ModernityBlog

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Abraham Lincoln

Archive for May 2008

Olympic Crassness.

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I was going to write something which compared the Burma’s dictators xenophobia and feeble response to Cyclone Nargis with the prompt action by the Chinese State in dealing with the recent earthquake.

I was, that was until I read this article in The Times:

“Disabled groups reacted with outrage yesterday to an official guide for assistants at the Beijing Olympic Games that describes them as unsocial, stubborn and defensive.

The guide for Chinese volunteers at the Games this summer explains that disabled people are a “special group” with “unique personalities and ways of thinking”.

The section of the manual entitled “Skills for helping the disabled” goes on to say: “Some physically disabled are isolated, unsocial, and introspective. They can be stubborn and controlling . . . defensive and have a strong sense of inferiority.

“Sometimes they are overly protective of themselves, especially when they are called crippled or paralysed. Do not use ‘cripple’ or ‘lame’ even if you are just joking.”

The guide, distributed to 100,000 volunteers before the Olympics in August and the Paralympics in September, sparked outrage in among disabled groups.

“I’m stunned,” said Simone Aspis, a parliamentary campaigner at the UK Disabled People’s Council. “It’s not just the language but the perception that in 2008 we are considered a race apart. Disabled people are introverted and stubborn the same way anyone else is.” The handbook notes that “often optically disabled people are introverted” and that physically disabled people can be mentally healthy.

“They show no differences in sensation, reaction, memorisation and thinking mechanism from other people, but they might have unusual personalities because of disfigurement and disability,” it said.

“Never stare at their disfigurement. A patronising or condescending attitude will be easily sensed by them, even for a brain-damaged patient.”

The advice reflects decades of discrimination in China against mentally and physically disabled people, who total 83 million – equivalent to the population of Germany.

The Communist Party’s desire for a healthy nation, characterised by the one-child policy, fostered deep prejudices that extended to forced sterilisations, bans on marriages between disabled people and abortions of abnormal foetuses.

Most disabled people are from poor, rural areas. Those in affluent society were hidden away until public attitudes softened in the 1990s after Deng Pufang, the eldest son of the former leader Deng Xiaoping, campaigned for reform.

He was forced to use a wheelchair in 1968 after Red Guards forced him out of a third-floor window during Mao’s Cultural Revolution.

Besides improved legal rights, there has been social progress. The Chinese now refer to can ji ren, or people with disabilities, instead of can fei, the handicapped and deficient.

Last week the Great Wall and Beijing’s Forbidden City were made accessible to wheelchairs for the first time, with lifts and barrier-free tourist routes. But disabled people are still regarded with curiosity bordering on disdain. The manual reminds volunteers that they should not sit in someone’s wheelchair just to satisfy a personal interest.

Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson, Britain’s greatest Paralympian with 16 medals, recalls how people in China pointed at her and jostled to take her picture. She was asked how it was possible she had mothered a child because she was in a wheelchair.

“Treatment of disability is a problem, but the Paralympics will do more to change attitudes than anything that has happened in China in 10,000 years,” she said.

The presence of a special guide denotes progress, according to Mike Brace, the chairman of the British Paralympic Association. “It’s a clumsy attempt to override years of limited awareness. It’s not ideal, but up to seven years ago, they might not have acknowledged disabled people at all.”

About 4,000 Paralympians will compete in 20 sports in Beijing this September. Britain is sending a team of 200 athletes who will be trying to close the gap – on China.

Despite its record for descrimination against the disabled, China topped the table in Athens with 63 gold medals. The next most successful nation, Britain, managed 35.

I am speechless.

Written by modernityblog

28/05/2008 at 02:25

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Counterpoise the Two?

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Mark Steel has a favourable review of Mike Marqusee’s If I Am Not For Myself, but he slipped in some rather strange comments, such as “To be against Israel is to be against Jews, so opponents of Israel’s etiquette are derided as ‘anti-semitic’.”

I have replied to Mark Steel on this issue via email (my comments didn’t seem to get posted, maybe finger trouble or something) and I hope he’ll eventually post them and see how the discussion develops.

I have a lot of time for Mike Marqusee, he’s a principled individual, but shortly after I was reading this over at Engage and it answered the point with greater persuasiveness than I could have hoped for:

“I have been a member for UCU/AUT for just over three years. In all my life living in the UK, I can say that this is the only organization with which I have been involved in which I have been made to feel uncomfortable as a Jew – and specifically as a Jew all of whose family is Israeli. Repeated calls for boycott of Israeli institutions, the circulation of vitriolic, offensive and untrue allegations, the fact that Jewish members have either been excluded or bullied out of the activists list, have led to a culture in UCU that I have to describe as institutionally anti-semitic. I choose these words carefully because I am sure that the individuals involved do not themselves mean to be anti-semitic; but the net effect of these actions is to create a culture in the trade union in which Jews and Israelis feel alienated or excluded. I know Israeli colleagues who will not join UCU because they perceive it as being prejudiced against them. I know non-Jewish, non-Israeli colleagues who will not join or who have left UCU because they perceive it as being prejudiced against Jews and Israelis, and not focussed on the important matters of pay and conditions which you wrote about in your email.

