CORONA HAS BURST OUR BUBBLE OF FALSE COMFORT

Corona WeeksIt seems almost a moot point to write about anything other than the pandemic that has caused over a quarter of all people on earth to be placed under government lock down. Corona has proven that many of the things in our lives are unnecessary. Things such as the gym, shopping malls, cinemas, sports events, and restaurants, have all gone for a toss as we learn to live without them:

Every sport has been cancelled, so men have to just live with themselves. I called my friend up and I was like “What you been up to?” He’s like “I’m just working on me.” I was like “Whoa! That’s great.” He’s like “I realize I’ve got a lot of daddy issues, there’s a lot of jealousy in my life.” Pause for another second. “I just want to tell you I love you, man. I don’t say it enough.” And I was like “Man, this is a great virus. This is a good virus. We all need this.” – Ethan Simmons-Patterson

It has indeed been quite a week, quite a month, quite a year, quite an endless, blurry lump of time in quarantine. Despite this, for the first time in history we can all save humanity, we can all save ourselves, by just staying at home and doing absolutely nothing. Please, for the love of all that is good, let us not mess this up (although somehow I feel we will).

Like most things in our globalised capitalist society, the current epicentre of the virus has moved from China to America. I know Americans are obsessed with being number one, but surely they do not want to the accolade of being the country with the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases (113,000 at the time of writing). Go Team America!

This virus has also proven to be somewhat of an existential challenge. We all find ourselves asking soul searching questions. How many of us are to die before this too shall pass? Who knows what the ripple effects and the knock on effects of this pandemic will be? Who knows how long this virus will last, or for how long we will be dealing with the aftermath? Who knows how life will change (surely it must)?

Such is the impact of COVID-19 that the Guardian news website, of which I have been a visitor for well over 15 years, has only had one news topic dominating their Most Viewed list of top 10 news stories, for at least 3 weeks now. It is almost as though no other news story matters, and I guess no other news story does.

Speaking of news websites, I know much has already been written about this situation, but I would just like to draw your besieged attention to the following articles and quotes. We start with three humorous tweets that somehow capture the sheer madness and confusion of these crazy times we find ourselves in. The next two quotes are from a drug dealer and a Jesuit sister (I kid you not), telling us about how this pandemic has affected them and their ‘clients’. What follows on from that are various quotes that, I hope, provide a different perspective on the current global situation. As best as one can, enjoy!

Corona Everything

If you want an indication of how much of a hellscape this is going to be, last night a mate told our friendship group he couldn’t do a virtual dinner on Friday because he had “other digital commitments.” – Alan White, 24 Mar 2020

I’m stocking up on photos of empty supermarket shelves. The media are going to run out of them pretty soon, and I’ll make a fortune. – Paul Bassett Davies, 06 Mar 2020

At this point, asking me “What are you doing tomorrow?” is hate speech. – Sydnee Washington, 25 Mar 2020

I sell cannabis and cocaine to suppliers in the north of England. I have around 20 guys on the street, with approximately 200 regular customers. We have two main concerns now: sourcing drugs and getting enough money. We expect no more cocaine shipments from abroad for the next six weeks, so prices have shot up. I’m maintaining the same prices I’ve always charged but I’m concerned that, when stock begins to run low, people higher up the chain will charge more or cut the cocaine and decrease its quality. People are panicking – the amounts of cannabis they’re buying is ridiculous – so we are just dealing to regulars now. I’ve told my workers to be strict with what they sell and who to, but they aren’t changing their behaviour much, other than offering to post through letterboxes and accept bank transfers from trusted customers. People running out of money is a big concern, but we’ll always have the regular cokeheads who buy most days. I’ve been doing this for 12 years and don’t have any dependants – other than sometimes helping my parents out with bits of cash – so I’m not financially worried. My biggest concern is handling money. I’ve been wearing gloves. – a drug dealer, 28 Mar 2020, in an interview with theguardian.com

