Categories
Other

familiar language in the news

A report in the Times today about the riots in France said this:

Magid Tabouri, 29, leader of a group of youth workers at Bondy, next to Aulnay, said he was suprised that the eruption had taken so long. “It has been simmering with all the exclusion, mistreatment and social misery and collapsed education,” he said. “These families have been forced to the margins and are being kept there. It’s a gangrene that has grown for years. We will soon be seeing urban guerrilla war.”

M Tabouri reserved his harshest words for M Sarkozy and his campaign against the “scum” of the estates. He also deplored the failure of left-wing governments to confront the rejection of the immigrant generations. He suggested a small start: the police should be barred from using the informal and disrespectful tu that they routinely apply to young residents of the estates.

That reminded me of a story from Australia a few months ago (the Guardian). A senior civil servant made a rule that security staff at the parliament in Canberra should address visitors as ‘sir’ rather than ‘mate’. Naturally, there was a national outcry, protesting that this struck at the very heart of Australian identity. If a bloke’s not free to address another bloke as ‘mate’, why did all those men die at Gallipolli? And so on. Former PM Bob Hawke came out with this gloriously punchy soundbite: “In a sense we’re living in an age where the concept of mateship has been damaged to a fairly large extent by a lot of the approaches of this government.”

Obviously the situations aren’t comparable in all sorts of ways, not least that the power relationship between a gendarme and a young man in the banlieues is rather different than that between a security person and an MP. But I still have some sympathy with that Aussie civil servant, and for basically the same reason that I have sympathy with M Taboury. Someone who is asking you to let them search your bag, empty your pockets and walk through a metal detector is impinging on your privacy and being a nuisance. That’s a good reason why they should make a special effort to be respectful when they do it. They can still be friendly and chatty; “G’Day, Sir” strikes me as a perfectly reasonable compromise. The fact that they’re just ordinary blokes doing their job seems to be beside the point; their job is intrusive and I think a little bit of extra politeness serves as an acknowledgement of the fact.

But, on the other hand, I’m not Australian. When in Rome, horses for courses.

The French tu/vous thing is interesting, but I’m not going to comment because I can’t speak the language.

Categories
Other

David Cameron (and Davis)

I ended up watching most of the Tory leadership candidate TV debate. The tag of David Cameron as ‘heir to Blair’ is almost spookily accurate. Not only does he have the same dewy eyes and the same tendency to talk in vacuous abstractions, he has the same slightly stiff body language. David Davis seemed more natural, talked far more in facts and policies and less in generalities, and seemed like a competent, intelligent bloke.

But Cameron also shares with Blair the slightly mysterious magnetism which attracts the camera, draws the attention of the audience, and almost makes you lose track of what he’s actually saying in favour of the way he’s saying it. It is the voice, or the body language, or the face? I’d be interested to know whether it works in person or if it’s just a telegenic thing. Either way, he has a bit of the star quality which the Tories have been badly lacking for some time. He’s not quite in the Clinton/Mandela/Beckham league of charisma, but he could be what the Conservatives need.

None of which says anything about his competence to run the country, of course.

Categories
Other

oh to be a Tory, now October’s here

It must have been pretty dismal being a Conservative party activist over the past 12 years (apparently 1993 was the last time they had an approval rating of over about 30%). But what fun it must be to be at the party conference this week! Lots of opportunity to gossip, a feeling that for a moment the news spotlight is on you, that you have the opportunity to make a difference. It would almost be worth having to listen to Francis Maude and Theresa May telling you that you’re crap and outmoded.

Surely they need to pick a leader relatively untainted by the gloom of the past decade. Ken Clarke was the right choice in 1997, but it’s too late for him now. Ditto Rifkind. David Davis looks suspiciously like IDS Mk2 (in fact, wasn’t he nearly IDS Mk1?). So that leaves Fox and Cameron. Liam Fox has chosen to distinguish himself by dropping hints about leaving the EU, so he’s already made himself sound like just another rabidly inward-looking Tory. I haven’t really seen much of David Cameron yet, although he’s been getting some flattering buzz in the media over the past week. If nothing else – he’s new. They really need someone new.

Categories
Other

Brown vs. Blair, speechifyingly

I thought this article by Daniel Finkelstein about the differing rhetorical styles of Gordon Brown and Tony Blair was surprisingly interesting, given the subject matter.

Categories
Other

Charlie sticks his oar in again

The Queen’s greatest virtue is that that I have no idea what her political views are. On that basis, Prince Charles could be the one to kill off the monarchy. Sometimes I agree with his opinions, more often I don’t – but I don’t want to know them. The monarchy is tolerable as long as it’s powerless, but Charlie-boy needs to understand that his anachronistic existence comes with conditions. If he wants to become a political activist, he can abdicate any time he wants to; otherwise he should keep his fucking mouth shut.

Categories
Other

the decadent West

And I’m not talking about Sam.

Since the London bombings (and their sequel, which like so many sequels, failed to live up to the promise of the original) the press has, naturally enough, turned to the question ‘why did those nice British boys try to kill me?’ Or, to phrase it in a more objective sounding way, ‘why do young British Muslims feel so disaffected from British society?’

One answer given is that they see Britain (or The West) as decadent and immoral. Many journalists have been saying the same thing for years, rousing their readers to a state of righteous indignation with tales of the happy-slapping, binge-drinking, orgy-having, undisciplined, hoody-wearing Youth Of Today. I’ve thought the same thing myself – usually first thing in the morning, when reading the Style section of the Sunday Times. When faced with the shallow, trend-driven world of designer track-suits, Jude Law’s nanny,