What with Trump becoming more unwoke day by day, I thought it best to round up a few interesting articles from the internet that will hopefully keep us all as woke as possible, albeit in a halal way. I have chosen the most relevant quotes from these articles, as well as providing links in case you feel the need to read the article in full (as usual all are strongly recommended).

We begin with the veteran Guardian journalist Polly Toynbee who, in a recent interview with the Guardian, gave her bleak assessment of where Britain currently is and where it is potentially heading. Depressing but all true nonetheless. We then move on to Claire Armitstead who counters this depression with suggestions that all is perhaps not lost. Next up is an article from Aymann Ismail all about the #MosqueMeToo movement. Whilst the overall article is a difficult read due to the subject matter, it does begin with an opening paragraph that I found rather uplifting. I also found a short YouTube clip from BBC News on the same subject.

Following this we have Steven Pinker on media distortion, Fareed Zakaria on the pessimism of the Middle East (along with an accompanying YouTube clip), and we end on attempts by Saudi Arabia to stimulate their economy by trying to reverse the trend of Saudis splurging their cash in neighbouring Dubai and Bahrain. Enjoy!

‘These Are The Darkest Days I Have Known’

Polly Toynbee, 24 Feb 2018, theguardian.com

There has never been an austerity like this in my life-time. If Thatcher’s 1980’s cuts seemed savage, I would never have guessed a future Tory party would go so much further than she dared, in shrinking the state, crushing local government, squeezing the NHS as never before, leaving schools bereft. As for the shock Brexit vote, it has split the country in half in ways it may take decades to repair, if ever, as it sends Britain into a downward spiral. These are the darkest days I have known – plenty to write about, but very hard to think of optimistic themes.

In An Age Of Anger And Cynicism, Let Me Make The Case For Worthiness

Claire Armitstead, 24 Feb 2018, theguardian.com

Consider the work that is currently going on in churches, mosques and synagogues to plug the chaotically widening gap between the haves and have-nots – here, now, in one of the richest countries in the world, in this age of austerity. I live close to the Finsbury Park mosque, where, in a spontaneous reaction to last year’s van attack, trestle tables were set up along the street for a communal feast to which everyone, regardless of colour or creed, was invited. Furniture and catering were no problem because feeding people is part of what members of the mosque – worthily – see as their mission. My local church hosts a weekly drop-in session for migrants that draws hungry people from across London and beyond, to eat food donated by local shops and cooked by local volunteers before sitting down to free help and advice from rows of (largely retired) lawyers, counsellors and health experts.

#MosqueMeToo Puts Muslim Women “Between A Rock And A Hard Place”

Aymann Ismail, 14 Feb 2018, slate.com

For Muslims who grew up in the West, a mosque can be the only place where you get to be yourself. As a member of a highly politicized minority group, being with other Muslims can feel like the only way to not have your identity assigned to you. Like other places of worship, a mosque is more of a multipurpose building: karate classes, basketball in the parking lot, you grow with the community of regulars. We celebrate holidays and birthdays together there, mourn those who passed together there. The mosque is my home away from home, the congregation is my extended family, and Muslims from other mosques feel like family I just haven’t met yet…As Muslims, we are religiously bound to protect one another.

The Media Exaggerates Negative News. This Distortion Has Consequences

Steven Pinker, 17 Feb 2018, theguardian.co.uk

Whether or not the world really is getting worse, the nature of news will interact with the nature of cognition to make us think that it is…The impression that the news has become more negative over time is real…The consequences of negative news are themselves negative. Far from being better informed, heavy newswatchers can become miscalibrated. They worry more about crime, even when rates are falling, and sometimes they part company with reality altogether: a 2016 poll found that a large majority of Americans follow news about Isis closely, and 77% agreed that “Islamic militants operating in Syria and Iraq pose a serious threat to the existence or survival of the United States,” a belief that is nothing short of delusional.

There’s A Lot To Be Optimistic About These Days. And Then There’s The Middle East.

Fareed Zakaria, 15 Feb 2018, washingtonpost.com

There’s a lot to be optimistic about today. In almost every part of the world, economies are growing and war, poverty and disease are receding. But then there is the Middle East. Syria remains a collapsed country; more than 5 million of its people have already fled. Yemen is now the site of the world’s worst famine, and the war there seems unlikely to end anytime soon. Iraq, barely recovered from its own civil war and battle with the Islamic State, estimates it needs about $100 billion for reconstruction — money it does not have. And the danger of greater conflict in the region seems ever-present. We are now seeing fighting between Turkey and American proxies, and fire exchanged between Israel and Syria. Recently, U.S. airstrikes killed perhaps dozens of Russian mercenaries in Syria, a worrisome escalation for the former Cold War adversaries.