Normally we have Mass daily; not now, but we’re praying more. Faith is important to people in times such as this. For all of us, the crisis is triggering questions about what is important. Having a pope like Francis is wonderful; he sent out a beautiful message: “Tonight before falling asleep, think about when we will return to the street, hug again…We will go back to laughing together. Strength and courage. See you soon!” It will be interesting to see what happens in the longer term – whether some people turn to faith. Faith is about finding meaning, and everyone is now trying to do that. People are living a stripped-back life and that means they’ve been given time for reflection. This crisis has shown us that vulnerability has something to teach us; suddenly, we’re all vulnerable. The temptation is to retreat, to look inwards. But once this is over, do we stay behind borders or will we have learned things? We might have opened our hearts in ways we hadn’t thought about before. – a Jesuit sister, 28 Mar 2020, in an interview with theguardian.com

We have been living in a bubble, a bubble of false comfort and denial. In the rich nations, we have begun to believe we have transcended the material world. The wealth we’ve accumulated – often at the expense of others – has shielded us from reality. Living behind screens, passing between capsules – our houses, cars, offices and shopping malls – we persuaded ourselves that contingency had retreated, that we had reached the point all civilisations seek: insulation from natural hazards. Now the membrane has ruptured, and we find ourselves naked and outraged, as the biology we appeared to have banished storms through our lives. The temptation, when this pandemic has passed, will be to find another bubble. We cannot afford to succumb to it. From now on, we should expose our minds to the painful realities we have denied for too long…Never again should we listen to the liars and the deniers. Never again should we allow a comforting falsehood to trounce a painful truth. No longer can we afford to be dominated by those who put money ahead of life. This coronavirus reminds us that we belong to the material world. – George Monbiot, 25 Mar 2020, from the theguardian.com article Covid-19 Is Nature’s Wake-Up Call To Complacent Civilisation

Celebrities have always been the symmetrical, smiling face of wealth inequality. Their role in modern life is as paradoxical as trickle-down economics: to be preternaturally charming and attractive, but also relatable and attainably aspirational. We speak of “liking” one celebrity and “disliking” another on the basis of the professionally calibrated personas they beam out to us as sincerity. We enjoy their work – their acting, their singing, their athleticism – and we cheer on their successes. They are purveyors of a great American myth: that there is such a thing as “well-earned” luxury, or a “deserving” millionaire. And in America, fame doesn’t just make you rich: it makes you a role model…Watching yet another celebrity announce that they have been tested (often while asymptomatic) feels like watching a medical drama that takes place on another planet. Meanwhile, the rest of us wait: not just for tests, but for the after-effects that a lack of testing will bring upon our communities, and upon the communities of those we love…The wealthy and the powerful are counting on us not paying attention. They’re looking out for their own while we are left on a sinking ship: the hedge funders, the landlords, the pharmaceutical billionaires. They’re counting on our attention being elsewhere – not Uncle Idris! Not Forrest Gump! – and they’re counting on our anger losing steam by the time this international nightmare ends. They’re counting on us taking it – as President Trump tells it – as “the story of life”. – Jennifer Schaffer, 21 Mar 2020, from the theguardian.com article Why Are The Rich And Famous Getting Coronavirus Tests While We Aren’t?

Corona Terror

It may have started with a bat in a cave, but human activity set it loose…So when you’re done worrying about this outbreak, worry about the next one. Or do something about the current circumstances…Current circumstances also include 7.6 billion hungry humans: some of them impoverished and desperate for protein; some affluent and wasteful and empowered to travel every which way by airplane. These factors are unprecedented on planet Earth: We know from the fossil record, by absence of evidence, that no large-bodied animal has ever been nearly so abundant as humans are now, let alone so effective at arrogating resources. And one consequence of that abundance, that power, and the consequent ecological disturbances is increasing viral exchanges — first from animal to human, then from human to human, sometimes on a pandemic scale. We invade tropical forests and other wild landscapes, which harbor so many species of animals and plants — and within those creatures, so many unknown viruses. We cut the trees; we kill the animals or cage them and send them to markets. We disrupt ecosystems, and we shake viruses loose from their natural hosts. When that happens, they need a new host. Often, we are it. – David Quammen, 28 Jan 2020, from the nytimes.com article We Made The Coronavirus Epidemic

