Saturday, January 31, 2009

Pathetic: British children's charity cuts all alcohol references from Drunken Sailor nursery rhyme

First sung in the days when Britannia ruled the waves, it became a favourite in schools and nurseries, handed down through the decades. But the old sea shanty What Shall We Do With The Drunken Sailor? may finally be sunk by a broadside from the good ship Political Correctness. The government-funded charity Bookstart, which promotes reading for children around the country, has changed the lyrics to remove any reference to alcohol. It means the 'drunken sailor' has been transformed into the rather tame 'grumpy pirate'. 'Put him in the brig until he's sober' has been replaced by the insipid 'Do a little jig and make him smile', while 'Round with the rum and scotch and whiskey' has become 'Tickle him till he starts to giggle'.

The cleaned-up rhyme was made into a songsheet sent to libraries across the UK to encourage children to read. But parents and education experts insisted that children could be trusted with the original version. Nick Seaton, of pressure group the Campaign for Real Education, said: 'Changing the words of a much-loved children's nursery rhyme is simply trying to re-write the history and tradition of this country. 'Organisations such as Bookstart should know better and not start to tinker with traditional songs which were written many years ago. 'Once you start doing that you are asking for trouble. If they want to sing a song about pirates, why don't they simply write a new one?'

Bookstart is funded by the Department for Children, Schools and Families and the Department of Work and Pensions to help parents share books with their children from as early an age as possible. Mother Caroline Graham, 29, attended one of their sessions with her son Jacob, two, at her local library in Rainham in Kent. She said: 'I don't know why they bother. It is clearly meant to be politically correct but surely children that young can't be offended by a harmless nursery rhyme. 'It makes me angry that during the current economic climate people are being paid probably more than my husband earns to come up with stuff like this. It's pathetic really.'

Karen Sanders, 34, also went to a session with her girl Clara, one. She said: 'It's a song I sang when I was growing up and I don't think it did me any harm. It seems silly to change the lyrics because they are quite funny - everyone laughs at the image of a drunken sailor.' Former Ofsted inspector and grandmother Margaret Morrissey said: 'This is just nonsense. 'Children are great levellers and no matter how politically correct the Government and their quangos become, they will still sing the original nursery rhymes because they are funny.'

The song was sung by sailors on the Royal Navy's ships of the line in the 19th century. It was often sung when raising a sail or lifting the anchor - hence 'Up She Rises' in the song's chorus - or when sailing into battle. The lyrics tell of how the ship's crew might deal with one of their shipmates after a belly full of rum stops him from helping with his deck duties.

Katherine Soloman, spokesman for Bookstart, admitted she could see how some would think the change was politically correct. But she said the change was to fit in with a 'pirate theme' it was promoting. She said: 'We are keen on all the old favourites and we believe we do a good job in getting young children reading and enjoying books.' Bookstart, established in 1992, is an initiative run by independent arts charity Booktrust. As well as government funding, children's book publishers and booksellers support it with sponsorship.


`A nasty little piece of smug class warfare'

A "Green" holiday firm's promise of `chav-free holidays' for the middle classes exposes the snobbery that underpins radical eco-tourism.

Activities Abroad, a green-leaning travel firm based in Northumberland, England, has caused a stink by guaranteeing its clients `chav-free holidays'. For the benefit of non-British readers, `chav' is a derogatory term for working-class British youth, the tracksuit-wearing, blinged-up, lager-swilling kind, who are said to populate areas such as Croydon, Bermondsey and Birmingham, but who are most frequently found hanging around in the minds of panicked middle-class, Middle England hacks. In a promo email sent to 24,000 subscribers at the end of last week, Activities Abroad (AA) promised that no such despicable, slovenly people will ever be found on one of its trips overseas.

Under the heading `Chav-Free Activity Holidays', AA said: `...Children with middle-class names such as Duncan and Catherine are eight times more likely to pass their GCSEs than children with names such as Wayne and Dwayne. This got us thinking. Are there names you are likely to encounter and not encounter on an Activities Abroad holiday?' (1) It did some quickfire research and discovered that on an AA trip you are unlikely to encounter people called `Britney, Kylie-Lianne, Dazza, Chardonnay, Chantelle and Candice' (in short, thugs and slags), and are far more likely to run in to people called `Sarah, Alice, Lucy, Charlotte, James and Joseph' (in short, middle class and mild).