Saudi Arabia To Spend Billions On Expanding Entertainment Sector

Agence France-Press, 23 Feb 2018, theguardian.com

Saudi Arabia has announced plans to spend billions on building new venues and flying in Western acts, in a total overhaul of its entertainment sector that would have been unthinkable not long ago. Long known for its ultra-conservative mores, the kingdom has embarked on a wide-ranging program of social and economic reforms driven by its crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.

Hundreds of new companies had sprung up over the past year, registering for licences to take advantage of the budding sector…Authorities have also announced plans to lift a decades-old ban on cinemas this year, and about 300 are expected to open by 2030…The newfound openness, which includes plans to allow women to drive from June this year, has been hailed by some as a crucial liberalisation of Saudi society.

The reforms are part of Prince Mohammed’s ambitious “Vision 2030” program, which seeks to diversify the Saudi economy as it reels from a slump in energy prices, and the entertainment sector is seen as a potential source of growth. Saudis splurge billions annually on movies and visits to amusement parks in the neighbouring tourist hubs of Dubai and Bahrain, which is accessible by a land causeway…The goal to keep Saudis – more than half of whom are under 25 – spending their disposable income at home is part of a wider campaign called “Don’t travel”.



Hamza ISIS

In September of 2014 my favourite Muslim scholar Shaykh Hamza Yusuf gave a Friday sermon about ISIS titled The Crisis Of ISIS. The 38 minute lecture was an impassioned plea from one of the most prominent scholars in the Muslim world about how ISIS are not Islamic. Part of what he said included:

This is madness, complete insanity, it’s unbelievable…And it’s all just vengeance. It has nothing to do with Islam. These people have nothing to do with Islam. And I’ll say it right here. They have nothing to do with Islam. These people have nothing to do with this religion…They’re killing Muslims…And don’t be fooled by their piety…These people are not from the Prophet, they have nothing to do with the man who was sent as a mercy for all the world. And the fact that they are in any way, shape, or form associated with this religion is a great tragedy…These people are shayateen (devils). It’s plain and simple. – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, referring to ISIS

The sermon went viral, especially in the Middle East after it was translated into Arabic. Millions have now watched excerpts in which the Shaykh openly weeps as he holds up his hands and asks Allah not to blame other Muslims “for what these fools amongst us do.”

By waging this theological battle with ISIS Shaykh Hamza clearly stoked their anger because the group ordered a death threat against him, which they made initially in their English online magazine Dabiq (not sure if Dabiq will ever be featured as a ‘guest publication’ on the BBC TV quiz show Have I Got News for You). In response to the death threat Shaykh Hamza said, in an interview with Fareed Zakaria on CNN, that his lecture bothered ISIS because it was “a little swat to the hornets’ nest.” So seriously was this threat from the hornets’ nest taken that the FBI actually went to his home late one night to discuss safety measures with him.

Also in 2014 the Christian German writer and journalist Jürgen Todenhöfer became the first western journalist allowed to enter ISIS-controlled Syria and Iraq. In the summer of 2014 Todenhöfer sent a message on Facebook to more than 80 German ISIS soldiers asking whether he could visit the ISIS fighting cadre. His goal was to understand their motivations. In September Abu Qatadah, a 31-year-old German who worked for ISIS media, answered the message. They then had further Skype discussions. Finally, Todenhöfer received a document from the Caliphate guaranteeing his safety. So, in October of 2014 Todenhöfer travelled to ISIS-controlled territory, gaining unprecedented access to the so-called Islamic State. The then 74 year old was accompanied by his filmmaker son, Frederic. Both of them spent 10 days with ISIS, and both of them somehow made it back alive.

Frederic And Jurgen In Mosul

Frederic and Jurgen in Mosul…

Todenhöfer used this unique opportunity to expose the apocalyptic vision of ISIS for the world and to document everyday life in the cities it controls. He found a population terrified into submission by beheadings, enslavement and torture, and an organisation unwavering in its commitment to its divine mission: to spread fear and violence throughout the world, no matter the cost. The result off all this effort was the brilliant documentary Inside IS: Ten Days In The Islamic State. Released in 2016 and running at just over 50 minutes, Inside IS gives an extraordinary view into the inner workings of ISIS, laying bare its nightmarish doctrine, its terrifying dreams of world domination, and the vicious cruelty suffered by those living within its borders.

