Homosexuals as a favoured class in Britain
And too bad about privacy
Theatreland will have to give up its bedroom secrets in the quest for funding, under new Arts Council requirements. Organisations applying for grants are being asked to state how many board members are bisexual, homosexual, heterosexual, lesbian or whose inclinations are "not known". Audrey Roy, the director of grants, said that the council needed to understand who its audience was and to whom its funding was going. "We see diversity as broader than race, ethnicity, faith and disability," she said. Question 22 of the Grants for the Arts forms, relating to sexual orientation, was not compulsory, she added, although the form states that it must be answered.
The question caused anger and bemusement among leading figures of the arts world yesterday. The Oscar-nominated actor Sir Ian McKellen, who is openly gay, said: "It sounds extraordinary. It shouldn't be on a form. It's quite inappropriate." Vanessa Redgrave, the actress and human rights campaigner, said: "Everyone should put down `trisexual', whoever you are. Britain has become the world's leading population of trisexuals."
Michael Frayn, the author of the farce Noises Off, suggested boxes to "specify how many members are longsighted or shortsighted, how many wear black socks or brown socks". Christopher Hampton, whose adaptation of God of Carnage is showing in the West End, said: "It's bureaucracy and political correctness gone mad."
The application form notes that the question is for government purposes only and will not enter into the grant decision, but that claim was contradicted by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Its spokesman said: "We appreciate that, as a responsible public body they need to monitor their overall grant-making programmes. But it is absolutely not the case that sexual orientation monitoring is a government requirement."
Condemnation of the question spanned the arts. Julian Spalding, the former director of galleries and museums in Sheffield, Manchester and Glasgow, said: "I can't see what relevance it's got. It's a horrible invasion into one's personal and private life." He added: "What they like to do in bed is not the Arts Council's business."
Maggi Hambling, the painter who describes herself as "queer", said: "It's insidious, insulting and quite outrageous for the Arts Council to consider anyone's sexual orientation of any kind to be their business. It appears to be somewhat Hitlerian in its suggestion that grants will be given if, among the applicants, there is a nice smattering of dykes and queers."
Nicolas Kent, the artistic director of the Tricycle Theatre in London, said: "This is ridiculous. It has no relevance. The Arts Council is prone to huge overregulation, as seems to be the case with the whole of society. But the Arts Council has caught it very badly. They should advance the arts instead of ticking every box they invent."
Referring to the recent protest over the council's decision to cut the grants to prominent companies, Simon Callow, the gay actor, said: "The Arts Council comedy continues. What is difficult is to divine to what conceivable use they could put this information. I love the presence of a category for the Not Known - a despicable heresy, surely, in 2008?"
Almost a year ago James Purnell, then the Culture Secretary, vowed to relieve arts organisations of the burden of meeting "crude targets" as a condition of funding. Yet the Arts Council's application form also asks about ethnic backgrounds. The council said that the answers were confidential and exempt from release under the Freedom of Information Act. It said that it does not issue guidelines on how to persuade board members to reveal details of their sex lives.
BBC is too scared of Islam, says novelist Ben Elton
Ben Elton has accused the BBC of unjust political correctness by allowing jokes about vicars but vetoing gags about imams. Elton, whose children attend a church school, said that the BBC was too "scared" of Islam and of jokes about Islam to let them pass.
Asked about the new law on religious hatred, and whether too much deference was being shown to religious people, he said: "I think it all starts with people nodding whenever anyone says, `As a person of faith . . .' "And I believe that part of it is due to the genuine fear that the authorities and the community have about provoking the radical elements of Islam. "There's no doubt about it, the BBC will let vicar gags pass but they would not let imam gags pass." He said the BBC might pretend that this hesitancy had something to do with moral sensibilities. "But it isn't. It's because they're scared."
Elton said the situation was so bad that even everyday sayings were frowned upon: "I wanted to use the phrase `Mohammed came to the mountain' and everybody said, `Oh, just don't! Just don't! Don't go there!' "It was nothing to do with Islam, I was merely referring to the old proverb, `If the mountain won't come to Mohammed, Mohammed must go to the mountain'. And people said, `Let's just not!' It's incredible."