Online misinformation about Covid-19 appears to be spreading faster than the virus itself. Certain claims made about the origins and transmission of the virus may be true, but many aren’t, and these falsehoods are fuelling conspiracy theories that serve only to spread fear on a global scale. The World Health Organisation has labelled the overabundance of information an “infodemic”, arguing it “makes it hard for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidance when they need it”…Twitter, Facebook and Google’s filters and algorithms may be a good starting point in tackling misinformation about coronavirus and allow people to easily find relevant and authoritative updates. However, penetrating the social media echo chambers fuelled by distrust in experts and news outlets will be the real challenge. – Sabrina Weiss, Feb 2020, from the newstatesman.com article Inside The Infodemic: Coronavirus In The Age Of Wellness

Almost every day the BBC’s One-minute World News provides the latest death tally from coronavirus. The short news wrap-up typically covers about three news items only, meaning that for the BBC, the virus has been among the top three most important issues for the world, daily for the last two months. All the other mainstream media outlets are likewise reporting on every single angle to this story they can, including regular updates of the global tally and a country-by-country breakdown. The impact of such intense coverage of the virus is widespread fear, even though pedestrians are still 13 times more likely to be killed by a car than by this virus…Then there are the epidemics that aren’t even documented or counted…There is no one categorizing the overproduction of useless shit, though we do know that there are around 50 million tons of electronic waste produced each year. There is no daily news on the virulent erasure of histories, voices, people’s organization, cultures, and languages. The mainstream media are not concerned in the same way by the epidemic of corrupt politicians bought off by big business or by the public money lost to corporate tax avoidance (estimated at $500 billion per year). And the mainstream media will not talk much about these things. That isn’t just because rich people can’t catch poverty, it’s because the mainstream media is capitalist and it does not recognize systemic issues, and certainly not the causes and solutions to them. The media pretends not to, but it does have an agenda, and that agenda is in fact counter to the one that us serious journalists commit to – to revealing the bruises of the world and the screaming injustices and holding those in power accountable. Panic and fomenting fear are well-tried methods of control, distraction, and of shifting popular support towards the rightwing. On the other hand, raising awareness of the sickening global inequality and the daily pain so many are subject to develops critical thought, and would be empowering and disrupting, and so the mainstream media does not do that. – Tamara Pearson, 06 Mar 2020, from the counterpunch.org article All The Devastating Epidemics That Coronavirus Is Distracting Us From

We Now Live In A.C. – After Cirona

Corona1

If a week is a long time in politics, then a month during a pandemic truly feels like an eternity. Such is the intensity of the coronavirus outbreak that the economist Thomas L Friedman stated in the New York Times “There is the world BC — Before Corona — and the world AC — After Corona. We have not even begun to fully grasp what the AC world will look like.” In the early AC days the American talk show host Stephen Colbert described the situation by saying “We don’t know whether it’s a feather or a brick.” A few weeks later and we know for sure that this, whatever it is, most definitely is not a feather.

Now that we live in the AC era, an era where the anchor of normality is well and truly set adrift, many of us look back in yearning to our BC lives. Writing in the Guardian, Arwa Mahdawi pines “Remember the good old days when supermarket shelves were stocked with toilet paper? Remember when only a few people were familiar with the phrase “social distancing”? Remember when you could cough in public without immediately becoming a pariah? Remember February? I have never been so nostalgic for “normal”. I have never longed so desperately for a dull day.”

This epidemic has increased anxiety levels all round, partly due to the fact that we sit and watch the news more than ever, something I didn’t think possible. Since the advent of President Trump (himself a type of immoral virus) the 24 hours new cycle spews out information at break neck speed. And just when I thought my neck could not be any more broken, along comes the coronavirus speeding up the news cycle exponentially, as noted by Natalie Morris over at the Metro: “The current news cycle looks like the opening montage of an apocalyptic horror movie, and every headline leads on spiralling death counts, panic in the streets and dire warnings from official-looking medical professionals…We are living through a scary moment in history, so if you are feeling anxious, that’s normal.”

Rani Molla over at vox.com pretty much confirms our increased news addiction: “If you feel like you’ve been glued to the news lately, you’re not alone. We’re collectively reading much more news during the novel coronavirus pandemic than normal, according to new publisher traffic data…Page views were up 30 percent last week compared with last year…Overall traffic to news sites has gone up.”

