distraction.
As if no other government practised such reprehensible procedures.
In truth, the real apartheid going on here is that which separates history from the present. And as history is such an interpreted medium of communication, the possibility – even when given the space it deserves – of confusion, disagreement and violent riposte was never higher than a latterday world of educated voters, operating equally sharply – and rhetorically (myself included) – in a socially-networked set of environments where the smart turn of phrase beats the sorry reality just about hands down every time. As Bob’s piece shows us, “even” the mainstream media is manifestly not a Jewish conspiracy – but don’t let that get in the way of a rapidly retweeted gobbet of prejudice.
There is one more story, though, I’d like to focus on – before I finish this post: the new King of Spain has decided that members of the Spanish royal family must no longer have anything to do with the private sector. In a sense, this is a curious move: after all, over the past few decades, the overriding political meme has been “public sector bad, private sector good”. Why, then, all of a sudden, do the Spanish decide to swim (sunfully!) in the opposite direction? They have, of course, had their own fair share of political, financial and social scandals, as the El País piece clearly shows us. And in a sense, this is just another example of a kind of apartheid – a separating of two allegedly incompatible ways of being.
Is it good? Should we criticise it? Is it time for a sorry pendulum to swing back? What exactly is going on here? What part precisely has this suddenly resistible – yet once all-conquering – private sector got to be ashamed of?
One final concept to toss into the marmite, as a continuation of the previous. Maybe we could argue that at the root of all our conflicts right now, there is excessive blame being placed on people and cultures and a weak appreciation of the political, economic and social inefficiencies that the private-sector profit motive is delivering over a whole raft of human endeavours. From the fronts of war to the apparently necessary financial apartheid of certain royal houses to the forgetfulness that so many of us exhibit with respect to history, it seems jolly obvious that compassion is being forgotten in the race to the lowest common bottom line.
And in all the conflicts I mention, compassion – alongside its kindly companions, forgiveness and redemption – shines through via its utter political and commercial absence.
So, where I would suggest that the Israelis may be going terribly wrong – these Israelis who manifestly fear a renewal of anti-Semitic dynamics, evidenced specifically in their asserting of an absolute control over their post-World War II homeland – is in assuming (I assume they assume, from their actions) that they have little to fear from the historical prejudices of Europe. As I said the other day, anti-Semitism in Europe is in our cultural DNA. And if they’re not careful with history – or with people and places from what we continue to hope were other times – then the fronts which begin to open up will become far more osmotic, widespread and difficult to understand (or, indeed, “tame”) than is currently the case.
Perhaps this is what the Israelis are looking to achieve. It would certainly explain a lot. Living in a permanent state of violent conflict is not good for the mindsets of anyone. To bring this forcefully home to the rest of us would clearly be a plan: a good plan … well, I really don’t know – but a plan all the same, it could be.
But if I were them, and prone to giving unbidden advice (I don’t generally, so forgive me this one time), long-term I’d fear far more a resurgence of European anti-Semitism than a cack-handed post-war anti-solution of a relationship with the Palestinians.
In the light of 20th century history, anyway.