New Year’s Resolutions are a waste of time, so here are mine.

new year eve

New Year’s Resolutions are a waste of time, so here are mine.

1. Use the internet less.

The internet isn’t just a bottomless well of procrastination excuses. It changes how you treat people. We act as if words on a page (or on a screen) are the most vital building blocks of human communication — and to be fair, we’d struggle to do much without them. But on their own, they’re extremely limited.

Trying to discuss or debate using words alone — without the millions of tiny nuances you can convey with tone of voice, hand gestures, facial expressions and so on — is like using a sledgehammer when what you really need is a scalpel. All brute force, no finesse. Continue reading “New Year’s Resolutions are a waste of time, so here are mine.”

I like Christmas, but I don’t know why

xmas

I always tell myself I like Christmas, but the older I get, the harder it is to pinpoint why.

I think it’s 90% nostalgia. Memories of big, sparkly 1990s Christmasses, primary school discos, Wham! and Paul McCartney, relatives since disintegrated, communities since dispersed.

Present-day Yule is nothing like that. And my mounting cynicism and deepening politicisation have gradually knocked the baubles off what’s left.

When I was a kid, I loved the presents. Then I turned into a hardcore anti-consumerist. After that, I liked it for the food. Then I went environmental vegetarian (and developed a stomach condition that makes me feel sick whenever I eat anything that isn’t lentil and vegetable mush, but that’s a hypochondriac odyssey in of itself). Continue reading “I like Christmas, but I don’t know why”

An Oxmas Carol

oxford snow.jpg

A long addendum to the post about Oxbridge. A few days after finishing it, I ended up in Oxford – partly through sickening hypocrisy, partly because I wanted to visit one of my oldest and closest friends who studies there.

It was interesting for two reasons: one, because it reaffirmed everything I remembered about Oxbridge. And two, because it was a rare chance to commune with someone with a very similar worldview to mine.

Oxford is different to Cambridge. It’s noisier and busier, and there’s a lot more of it. It’s a city. Cambridge is just a glorified town.

But the universities are near-identical. They’re both made up of thirty-odd self-contained ‘colleges’, fabulously rich and bafflingly archaic. And they both serve the same mainly white, wealthy, South-Eastern demographic. Continue reading “An Oxmas Carol”

Oxbridge should be got rid of

cambridge elitism

In the ‘40s, Orwell had a column in Tribune called ‘As I Please’. He used it to write about whatever the hell he liked. This is my vulgar, flippant twenty-first century version – not that I’m a patch on Orwell.

Every now and then, the media will fuss about Oxbridge. Usually it’s in response to some new set of figures that show it’s (still) excruciatingly privileged.

Everyone will broadly agree that’s bad, there’ll be a flurry of public outrage for about ten minutes, you’ll see a bit of back-and-forth in the broadsheet opinion pages, then the issue will vanish. Nothing will change. Continue reading “Oxbridge should be got rid of”

Robin DiAngelo – ‘White Fragility’

robin diangelo
Robin DiAngelo

This week’s self-woke-ification got off to a magnificent start with me reading an article on race by a white person.

Robin DiAngelo’s ‘White Fragility’ tries to explain why it’s so difficult to talk to white people about racism.

She argues that socialisation renders us racially illiterate. We’re taught to see racism as a binary phenomenon – that you’re either racist, or you’re not racist.

We think that if you’re consciously, morally against racism, it’s impossible for you to be racist.

In other words, our understanding of race and racism is laughably shallow and individualistic. Continue reading “Robin DiAngelo – ‘White Fragility’”

Brexit: Clive Lewis vs Ellie O’Jones

agitpod
Agitpod is a fortnightly podcast by Owen Jones and Ellie Mae O’Hagan

Agitpod is always annoying, but the Clive Lewis one put me off my cheese and salad baguette.

I listen to it despite the nauseating chummy banter because it’s a useful insight into the wobbly end of the Corbyn coalition — the panicky, one-foot-in-the-mainstream types who verged on calling for him to go last summer.

Jones and O’Hagan are probably decent people, but I don’t trust them. For years, I’ve watched them and journos like them mock the suggestion that working at the liberal end of the corporate press compromises them politically — only for them to prove themselves embarrassingly susceptible to media groupthink about Corbyn just at the point when the project needed loyal intellectual outriders the most.

But for once, the most frustrating thing about an Agitpod episode wasn’t them. Continue reading “Brexit: Clive Lewis vs Ellie O’Jones”

Explaining Venezuela – Alejandro Velasco on The Dig

maduro_diosdado_chavez_efe

Venezuela’s gone south, and finding nuanced explanations why is hard.

The media’s obviously unsubtly propagandising in favour of elite Western interests – painting Maduro as a savage dictator, and cheerleading a coup-prone, US-funded opposition movement led by embittered members of the pre-Chavez Establishment.

Many leftists, on the other hand, are rushing to blame the deepening crisis on bad old-fashioned American imperialism – echoing arguments made by the Maduro government itself. Continue reading “Explaining Venezuela – Alejandro Velasco on The Dig”