In my part of the country, the sun is just about shining (or at least, it’s slightly less grey then it has been), the wind has finally abated, and it feels fresh and clean outside, as opposed to that frigid feeling that traps you in layers of coats and scarves, and makes buildings stuffy with central heating. I think it’s time for a bit of spring cleaning.
Firstly, The Strokes. A couple of years ago the height of cool, then quickly becoming derided as simply the band of choice at the moment – coffee table music for the dinner party classes who consider themselves too cool for David Gray. And then there was the relatively disastrous second album, which was a disappointment after all the build up that it had. There is nothing like a difficult second album to turn people off, and find new cool bands, like Franz Ferdinand, Bloc Party et al. However, I think a disappointing second album could be a blessing in disguise – a nice way to mop up all the excess hype surrounding a group, and relieving some of that pressure to produce something acceptable. (I have no idea what sort of reaction Coldplay will face with ‘X & Y’, to be released on the 6th June – having skipped the disappointing second album stage, they have built up massive expectations, almost to the point where anything will be a disappointment.) However, having stuck on ‘Is This It’ this morning over a morning pot of tea and a browse of the paper, I can’t help but feel that it was actually a damn good album – short catchy tunes that you just have to sing along to, punctuated by classics such ‘Last Night’, which, listening with fresh ears, you can appreciate why it was voted top of John Peel’s festive 50 in whichever year it was. I think it is time for The Strokes to be forgiven for being adopted by the chattering class, after all, it wasn’t their fault. Dig out the ‘Is This It’ album (after all, it seems every other person bought it at some point), listen again and try to block out the sound of stale hype that surrounded it three years ago. ‘Room on Fire’ isn’t as bad as is made either.
Secondly, the Anti-Terror bill was passed on Friday, after a 30 hour sitting game of ping-pong between the houses. Both sides are declaring victory: a sunset clause was introduced in all but name, as the bill will be up for review at the end of the year; I think Labour are claiming victory for the simple reason that they managed to get the damned thing passed at all. I think Labour are going to be happiest in the long-run however. In 8 months, when the bill is up for review, groups opposed to the bill are hoping to be able to strike it off the books. This is unrealistic. In 8 months time, the momentum will have gone from the dissenters, and they will find it very difficult to conjure up enough support to get the bill struck off. Their best hope is to try and influence whichever committee is set up to review the bill, although we all know what Blair is like at choosing investigative committees, for example, the Hutton inquiry, or the Butler inquiry. My bet is that the committee will find that the bill is actually alright after all, and we should all just leave it alone and become good responsible docile citizens, and don’t complain because Big Scrotum is watching you.
I’m still puzzled at the Lib-Dem’s absolute idiocy to be honest. Those strong advocates of civil liberties (voting for ID cards in Scotland obviously is a perfect example of this) didn’t even bother to turn up to a vote which could have defeated the legislation. I actually saw Charles Kennedy last week outside the Houses of Parliament. I would have said something to him, but unfortunately I didn’t realise it was him until he just got let in past the security – he was using the public entrance for some reason, and well, to be honest, from behind he just looks like any other short fat ginger arse. I’m still annoyed that people are going to be denied basic justices, such as the freedom from being detained without trial, and the freedom to an open trial. These laws allow the corruption of these basic rights, and inevitably, the Muslim community will suffer the most (as the disgusting Hazel Blears so kindly pointed out, hey, maybe they should just learn to live with it). The Daily Mail gloats over a ‘humiliating’ climb-down for Blair, the Tories gloat that they have won the battle as they got their sunset clause put in, the Lib-Dems gloat because they managed to turn up for a vote, Labour gloats because they has got their Anti-Terror legislation passed. It is a sickening spectacle of self-congratulatory bullshit, and in the midst of it all, everyone seems to have forgotten that basic human liberties are going to be denied to many. Politicians have lost their principles in a trough of their own defecate, sitting around discussing how awful it was when they had to stay up all night. The poor lambs.
Finally, an excellent opinion article by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown in The Independent today about the ‘dangerous delusion’ of the domino theory. Alibhai-Brown questions the motives behind the US/UK drive for democracy in the Middle East:
‘Why not go further back in time and seek cause and effect? Why not give credit
for those welcome rumbles of change across the Middle East to the 11 September
attacks by al-Qaida in the US? If those hadn’t happened, then the Taliban
wouldn’t have fallen, and it would have been business as usual with the US doing
deals with the Taliban, and Arab dictators and the cosy relationship between the
House of Bush and the House of Saud growing ever more strong. The US and the UK
have never cared about human rights and freedom for Arabs and others in the so
called Third World. When they suddenly claim they do, their motives are always
suspect, and rightly so.’
She ends the article with a letter from a friend of hers, a Jordanian professor, who writes:
‘they must think we are stupid to believe that their democratic longings will
come out of this state of terror of the UK and the US and Israel. They wish to
legitimise this illegal invasion.
‘It is correct that in all Arab countries we have more dissent, more questions, more daring politics. But that is because we now have al-Jazeera and we see Ukraine and admire India. We don’t want another generation of our children living in a feudal country where they are too afraid to speak out.’
Democracy was blooming naturally in the Middle East: it is a classic case of education being the strongest incitement to revolution – if people have knowledge of what it possible, they can strive for it. An uneducated mass is directionless, but give them the knowledge of what can be achieved, following the example of India and Ukraine, people can fight for democracy. As it is, while the UK/US war to promote democracy may result in elections (no matter how dubious), any winner still lacks the legitimacy due to the nature of their victory – they are the child of an illegitimate war, their administration the puppet of the people who destroyed the country they were trying to save – whether the strings are real or imagined is irrelevant, what matters is the perception of the strings being there.
The war will prove a drastic setback to the drive for democracy in the Middle East – every action has an equal and opposite reaction, as Newton said, and it equally applies here. Opposition to coalition forces is clearly strong, and will make any sort of democratic rule impossible. The religious conservatism that is sweeping the country seems to be a direct reaction the war, and these parties gaining power could result in untold damage to the rights of women, which, under Saddam Hussein, were relatively liberal compared to places such as Saudi Arabia. For how long this feeling will remain is unclear, but it won’t go away any time soon.
Anyway, for now, I'm off to watch rabbits copulate.