The writer, whose latest novel, Blind Faith, addresses the cult of the individual in postmodern society, continued: "I'm quite certain that the average Muslim does not want everybody going around thinking, `We can't mention you. We've just got to pretend you don't exist because we're scared that somebody who claims to represent you will threaten to kill us.'" The comedian, who was interviewed by Third Way, a Christian culture magazine, admitted believing in "almost nothing", even though his children attend a church school.
He said people should be taught the essentials of Christianity, if only for cultural reasons. But he also said that "lack of faith" should be taught in schools. "I think the concept that faith in itself is a good thing should be questioned from day one. There's a presumption that if you're a religious leader you are in some way already halfway up to the moral high ground and your opinion has more relevance than anyone else's."
Muslims' fury forces schools to shelve homophilic storybooks for 5-year-olds
Christians have been complaining about this stuff for years but they don't count, of course
Two primary schools have withdrawn storybooks about same-sex relationships after objections from Muslim parents. Up to 90 gathered at the schools to complain about the books which are aimed at pupils as young as five. One story, titled King & King, is a fairytale about a prince who turns down three princesses before marrying one of their brothers. Another named And Tango Makes Three features two male penguins who fall in love at a New York zoo.
Bristol City Council said the two schools had been using the books to ensure they complied with gay rights laws which came into force last April. They were intended to help prevent homophobic bullying, it said. But the council has since removed the books from Easton Primary School and Bannerman Road Community School, both in Bristol. A book and DVD titled That's a Family!, which teaches children about different family set-ups including gay or lesbian parents, has also been withdrawn.
The decision was made to enable the schools to "operate safely" after parents voiced their concerns at meetings. Around 40 are said to have gathered at Easton to speak to staff and another 50 at Bannerman Road. Members of the Bristol Muslim Cultural Society said parents were upset at the lack of consultation over the use of the materials. Farooq Siddique, community development officer for the society and a governor at Bannerman Road, said there were also concerns about whether the stories were appropriate for young children.
"The main issue was there was a total lack of consultation with parents," he said. "The schools refused to deal with the parents, and were completely authoritarian. "The agenda was to reduce homophobic bullying and all the parents said they were not against that side of it, but families were saying to us 'our child is coming home and talking about same-sex relationships, when we haven't even talked about heterosexual relationships with them yet'. "They don't do sex education until Year Six and at least there you have got the option of withdrawing the children. "But here you don't have that option apparently. You can't withdraw because it is no particular lesson they are used in."
He added: "In Islam homosexual relationships are not acceptable, as they are not in Christianity and many other religions but the main issue is that they didn't bother to consult with parents. "The issue should have been, how do we stop bullying in general, and teaching about homosexuality can be a part of that. "This was completely one-sided. "Homosexuality is not a priority to parents but academic achievement is. This just makes parents think 'What the heck is my child being taught at school?'."
He said the two schools were 60 to 70 per cent Muslim but pointed out that non-Muslim parents were among those who complained. Traditional Islamic views condemn homosexuality but there are liberal movements, such as the Al-Fatiha Foundation, which is dedicated to gay Muslims.
The schools used materials promoted by the No Outsiders project, led by academics at Sunderland University. A spokesman for Bristol City Council said: "All Bristol schools have a legal duty to report and deal with homophobic harassment as part of the curriculum since April 2007." She said the council had "temporarily withdrawn" the use of the materials in question and was liaising with various groups to "ensure that the topic can be addressed in an inclusive manner in the curriculum". Ben Summerskills of gay rights group Stonewall said: "The small number of parents who make a fuss will cause children to think there is something wrong."
States of the Mindless
MARK STEYN on the Leftist preference for dreams over reality
There was a sad little interview in the New York Times the other day. Carmen Pelaez is a playwright and, therefore, a liberal, but she's also a Cuban-American, and she was a little disappointed in her ideological soulmates' reaction to her latest play. Rum & Coke examines in part the West's cultural fascination with Castro and the revolution that time forgot. You know the sort of thing - the Che posters decorating the Obama campaign offices in Houston; Michael Moore's paean to Cuban health care, though it doesn't seem to have worked out so great for Fidel. The enduring sheen of revolutionary chic is in forlorn contrast to the decrepitude of the real thing. "When I started writing the play, I thought people just didn't know what was happening in Cuba," Miss Pelaez told the Times. "But the longer I live here, the more I realized, they don't care. . . . They would rather keep their little pop revolution instead of saying it is a dictatorship. I had somebody come to me after a show and say, `Don't ruin Cuba for me!' Well, why not? They're holding on to a fantasy."
