29August2014

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Eeny, Meeny Madness - Beyond Racism

By David Edwards

Jeremy Clarkson is star presenter of the BBC's Top Gear show which, tragically for anyone who cares about the climate, holds a 2013 Guinness world record for most widely watched factual programme in the world.

Clarkson asked for his viewers' forgiveness following the publication of a clip that showed him reciting the nursery rhyme, 'Eeny, meeny, miny, moe; catch a nigger by the toe', in unaired footage obtained by the Daily Mirror. Clarkson can clearly be seen mumbling a portion of the N-word.

The Blairite Deputy Labour leader, Harriet Harman, who voted for the 2003 invasion of Iraq and was part of the government that waged the war, said:

'Anybody who uses the N-word in public or private in whatever context has no place in the British Broadcasting Corporation.'

In the Guardian, senior columnist Suzanne Moore commented:

'Clarkson is not stupid. Nor is he a maverick or outlier. He is a central part of the establishment. He parties with Cameron. Just as Ukip is not a maverick party, but made up of disgruntled Tories; just as Boris Johnson is not a maverick but a born-to-rule chancer... this section of the right deludes itself that it is somehow "outside" the establishment rather than its pumping heart.'

We wrote to Moore on Twitter:

'You say the right "deludes itself" it is "somehow 'outside' the establishment rather than its pumping heart". But which paper sold us Blair, the man who destroyed resistance to the establishment? Which paper told us to vote Blair in 2005, after Iraq? And which paper sold us "R2P" ["Responsibility to protect"] in Libya and Syria, which has clearly involved "the rich and powerful deriding the powerless"?'

Moore ignored us but noted on her Twitter feed:

'Media Lens have roused themselves to tell me off? Why this week? Why not every week?'

But the point we were making to Moore was a serious one. As John Pilger commented to us in 2008:

'Since Blair and Brown closed down the last vestiges of Labour as a social democratic party, the task of the media has been to deny the great political happening of the post-war years: the convergence of Labour and the Conservatives as one political entity with two factions serving a single ideology state.' (Email to Media Lens, November 24, 2008)

Pilger has also described how, for many years, the Guardian 'swooned over Blair as a mystic of the "Third Way".' 

On May 3, 2005 - two days before the UK general election and two years after the criminal invasion of Iraq - a leading article in the Guardian opined:

'While 2005 will be remembered as Tony Blair's Iraq election, May 5 is not a referendum on that one decision, however fateful, or on the person who led it, however controversial...'

The editors concluded:

'We believe that Mr Blair should be re-elected to lead Labour into a third term this week.'

The leader was titled: 'Once more with feeling.'

The Guardian has continued to boost Blair on numerous occasions since then.

A Citizen Among Us?

Suzanne Moore perceived a slippery declivity:

'If you can say nasty stuff about gay people, then why not about black people? Once you voice the idea that women ask for rape and can't have careers, the next stage is to get rid of naggy old human rights because women don't count as human anyway.'

'The biggest con of all', Moore concluded, 'is that this coalition of "mavericks" is not seen for what it is. The establishment: in bullying, red-faced self-pitying mode.'

A dread threat is identified, then – casual racism percolating through the society and eroding human rights. This is circulated by the 'pumping heart' of 'the establishment' and must be resisted by the rest of us - people of sound heart and mind.

And this is the great lie of the Guardian, that it is not also the 'pumping heart' of the establishment, that it has not itself played a key role in facilitating the devastation of democracy at home and wars of aggression abroad. The lie is that the Guardian is offering us hope of something different, when in fact it supplies more of the same, or worse.

Writer and researcher Alice Bell, who has appeared regularly in the Guardian since 2010, also joined the bandwagon suggesting to her Twitter followers:

'If you haven't complained to the BBC about Clarkson, but think you'd like to, this is the link http://www.bbc.co.uk/complaints/'

We asked Bell:

'How many complaints have you suggested for BBC journalists who helped make war possible in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya?'

Bell replied:

'there are many things the BBC have done that piss me off that I haven't bothered to tweet a link to the complaints page for.'

Bell, it seems, 'bothered' to tweet about Clarkson's 'eeny, meeny' scandal but not about her government's responsibility for some of the great crimes of modern history.

This is a common and disastrous theme in contemporary society. As long as we are willing to perceive, or deem ourselves responsible for, only one small part of our world, the suffering of the world as a whole can be overlooked, or declared beyond our job spec: 'I'm an oil executive, it's not my job to protect the climate.' 'I'm an arms manufacturer, it's not my job to prevent people killing each other.' 'I'm a science writer, it's not my job to comment on my government's war crimes.'

As Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote:

'We have physicists, geometricians, chemists, astronomers, musicians and painters in plenty, but we no longer have a citizen among us.'

Noam Chomsky argues that racism does not in fact explain the West's willingness to kill so many brown-skinned people in so many needless wars. He highlights something 'far more depraved':

'Namely, knowing that you are massacring them but not doing so intentionally because you don't regard them as worthy of concern. That is, you don't even care enough about them to intend to kill them. Thus when I walk down the street, if I stop to think about it I know I'll probably kill lots of ants, but I don't intend to kill them, because in my mind they do not even rise to the level where it matters.