Okay, so we are all scared and we are all watching the news perhaps a little too much. What do we do now? Well, the American satirist Bill Maher has some non-medical advice to help us calm our nerves. According to Maher, we need to focus of the 3 S’s, which are “sugar, stress, and sleep. Get a lot of sleep, don’t have sugar, and don’t stress. Turn off the fucking TV! I haven’t watched the news all week. I get it, we’re in trouble, I don’t need to see it every two minutes. And I think I’ve been sleeping better because of it because, I mean, people are going get it or not.”

Further advice was provided in a letter published in the Metro, which simply suggested how we should all just binge-watch our way out of this: “What about giving the whole world a two-week Netflix holiday and having the government supply us with free popcorn and food delivery? They spend so much on wars I bet they could afford that. It should stop the spread of coronavirus.”

The coronavirus is bringing out the best in humanity, with medical staff working tirelessly around the clock. Some have even lost their lives for their heroic efforts. Unfortunately we’ve also seen the worst, with some profiteering from the outbreak in many different ways. And then you have the weird and wonderful reactions. For example, the Shish Mahal Indian restaurant in Glasgow is offering a free curry to anyone affected by the deadly virus, despite there being no confirmed cases in the city at the time of writing. Good luck delivering that. Not to be outdone, the Maaya Indian Kitchen and Bar in Milton Keynes have said they will give a free toilet roll for purchases over £25. Spend over £80 and you will be treated to two free toilet rolls. One assumes after eating their food you will need them.

The collective reaction to the virus reminded me of something comedian Marc Maron said in his recent Netflix stand-up special End Times Fun, filmed before the epidemic started: “I don’t know what it’s gonna take to get everybody to unite. Haven’t we been entertained enough? Isn’t there something that could bring everyone together and make us just realize that we’ve got to put a stop to almost everything. What would it take? Something terrible. That’s what brings people together. Nothing good. It’s gotta be something bad and big. Get everyone to fucking snap out of this trance. I don’t know what it’ll take. Does the sky have to catch on fire? Would that do it? If we all walked outside and went ‘Oh, we fucked it. Fucking sky’s on fire. God damn it. I knew we were in trouble, but fuck, it made the jump from land to sky. This is bad.’”

Although the sky may not be on fire, at least not yet, it does feel like this virus is the bad and big and terrible thing that is uniting us all. And in an attempt to unite us all a little further, and to take our minds away from the unpleasantness temporarily, please find below several comedic quotes that I hope you will find amusing. Present circumstances persisting, enjoy!

The-Disease

It’s easy to get depressed or anxious in the world that we’re living in right now. A lot of that is due to Donald Trump. He wants us to fear everything, even Mexicans. He tells us that Mexicans are going to take our jobs. Let me tell you something. Mexicans are not going to take your jobs. Robots are going to take your jobs. And once the robots have all the jobs, trust me, Mexican robots are going to take their jobs. Lazy Mexican robots, sleeping on the factory floor. – Jeff Greenspan

Is Google male or female? Female, because it doesn’t let you finish a sentence before making a suggestion. – Anon

I’ve been married a very long time, over 20 years now. And when you’ve been married this long you get to know each other so well. My husband knows me well. And I know my husband so well at this point that we can have a full blown argument, from start to finish, and he’s not even home. – Sindhu Vee

I’m trying to slim down. I was at the gym today for three hours. I did 45 minutes of Instagram, 1 minute of cardio, then I went to the smoothie bar for the rest of the afternoon. – Jeff Ross

In Texas where I’m from there is a lot of weird Christian Muslim tension. I don’t really understand it because Christianity and Islam are the same thing. Both have one God, both started in the Middle East. Only difference I can think of is that Islam is the one true religion. Besides that they’re pretty much the same thing. Do you guys realize how tough it is that I’m the only one in this room who is going into heaven? You guys seem so nice but rules are rules. – Usama Siddiquee, American stand-up comedian

I was crossing the street in my neighborhood and this guy walked by me, muttering ‘ISIS’ under his breath. So I turned to him and said ‘ALLAH-HU-AKBAR!’ I mean, if you really thought I was a terrorist, would you want to provoke me? – Mariam Sobh

People accuse of me of sneaking references to metal working into my tweets. Well, der. – David Quantick

