Sunday, May 11, 2014

A Terrific Dancer

"Should we not do with racism, then, what the wisest of us do with jealousy, envy, pertinacious desire and the like, and accept we are not above any of it, however much we’d wish to be? Not acquiesce in its consequences, but not go hunting it down in others as evidence of their inextinguishable nastiness". 

That's the writer Howard Jacobson there, making what sounds like a reasonable argument on responding calmly and and sensibly to racist comments.   Let us not be too quick to ascribe racism to people who make dodgy comments for if we do, how are we to describe actual murderous bigotry?

And it'd seem like a fair point, and one I'd generally get behind - let's deal with incident (x) in a sensible and proportionate manner, rather than indulging in a massive social media spat - were it not for the fact that Howard has, for example, previously claimed to fear some protests meant that "a new Kristallnacht was in the offing". 

That was only one of a series of daft comments Howard made back then and four genocide-free years of UK life later, it's the kind of thing that could make a man look like a bit of a tit, if it were laid alongside a new call to calm down about racism.

Now, it'd be easy to draw a line under this and say, Hey, Howard is a bit of a hypocrite and a bullshit-artist, but let's be honest - who among us isn't?  Really, it's just another reminder that everyone is a relativist and a context-understander, until an issue swings round that they feel personally affects them and theirs.

At that point, it seems to be perfectly fine to start pretending to be terrified that people who disagree with you are actual Nazis, a hair's breadth from a bloodcurdling rampage.  Which may be understandable, but isn't really the kind of thing that encourages confidence in a person's powers of reason.

1 comment:

organic cheeseboard said...

The 'New Kristallnacht' stuff is tame in comparison with his response to Caryl Churchill's 'Seven Jewish Children', too, but I appreciate you say that the former is just one in a series of dodgy claims he was making back then.

That piece is a pretty acurate summary of everything that's wrong with him (as an opinion writer at least). Logical failings which sound neat until you think about them? Check (e.g. 'if Clarkson is racist, what does that make Boko Haram?' - well, it makes them what they are, which is horrific bastards but ones whose ideology is more about religion than race, which is why people call them Islamist terrorists rather than racists). Hypocrisy of the most glaring kind that only someone incredibly sympathtic would fail to spot? check (Fr's post). Making everything into a deeply unfunny and half-thought-out joke? Check (the whole 'ayone who fetishizes transport is a weirdo' thing at the end, which doesn't even really make sense). A bunch of throwaway ideas at the end that aren't funny or interesting? Check (the Max Clifford line - really?). A failure to understand what he's talking about, to the extent that it seems he's never even seen Top Gear despite saying it's what we should actually criticse Clarkson for? Check.