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Index: Currente Calamo

A view from Blighty.

Michael Blackburn: ‘We have just learned that those of us who are indigenous British are racist. I’ll pretend for the sake of form that this judgment surprises me. A think tank called the Social Integration Commission released their first report entitled How Integrated Is Modern Britain? I think you can tell without even seeing a copy of the report where this is coming from and which direction it is going in.’

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Yet perhaps not quite glib enough for Americans.

Some rather superficial explanations of the success of Capitalism in the Twenty-First Century in the American press have claimed that Piketty is only the embodiment of a certain contemporary moment — data-driven but with a few simple big-picture claims that can be grasped easily by a tech-savvy but generally inattentive public who are obsessed with […]

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Literary criticism.

Michael Blackburn: ‘The relationship between the writer and what he or she writes is complicated and rarely direct. Being a writer doesn’t make you a good person. Being a good person does not make you a good writer. Neither does being a bad one.’

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The BBC aims to be multi-colourful.

Michael Blackburn: ‘I hope the DG has precisely worked out his ethnic diversity percentages so the BBC doesn’t get inter-BAME conflicts tearing it apart. You can just imagine the Asian camp splitting between Hindus and Muslims, and the Chinese getting uppity because they’re outnumbered by the rest. In a couple of years we may have a Polish contingent at loggerheads with management over too many Lithuanians. But they probably won’t count, because they’re white, so they’ll have to slug it out in the carpark.’

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Sunnis, shias, and that ‘religion of peace’.

Michael Blackburn: ‘In Iraq, as the ancient Sunni versus Shia civil war steps up a gear, the bien pensants of the western media claim the core of the conflict is “sectarian”. That’s just a weasely way of saying it’s the fault of religion in general to avoid laying any culpability on the religion of peace itself because all religions are the same, you see. Well, they are if you are a know-nothing modern intellectual. Sunni and Shia may be at each other’s throats because of their differences, but those differences are over their religion and that religion is Islam.’

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Education is overrated.

Michael Blackburn: Gove has not banned anything, or said exam boards should not include these books on their reading lists. Nor has he restricted the syllabus to British only texts. The requirement for one Shakespeare play, one nineteenth century novel, a selection of poetry since 1879, and fiction or drama from the British Isles from 1914 onwards, is a minimum. There’s plenty of scope for other texts in addition to these, as a glance at the Department of Education’s documents and the current exam board syllabuses already shows.

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Comfort for the Ukipically afflicted.

Michael Blackburn: Come the general election many people will return to their usual party. That’s because voting for Ukip was just a protest vote, as everyone from every other party keeps telling us. Ukip may have drained away some Labour support, but it is still mainly the Tories who have suffered – and are most likely to suffer in future. That’s good news for Labour. It may even be good news for the LibDems, but nobody cares about them.

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The American sensitivity lobby gets trigger happy.

Michael Blackburn: ‘A few years ago I ran a writing workshop with some arts students. During the discussion someone described a female character as a bitch. One student, mature but definitely not elderly, was visibly shocked. “How could anyone use such disgusting language about another person?” she said. It left the rest of us wondering how can anyone with such a febrile view of life could possibly get through a single day in the world without suffering a complete mental breakdown.’

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Valerie Solanas and her blast from the past.

Michael Blackburn: ‘Let me just say that the patriarchy is a great institution; I became a full member as soon as I was born, don’t pay any fees and get to oppress women everywhere. It also means that I am right in every argument, even if my wife hasn’t understood this yet.’

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Stop the march of cupcake fascism.

Michael Blackburn: ‘Not only am I not a fascist (not even a twee, vintagey one), but I can also eat more other-cake knowing that I am contributing to the radical, anti-neoliberal revolution that will overthrow all social oppression. I could be a right-on, non-infantilized child. I could be a sticky-fingered, cake-eating comrade.’

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Bogans for the monarchy.

Michael Blackburn: ‘That casual sexism (and you have to imagine the surprise with which I am writing this) is just so old-fashioned, so Aussie male. But it’s part of the progressive failure, this assumption of being thoroughly modern coupled with the inability to stay up to date with everyone else, aggravated by the desire to keep things stuck in some politically approved past where the bad guys are clearly defined as those who disagree with you.’

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Wee Eck and jam for Scotland tomorrow.

IF, AS THE old adage goes, we get the government we deserve, some serious questions need to be answered. What in God’s name did we do to deserve Blair and Brown, for instance? And then Cameron and Clegg? I could say the same for Scotland, currently practising for nationhood under the tutelage of Salmond and […]

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Europhile eaten by shark.

Michael Blackburn: ‘Clegg ‘kept going on about Farage being “dangerous” and delusional. Dangerous to an unattended pint, yes, and to a packet of Rothmans, but hardly to the welfare of Britain. Sharky Farage, he repeated, wanted to take us back not to the 1950s, that favourite era for progressive contempt, but the nineteenth. Precisely the time when Britain was at its economic and industrial zenith. When, presumably, it wasn’t part of any European project, because it stood alone and “isolated”.’

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The mad English garden.

Michael Blackburn: ‘A simple front garden on one of the main streets was mad in a typically English way: with lumps of rock and small areas of gravel, planted with bright flowers, including daffodils both real and plastic, heather and lavender in pots and in clumps; populated with grey concrete bird baths, rabbits and fauns, the occasional gnome, geese and what looked like a heron. It wasn’t a big garden; it was quite modest, but it was large enough for the eccentricity of the owner to display itself. It would have been easy not to notice its singularity as you walked past on your way to the Post Office shop or the pub.’

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Bridges of cant.

Michael Blackburn: ‘New times, old answers. And there’s the rub, for not only are we left with the same old bureaucratic leviathan but we must also rely on “the party”, suitably undefined and as “liquid” as this new democracy, to act as “The Bridge” between us and them, between the vertical and horizontal.’

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