Eleven of AA's email subscribers complained; one denounced the mailshot as `a nasty little piece of smug class warfare' and promised never to patronise AA again (2). The Guardian seemed especially miffed by the embarrassing mailout, conscious, perhaps, that AA is the kind of trendy, liberal, eco-aware holiday firm that it normally advertises in its pages. AA's holidays include husky safaris in the Canadian wilderness and volcano hiking in Costa Rica, which can set travellers back 2,000 pounds, and last year it won a silver award for `most environmentally responsible small tour operator' at the British Travel Awards (3). Yet its managing director, Alistair McLean, was unapologetic about the email, telling one complaining customer: `I make no apology for proclaiming myself to be middle class and a genuine contributor to our society.' (4) Unlike those Waynes, Dwaynes, Chantelles and Candices, who of course contribute nothing.

AA's anti-chav advertising tactics are disturbing, and more than a little dumb, but are they really so shocking? Poisonous snobbery towards `chavvy' and working-class holidaymakers is rife today - only it tends to be expressed in code, in underhand concerns about CO2 emissions, trails of noxious gases in the blue sky, the dangers of cheap flights, and the denigration of foreign cultures by unthinking Brits. AA's mistake was to forget the coded lingo and state out loud the prejudices that underpin new forms of oh-so-superior eco-travel. Perhaps it has done us a crude service, then, by revealing for all to see the naked loathing of the young and horizon-exploring working classes that motivates much of the contemporary debate on tourism.

Much of what AA's Alistair McLean said in response to the 11 complaints about his email went entirely unreported in the Guardian's article, or anywhere else in the British press. This scion of Green travel - hailed by ethical columnists, decorated by the British Travel Awards, and a member of the Responsible Travel coalition (`holidays that give the world a break') - let rip against the Great Unwashed in one online discussion forum. To one complainant, he spat: `Do you encourage your children to go off and play with the shell-suited [a shell-suit is trackpants with a matching top], Lambert and Butler sucking teenagers who hang around our shopping centres at night?' He laid into the `shell-suited urchins who haunt our street corners'. And he pointed out that where his travel firm makes `a positive contribution to our economy' - by paying `corporation tax, income tax, PAYE. and [making contributions] to AIDS projects in South Africa and other charitable organisations' - he is tired of watching economic resources being `frittered away by people who simply can't be bothered ("bovvered")' (5).

It's nasty stuff, fuelled by hysterical images of feral working-class kids running riot and old-style prejudices about the poor sponging off decent society. Yet the idea that lower-income communities - these `urchins', these cigarette-sucking teenagers - are destructive, especially when they go on holiday, is widespread. In recent years, `cheap flights' has become a thinly-disguised codeword for `cheap people', for those Dwaynes and Waynes who apparently only go overseas in order to drink, puke and fornicate. Eco-activists and commentators try their best to present their opposition to cheap flights as being driven by concern for the environment or even, laughably, as a radical anti-capitalist stance against `the toffs' who allegedly populate Ryanair's 5 pound flights to Riga. Yet their mask of eco-respectability frequently slips to reveal a sneering snobbery underneath.

Caroline Lucas, leader of the UK Green Party, has written of the `stratospheric cost of cheap flights' and demanded `an end to cheap stag nights in Riga' (6). She fails to explain why a flight for a stag night in the Latvian capital is more destructive than, say, a flight to one of AA's husky safaris in the Canadian wilderness. Plane Stupid poses as an edgy campaign group that wants to ground the cheap flights of `second home owners'. Yet in their more unguarded moments, its members spout bile about one kind of travel only. Its founder says: `Our ability to live on Earth is at stake, and for what? So people can have a stag do in Prague.' (7) In another statement, Plane Stupid said: `There's been an enormous growth in binge-flying with the proliferation of stag and hen nights to Eastern European destinations chosen not for their architecture or culture but because people can fly there for 99p and get loaded for a tenner.' (8) That's not edgy - it's the age-old middle-class prejudice against pointless, wasteful working-class tourism dressed up in a little bit of environmental garb.

Whether they're dissing `cheap flights' (the correct code), `stag night attendees' (the code starts to slip), or vile `shell-suited urchins' called `Dwayne and Wayne' (the code completely falls apart), the target of the eco-aware is always the kind of hedonistic travel indulged by youthful members of lower-income communities. Beneath their environmental concerns there lurks the long-standing prejudice that some forms of travel, involving huskies and volcanos, are worthwhile, and other forms, involving kicking back, relaxing, having unadulterated fun, are low, coarse, destructive and literally `noxious'.