Todenhöfer was clearly scarred by his findings, which is why he sought advice from one Shaykh Hamza Yusuf on what to make of ISIS and how to defeat them, which is why the last 13 minutes or so of the documentary revolve around an interview with Shaykh Hamza and Todenhöfer, who was clearly impressed with the Shaykh because his interview ends with him saying:

Shaykh Hamza is the kind of man I have met for over fifty years in the Muslim world. This kind of integrity and good character is what I hope will be passed on to our young generations. – Jürgen Todenhöfer, speaking about Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

Straight after saying these kind words, Todenhöfer ends the whole documentary with this profound statement:

It seems to be so easy to brainwash young people. To tell them they’re doing something great in the ‘Islamic State’. And to persuade them that they are fighting for Islam. And they are fighting against Islam. They are the worst enemies of Islam in our days. For me the Islamic State has as much to do with Islam as rape has to do with love. Nothing. – Jürgen Todenhöfer

Presented below is a selection of quotes from this interview, all said by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf. Please note that some quotes have been adapted slightly just so they read better when written down. Anyways, enjoy!

Inside IS

ISIS said there would be a reward for somebody to kill me. So I am a target for ISIS. The reason for this is I gave a khutbah, which is a Friday sermon, and I think it just bothered them, because my argument was they had nothing to do with Islam. ISIS are literally a statistically insignificant number of people and yet they’re claiming that they represent the true Islam. They don’t represent my Islam and they don’t represent the Islam of the vast majority of Muslims around the world. – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

The propaganda of ISIS creates a gross distortion in the mind of Western people because that’s all they see. Also, since we’re living in an age, to use a quote from the French philosopher Guy Debord, the age of spectacle, so the more dramatic you can do something the more media attention it will get. – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

If you take Germany for example, there’s about five million Muslims in Germany today. What we know of, less than a thousand have gone to Iraq and Syria to fight. So if you just take those numbers you’re dealing with point zero two percent of the Muslim population. It almost doesn’t register statistically and yet if you watch German media you’re going to assume that every one of those five million German Muslims is a potential terrorist. And this is despite the fact that ISIS, the State, has told people you have to come. So people aren’t obeying them. – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

The word “war” in Arabic (“harb”) is a negative term in the Qur’an. Jihad does not mean war, jihad means struggle. The greater struggle is to struggle against the soul, against the low qualities of the soul. And the lesser jihad is the struggle against enemies that are trying to conquer your land or something like that. The verse in the Qur’an that gave permission to fight, which is in Surah Al-Hajj, it’s the 22nd chapter of the Qur’an, the verse (number 39) actually says “Permission (to fight) is granted to defend themselves because they have been fought (against).” And then it says (in verse 40) “And had it not been some people defending other people, churches, synagogues, temples, and mosques, where in God’s name is mentioned, much would have been destroyed.” And so the very reason (originally) for jihad was to protect religious communities. So self-defence is allowed in Islam, but rebellion is not, because the idea is that even a tyrannical government is better than anarchy. – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

We’re here in Paris, we’re sitting in a cafe, we feel safe. But there are people that actually believe that they can simply come to France, take a visa, and they can disregard the laws of the land. In Islamic law if you come into a land you have a contractual agreement to obey the laws. If you break those laws you’re a criminal, and this opinion is agreed upon by the majority consensus of Muslim scholars. – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

A caliphate would not be the solution to the problems brought on by ISIS for the Muslim world. Omar, the second caliph, said that if anybody claims to be a caliphate, don’t take his allegiance, because a caliphate has to be an agreement of the (majority of) Muslims. Why can’t I declare a caliphate? Right now I’m the caliph! “California” comes from the Spanish word “Caliph-ornia”, the land of the caliph. This is historical fact. It is the land of the caliph. So I’ll declare the caliphate in California and Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi (the leader of ISIS) is not the caliph, I’m the caliph. So now everybody has to migrate to California and take allegiance with me. This is absurd! Who would accept that? – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

Like most people I only see what’s being shown to me, but ISIS have released several things (videos) that have (clearly) indicated to me that they’re cruel (especially to prisoners of war). Benjamin Franklin, in his autobiography, said that since the Prophet Muhammad rebuked Khalid for mistreating prisoners, no Muslim has ever mistreated prisoners. So there’s a founding father of America who knew more about Islam that these people (ISIS), because you can’t kill a prisoner, you can’t behead these journalists. – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

In the entire biography of the Prophet there’s not one case where he forced anybody to believe in his religion. And he said that God will give you with gentleness what He will never give you with violence. It’s not to say that Islam doesn’t have a martial spirit, it doesn’t have the idea of self-defense. That’s all true, but at its essence Islam is a merciful thing. And so when there’s no mercy in something, it’s not Islamic. – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

