So much hate

I refuse to pick sides in any violent conflict, other than to denounce any and all violence, and all I get is hate in return. It’s crazy! Criticise what Israel does, get called an anti-semite. Criticise Hamas’s role, get called islamophobe or zionist.

If media cover what Israel does, they are accused of pro-Palestine bias. If media cover what Hamas does, they are labelled Zionist. They can’t win either.

Tit for tat for tit for tat. “They started it!” “No, they started it!” “We’ll stop if they’ll stop! “We didn’t stop because they didn’t stop”. So, hey, here’s an idea: stop the bickering. Stop excusing anyone’s violence or retaliation or whatever. Most of all, stop killing each other’s children.

I don’t care whose side you claim to be on, just STOP THE HATE. No conditions, just stop it. And stop defending others’ hate, or you’re just as much part of the problem. Not the media. YOU. With your placards against whatever whomever wherever. And your sick collections of images of dead children from other wars that you sickly misappropriate to suit your agenda. Stop keeping scorecards on who does worse to the other. It’s not fucking football, real human lives are getting destroyed.

Try non-violence. Try peace. Unconditionally. If you can’t get that through your thick skulls clearly you have so much in common in your equally warped hateful mindsets you deserve each other and none of my attention, nor any media attention as far as I’m concerned.

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Rejoice! – Oh no, better not…

Once the news of the birth of the royal baby broke last night, it didn’t take long for the miserable folks to come out of the woodwork. Because people are dying or fleeing in Syria. Because thousands of babies are born in the United Kingdom each day, many of whom may grow up in poverty. Which is all true, but does that mean no one should be allowed to rejoice the birth of a baby who may grow up to become king one day?

If the monarchy is the problem, let’s have a referendum tomorrow, and if a majority of the people prefers the republic we’ll go ahead with that and this newborn baby will indeed be no more special than any other. There will still be babies born to grow up in poverty, though. Just like Carl Froome won the Tour de France the other day, yet there are still homeless people sleeping in shop doorways, so I hope you didn’t celebrate. And Andy Murray won Wimbledon, but there are still people having to escape wars into far-away refugee camps, so let’s not rejoice. When the British & Irish Lions won the 2013 Tour the other day, while millions of people were (and are) out of work, don’t tell me you had a party after that victory. Let’s not even begin to plan festivities if (or should I say when) England’s cricketers win the Ashes shortly, because there are still people relying on foodbanks, don’t you know.

So let’s not ever be joyous, ever, shall we, over something that doesn’t matter, something that doesn’t profoundly changes people’s life, okay? Apparently, that’s what some people think, judging by their comments online. And while my previous paragraph here may sound ridiculous, nothing was quite as ridiculous as the responses I got from those people when I confronted the unpleasantness of them lashing out at the birth of a baby: I’ve been called a stupid wench (mirror here), shallow, dim (mirror here)… but no one’s come up with a solid reason about what’s so wrong about people being happy about something, even while bad things happen elsewhere.

I am not even asking people to become royalist or patriotist, hell, I’m not even British. All I’m saying is, that in the perspective of all that’s bad, wrong and horrible on this planet… there may still be things worth celebrating, and people damn well should be happy about those if they feel like it! If that’s not allowed, let’s take the few old TVs attached to generators away from the slums, so people there wallow in their misery a bit more and harder, rather than watch sports on the blower. Let’s not treat ourselves to dinners restaurants while there are people starving. Let’s not buy each other presents when that money is better spent on foodbank donations. Is that the way we want things to go? Really?

For all the misery in this world, good things still happen, and however menial or unimportant those events might seem to others, what’s so bad about people rejoicing for a moment, if only to take their minds off everything that doesn’t look like or smell of roses, be it in their own lives or those of the world population at large?

<sarcasm> Well done Wal-Mart! </sarcasm>

(Previously posted on Tumblr)

Click here to go to the original article this post comments onI read the article pictured (and linked) and thought…

Here’s a crazy theory: Wal-Mart are victims of their own success in driving down wages; they set a trend that other employers followed, and now people just don’t have enough money to spend.

It’s only a theory, and I am no economist, but I am a former retail worker who remembers all too well that whatever money I had left after bills and food, I spent in the very shops I worked at, and I remember my colleagues doing the very same.