"Don't ruin Cuba for me" the way the Vietnamese ruined Vietnam for Tom Hayden. The old leftosaurus went back for the first time in 32 years to see the country he and his then-wife, fair Hanoi Jane, had saved for Communism. Alas and alack, he found the ingrate natives in the midst of a capitalist frenzy. It's been like that awhile on the Ho Chi Minh Trail. A few years back in South Kensington, I ran into Mrs. Thatcher's daughter Carol looking for a taxi to Heathrow. This was in the grey days following the Conservatives' act of matricide, when the Iron Lady's wan successor, John Major, was trying to keep the party's ramshackle show on the road. "I'm off to Hanoi," said Carol, cheerily. "It's a boom town. These Vietnamese chaps seem to have got the hang of capitalism a lot better than the Tories." As he glumly informed readers of The Nation, Tom Hayden did not enjoy hearing his old revolutionary chums regaling him with a lot of stuff about GDP per capita: Don't ruin Vietnam for me.
"Pop revolution" is a fine coinage. Pop stars have been peddling revolution for nigh on half a century, and they're still doing it. At the Live 8 all-star gala for Africa a couple of years back, Madonna urged us to "start a revolution." Like Africa hasn't had enough of those? Along with her fellow members of the aristorockracy, Madonna lives in a whirl of hyper-capitalism - agents, managers, lawyers, accountants, publishers, all tussling over rights to her songs, her children's books of recent years, her sex book of earlier years with the nude photographs of her bottom hanging over the garden wall while a gay black dance troupe cavorts below with a German wolfhound, her digitally remastered mouthwash gargles . . . For a quarter century, every aspect of Madonna's life has been lawyered up to the hilt and leveraged to the max. In real revolutions, the mob rises up, pillages the CD factory, torches your inventory. Royalty statements become optional and occasional. All a bit of an inconvenience frankly. Still, if you can hold the revolution somewhere else, I'll certainly wear the T-shirt. And, anyway, where's the harm in it for Somalia or Congo? When you ain't got nothing, you got nothing to lose. Don't ruin Africa for me.
"They're holding on to a fantasy," says Carmen Pelaez. But, once a fantasy's taken hold, it's hard to dislodge. On the fifth anniversary of the Iraq War, 55 percent of Iraqis polled by ABC and the BBC said their lives are going well. True, 73 percent of Kurds and 62 percent of the Shiites reckon things are swell, compared with only 33 percent of the Sunnis, but that's what happens when you spend the first few years after liberation pining for the ancien r,gime. Did that poll get a lot of play in your local paper? Didn't think so. Don't ruin Iraq for me. The Code Pinkers at Berkeley know it's a Bush quagmire, even if the Iraqis don't.
What is Iraq? What is Vietnam? What is Cuba? Well, each is a state, but it's also a state of mind - or mindlessness. These are real places where real people live, real Iraqis and Vietnamese and Cubans, but they're vague and amorphous, like the anonymous natives in the British Empire yarns of my boyhood, disposable extras filling out the background and only rarely getting to play a scene with a star - as when Cameron Diaz was obliged to apologize to the citizens of Peru for swanning about Machu Picchu with an attractive designer bag bearing a red star and the Maoist slogan "Serve the People." Unfortunately, the last time a bunch of Maoists showed up in the Andes, it was the Shining Path guerrillas, and instead of serving the people they slaughtered them, 70,000 or so.
Well, what do the Peruvians know, or the Vietnamese, the Cubans, any of them? Don't ruin the frisson of vicarious revolution for me. Meanwhile, the careless disdain for the peasantry gets closer to home. The archbishop of Canterbury says the introduction of sharia is inevitable in the United Kingdom, which is a tough break not just for those Brits who believe in quaint concepts like common law, but also for Muslims who left their moribund homelands in search of free societies unencumbered by Islamic jurisprudence. Don't ruin Britain for me? Hey, sometimes radical transformation isn't just for T-shirt slogans.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.