How would I defeat ISIS? ISIS is an ideological movement and so it is made up of ideas, and those ideas have to be combated with ideas. You cannot bombard ideology. It is unjust and it is immoral to bombard victims in this situation, most of which are civilians, women and children. You have to bombard the young people with ideas. Really. You will not reach all of these ISIS fighters, but I think you will reach some of them. There’s a group in Toronto that were plotting this terrorist action. They were arrested because of an informer. They are all in prison. I got a letter from one of them who was introduced to my tapes in prison and he was saying how ashamed he felt that he had disgraced the religion of Islam, in this long letter to me, and that he had been tricked and fooled by this ideology. So a lot of these are young people that have never been exposed to real Islam. – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness. We have to illuminate ourselves and then help to illuminate others. This is really I think at the essence of what makes us human. – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf


Trevor Hand

Way back in early 2009 the American journalist David Sirota wrote columns in the Huffington Post and the San Francisco Chronicle about the concept of ‘fake outrage’, where people feign public anger at a non-issue while privately being somewhat guilty themselves. So not only is the outrage fake, so is the issue.

Examples given by Sirota of incidents that caused fake outrage included President Obama (remember him?) being driven around in a limo, John McCain wearing expensive shoes, Michael Phelps smoking some weed at a private party (even though nearly half of Americans have allegedly smoked pot), and he also mentioned the following:

A nation of tabloid readers is apoplectic that Brad and Jen divorced, even though one out of every two American marriages ends the same way. A country fetishizing “family values” goes ballistic over the immorality of Paris Hilton’s sex tape…and then keeps spending billions on pornography. – David Sirota

Sirota went on to write about how there is a “Fake Outrage Machine that warps our political discourse and ultimately our public policy.” He also begins and ends the articles with the following:

Welcome to a nation now addicted to fake outrage — a nation that feeds on made-up controversies about total non-issues…Our addiction is to the same high that every pothead craves: the high of escapism. Nerves fried from orange terror warnings, Drudge Report sirens and disaster capitalism’s roller-coaster economics, our narcotic of choice is fake outrage – and it packs a punch. It gets us to turn on the television, tune in to the latest manufactured drama, and drop out of the real battle for the republic’s future. – David Sirota

RIP Satire

And all this well before we entered the era of Trump! Now that we find ourselves well and truly living in this nail-biting era of the Donald, what of fake outrage now? What levels of crazy has it reached? Well, for one thing it has well and truly infiltrated the world of satire and comedy. As a result many people have commented on how satire may indeed be dying. Writing for the BBC Nicholas Barber asks if we have “lost our sense of humour” due to audiences being “so sensitive.” And here we have Emma Burnell lamenting about the failure of modern political satire:

Modern satire only really speaks to the audience it makes comfortable rather than challenging the establishment. Satire hasn’t had any real “effect” on political culture for decades…Laughing at the establishment not only doesn’t have the shock value it once had, it can actively empower those currently leading the world in an “anti-establishment” populism. – Emma Burnell

Stewart Lee, arguably Britain’s finest stand-up comedian, recently said something similar about the power hungry Tory politician Jacob Rees-Mogg, a man who is mocked by many but seems to take all insults in his stride. Lee poetically bemoans that:

Satire only makes Jacob Rees-Mogg stronger…You cannot hurt the feelings of the honourable member for the 18th century. He ingests our insults and owns them…You have nothing. Your arrows of satire are blunt before him and your broken spears sleep in your hands, clawed uselessly into the shape of decades of lunchtime pints…You cannot hurt his feelings. He admits to none. You may as well stand in an aquarium hurling insults at an eel or swear at a chutney. – Stewart Lee

This decline in the power of satire maybe due to audiences being more sensitive (hyper-sensitive?), more ideologically divided, and people being more cocooned in which ever echo chamber they have unwittingly climbed into. It may also be down to increased political correctness which, according to Jessica Brown, “is forcing more comics to delicately tip-toe around issues of race, class and sexuality…Audiences no longer pick up on the nuances of jokes.”

This loss of comedic nuance is something that other writers have also picked up on. Here’s Nicholas Barber again:

Nobody seems to be able to tell the difference between a racist joke and a liberal joke that comments on racism. The condemnation is harder and colder now, too. Someone whose joke lands badly is being treated with the same ferocity as a racist cop in Texas. They’re treated as if their secret evil has been uncovered, but some misjudged gag at a comedy club is not the clue to someone’s secret evil. Young people have decided it is, but it’s not. – Nicholas Barber

Internet Outrage

Adding to all this is the fact that we are all online now, making it easier to share your outrage. British comedian Gina Yashere, who now lives and works in the US but began her career in the UK, recently argued on BBC radio that there’s been a “big shift in everybody getting offended about everything”. She said social media has amplified how audiences respond when they hear something they don’t like. “Usually, when people were offended they walked out and told their friends and family and that was the end of it. Now, everybody has an opinion and everybody has to let everybody else know what this opinion is and something has to be done about it.”