I regularly consider my position as a member of UCU, and, if congress again votes in favour of anti-Israel motions, will consider my position again. I will probably stay, if only out of dogged refusal to give way to a bigotted position. I would love to be able to contribute to the strike fund; but before I could make such contributions, that could help people who are in a different financial situation from me, I need to be able to feel that I belong to a trade union who accepts me for who I am: a Jew with an Israeli family.”

So Mark, I just wonder do you feel at ease with some trade unions when they become places where Jews and non-Jews feel uncomfortable on these issues?

Equally, would you feel content with trade unions if ethnic minorities or women felt so uncomfortable that they wouldn’t join or had to leave?

Written by modernityblog

25/05/2008 at 01:41

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Greek Laws

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This is a depressing article about the state of anti Nazi laws in Greece:



As head of the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece, Constantines has spent years lobbying the government to scrap 1959 legislation that prohibits the prosecution of Nazi war criminals in Greece. They have repeatedly called for the abolition of law 3933 and law 4016, which Constantines claims were enforced so that Nazi war criminal Max Merten could escape trial in Greece in 1959. Merten was Adolf Hitler’s senior administrator in Thessaloniki during World War II.

“We have spent the last 15 years calling for the elimination of these laws so that Greece may request the extradition of Nazi war criminals, even though they are now probably very old and will not serve their sentences,” said Constantines. “But their conviction would be of great moral satisfaction to the Holocaust survivors.”

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24/05/2008 at 00:01

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You Want Boris, You Can Have Him.

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Also posted at HP.

Ken Livingstone was in the City Hall public gallery today watching Boris Johnson’s performance in front of the GLA. Livingstone has a stronger stomach than me.

I’ve given up on watching Boris.

I acquired the BorisJohnsonWatch blog in a fit of activity, I thought it was a good idea at the time, that’s my excuse.

As much as I think that politicians should be kept under scrutiny, I can’t really get too worked up on Boris Johnson.

OK, sure, I dislike that smarmy Etonian air that Johnson has, and I heartily abhor the Tories, except I can’t get enthusiastic enough to cover his every antic and failure, so the BorisJohnsonWatch blog is up for grabs.

I think that monitoring Johnson should be a team effort as it is a soporific task and not something that I would inflict on any one individual.

However, if you (or a team) feel up to it (for 4 long years) and have a reasonable proposal then email me at modernityblog@gmail.com and we’ll discuss it.

Written by modernityblog

23/05/2008 at 00:12

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Disrepute.

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Parts of the UCU leadership seem hell bent on bringing that trade union into disrepute, and the latest legal advice on the discriminatory nature of any boycott of Israeli academics further reinforces that concern. There’s a 21 page legal opinion over at the Stop the Boycott site.

(Hat tip: Engage)

Written by modernityblog

21/05/2008 at 03:06

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Good News

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Despite the stream of attacks on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender/Transsexual people there is occasional good news, the BBC reports:

“A gay Iranian teenager who said he could be executed if he was sent home has been given asylum in Britain.

Mehdi Kazemi, 19, came to London to study English in 2005, but later discovered his boyfriend had been charged with sodomy in Iran and hanged.

Liberal Democrat MP Simon Hughes, who led the campaign to get Mr Kazemi granted asylum, said: “Like Mehdi and his family in Britain, I am delighted to hear of the Home Office decision to let him stay in this country. This is great news for a very decent man.

“As I have argued over the last 18 months, the Home Office should not send gay and lesbian people back to countries where they will be at risk of persecution, torture or death.”

Iranian human rights campaigners believe more than 4,000 gay men and lesbians have been executed since 1979.

Mr Kazemi fled to the Netherlands after the Home Office rejected his case late last year, but a Dutch court ruled he could not claim asylum in the Netherlands.

Jacqui Smith said his case would be reviewed after he was sent back to the UK. ”

Written by modernityblog

21/05/2008 at 01:15

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Hamas and the Holocaust.

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HP has nailed the SWP and their support of Hamas, the excuses, the downright lies and the stupidity of it all.

The Western supporters of Hamas would like them to revise their racist Covenant and take out the most vicious Jew hating elements, for the sake of good public relations and which might eventually fool the most gullible, but not always.

And it certainly won’t fool anyone as long as Hamas leaders are allowed to give interviews and express themselves, because once that happens the cat is out of the bag, as Khaled Meshaal has showed:

From aljazeera “Khaled Meshaal also praised Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, for his “courage” in having dismissed the Holocaust as a myth and calling for Israel to be moved out of the Middle East to Europe or North America.”

Only recently, on the 31st of March 2008, Khaled Meshaal tells a Sky interviewer:

“KM: We don’t want to harm any religion in the world. We don’t deny the holocaust.
But, we believe the Zionists have exaggerated the numbers to get sympathy from other nations. But, there is Palestinian suffering caused by Israel.”

I just wonder how people, that would rightly reject ANYTHING from David Irving and fellow neo-Nazis, can express any support for Hamas?

Answers on a postcard.

Written by modernityblog

20/05/2008 at 00:47

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