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Blogging about things that matter to me. Photographing things I love - Instagram @debcyork. Writing about both. Only wine and chocolate can save us… You can also find me on Twitter (@debcyork) and Facebook. If you like four-legged views, try @missbonniedog on Twitter

Monday, 28 November 2016

British Values Day

Not written for a few weeks as you will have gathered.  Was really not sure what to say after Trump's victory on top of the rest of the weirdness in 2016.  However, I have been shaken from my lethargy by the appearance on our school calendar of 'British Values Day'.

We have not been told what this encompasses but it rang major alarm bells for me in the wake of Brexit.  A friend who is a school governor elsewhere says it's about tolerance and decency and so on and therefore should be embedded more into the curriculum on a daily basis.  She was surprised to see a whole day labelled this way.  As was I.

I come, as my regular reader (not sure if there is plural here!) will know, from an Anglo Indian background on my father's side.  I have done a great deal of family research and general reading about these mixed race people.  Early soldiers and male settlers were actively encouraged to integrate into India by taking native wives.  But the offspring of these partnerships gradually were prevented from marrying white settlers themselves and ended marrying within their own community.  But they were (are) Christian, Europeanised in dress and manners and not well received by the Indian population.  Mainly because the British used the Anglo Indians to prop up their rule of the sub-continent.  Railways, Post Office, telegraph systems, lower civil service levels - the nuts and bolts of the administration.  But socially the Anglo Indians were discriminated against by the British for their colour.  So 'British Values' changed over the course of the occupation of India, to accommodate whatever best suited those trying to maintain the Empire.  These chameleon tendencies are a pattern of all governments - whatever their political flavour - as they seek to control populations and advance their own agendas.

Why, for example, we are now classing basic human characteristics such as tolerance and decency as 'British Values'?  Does our government believe that enforcing a nationalistic tone in schools will drown out the news which our children are bombarded with elsewhere?  Of ministers refusing to help refugees.  Of cuts to all the services which children see around them - from doctors surgeries and hospitals to libraries or museums.  Of open racism.  

'You are British, children.  That is the best thing to be.'  Repeat until you are convinced and ignore the evidence to the contrary.

And how does our media fit into 'British Values'?  The gulf between headlines continues to grow.  The spin taken on different issues varies madly.  If you took your British Values from the Daily Mail, where would you be?  Some of their current stuff is beginning to look horribly like the pre-First World War headlines as regards antagonising Putin and Russia.

I am all for teaching our children tolerance, respect etc.  But in the current climate I am definitely not convinced that adding a 'British' aspect is helpful.

Monday, 7 November 2016

Remember, Remember

I was at a Guy Fawkes' Night bonfire on Saturday.  Number of strands to blog from this but I can't think how to tie them all together.  So here are my random thoughts:

1)  I found myself thinking 'it's like Beirut round here!' when every garden in the area was letting off fireworks.  Then realised what a child of the 70s and 80s I am.  There was always war and terrorism in Lebanon when I was a child and that was a regular Guy Fawkes comment by the adults.  I suppose it would be Aleppo or Mosul now but it seemed terribly inappropriate to say, when we know about the suffering being caused.  And there we were, all covering our ears and laughing and telling everyone not to stand too close.  We have no idea about being under fire for real.

2)  It has since occurred to me that we were supposed to be celebrating victory over a terrorist plot.  The Catholic plotters of 5 November wanted to blow up King James I and parliament.  But if our press is to be believed (!), there is nothing to value in parliament these days  Apparently there is no need for parliament to even debate the Brexit agreement because 'the people have spoken'.  Except they haven't really.  Not completely and overwhelmingly.  More like just about sneaked it because a large number couldn't be bothered to vote at all.  Unlike in 1605, our monarch does not have power over parliament.  We all sing God Save the Queen but really it should be God Save Democracy and Free Speech.  And God Save our Independent Judiciary. 

3)  To this day, no-one really knows if Guy Fawkes was fully implicated in the 1605 plot.  But he was the man caught, tortured and put to death in an attempt to forestall any further Catholic plots.  We read about his torture and execution with gritted teeth.  'How could they?' 'How awful!'  Yet torture remains as much a part of life in many places as it ever was in Stuart England.  And now the threat of it is permeating our society in new ways.  The woman who funded the court case for a parliamentary Brexit debate has been threatened with gang rape and beheading.  Rapes and serial killings - particularly against women - are continual 'entertainment' on our television channels.  Documentaries, contemporary drama and historical drama are all getting ever more explicit.  The news is full of ISIS torture and murder.  Are we therefore desensitised to a point where threatening such violence is acceptable?  How did we allow this to happen in a civilised society?

4)  By the time I blog again, we will finally know who is the new President of the USA.  Many bonfires in the UK used Trump effigies as their guys this year for the comedic value.  Let us hope that we can still find comedic value if he actually wins.  I strongly suspect that there will be nothing to laugh about if he gets into the Oval Office.

And as a family history 'by the way', be careful what you Google for.  I typed in a weird disease name from an Indian death record yesterday.  I was faced with the most horrible list of porn sites I have every seen!  I did eventually work out what the certificate should have said but be warned!!!!