Jamie’s Digest (2): Cool Bits From Books

Whenever I’m reading I always like to highlight phrases and passages that strike a chord with me, either because they’re emotionally or intellectually resonant, or because they’re exceptionally relevant to something that’s happening in the world today. I’d like to continue to share some of the these excerpts with you.

Catholic Tastes

In light of both the ascension of the DUP to the role of king-makers, and Germany’s recent parliamentary vote in favour of legalising gay marriage, I thought the below was exceptionally relevant. It’s an extract from a piece published in a gay newsletter in Southampton the late 1970s by a man named Paul, a volunteer for the Solent Gay switchboard. A copy of the full text (which speaks of his sorrow at the extent of anti-gay discrimination in the country), as well as appearing in the newsletter, was also sent to the Rev. Ian Paisley, Lord Longford and Mary Whitehouse, a trio he felt had lent credence to those who would level violence and abuse at gay people.

Many heterosexuals like to remark that if everyone were homosexual, the human race would come to an end. (The human race would suffer the same fate if the entire male population became Roman Catholic priests, but God in his infinite and unfailing wisdom ensures that only about 5% of us are homosexual and that even fewer are Roman Catholic priests.) In view of the acknowledged importance of sex in perpetuating the human race, it is strange that there are still those who regard it as something shameful, embarrassing or rather awkwardly special.”

Amazon link: Ban This Filth by Ben Thompson (p.347 – 349)

The Bondage of Work

The below extract is for those of us (most of us) who are unlucky enough to work for ‘da man’ in any of his multifarious guises.

Every time you go into your workplace, you leave a democracy and enter a dictatorship. Nowhere else is freedom of speech for the citizens of free societies so curtailed. They can abuse their political leaders in print or on radio, television and the Web as outrageously as they wish, and the secret service will never come for them. They can say that their country’s leader is a lunatic, their police force is composed of sadists and their judiciary is corrupt. Nothing happens, even on those occasions when their allegations are gibberish. The leniency of free societies is only proper. Freedom of speech includes the freedom to spout clap-trap, as regular surfers of the Web know. If employees criticise their employers in public, however, they will face a punishment as hard as a prison sentence, maybe harder: the loss of their career, their pension, and perhaps their means of making a livelihood.”

Amazon link: You Can’t Read This Book by Nick Cohen (p.149)

Mo’ Men, Mo’ Problems

As a humanist an atheist and a secularist (sometimes we all walk into a bar) I’m appalled at the prejudice frequently levelled at my fellow human beings on account of their skin-colour, country of origin or set of beliefs; I’m further appalled by the foreign policy measures and media hyperbole that has inflamed hatred in this country and abroad. However, I’m also appalled at the way in which our freedom to criticise religion, in all of its forms, is slowly being eroded, mostly – it has to be said – through fear: fear of violent reprisals, and also fear of being on the same side of the argument – albeit for vastly different reasons – as the nation’s execrable clan of right-wing racists. That being said, however incompatible I consider organised religion to be with a measured, rational view of the world, and however strongly I may wish mankind to move beyond the infantile and supernatural, it’s always a good idea to seek out differing and (especially) opposing views; to be as well-informed and educated as possible on the history, structure and practice of religions.

Below is an extract about the history of Islam that you may find surprising (or perhaps not).

The emancipation of women was a project dear to the Prophet’s heart. The Quran gave women rights of inheritance and divorce centuries before Western women were afforded such status. The Quran prescribes some degree of segregation and veiling for the Prophet’s wives, but there is nothing in the Quran that requires the veiling of all women or their seclusion in a separate part of the house. These customs were adopted some three or four generations after the Prophet’s death. Muslims at the time were copying the Greek Christians of Byzantium, who had ong veiled and segregated their women in this manner; they also appropriated some of their Christian misogyny. The Quran makes men and women partners before God, with identical duties and responsibilities. The Quran also came to permit polygamy; at a time when Muslims were being killed in the wars against Mecca, and women were left without protectors, men were permitted to have up to four wives provided that they treat them all with absolute equality and show no signs of favouring one rather than the others. The women of the first ummah in Medina took full part in its public life, and some, according to Arab custom, fought alongside the men in battle. They did not seem to have experienced Islam as an oppressive religion , though later, as happened in Christianity, men would hijack the faith and bring it into line with the prevailing patriarchy.”

Amazon Link: Islam – A Short History by Karen Armstrong (p.14)

Brazil Nut

Nemesis – an account of the rise of an ordinary man in one of Rio’s most infamous favelas and his rise to the rank of don of the criminal under(and over)world – is a wonderful book: fast-paced, exciting, shocking, thoughtful, well-written and meticulously researched.

The extracts below give shape to the idea that tackling poverty and inequality through state and welfare policies/spending is not only an essential component of our common humanity, but also makes sound long-term economic sense. Effective social policies and less poverty equals a society that has greater stability, greater contentment, less crime, less unrest and less violence across the board.