This zero tolerance approach to anything you find disagreeable even in the slightest is why you have controversies surrounding the likes of Sarah Silverman, Saturday Night Live, and the British comedian Andrew Lawrence (there is a brilliant documentary about Lawrence by Sky TV called The Outcast Comic, well worth watching if you get the chance).

Go back a few decades and you realise that the over-enthusiastic Ben Elton failed to bring down “Mrs Thatch”, Rory Bremner failed to stop the Iraq war, and (let’s face it) all of the comedians alive today who are doing jokes about Trump, which is most of them, will not bring down his presidency. Not only that, Trump and the fog of madness (or the “haze of bullshit” as author Johann Hari puts it) that surrounds him has made it very difficult for comedians to put their best satirical foot forward, a point depressingly noted by some comedians:

The political situation has been so stupid now, for so long, it seems beyond satire. In print, and on stage, I reach for ever more desperate methods to mock it. – Stewart Lee, Jan 2018

2017 made it too easy to write satire for comedians. We are very creative people. We don’t like it when the news story can just be said and you think it’s a joke. So myself and all other comedians hope that 2018 will be a year where satire is harder to write. – Daliso Chaponda

What we have seen so far of 2018 suggests that Chaponda and others will continue to find it too easy, or too hard depending on their perspective, to write satire. Despite this difficulty we must keep comedy and satire alive, we must keep laughing, and surely the main reason as to why is given by Harry Shearer (who does many of the voices in The Simpsons):

Good satire is the greatest weapon against arseholes, and the world is full of arseholes. – Harry Shearer

Well said that man. And nodding in agreement with Shearer is the current godfather of American satire Bill Maher who recently said that:

In 2018 it’s more important than ever that we ALL KEEP LAUGHING! The nothing-is-funny-people are trying to take over the world and we can’t let them. – Bill Maher

I too am hoping that these people fail in their bid to take over the world. With that in mind, presented below in full is an article written in 2015 by the American comedian Jim Norton. Norton was writing about the fake outrage, or the “Manufactured Outrage” as he likes to call it, in response to a Twitter storm that erupted because of something or other that the South African comedian (and current host of The Daily Show) Trevor Noah had said. Details of the storm are not as important as the reaction, which clearly had a vitriolic effect on Norton, enough for him to seriously and hilariously put pen to paper. In the article he wrote he defends his fellow comedian from the backslash he faced, and he also discusses how certain parts of society are becoming more and more superficially enraged by satire. Anyways, enjoy!

Trevor Noah Isn’t The Problem. You Are.

Jim Norton, 01 Apr 2015, time.com

Jim Norton

People say that Americans trends are transient, but the one activity we never seem to tire of is being outraged. Boy, do we love it! We simply can’t seem to get enough of that rush we feel when something offends us. It’s like the dopamine drip we get from that first drink or the first drag of a cigarette after getting off a cross-country flight. And what is our favorite thing to be outraged over? Well, it’s certainly nothing petty, like homelessness, or the fact that every single person we elect to public office is a manipulative, groveling, poll-obsessed liar. Nope. We’re not stupid enough to waste our energy on such nonsense. We save our collective outrage for the really important stuff, like things comedians say.

Which brings us, of course, to Trevor Noah, our guest star on this week’s edition of Manufactured Outrage. When Comedy Central named Trevor as Jon Stewart’s successor, our trusty, tireless brigade of social-justice warriors immediately went to work digging through his tweets and stand-up to find something, anything to be upset about. Much to their relief, Trevor didn’t disappoint. Being a working comedian, he’d made plenty of jokes over the years that a susceptible person could pick up, blow the dust off and aim at themselves to achieve martyrdom.

Trevor, while tweeting things with the intention of being funny, had gone…yes, you guessed it – over the line! (Click here for dramatic organ music.) In his rush to be funny, he had broken what has become the new golden rule in American public life, which is to never say anything (or, God forbid, joke about anything) that may be deemed even remotely offensive or upsetting by any segment of the population for any reason. Trevor forgot that in the new millennium, there is a seemingly endless checklist of subject matter that has been deemed inappropriate to address with humor. And by no means is that checklist final; it’s constantly changing and morphing and contradicting itself without warning.

He also neglected to take into account that Western culture as a whole has become an increasingly reactionary mob of self-centered narcissists who all have their own personal lines drawn in the sand. A comedian is fine unless he crosses their particular line, which, of course, in the mind of a self-centered narcissist, is the only line that matters.