It’s tough being a man right now. Bruce Jenner got out just in time. – Jeff Ross

I met an American girl. We went on a date. I took her to a Syrian restaurant, because that’s the only place I can afford. I’m like “What would you like to have?” And she’s like “I don’t know, what should I have?” And I’m like “Well there’s shawarma.” She looks at me and says “No, I’m a vegan.” I’m like “What does that mean?” She’s like “We don’t eat meat or chicken.” I’m like “Oh, a vegetarian.” She’s like “No, a vegan. We don’t eat eggs, milk, chicken, yoghurt, or honey.” And I’m like “Oh, a Syrian refugee.” – Omar Mohammad

Since we all love shows about drag queens, and we used to love shows about baby beauty queens, we have to make a show about baby drag queens. We could call it Lil’ Queens. That way when ISIS kills us all at least we’ll deserve it. – Bill Maher, Jun 2019

Hello, my name is Ibrahim. I’m currently a part time Muslim. I don’t pray much, I like to party, and I love pepperoni. But I get stopped and searched at every airport going, so it kind of balances itself out. – Ibrahim Sesay

I never liked my index and middle fingers but I’ve made peace with it. – tweet from Steven W Skinner

I lived in Alabama throughout college. I went to a really small Southern Baptist school where there was no diversity whatsoever. It was 99% white people and me. The closest I got to another Arab there was Jesus. – Atheer Yacoub

The three major religions have a lot in common, and this is just a really small example of something that they all share. And you guys can look this up in the Bible, the Torah, and the Quran. They all talk about heaven the exact same way. They all refer to it as a paradise land flowing with milk and honey. And that’s one small thing we can all agree on, that vegans are going to hell. That’s what I got from that…I have nothing against vegans. In fact some of my best friends are self-righteous. – Atheer Yacoub

Whenever my family would travel to Palestine and back, my parents would always order a kosher meal, even though halal was available. I guess they knew better. Kosher and halal are pretty much the same thing, except when you order a kosher meal they let you back into the country. So just a little tip for you guys, make sure you do that. – Atheer Yacoub

The next best thing to being a doctor is marrying a doctor. After I turned 30 my mom stopped caring what kind of doctor, it could be a doctor of history, a doctor of art. I think if Trump had a medical degree she’d like if “Give him a chance. No man is perfect.” So ever since I turned 30 every year my family reminds me that my biological clock is ticking, I’m getting older, I need to have kids. When my parents first saw that show 16 And Pregnant they were like “That poor girl. Why did she wait so long?” – Atheer Yacoub

WHEN DID AMERICANS BECOME THE FATWA PEOPLE?

Frankie Scotland

Way back in 1866 the French poet Joseph Roux said “A fine quotation is a diamond on the finger of a man of wit, and a pebble in the hand of a fool.” With that in mind I am not sure if the following quotes are eight diamonds or eight pebbles. I guess that depends on whether you think of a me as a man of wit or a fool. These quotes cover various aspects of the modern world, good and bad, warts and all, from Robert the Bruce to Donald the Trump, from stock markets plunging to Hindu nationalist pogroms.

However, we start with Bill Maher who, on a recent episode of his brilliant TV show Real Time With Bill Maher, ended with a segment called “Death Prattle.” On YouTube the clip is called “My Way Or The Die Way.” Maher tirades against the way we over react to people with whom we disagree. The 5 minute segment packs a mighty philosophical, political, and cultural punch, and I agree with pretty much everybody word of it. Enjoy!