After decades of dictatorship and chaotic transition, renewal and optimism were surging out from the federal capital, Brasilia, towards the furthest reaches of the country’s body politic. Whole regions and classes were reviving after a long period of neglect and deprivation. The sudden arrival of a period of prosperity that saw unemployment fall to record levels and personal spending increase significantly is crucial in explaining why Rio was becoming less violent. Young men in the favelas were turning away from weapons and drugs in favour of education and settled employment.”

While China was lauded for pulling some 100 million citizens out of poverty from the mid 1980s, fewer noticed Brazil’s more monumental achievement flowing from [socially democratic political moves and social policies designed to eradicate the chronic, crushing poverty experienced by a significant proportion of Brazil’s citizens). In Brazil, 30-40 million people managed to cross the poverty line. Given the much smaller population of Brazil, this was an even greater feat than the Sino equivalent.

The consequences of this golden era for Brazil’s political personalities were immense. The primary beneficiaries were the poor, not least those who lived in the favelas of the south. This was especially true of Rochina. Its isolation from other favelas and its now well-established tradition as a large market, both for the residents and for those coming from outside looking for a bargain, enabled it to ride the wave of economic confidence with a swagger. This growth spurt offered alternative employment to its younger men and women, and so the drugs trade became a somewhat less attractive career path.”

What was the biggest obstacle to political reform? Well, surprise, surprise: “The vested interests of Brazil’s powerful, if numerically small, economic elite proved deft in constructing numerous barriers.”

Amazon Link: Nemesis by Mischa Glenny

Read books, motherfuckers. Read books.

The Fresh Prince of Jihad

I came up with this odd, rather disturbing version of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air‘s theme tune a good few years ago now, but I was never wholly satisfied with the ending, so I shoved it away in a drawer beneath a mountain of old pants. I’ve unearthed said song, and tweaked it a little, because, quite frankly, I’m a sad, sad little man with no ambition. Never-the-less, it’s finished now. Who would have thought that the tune could have lended itself so well to the theme of Palestinian jihad? Uncle Phil would be livid!

I dedicate this re-worked song to two people. Firstly, to Speggy (aka Craig Evenden), who performed a rough-cut of this song at a drunken party years ago. He did this to see if the words worked with the tune – he also did it because he was pissed and I handed him the piece of paper. Secondly, I dedicate this to the very first Vivienne of Fresh Prince, the one who was dropped from the show for being ‘a bit too African’.

The Fresh Prince of Jihad

Now this is my story all about how,
My life got flipped turned upside down,
And I’d like to take a minute, just sit right there,
I’ll tell you how I became some mince that got mauled in mid-air.

It was Palestinia,
Born and raised.
In the compound, that’s where I spent most of my days.
Killin’, anthraxin’, and eatin’ my mule,
And shootin’ some people outside a’ the school.
When a couple of Jews,
They were up to no good:
Started rolling tanks through my neighbourhood.

I shot one little kyke, and Allah was there,
He said, ‘You’re joining with your aunt and uncle up here in my lair.”

I missiled up a lab and when the flames cleared, the
Science rate was threshed, and I had mice in my ear.
If anything I could say that these Abs were rare,
But I thought, nah, forget it, pre-pare for war-fare!

I got to the guardhouse about seven or eight,
And yelled to the Abbies, ‘No homes! Hell is greater!’
Looked at my kingdom, I was finally dead,
I sat on a bomb, that’s the price of Jihad.

@ Jamie Andrew 2012

(Unless you’re a lawyer, in which case it was Speggy. I can tell you his address and everything.)

Memories of Marmaris – Pt 2

Ah, Marmaris is beautiful. Nearby Turunc is beautiful. Everywhere I went was beautiful. On a jeep safari I saw sweeping, dusty fields, lit by the sun like the Benicio del Toro bits in Traffic; lush green forests winding over rugged rock; the snaking mountain roads skirting panoramic views you would be happy to fall towards to your death, spending your last moments snapping like some demented Japanese tourist. Out on the boats there were beautiful bays (to call them sun-kissed would be a cruel underestimation – the bays were sun-fucked); gently swaying palm trees planted in hot, jagged sand; giant, hazy-green hills standing guard over the coast-line in the distance; and water at the beach so pure, clean and clear you’d have thought it was invisible.

Tequila Islam-er

Turkey has a secular government, but culturally it’s predominantly Muslim: although you won’t find much evidence of this in Marmaris. Unless the Qu’ran’s been rewritten to include passages like this: ‘Blessed are they who cut about with their lips hanging out of their bikinis and drinking alcohol until they projectile vomit in each other’s mouths’.