Tourism and travel have long been the targets of vicious snootiness. When in the Victorian era British workers first started venturing to the seaside, thanks to one Thomas Cook, snobbish commentators complained that `of all noxious animals, the most noxious is a tourist' (9). Later, in the modern era of the 1920s and 30s, the middle classes who had long been travelling to places like Italy and Greece were alarmed to see the lower middle-classes, and even Americans, following in their wake. The British literary snob Osbert Sitwell described American tourists as a `swarm of very noisy transatlantic locusts'. His sister, the poet Edith, said tourists were `the most awful people with legs like flies, who come in to lunch in bathing costumes - flies, centipedes' (10). In more recent times, from the 1980s onwards, commentators have attacked `the vile behaviour of British tourists' in places like southern Spain, the `disgusting inebriation, oral sex and other beachside practices [that would] startle a Blackpool donkey' (11). The image of the `Blackpool donkey' is telling: the sentiment is that `these people', these destructive urchins, should really stay put in places like Blackpool rather than fouling the sophisticated world with their filthy habits as they get `loaded for a tenner'.

Paul Fussell argued in his 1982 book Abroad: British Literary Travelling Between the Wars that: `From the outset, mass tourism attracted the class-contempt of killjoys who conceived themselves. superior by reason of intellect, education, curiosity and spirit.' The language changes over the years - from `animals' to `locusts', `centipedes' to `yobs' and `drunks' - but the sentiment remains remarkably similar: these people are noxious, whether metaphorically, as described by that Victorian observer, or literally, in the way that they are now described by today's snobs as being `harmful to the environment'. AA's fantastically crude reduction of entire sections of the population to `chavs', `urchins', cigarette-suckers, all instantly recognisable by their ridiculous first names, reveals the deep snobbery that still underpins the tourism debate. Because it is about betterment and exploration, about escaping the local and dipping a foot into the global, about having ideas way, way above one's station, travel invites the undiluted snobbery of those who consider themselves `superior by reason of intellect' like no other single issue.

We should challenge the fake distinction made between `enlightening travel' and `filthy travel', and insist that travel is in itself a positive thing. Whether people go abroad to hang out with huskies or to chat up girls, to donkey-trek in Peru or to sunbathe in Magaluf, it's all about escaping, exploring and experiencing, and urchins who smoke and sponge off society (allegedly) should be as free to do that as the kids named Lucy, Charlotte and Alice.


No Platform for anyone called Rothschild

I know how Douglas Murray feels after being disinvited from a university debate. I was once rejected due to my surname

By Nathalie Rothschild

Organisers of a London School of Economics (LSE) debate titled `Islam or Liberalism: Which is the Way Forward?' came up with a Third Way this week: pre-emptive censorship. Douglas Murray, a self-described neoconservative and critic of Islam, was disinvited from chairing the debate between Dr Alan Sked, senior lecturer in international history at the LSE, and Hamza Andreas Tzortzis, a Muslim writer and lecturer, on the basis that his presence might rile some students. I know how he must feel. I was once turned down from a university debate on the basis that my surname - Rothschild - might upset sensitive attendees.

The decision to bar Murray from the debate, which went ahead without him on Monday, was not based on anything he had said or done. The Telegraph reported Dr Sked saying that Murray had `never said anything objectionable' in previous appearances at the LSE (1). Instead, the LSE asked Murray not to attend `in the interest of public safety' (2). According to Dr Sked, `radical students' have recently caused trouble, including by occupying LSE buildings (3). A one-week protest over Israel's war in Gaza had just taken place at the LSE when Murray received notice that it was no longer appropriate for him to chair Monday's event.

The purpose of the LSE debate was to evaluate `how far Islam and liberalism are compatible' (4). Perhaps the organisers should do a follow-up discussion on how far the LSE and liberal values are compatible. Free and open debate ought to be the mainstay of any university worth its name, yet the managers of this prestigious institution don't seem to have the guts to uphold freedom of speech.