These days life’s very basics (like a roof over your head) have become so expensive, and average wages so disproportionally low, there’s little money left to actually spend. While I appreciate Wal-Mart can’t influence the cost of fuel and housing, I do believe they and their subsidiaries may have been trendsetters in squeezing the most out of their employees without providing a wage that in many parts of the world doesn’t cover people’s basic cost of living.

There has to be a breaking point at which no amount of cheap produce, price wars, coupons and vouchers are going to meet the needs of customers – their own workers included – who have already had to let go of any wants because they just can’t afford things anymore, because they simply do not get paid enough.

Well done Wal-Mart and other retailers for being the very architects of what I believe could be your own downfall. Here’s an idea: pay people a livable wage.

Homophobe 100?

This weekend Amsterdam will be bursting with pride – Gay Pride that is. You don’t have to be gay to immerse yourself in what will be one great big whopper of a party weekend. And to celebrate that occasion, Dutch public radio, like previous years, decided on hosting the “Homo 100” (the “Gay Top 100”), charting the 100 most “Gay” (gayest?) songs, as decided by a public vote.

Which is where I’m started to feel a bit uncomfortable. (Please don’t misunderstand those words;
I am not taking offense, neither for myself nor on behalf of others… I am just feeling a tad uncomfortable here.)

You see, I am delighted to see how Amsterdam Gay Pride has grown from a one-day parade into what is still referred to as a ‘weekend’ even though events stretch across seven or eight days. In a country where plenty of people still like to (make others) believe they are a “tolerant nation” – which they’re not, really, or should I say not really (or even really not?) – it is great to see that you don’t have to be straight to get married or gay to enter a and civil partnership (oh Britain, how I wish…) and it’s fabulous that Gay Pride has really become a celebration among all people, irrespective of each individual party-goer’s sexual orientation. I sincerely believe that such legislation and events seriously contribute to a culture of equality and integration.

But that’s exactly where I’m feeling somewhat uncomfortable about this “Gay Hot 100” chart. Voting was open to everyone (equality!); I don’t think there would have been any way to set up the online voting system so that “only gays” would have got to put in their choice of “hot, gay music”, nor do I believe it would have been possible to track which percentage of online contributors was gay, bi, or straight. What that did do, though, is open the door to every (hetero?) Tom, Dick, Harry and their dog to put in what they believe to be “music gays like” or “gay music” or whatever you want to call it.

In other words, people get to express their prejudices and stereotypes, and that is what bothers me – this has become a charting of songs perceived as “gay” when I doubt you’ll hear (m)any of those tunes played in popular clubs that specifically market themselves to a LGBT audience (unless the clubs in the Netherlands are very different from those here in London). In that sense the “Home 100” is possibly more a “Homophobe 100” than it is a “Gay Hot 100”.

Doesn’t that risk reinforcing – rather than dispelling – bigotry?

About Frank, gay footballers and a TV trailer

Though I grew up an Ajax fan, when I met twins Frank and Ronald De Boer (by then they had joined FC Barcelona) I was unable to tell them apart because they weren’t wearing jerseys to tell me which one was which. And while both brothers were (and are) unmistakenly skilled and knowledgeable when it comes to football (← understatement) neither has ever had the gift of the gab (← even bigger understatement).

For all the media training Frank De Boer might have had throughout his career(s), now he’s the (successful) coach at Ajax he is no better at speaking to journalists than he was all those years ago as a player. Not that it’s ever stopped anyone with a microphone or voice recorder in hand from pursuing De Boer to try and get him to speak, regardless of what little sense anything he says might make. Perhaps the latter even makes him a more popular subject (or perhaps even an easy target) for media folk.

In anticipation of the the Dutch FA‘s plan to use ‘Coming Out Day’ on 11 October 2012 to launch its strategy to make football ‘gay-friendlier’, Dutch broadcasters BNN have scheduled a specially themed broadcast in August named “FC Gay”. Yesterday they launched the show trailer, which appears to be (a section of) an interview with Frank De Boer:

If the below translation doesn’t make sense, that’s because what Frank De Boer says doesn’t appear to make much sense anyway. It’s hard to make out where a sentence starts or finishes (if it even does), or if things like the double negative are intentional or accidental (making it unclear what he actually says or intends to say)… all typical De Boer:

Interviewer: “We’re making a program about homosexuality and football…”
Frank De Boer: “..Right..”
Interviewer: “..And now we wondered, one in twenty men is gay, but we don’t see any in the Eredivisie. How come?”
Frank De Boer: “Well, erm, how I sort of see it, anyway, if you look at the gay man, I think, he’s not so much not into playing sport, if you say the motor skill, normally, that often shows in gays, I think. Perhaps that’s what it is, I think…”

If feelings of outrage are burning up inside you, take a breath. Or a few breaths, if that’s what you need to calm down. Or at least give me time to go to my local bookmaker’s to place my bet. I’m on a winner here – I’m betting this is a hoax. No need for outrage, then.