And finally, new rule, Americans need to find a better way to say I disagree with your position then “I’m going to kill you.” It’s one of the few things the left and the right have in common now. Adam Schiff and Chuck Schumer received death threats for impeaching Trump, and Susan Collins got death threats for not impeaching him…Why don’t they just make an app for death threats? You could call it “endr.” Look, I’m not saying there’s no place for blind blood lust, like in the Bible or when they run out of chicken sandwiches at Popeyes. But everything? A singer who wore her support for Trump proudly to the Grammys got death threats. Gayle King got death threats for asking a ‘too soon’ question about Kobe Bryant. Ilhan Omar gets death threats for being an immigrant. Death threats went out to a woman who wrote a pro-immigrant book because she wasn’t actually an immigrant. The Ukraine whistle-blower got death threats and nobody even knew who it was! They just sent open letters “To whom it may concern, I’m going to kill you.” This is what happens when you let cancel culture spin out of control. It’s the same attitude, just taken a little further. We take your livelihood. Huh! Let’s just go ahead and take your life. Because all the geniuses in this country are so one million percent sure they’re right about everything, that it’s always just ‘my way or the die way.’ You know, Trump may want to be a dictator but he is hardly alone. A lot of people in this country love to say “Off with their head!” Don’t like that thing you purchased? Threaten to burn down the factory. Don’t agree with someone who won the Oscar? Tell them you’re gonna find where they live and slit their throat. Don’t like the call the ref made at your kids soccer game? Send them a picture of you brandishing an axe. When did Americans become the fatwa people? Every minor dispute has to go from zero to Mel Gibson in three seconds? Did you know that the new pop sensation Billie Eilish spent her big night at the Grammys apologizing for winning? Yeah! Because her overriding emotion wasn’t pride, it was fear that super fans of rival pop stars would attack her. Oh, if only we had this kind of passion for something that mattered in this country. – Bill Maher, 28 Feb 2020, from his TV show Real Time With Bill Maher

Trump is the first president to use the stock market as a near-daily measure of his success — and his virility — and now the market is slumping. If you want to own it on the way up, you have to own it on the way down. Investors, who worried when Trump began to rise in politics, soon realized that he had their backs. He was just a corporate vessel pretending to be a populist; the stock market was his sugar high. Now Trump is learning the hard way what my fatalistic Irish mother taught me: The thing you love most is the first to go. As Mike Bloomberg points out, investors have factored in Trump’s incompetence, and that is contributing to the market cratering. – Maureen Dowd, 29 Feb 2020, from the nytimes.com article Trump Makes Us Ill

Blame the poisonous ideology of the Hindu nationalist BJP for the blood on India’s streets…What Delhi witnessed over the past week is targeted violence against Muslims, led by mobs of Hindu nationalists, mainly supporters of the BJP, India’s governing party, many chanting “Jai Shri Ram” (“glory to Lord Rama”) and “Hinduon ka Hindustan” (India for Hindus)…While the attempt to exclude Muslims reveals the chauvinist ideology of the BJP, mass opposition to the CAA, from Hindus and Muslims alike, shows the depth of hostility to bigotry. In Delhi, too, amid the violence there have been many stories of Hindus protecting Muslim neighbours, and of Muslims aiding Hindus. What is playing out in India is not a simple religious conflict between Hindus and Muslims but a political struggle between two visions of India: between those who see it as an open, secular nation and those who wish to create a chauvinist Hindu state. Who prevails in this struggle matters not just to Muslims, or to Indians, but to all of us. – Kenan Malik, 01 Mar 2020, from the theguardian.com article The Violence In Delhi Is Not A ‘Riot’. It Is Targeted Anti-Muslim Brutality

The man is at ground zero in every conceivable way our humanity can be measured, but a brief survey of the last forty years shows us that we were at the bottom before him. He’s a native son, a natural product of this ferment, not an anomaly but what’s at the end of the road when a whole culture elevates profit as the only measure of growth…Trump’s swelter of hatred for Obama and his influence on us is reminiscent of the darkness of soul that fascinated Nathaniel Hawthorne, the hatred of Roger Chillingworth for Arthur Dimmesdale in The Scarlet Letter, a novel of America’s dark soul. The desire for revenge which Trump, Impeachment Redux, now seeks is set against an elapsing moral sense in the American soul. This drama, a cultural psychodrama, a psychomachia in medieval terms, has nothing to do with political division and all to do with a battle of darkness and light in a country driven solely by its economics into the shadows of intentions and actions, words and images. The measure of enlightened civility and just mercy is not the Dow Jones or the S&P 500. That measure birthed this president. The mud that made him is ours. He didn’t invent the darkness. – Joseph Natoli, 28 Feb 2020, from the counterpunch.org article Dispelling The Darkness

The stock market lost six trillion dollars this week. Pretty soon that adds up to real money. And of course that’s because of the coronavirus. Is this serious? Yes, it is. The CDC, the Centers for Disease Control, is now calling it the COVID-19, and you know a disease is serious when they give it a rap name. Will life change? Yes, it will. You just have to take more precautions now. Just assume everyone is infectious, the same warning they give contestants on The Bachelor…This would be a nice time, wouldn’t it, to have a president who doesn’t talk out of his ass, think with his dick, and eat with his hands. But we don’t have that. We have a president who thinks “I won an election where I got the fewest votes. I commit crimes and my lawyers go to jail. Reality is for losers!” – Bill Maher, 28 Feb 2019, from his TV show Real Time With Bill Maher