Two years ago, I spoke on a panel debate with Murray at the Battle of Ideas, looking at what lay behind `the veil row' - that short-lived but incendiary controversy sparked by former foreign secretary Jack Straw's description of the niqab as a `visible demonstration of separateness'. I didn't find Murray's warnings about the `Islamification of the West' convincing, and neither did most of the audience, which included representatives of the radical Islamic group Hizb-ut-Tahrir. However, there was no global jihad at this heated debate; radical young Muslims simply challenged Murray from the floor, and he challenged them back. The idea that people will go berserk upon hearing controversial arguments - a fear that apparently haunts the imagination of LSE professors - is unfounded.

It is not just professors who feel the need to tiptoe around students' supposed sensibilities. Shortly before that Battle of Ideas debate - in October 2006 - I had been recommended as a speaker for a panel debate at Greenwich University titled `Does the Veil Stop "Community Cohesion?"'. The event was organised by a Further Education Black Students Officer at the National Union of Students (NUS). Yet when this elected NUS representative, whose primary job was to deal with issues affecting ethnic minorities in Britain's colleges, found out that my surname is Rothschild, he decided I was persona non grata. Apparently, it is not appropriate for a person with a Jewish name to sit on a panel discussing Muslim issues.

The organiser's excuse for not inviting me to speak was that he feared the debate would turn into a discussion about Israel/Palestine on the basis of my name, instantly recognisable as Jewish. Yet when I saw the full outline of the event, it was clear that there was no reason why the debate would `descend into a row' about the Middle East. The debate aimed to address four questions: `Is the veil stopping community cohesion and why will the Muslim community not integrate? Are the Muslim community intolerant of whether people find the veil uncomfortable? Does the war on terror have anything to do with this? What are Muslims doing to alleviate any fears of the wider non-Muslim community?' These are all issues I have written on or spoken about, yet the organisers decided not to accept me as a recommended speaker because of the R-word: Rothschild.

Then, three days before the debate was scheduled to take place, they became desperate to find a final speaker. So desperate that they seemed to overcome their qualms about having someone with a recognisable Jewish name on the panel. They emailed asking me to take part, demanding `please get back to us ASAP!'. This time, I declined.

The whole saga was pretty insulting. But it wasn't proof of some endemic anti-Semitism; it simply showed up the prejudice and cowardice of one individual. I quite easily brushed the incident aside. After all, with a name like Rothschild, I have been mistaken for everything from a global international conspirator and an `ally of genocidal communism' to a multibillionaire playboy who hangs out with Russian oligarchs and Tories (also named `Nat Rothschild'). So what if some ignoramus deduced from my family name that I could not address a student union debate on Muslim veils without promulgating some `Jewish interest'? That was his problem.

However, both my experience and that of Douglas Murray point to the rise and rise of new forms of pre-emptive censorship - the curtailing of debate `just in case'. Both the NUS officer who declined me as a speaker and the professors at the LSE who disinvited Murray insulted their prospective audiences, presuming that they would be offended or incited by the presence of a Jew, in my case, or a neocon critic of Islam, in Murray's case.

Students, professors, politicians and commentators increasingly feel the need to tiptoe around people's perceived sensitivities, particularly in relation to the Middle East. Fearing complaints and controversy, they end up practising pre-emptive censorship in the name of `public safety' or `avoiding offence'. This was also the case when Random House publishers pulled Sherry Jones' novel, The Jewel of Medina, a Mills-and-Boon style story about the prophet Mohammed's relationship with his 14-year-old wife Aisha. Random House said the book `might be offensive to some in the Muslim community' and it could `incite acts of violence by a small, radical segment' (5). Again, the `just in case' principle rules: withhold a novel from publication `just in case' it incites anger.

Others argue that radical Muslims should be banned in case they offend Christians or stir young Muslims to become suicide bombers. Indeed, some of the right-wing conservative commentators who were up in arms about the LSE retracting its invitation to Douglas Murray, all self-proclaimed defenders of Enlightenment values, often call for censorship, too. For example, Daily Mail columnist Melanie Philips has demanded the banning of Muslim groups such as Hizb-ut-Tahrir (6). Sean Gabb, director of the Libertarian Alliance, called for the resignation of the LSE professor who took the final decision to disinvite Murray. Gabb was right to say that universities have a commitment to free speech and that the professor undermined this by disinviting Murray (7). However, his reaction also points to a censorious impulse simply to get rid of those who offend certain ideals rather than to challenge them.