Being outraged and upset and feeling bullied or offended are not only things we enjoy, they’re also things we have become thoroughly addicted to. When we can’t purposefully get our feelings hurt by a comedian, we usually find another, albeit less satisfying, source of indignation. A few of the old stand-byes are sports announcers, radio hosts, Twittering athletes and paparazzi-hating actors. These are always great sources to look to when we need to purposefully upset ourselves. And make no mistake about it: Upsetting ourselves on purpose is exactly what we are doing. At least that’s what I hope we are doing. Because the other alternative is that Americans have collectively become the most hypersensitive group of whining milksops ever assembled under one flag. I find this second choice to be particularly humiliating, so I opt for the first. I choose to believe that we are addicted to the rush of being offended, the idea of it, rather than believing we have become a nation of emasculated children whose only defense against an abyss of emotional agony is a trigger warning.

The image people have of comedians staring defiantly over a stationary line of good taste is simply inaccurate. We don’t approach this line, put our toes over it arrogantly and then scamper back to safety. The line doesn’t exist. The correct image for people to have is one of a circle, with a comedian standing in the middle of it, surrounded by a myriad of races, religions, social beliefs, sacred cows and political ideologies. And in these groups are endless numbers of sub groups and personal boundaries. There is simply no way to consistently do the type of comedy that addresses these things without upsetting somebody. No matter which direction you turn to aim the joke, someone is getting hit. And while the person who has been hit jumps up and down and exaggerates their injuries, everyone else in the circle is telling them to shut up and learn to take a joke. Until they themselves get hit.

Trevor Noah is a great, relevant young comic, and Comedy Central is smart to stand by him. I read the tweets he was “under fire” for, and some were funny, some weren’t. The thread that connected them all for me is the embarrassment I feel for anyone claiming to be offended by them. They weren’t vicious or written to be harmful. And everyone reading them knows that. But knowing his tweets weren’t intended to be harmful isn’t important when people who list ‘victim’ as their occupation smell blood in the water. Because their outrage is a lie and their motives are transparent. They are simply using his tweets to get their dopamine drip.


Migrant Child

I was recently watching the TV program The Daily Show With Trevor Noah, as I often do, and the special guest on that particular episode, chef and author Anthony Bourdain, was talking about how he loves to share with others the things he likes:

I am passionate to the point of being evangelical about things that I love, that give me pleasure and make me excited. – Anthony Bourdain

This made me realise that I too am passionate to the point of being evangelical about stand-up comedy, which is perhaps why I keep blogging the way I do. And being the stand-up comedy junkie that I am, over the Christmas and New Year period I indulged in a little stand-up comedy (watching, not performing). In many of the performances I noticed a strong comedic emphasis on immigration, race, and nationality, no doubt fuelled by Trump, Brexit, and certain right-wing media outlets.

These comedians were using their platform to change perceptions. Comedy may not cause you to agree with what or who you are listening to, but it may help you to understand a different point of view. So the comedians mentioned below will hopefully help us all understand some of the many different perspectives that are out there, not just the ones we currently hold.

The understanding of different perspectives is desperately needed when it comes to immigrants. Whether you call them migrants, illegal immigrants, refugees, asylum seekers, or something more derogatory, currently there are over 65 million of them worldwide, more than the entire population of Britain. These people are desperate for a better life and the myriad issues surrounding them are some of the main driving forces affecting global politics today. A recent cover of the New Statesman magazine spoke of this “Great Migration,” this “mass movement of people,” as being “the 21st century’s most revolutionary force.”

New Statesman Migration

In a recent article the Chinese artist and political activist Ai Weiwei spoke from his personal lifelong experience of what it means to be a refugee:

I was a child refugee. I know how it feels to live in a camp, robbed of my humanity. Refugees must be seen to be an essential part of our shared humanity…From my youth, I experienced inhumane treatment from society. At the camp we had to live in an underground dugout and were subjected to unexplainable hatred, discrimination, unprovoked insults and assaults…I remember experiencing what felt like endless injustice. In such circumstances, there is no place to hide and there is no way to escape. You feel like your life is up against a wall, or that life itself is a dimming light, on the verge of being completely extinguished. Coping with the humiliation and suffering became the only way to survive…

The refugee crisis is not about refugees, rather, it is about us. Our prioritisation of financial gain over people’s struggle for the necessities of life is the primary cause of much of this crisis. The west has all but abandoned its belief in humanity and support for the precious ideals contained in declarations on universal human rights. It has sacrificed these ideals for short-sighted cowardice and greed.

Establishing the understanding that we all belong to one humanity is the most essential step for how we might continue to coexist on this sphere we call Earth. I know what it feels like to be a refugee and to experience the dehumanisation that comes with displacement from home and country. There are many borders to dismantle, but the most important are the ones within our own hearts and minds – these are the borders that are dividing humanity from itself.

