By MICHAEL BLACKBURN.
JOHN BOLTON, FORMER US ambassador to the UN and recently the non-appointed Secretary of State in the Trump administration, famously quipped that if the UN building in New York lost ten stories “it wouldn’t make a bit of difference”. He also said that “There’s not a bureaucracy in the world that couldn’t be made leaner.” I think the latter is definitely true while the former errs on the side of generosity.
As the years have gone on my distrust of all large institutions has grown, especially those that were ostensibly set up with grand humanitarian intentions. The UN is one of those. It strikes me it’s more of a playground for Arab and other anti-semitic states to bang on about Israel while themselves boldly chopping off people’s heads, hanging gays from cranes, treating women as worse than dogs, and promoting terrorism. This is an organisation, for instance, that in 2016 elected China, Cuba, Egypt, Saudi Arabia (among others) to its Human Rights Council. I suppose the thinking is that these nations really know something about human rights since they’re so good at denying them to their own citizens.
It’s also the same organisation whose apparatchiks claimed Britain was “stripping” its children of their rights and that its sexism was “more pervasive” and in your face than in other countries. The UN expert responsible for that last point, Rashida Manjoo, is from South Africa, which has a terrible record on violence against women. It could only be worse if she were from Sweden.
IF WE MANAGED to chuck the UN out then I’d suggest following it swiftly with the lesser fish that is the Council of Europe (which is not the EU, though the latter is busy destroying itself anyway). The Council, like a number of organisations, was set up after the Second World War to stop the Second World War happening again. Unfortunately its concern for human rights has been transformed into pushing the usual liberal ideology of multiculturalism and diversity. It has just published its enticingly entitled “Fourth Opinion on the United Kingdom” by its Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. Or as I would have called it, “Why Are You Brits Still A Bunch Of Racists?”
The report goes on about what is needed to redress the discrimination/exclusion/disadvantages suffered by certain groups within the UK, most notably the Gypsy/Traveller/Roma communities (though others get a bit of a look-in). What’s laughable is the appearance of the Cornish as an ethnic group with their own language. Everyone assumed that the last Cornish speaker died in 1777 and the language was thus effectively extinct. In the last hundred years, however, there has been an increased interest in it, to the point where now between 300 and 500 people claim to be able to speak it.
I applaud the efforts of the people involved in resurrecting a language from the dead but deplore the silliness of those demanding that “relevant policies to improve access to these rights for persons belonging to the minority”. To read the Council’s comments you would think that Cornwall was suffering deliberate oppression by the state:
- Interlocutors of the Advisory Committee indicated that the current piecemeal and ad hoc provision of language and cultural awareness sessions and language teaching in primary and secondary schools in Cornwall is the consequence of education being centrally organised by the government and the lack of dedicated funding. The curriculum is entirely English and this has prevented, on the one hand, the introduction of the Cornish language and Cornish Studies on schools’ curricula, and, on the other hand, the establishment of immersion education in Cornish.
“The curriculum is entirely in English” — well, what a surprise, since the last native non-English Cornish speaker died centuries ago. The British government had been bunging £150,000 a year to Cornwall County Council to further these aims but stopped recently because money was getting tight.
I SUGGEST THOSE wishing to re-establish Cornish culture put their own money into it rather than rely on that of taxpayers’, mainly because I see this sort of agitation as political more than cultural. In south Wales the road signs are bilingual even though few few people there use Welsh (different, I know, in north Wales) and it annoys the hell out of me whenever I visit. It’s another form of virtue signalling but with racist overtones (but acceptably racist in PC terms).
Not views that will make me popular, but luckily I don’t live in Wales or Cornwall. The UK is under threat of Balkanisation as it is, thanks to the last Labour government’s devolution mess, and having external organisations like the UN and the Council of Europe adding to the problem even in such a tiny matter is no help at all. In the bin with lot of them. If you want to speak Welsh or Cornish good luck to you but don’t expect the rest of us to stump up for it or change the law to help you do it.
Currente Calamo columnist, poet, writer and lecturer Michael Blackburn lives in Lincolnshire . From 2005–2008 he was the Royal Literary Fund fellow at the University of Lincoln where he now teaches English Literature and Creative Writing. His poetry has appeared in numerous publications and anthologies over the years, including Being Alive (Bloodaxe) and Something Happens, Sometimes Here (Five Leaves Press). His most recent collection is Spyglass Over The Lagoon. A selection of his Fortnightly Currente Calamo columns, Sucks To Your Revolution: Annoying The Politically Correct (US), is available as a Kindle ebook.