'There are many such examples. To take one of the very minor ones, when Clinton bombed the al-Shifa pharmaceutical facility in Sudan, he and the other perpetrators surely knew that the bombing would kill civilians (tens of thousands, apparently). But Clinton and associates did not intend to kill them, because by the standards of Western liberal humanitarian racism, they are no more significant than ants. Same in the case of tens of millions of others.' (Chomsky ZNet blog, 'Samantha Power, Bush & Terrorism,' July 31, 2007)

In his book, A Different Kind Of War - The UN Sanctions Regime In Iraq, Hans von Sponeck, former UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, wrote:

'At no time during the years of comprehensive economic sanctions were there adequate resources to meet minimum needs for human physical or mental survival either before, or during, the Oil-For-Food programme.' (Hans von Sponeck, A Different Kind Of War - The UN Sanctions Regime In Iraq, Bergahn Books, 2006, p.144)

For example, during 'phase v' of the Oil-For-Food programme, from November 1998 to May 1999, each Iraqi received a food allocation worth $49, or 27 cents per day. Von Sponeck commented that 'the UN was more humane with its dogs than with the Iraqi people': $160 was allocated for food for each UN dog over the same period (ibid, p.38).

In the last two weeks, the Lexis media database finds 385 articles mentioning Jeremy Clarkson in UK national newspapers. Since 2006, von Sponeck's definitive book on Iraq sanctions has been mentioned once and has never been reviewed.

It is fine to rage at a BBC presenter's political incorrectness. The responsibility of our country for crimes treating millions of human beings as less than dogs, less than insects, is of no interest.

 

Bigger, Better, Stronger Me

The additional absurdity of the filtered, 'mainstream' response to racism and sexism, is that these forms of prejudice are treated as exotic and incurable diseases from which most decent folk are free. Evidence is sought of any slip, any tiny evidence of infection. If discovered, an individual's reputation is deemed to have been destroyed; their career should now be brought crashing down and the perpetrator replaced by someone infection-free.

We are not for one moment defending racial and gender bias, but these need to be recognised as symptoms of a far deeper malaise affecting essentially all of us.

Some 2,000 years ago, the great yoga master Patanjali said:

'The link between the seer and the seen that creates misery, is to be broken.'

Patanjali was pointing to the tendency of human awareness, 'the seer', to identify with phenomena external to itself, 'the seen', and for the mind to judge the self as 'superior' and 'inferior' to others on that basis. For example, our awareness identifies with our physical body - 'I'm strong', or, 'I'm tall' - and we decide we are superior to others who are weaker or shorter. We may identify strongly with our profession – 'I'm a tenured professor' - and feel far more substantial and important than, say, a taxi driver.

We can place ourselves on a pedestal as a result of identifying with almost anything: 'my salary', 'my house', 'my postcode', 'my car', 'my university', 'my degree', 'my football team', 'my nationality', and so on, almost without end. We may identify with our gender - 'I'm a man' – judging ourselves smarter than, or physically superior to, women. And, yes, many people generate feelings of superiority through attachment to nationality, colour, race - and through a less taboo pride in 'our' greater scientific, technological and military prowess - dismissing others as 'primitives', as 'untermensch'.

Patanjali's point, identically with every great spiritual teacher, is that we all play this game – it is in the very nature of the human ego to seek to be exceptional in some way. Perceiving ourselves to be 'special', we reflexively place our needs, and those of the people closest to us, at the centre of our personal universe. We then pursue these needs with little regard for the impact on others.

The point is that bogus 'superiority' based on gender and race are only two aspects of egotistical self-aggrandisement. Certainly, the consequences have been catastrophic throughout history, but these are symptoms of an underlying egotism that now threatens to end history.

Lost in self-obsession, we are all currently prejudicing the future of all people and animals on the planet, now and into the future. Reciting the 'eeny, meeny' rhyme is an ugly reminder of the deluded attitude that views people of colour as comical and absurd. But in truth most of us are treating the whole world with even greater contempt.

The epitome of this view is found in the legal corporate obligation to subordinate every other human concern to the maximisation of profit, with the resultant suffering literally not figuring in profit and loss accounts (beyond the concerns of public relations spin doctors). What kind of prejudice subordinating others is this?

It may not involve dehumanising others with words like 'nigger', 'slope' and 'terrorist'. But, as discussed, it involves treating others, not merely as inferior, not even at the level of insects, but as actually non-existent. It represents a level of indifference to all other beings – not just women and people of colour - that is so extreme, so toxic, so far beyond even racism, that it threatens all life on earth, including the lives of the people running the corporations!

But, again, as with the placing of Iraqis on the level of dogs and insects, this truly biocidal, suicidal prejudice is simply ignored. It is undiscussed by corporate journalists – people working for the very corporations pursuing exactly these insane goals – when they castigate Jeremy Clarkson for reciting 'eeny, meeny, miny, moe'.

 

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