As it happens, the NUS, through its censorious `No Platform' policy, has managed to ban Hiz-but-Tahrir on many British campuses. Sensitivity censorship is rife in British universities: leftists try to ban fascists, right-wing groups oppose radical Muslims, and Muslims try to stop Jews from speaking. When I was a student at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, a handful of students formed a Jewish society, yet the Islamic Society complained that the student union had allowed a `Zionist organisation' to set up on campus. Recently, students in Oxford demanded the cancellation of a speech by Israeli president Shimon Peres. Elsewhere, students have campaigned to censor anti-immigrant professors, the youth wing of the British Nationalist Party, Christian Unions, the Daily Mail, and Eminem songs. One university recently banned political groups from participating in freshers' week - the first week of the academic year when students normally get the chance to mingle and sign up to societies.

Rather than feeding into this bizarre game of `No Platform' one-upmanship, professors, students, publishers and others should stand up for freedom expression for all - and that includes Muslim extremists, neocons, and people with famous surnames.


A View from the Target Zone

These words are written a short distance away from the most northern hit, so far, of the Hamas missiles, which are methodically aimed only at civilian population in Israel. For eight years, approximately 5,000 rockets have been sent deliberately into Israeli population centers by the Hamas terrorists. The rockets are extremely inaccurate. The good news is that they often hit an empty field. The bad news is that, when they do hit buildings and people, they kill, maim and destroy. It is a very ugly game of Iranian Roulette.

But the most significant fact is that the undisputed purpose of the rockets is to kill civilians in a random manner. Since they miss entire towns, they could not possibly be aimed at military or strategic targets. No claim is made by Hamas of anything other than a deliberate attempt to kill civilians within Israel. The world knows about the rockets but rarely mentions that they are aimed only at the civilian population and at nothing else.

Hamas consistently refers to Israel itself as "the occupied territory." It refers to any town in Israel as an "illegal settlement." Its declared aim is to destroy Israel. It has proudly endorsed, initiated and sent numerous suicide murderers into Israeli buses, supermarkets, shopping malls, weddings and other crowded places. It explicitly states that it will continue to do so. Since Israel succeeded in preventing the suicide murders by a combination of the protective wall, other defensive measures and good intelligence penetration, the missiles became the preferred way of killing Israeli civilians.

Hamas is declared to be a terrorist organization, not only by Israel, not only by the U.S., but also by the European Union, which is not suspected of being pro-Israeli. This is the same European Union that refuses to label the Hizbullah as a terror organization, but repeatedly and officially declares Hamas as such. Hamas is fully funded and largely controlled by Iran, a country openly and totally committed to the destruction of Israel, while continuing to enjoy trade with much of the western world.

The Hamas media, and especially its independent TV station, carry daily children programs (including programs for kindergarten age) depicting the Jews (and not only the Israelis) as pigs, dogs, scum of the earth and creatures that must be killed. One of these programs features a rabbit which eats Jews. There is plenty of documentation of these programs, including animations and programs with child presenters. Major western news media never report on this phenomenon, while some of them publish op-ed pieces by declared Hamas leaders.

The favorite hour of launching the daily Hamas rockets during the last eight years was 7:45 in the morning, but only on weekdays. Why? Because this is the time in which the streets are full of Israeli children, on their way to school. No one wants to waste rockets when no children are in the streets, during the weekend. Eight year old children in the Israeli town of Sderot, a few miles from the Gaza border, live, since they were born, with these rockets. They know no other life. When the alarm sounds, they have exactly 15 seconds to reach an improvised cover. Eighth grade children, age 13, have never gone to school, since kindergarten, without the real threat of having a rocket hit them on the way. Their parents have never felt safe about sending their child to school. It is very difficult for anyone living in a normal safe place, to imagine what it means to send your child to school, every single day, for eight years, with the fear that he or she may never reach school because of a missile attack, aimed at killing the children. The world seems to accept this.

Israel withdrew from the Gaza strip in 2005. Not one Israeli soldier or civilian remained there. Everything was ready for the people of Gaza to start a new life and economic development. There was no blockade, border crossings were open. Instead came increased shooting of rockets into Israel, a Hamas coup, throwing Fatah Palestinians from roofs of buildings to their death and torturing their own people in their prisons. It is regrettable that Israel did not react with full force to the very first rockets after its withdrawal from Gaza, but there was always the naive illusion that perhaps talks, discussions, verbal threats and temporary closings of the border crossings might do the job.

Much more here


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 readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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