 – Ai Weiwei, 02 Feb 2018, theguardian.com

Powerful words indeed and below are hopefully more powerful words related to this topic, taken from stand-up comedians from around the world. As always, each quote is well worth reading in full. Enjoy!

Britain is a first world country. Trust me, it doesn’t get any better than this. People are nice here. Racists are nicer to minorities here then Romanians are to each other. – Radu Isac

I live in Iran. I have a friend in Canada. He always call me at 3AM and asks, “What’s the time difference between Canada and Iran, anyway?” I tell him it’s about 50 to 100 years. – Siavash Safavi

I live in the UK now. I moved to the UK from Romania two years ago. I basically moved here because I want to spend the next part of my life trying to get a couple of more citizenships. That’s what the young smart consumer like me should do. I really feel like having only one government for all my governing needs, that sounds like communism. I need to let the free market decide what nationality I am. So for now I’m British. But don’t worry, the free market is going to point me in a new direction soon. – Radu Isac

I really love living in this country because people are more laid back and relaxed than people back home in Japan. It is nice when things are so organised but that’s just because Japanese people are living busy lifestyles. They don’t have time to mess about! That’s why everything is needed to be operated efficiently, but I don’t want to live like a robot. And there is one word, one beautiful English word I love, and we don’t have this word in Japanese. It is “ish.” It is very pure. So I decided to bring this “ish” concept back home, so the last time I went to Japan I said to my mum “Let’s meet up at one-ish.” But because we don’t have this word I said to her “Let’s meet up between 1.05 and 1.25.” I saw her eyes, they were filled with confusion…and rage. It didn’t work! I believe this “ish” culture began a long time ago and it is in people’s blood. That’s why people are called British. – Yuriko Kotani

I’m a liberal myself, but in Romania. Out here I’m a conservative. That makes sense. The Romanian liberal is basically a UK conservative. It changes depending on where you go in the world. Again, it’s the same as if you guys went to Sweden, you’d be like Nazis there. It keeps changing, it’s not the same. – Radu Isac

It’s been a big year for Malawi, where I am from, because Madonna adopted another two babies. She’s on four! I feel like a failure because I am Malawian and I have zero Malawian babies, she has four. I need to get my act together. But also, when I do that joke, whenever I make fun of Madonna’s adoptions, people think I am criticising it. I actually think it’s an amazing thing, adoption is a wonderful thing and more people should do it. And I also don’t understand why we hide adoptions. People don’t tell children they’re adopted. It’s not a secret, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s the opposite, it’s something to be proud of. Because if you are adopted you are one of the only children on the planet who knows 100% that your parents actually wanted you. They filled out forms. I’ve never heard that Sunday morning hangover story, “Me and the wife got so drunk last night…we ended up in an orphanage…we got two.” – Daliso Chaponda

My name is Sindhu. In the early versions of Microsoft Word the autocorrect used to call me “sand hog.” So I had to come up with a way to deal with this problem, so I started to introduce myself to people here. I would say “Hello, my name is Sindhu, rhymes with Hindu, which I am so it’s convenient.” And most English people used to think “Did she just bring up religion? Why? This has gotten so scary so quickly.” And they would just make an excuse and leave. But those that remembered really got on board. They’d say “Mate! Sindhu the Hindu!” Yeah, a little bit extreme but I’ll take it because they’ll always remember my name. – Sindhu Vee

One of the things I like about where we live is it’s very multicultural. I think that’s one of the brilliant things about London. I think multiculturalism is something we really have to fight for. The school my kids go to, it’s a really nice school and it’s very diverse. We have a mums’ night out once a month and all the mums from the school go. And there are women there from every economic background, every race, every religion. And we have a fantastic time and the Muslim mums drive us home. – Lucy Porter

There was a thing I didn’t like about the Brexit vote that you guys just had. I hated how the whole country sort of assumed that immigrants like it here. We don’t. If you guys want to know how Romanians feel when they come to the UK, it’s basically exactly how you guys feel when you go to Sweden or Norway. You go there and you look around and the whole country is better than your country. They have better stuff than you do. They’re better looking than you are. Somehow in the back of your head you go “Ach, I’d rather have Manchester. Those happy Swedish people creep me out.” That’s how we feel about you guys. You’re friendly and creepy. – Radu Isac

We’re always accusing the United States of not knowing but I don’t think that’s fair, because it’s not their fault. Look at their origin story. The place only exists because the guy did not know where he was going. – Sindhu Vee