You see, the folks at BNN are not averse to controversy; in fact they’ve actively sought it by way of stunts (“cannibalism!”), hoaxes (“donor show!”) and cons (“burqa!”). You may even remember a post I made last year that touched on the fakery on BNN’s Dutch equivalent of Embarrassing Bodies

And for all the verbal bumbling Frank De Boer has been known for – BoJo eat your heart out! – on this particular occasion Frank even outbumbles himself to the point that it’s just no longer credible. That’s probably because the “interview” (comprising of nothing more than clichés wrapped in vagueness and double negatives) has been carefully scripted in order to ensure that however outrageous Frank’s utterances may seem, he literally – yes, literally in the actual meaning of the word – doesn’t say anything that actually attacks anyone… because he literally talks nonsense.

It’s all part of the game BNN plays to attract viewers for its theme night in August. And however important the chosen theme is, BNN unfortunately have a habit to keep things light and accessible – which is a nice way of me saying that in my opinion their broadcasts tend to lack depth to really deliver something of substance. Even the way of promoting this upcoming broadcast is so old and tired that I suspect the Dutch tabloid editors are entirely aware of the game and just play along by headlining it on a day that was expected to become an otherwise slow news day.

The Netherlands’ leading LGBT organisation (no doubt involved in the upcoming broadcast as well as in helping the Dutch FA develop its strategy) perpetuated the charade by “feigning outrage and demanding an apology” which was followed by a tweet from brother Ronald (“I don’t know what exactly is going on but my brother has nothing against gays and is definitely not the type to hurt people #storminateacup”) and then a tweet from Frank himself (“Football belongs to everyone, gays too. I regret the upset. Didn’t want to hurt anyone. Statement was taken out of context”). (Frank and Ronald De Boer share a Twitter account.)

The person to alert me to this story (before Twitter did) was a non-Dutch journo who phoned me this morning because he couldn’t make out something from a Dutch source he’d read via Google Translate; he was expecting a slow news day and wanted to figure out if anything newsworthy was going on here. I expressed my doubts about any of it being genuine. “Would the De Boer bros. lend themselves for this sort of thing?” he asked, and I reminded him of the “bound by a contract” mobile telephony commercial the brothers did in their playing days, back when Ajax refused to release the twins from their contracts so they could go to FC Barcelona (I didn’t manage to find the commercial online but it wasn’t too dissimilar from Kate Moss’s ad for Vodafone on the rebound from her cocaine controversy).

While still on the phone, we learned that today was going to be anything but a slow news day. More than just the headlines were swiftly taken over by horrific reports in relation to senseless violence brought upon people who set out for a fun social event.

Thinking of the living hell those involved must be going through, I would like to write here that it put things in perspective to the point that I no longer cared about what is essentially a non-story involving a football coach and a bunch of attention-seeking broadcasters. But I find myself feeling even stronger about it now because I realised why it bothered me in the first place: It’s the deceit I can’t stand.

However big a reason the broadcasters of BNN may have to try and grab people’s attention for their upcoming TV special(s), in my opinion nothing justifies deceit. From time to time I use this blog to call BS as and when I see it, but deceit is the absolute worst form of BS out there. For all I care, anyone purposely using deceit to ‘make a point’ or ‘serve a purpose’ might as well shout from the rooftops: “Don’t trust me! There’s no way for you to know whether I’m telling the truth or not!” The moment any serious news outlet (e.g. a newspaper, news channel or news website) allows itself to be used for whichever form of deceit (even if it’s relatively ‘mild’), that news outlet denies space and attention to real, relevant matters and squanders its own reliability and credibility in the process (after all, how can you trust them to get anything else it features right?).

Ignorance and intolerance towards lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are no laughing matters, nor issues in which you can hoax or ‘trick’ people into changing their attitudes. If you want to really try and make a change, I suggest making serious, persistent efforts rather than lazily repeating outdated, tired concepts.