30 July 2010

You don't have to be mad. But...

Theodore Dalrymple in today's Times (£) highlights the inflation in the official recognition of syndromes, manias and psychoses, as meticulously documented in and promoted by the ever-expanding Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

Which got me pondering as to how the Labour Party leadership candidates are bearing up as we enter the thirteenth week of campaigning. With the DSM as my guide, I think I may have noticed a condition or five that point towards everyone needing to take a few days off:

an irresistible compulsion to jump on bandwagons

inability to stop mentioning one's regional provenance

a speech impediment presenting as tongue paralysis 
when asked a question about education

unavoidable anxiety experienced by those 
diagnosed as the frontrunner
(see also Heseltine Syndrome and Acute Portilloism) 

severe aversion to smaller than expected returns 
from the local party nominations


The good news is that most of these are reckoned to be seasonal disorders and that everyone should be cured by the 25th September.

29 July 2010

Insistent upon themselves: Peter Griffin, The Godfather and Compass

Five blog posts in and I finally get to mention Family Guy (what took you so long? - Ed) thanks to Compass - Direction for the Democratic Left.

Unfortunately, all AV clips of the relevant scene have been taken down but the script can be scrolled through here:

Get This Quote - Find more at TVLoop

When I first saw that, I didn't really know what "insists upon itself" meant. Then along comes Compass and pretty much offers the definitive insistence upon oneself by holding their own Labour leadership ballot.

As Luke asks, why?

Although it is all of a piece, I suppose. The superimposition of Compass-supporting MPs' pictures over the "A New Hope" title at their last conference. The employent of tautologies such as "existing incumbents". The giving of "primacy not to ends, but to means."

It all just, I don't know...insists upon itself.

But to be fair, just like Peter, we haven't seen the end yet.

28 July 2010

On the Che Guevara Information Super-Highway* with a Castroist Councillor

I really do try not to get too drawn in to circular debates in the comments sections of other people's blogs. No. Really. I do. But the peculiar obsession with Cuba held by the more Jurassic elements of What We Used To Call The Left (WWUTCTL) holds a particular curiosity for me as it led to one of the livelier Labour Party branch meetings I've ever been to.

The problem began when the Secretary tearfully described the joy he had felt at seeing the expression of wonder and gratitude on a Cuban child's face at being handed a state-funded textbook that was going to help her learn to read - an occurrence that was apparently unique to Cuban communism. When I asked if, once she had learnt to read, whether she would be allowed to read whatever she wanted, I was told that I was a sucker for American propaganda. As I was for pointing out the inconvenient truth about the island's human rights record.

One of my older comrades, for reasons that remained unclear, was especially proud that drugs traffikers got executed in Cuba. She then said that she wished she lived in Cuba. I said I was glad that I did not. At which point I was told that I had no right to comment at all, as I had never been to Cuba. Of course, this hastily introduced Rule Of Not Self-Righteously Ponitificating On Countries For Which We've Not Got The Passport Stamp did not apply to them and their international bogeymen in the Middle East and other parts of the world whose timezones remained as familiar as the moon's.

So a couple of weeks ago, I was grateful for the opportunity afforded by Councillor Terry Kelly to revisit the debate when he excitedly posted on his blog about how Fidel Castro isn't dead yet.

In response to which, I posted in the comments section, challenging the view of Cuba as a collective, progressive paradise. I was being awkward, true. Just because Cuba ranks 179 out of 194 in the UN Human Development Index for hosting an immigrant population doesn't necessarily mean that nobody really wants to live there. And maybe the 2.5 million tourists in 2009 really did go for the immersive revolutionary experience, rather than the sun, salsa, ropa vieja and mojitos before getting on the plane home.

Councillor Kelly then explained that any imperfections in Cuba's economy, society and legal system are due to the over-arching need to "defend the revolution".

Which, if you view the world through a Marxist-Leninist prism, is internally logical. But for the rest of us, it's just more of the moral relativism that infects WWUTCTL. You can roll out the "defence of the revolution defence", if you like. But you can't then claim to be universalist, internationalist or really all that socialist.

*#1 in a series of ongoing attempts to get a title, lyric or reference thereof from every Billy Bragg song into the post titles.