British people have become so emotional post-Brexit. Oh my God! Everybody’s freaking out, everybody’s scared of immigrants, everybody’s like “Oh my God! All these immigrants are coming here to change the British way of life.” No! It’s not our priority. You can just imagine a man coming from Gabon, walking across the Sahara desert, crossing the Pyrenees, camping in Calais, jumping a lorry to get here just to say “Right you lot, no more fish with your chips.” He’ll be ringing his pregnant wife in Gabon, “Mushy peas is next.” It’s incredible! And your leaders are telling you that immigrants are coming here to change the British way of life. Who do you think we are? Colonialists? It is truly incredible. People are freaking out, people are saying things like “We want Britain to go back to what it used to be before.” And I’m like how far back do you want to go? Like BC? Before curry? – Njambi McGrath

I am from Kenya, I was born in Kenya. Do you British people remember Kenya? Of course Kenya was a British colony and actually Kenya and Britain went to war. But you don’t know about this war because we won. That’s why you don’t celebrate it. – Njambi McGrath

I grew up in Kenya and when you grow up in Africa you don’t actually know how we are portrayed by the Western media. It is shambolic! It is so awful. What’s up with the flies? Every picture you see of an African they’ve got flies all over their face. Do you know how hard it is to maintain that fly look? You literally have to be wearing marmalade all day. I grew up on a farm in Kenya. I never had flies all over my face. I ate them. – Njambi McGrath

Now that I’ve travelled a little bit I have realized that attitudes to education vary, especially when it comes to university education. In America parents tend to start saving for their kids, tuition fees, the moment the kid is born. In Britain the attitude is pretty much: we’ll cross that bridge when we get there. But African parents are like: there might not be a bridge. – Njambi McGrath

When I was in New York I got to see the sights. It was pretty awesome. I got to see the Statue of Liberty. If you never seen the Statue of Liberty, it’s a female figure with headgear and long flowing robes, which is probably why the French got rid of it as they thought she was a Muslim. And that’s most likely why they kept it on an island. Because France is leading the way. Backwards. Because France has banned the full face covering and we know that America would never follow suit because the KKK would never put up with it. – Njambi McGrath

You have all these TV commercials that are truly awful. And there’s always a kid and he’s always drinking dirty water. And they’re always saying something like “This is Inkrumba. He’s 2 years old and he’s drinking dirty water that’s going to kill him.” And I’m like “So stop him! Don’t just stand there filming him.” And there are commercials that don’t even make sense, like those long-running commercials that say something like this, “Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for life.” You guys need to stop teaching Africans how to fish. Most of Africa is desert. Now there are a lot of very frustrated African fishermen in the Sahara. – Njambi McGrath

I absolutely love the flag of St George because it’s a first-class burglar deterrent. “I’m not going anywhere near that one, it’s some nutter’s house.” – Henning When

If you want to have success as a stand-up here in Britain, all you need to do is loads of swearing. In Germany we don’t swear at all. Reason being, things work. That isn’t even a joke. – Henning Wehn

I’m not an immigrant. There is absolutely no hardship in my story. I always thought, “Nah, I’m not an immigrant because there are absolutely no expectations back home.” It wasn’t that people back home were going, “Ooh, let’s hope Henning succeeds in Britain so we can afford a second goat.” There was nothing riding on it one way or the other. I cannot possibly be an immigrant, I have never used Western Union! Now that is surely conclusive proof! Now, this might be a technicality, but I always thought to qualify as an immigrant you had to move somewhere better. Moving somewhere worse is what I associate with becoming an expat. Or in more extreme cases a relief worker. – Henning Wehn

The citizenship test. That’s essentially a high-stakes pub quiz. A high-stakes pub quiz where the winner gets a passport, rather than some low-quality meats. – Henning When

The vast majority of foreigners in this country are economic migrants. And it’s become a little bit of a dirty word, and I understand why because let’s be honest, these economic migrants, they do ruin it for the British workforce. You don’t have to agree with me openly on this one, but everybody knows I’m spot-on. Economic migrants, they do ruin it for the British workforce. Turning up in the morning on time, sober, wanting to work. What’s wrong with you? Call in sick! Assimilate, you bastard! What do you mean “trying to better yourself”? You make me sick! – Henning Wehn

I like coming to England, this is a cool country. I do enjoy coming here, mainly because the cops here have no guns. I feel like I’m on vacation. I’m serious. I get to do things here I would never do at home. I get to do things like move. – Orlando Baxter

My name is Orlando and if you can’t tell by my accent, I’m black. I know that’s obvious to a lot of people in here but in America Orlando is a very Hispanic name, so I get confused for being Hispanic all the time. It’s uncomfortable. I’ll be like “Hi, my name is Orlando.” They’ll be like “Orlandooooo! Que paso?” Then I gotta hit them with the truth. “Sorry, I’m basketball black, not baseball black.” – Orlando Baxter