India’s ruling party will allow nothing to stand in the way of its Hindu-nationalist agenda…Mobs targeting a single religious group were allowed to run riot, unchecked by police. This is the definition of a pogrom…The message from the BJP is clear: Elect whomever you like. We are still in power. Call the police; they work for us. Appeal to the courts; we’ll neutralize any judges who don’t toe our line. Continue to dissent, and we will set the mob on you…Modi’s image as a pragmatic, business-oriented leader who has eschewed Hindu extremism now lies in tatters…All it takes in Modi’s India to marshal a mob is a word. And all it takes to turn the mob’s rampage into a pogrom against a religious minority is the complicity of police and state authorities. Yet, across India, brave citizens continue to occupy public spaces in peaceful protest. They know that all they have left to save their democratic republic is one another. They know that, any day, the mob can come for them too. – Mira Kamdar, 28 Feb 2020, from the theatlantic.com article What Happened In Delhi Was A Pogrom

Scotland hasn’t won much, not since Slimmer Of The Year said that it didn’t count if you lost a limb to diabetes. But Robert the Bruce scored a decisive victory by beating the English at Bannockburn, making the overall score one to seven thousand to them. For a place that practices a lot, we’re clearly not that good at fighting…Robert the Bruce remains an inspiration to many in Scotland, having lived to 54. In 1305 Robert the Bruce, taking refuge from battle in a cave, was inspired by a spider to spend four days trapped in the bath. Robert went on to defeat the English at Bannockburn and then Berwick. Even today as a mark of respect, everyone in Berwick continues to look defeated. The Battle of Bannockburn was perhaps the most famous of Scottish victories, closely followed by getting a London taxi driver to accept a Clydesdale Bank 20. Robert was a warrior, but also a cunning ruler who managed to use an alliance with France to capitalise on English fears of an invasion. Can you imagine if England had fallen under French rule? Right now from Newcastle right down to Plymouth, they would be speaking…louder English. Ultimately, France didn’t invade, possibly because they needed England as a vital safety buffer between their own and Scottish cuisine. Robert led Scotland to its first war of independence, 700 years before Nicola Sturgeon took on his mantle and his haircut. – Frankie Boyle, Feb 2020, from his BBC TV show Frankie Boyle’s Tour Of Scotland

When I look back on the last month or so of this tour, I see a Scotland that’s in quite a predicament, filled with wonderful, open, talented, generous people and owned by arseholes. About a quarter of the country is sporting estates given over to people shooting grouse, a sort of chicken in drag. I actually grew up on a sporting estate. We always gave someone a head start before we mugged them. Another problem here is this inaccurate idea we have of ourselves as a historically oppressed nation. In the late 18th century, Scots owned 30% of Jamaica. Now we own approximately 30% of our own furniture, and teeth. We weren’t colonised by England, we were complicit with the British Empire’s colonial endeavours, but have conveniently decided to redefine ourselves as another of its victims, a bit like Rose West hearing the police sirens and quickly burrowing under some paving slabs. Our history even before that isn’t really that of a proud nation seeking self-determination. Scotland was historically a thing passed around among the powerful in much the way that nowadays, they might pass around a sexy orphan. The long death of the union has led to Scottish culture being increasingly marginalised and patronised. When James Kelman won the Booker Prize, he accepted by saying “My culture and my language have the right to exist. And no one has the authority to dismiss them.” That is an incredible thing for someone to have to say, to have to insist on their own validity, their right to speak in their own voice. I think that in the years ahead of us there’ll be a lot of new Scottish voices charting us away from the cultural cringe and the nuclear missile-based status and the food banks and the religious neuroses and the difficulty that we have, let’s be honest, in allowing ourselves to find joy in each other and towards a new enlightenment, of which we’re well capable now that we’ve had a good, long rest. – Frankie Boyle, Feb 2020, from his BBC TV show Frankie Boyle’s Tour Of Scotland