You’ve got to love the woman on TripAdvisor who raged about her experience in Turkey, drawing particular attention to ‘the bloody singing from that mosque at half four EVERY morning!’ Love, I’d be annoyed if I had to put up with that racket outside of my window in Grangemouth, Scotland. Multiculturalism or no multiculturalism, I like my sleep, and if it was disturbed by a recording of some bearded Brian-Blessed-alike booming out holy shite even before the seagulls had started their daily wailing, then those speakers would be getting chucked into the River Forth. (so too, probably, would my dismembered, headless corpse, but at least I’d meet my death after a half-decent night’s sleep) But you’re on holiday in an Islamic country. Thomas Cook can’t make the Muslims renounce their religion and stop praying for a week just so you can have a nice, quiet holiday getting drunk and reading Jackie Collins’ novels by the poolside with your tits out.

Och Noo the Aye

On my first night in Marmaris, a Turkish tout asked me where I came from. ‘Scotland,’ I replied. He then made a particularly eerie noise. ‘I’m sorry?’ I asked. The penny soon dropped: he was trying to say: ‘Gonnae no dae that.’ Excellent. He then implored me to ask him, ‘How no?’, whereupon he ejaculated: ‘Just gonnae no!’ (allow me to make it clear that I’m using ‘ejaculated’ in the sense of ‘issued forth’, rather than suggesting that the poor little man was so excited by the prospect of imitating Ford Kiernan that he shot his bolt).

Another chap could tell me all about Falkirk, as ‘one of his ex, ex, ex, ex, ex, ex, ex, ex, ex girlfriends (his words)’ was from there. As usual, the Marmaris definition of relationship is stretched to its very limits.

In the idyllic, sun-soaked bay of Turunc I encountered a man who could do a more impressively accurate Glasweigen accent than anyone of non-Scottish extraction in the history of the world. I wanted to take him home and place him in a circus somewhere. These people had done their homework. But you know why they’d done their homework, right? Correct. Every one of those cunts was trying to get money out of me. Which leads me to this next section…

The Real Hustle

Yes, Marmaris – and I’m sure all of Turkey itself – is beautiful. And, despite it being a relatively poor and horrendously corrupt country (if this piece was on Wikipedia, this is the point at which it would say: citation needed), the people are generally nice. But they do want your money: all of it. And the ingenuity they display in trying to part you from it is breath-taking.

It begins at the airport where you have to hand over an English tenner to a highly-uninterested and award-winningly grouchy customs officer. This is a down payment on all the rest of the money you’re going to have to spunk away over the course of your holiday.

My coach driver stopped off at a small café bar about an hour out of Dalaman, where I experienced my first taste of Turkish creative accountancy. Gambling correctly on me being a clueless first-timer with no idea of New Turkish Lira’s value, the little boy behind the till (well, nobody seems to use tills – they rack up your bill on a calculator) lovingly sold me two cans of juice, a large packet of crisps, one packet of chewing gum and a bottle of water for the equivalent of 7.50GBP. So much for Turkey proving dirt cheap, as I’d been promised by all who’d been before.

Then there’s the constant touting, more bloodthirsty than anything you’ve ever experienced before. One typically sunny day, my then-girlfriend and I decided to eat at a restaurant by the marina. By the time we’d downed our hideously expensive Cokes, we were being frogmarched to a jewellery store by a wee guy who spoke no English. This was after listening to a long, eloquent speech by the proprietor about how in this small world, this global community, we must all be brothers and help each other out – ostensibly by buying hideously expensive Cokes from him, and then diamond rings and leather from some dodgy cunt mate of his in town. We managed to get free glasses of water from the jewellery store owner before he sussed out we were paupers and swiftly sent us packing. I think the look in my eyes that said ‘How fucking much?’ tipped him off.

Speaking of tips, there are tip boxes everywhere. On the sides of buildings, in the backs of taxis. I wouldn’t be surprised to find them in the backs of Turkish ambulances. ‘That’s 7.50GBP for a fractured wrist, and an agreement to buy a diamond bracelet from my dodgy mate for a broken leg.’ It’s like Turkey’s handed over the responsibility for its economy to Ryanair.

If things get out of hand, Scottish people, you can always phone 'The Polis.'

Although most of the bar workers are genuinely friendly people, you won’t remember – or care about – this after day three. Certainly my tolerance to touting underwent a radical transformation. I went from cheerfully engaging in banter with every touter who chanced his luck, to imagining their sweet, sweet collective deaths at the bottom of the ocean.

People, Turkish jaikeys presumably, even crashed roll-ups from me as I walked down the street. Not that such occurrences are unheard of down Falkirk high street, but still. Which reminds me: if you can find it over there, which I managed to do, don’t buy any tobacco. The packet may say Golden Virginia on it, but you can bet your bottom dollar (it’s all you’ll have left after a week) that the contents have been swept up from a barber’s-shop floor and cut with desiccated camel shite.