YOU CAN’T KNOW PAKISTAN UNLESS YOU KNOW PARTITION

Dubai Pakistan

Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, the tallest skyscraper in the world, lit up with the colours of the Pakistani flag to celebrate the 70th independence anniversary of Pakistan, 14th August 2017

Despite the fact that I am British born and bred (I cried when England lost in the 1990 World Cup semi-final against those bloody Germans), Pakistan is never too far from my mind. My parents are from there, as are many other relatives. A large part of my language, clothing, food, culture, and customs comes from the mother land. Even as I write this blog I am wearing black jeans and a salmon coloured kameez, and I know I have kebabs and curry to look forward to for my dinner. On an almost daily basis I will see the flag of Pakistan somewhere on the streets of Birmingham, and should someone ask me where I am from originally, from ‘back home’, the answer given will be Pakistan. Add to this the fact that my neighbours recently came back from a two week holiday in Pakistan (which they loved).

Aside from my personal links to Pakistan, the Islamic Republic is always in the news, and 2017 in particular has been an intense news-worthy year for Pakistan. Here are just some of the things that have happened so far this year:

  • Pakistan were crowned International Cricket Council Champions, beating arch rivals India in the final, during the holy month of Ramadhaan.

Hasan Ali

Pakistani cricketer Hasan Ali celebrates taking a wicket against South Africa.

  • Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was forced to resign after he was disqualified from office by the Supreme Court, which dismissed him after a damning corruption probe into his family wealth. The whole affair is more commonly known as ‘fontgate’.
  • One of the most controversial trials in Pakistani history ended with the former military dictator Pervez Musharraf declared a fugitive and his property ordered confiscated after he failed to show in court over the assassination 10 years ago of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.
  • Malala Yousafzai, the unofficial daughter and voice of Pakistan, was awarded an honorary Canadian citizenship, she became the youngest person to address the House of Commons of Canada, she gained a place at Oxford University to study a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, she was recognised as the youngest ever United Nations Messenger of Peace, she received an honorary doctorate from the University of Ottawa, and she was awarded the Ellis Island International Medal of Honor.
  • Trouble in Kashmir still rages on, with constant clashes between Kashmiri youth and Indian security forces.
  • Monsoon floods have hit much of the Indian subcontinent, including parts of Pakistan, with at least 23 dead in Karachi after torrential rains. This despite the fact that earlier this year parts of Pakistan were experiencing drought.
  • The issue of transgender rights has taken off this year in Pakistan in a big way.
  • An oil truck fire tragically killed over 150 people, with many of the victims dying as they tried to steal petrol from the over turned tanker as it exploded.
  • Pakistan continues to strengthen ties with China, both political and financial (Pakistan’s close relationship with China goes back to 1950, when it became one of the first countries to recognise the new communist regime).
  • Whilst America deals with the all too real Hurricane Harvey, Pakistan was hit recently by the words of Hurricane Trump, who accused Pakistan of not doing enough in the war on terror. His uninformed outburst led to the following letter in the Daily Times of Pakistan

Sir: Pakistan has suffered more losses than American in the war on terror. Pakistan’s war on terror has cost $118 billion; according to the State Bank of Pakistan. About 5,498 Pakistani soldiers have lost their lives compared to 2,386 American soldiers in Afghanistan. A total of 80,000 Pakistanis have been killed in the US-led war on terror. Besides, the war badly affected Foreign Direct Investment in the country. For instance, the total FDI during the Musharraf regime was $18 billion. It reached to only $6 billion between 2008 and 2015. Moreover, five million people, from 2004 to 2014, have been displaced, according to the International Displacement Centre. Instead of accusing Pakistan of harboring terrorists, Trump should realize that Pakistan is also a victim of terrorism and is committed to addressing the issue. Saddam Hussain Samo, Karachi

Stern words indeed. However, the main news story for Pakistan in 2017 is surely the 70th anniversary of the partition. Aside from the expected celebrations, we’ve had books such as Inglorious Empire: What The British Did To India by Shashi Tharoor, and the highly rated Partition: The Story Of Indian Independence And The Creation Of Pakistan In 1947 by Barney White-Spunner.

Partition Cover

We’ve even had a movie. Viceroy’s House (2017) is directed by Gurinder Chadha, who has also directed Bride & Prejudice (2004), Bend It Like Beckham (2002), and Bhaji On The Beach (1993).

Whilst the New York Times called it “a handsome, fleet look at the months leading up to India’s independence from Britain in 1947…a great screen epic…impeccable production design and some fine performances”, the writer Fatima Bhutto (granddaughter of Prime Minister Zulfikar, niece of Prime Minister Benazir and the daughter of Murtaza, all three of whom were murdered or executed) was considerably more scathing. In a Guardian article she wrote: “If this servile pantomime of partition is the only story that can be told of our past, then it is a sorry testament to how intensely empire continues to run in the minds of some today.” The full article is well worth reading, as is the response from Gurinder Chadha.

The partition of India was a major reshaping of geo-political boundaries that still shakes the world to this day. Two nuclear powers now live side-by-side, sharing a very hostile 2,000 mile border, all in the shadow of partition. To mark such a momentous historical event, the BBC have made a series of brilliant documentaries as part of their 70 Years On: Partition Stories project. The documentaries should still be available on BBC iPlayer, if not then YouTube should have them in some form.

One of the interesting facts I learned from watching these documentaries was that the birthplace of Pakistan was the university city of Cambridge, 3 Humberstone Road to be more precise. This is where the word ‘Pakistan’ was first written down in 1933 by a student named Chaudhry Rehmat Ali. He coined the word in that particular way because each letter stands for a different part of Pakistan: P is for Punjab, A is for Afghanistan (or the North-West Frontier province), K is for Kashmir, S is for Sind, and the remaining ‘tan’ is for Baluchistan. An ‘i’ was added to ease pronunciation (as in Afghan-i-stan). Overall, the name itself means ‘land of the pure’, which is why it had this powerful ideological resonance that made it popular so very quickly.

All the documentaries are worth watching. Each one, in its own way, attempts to lance the boil of all those negative myths about the creation of Pakistan. Details of these documentaries are presented below, along with a selection of quotes that hopefully avoid the cheap narratives that many of us have of Pakistan as a land of bombs, burkas, floods, drones, and the last residence of the worlds most wanted terrorist. As much as one can, enjoy…


My Family, Partition And Me: India 1947

A two part documentary first shown on BBC Two on 09 Aug 2017. Anita Rani presents the extraordinary and emotional stories of three British families – one Muslim, one Hindu, and one British colonial – who lived in India 70 years ago, at the time of partition. Anita begins her own partition journey as she and her mother Lucky become the first members of their family to return to what is now Pakistan since the partition of India. In the Punjabi village where her Sikh grandfather’s first family were slaughtered, Anita meets locals who were eyewitnesses to that terrible event.


Dangerous Borders: A Journey Across India & Pakistan

A three part documentary first shown on BBC Two on 14 Aug 2017. Journalists Babita Sharma and Adnan Sarwar go on their epic journey along the still-contentious border that divides India and Pakistan. 70 years after the partition they travel either side of the 2,000-mile border to discover the realities of the lives there. During their travels they encounter Pakistani female boxers, an all woman motorcycle group in India, militant protestors in Kashmir, Sufi mystics in Lahore, fashion designers in Karachi, Sikh separatists in Amritsar, low caste salt farmers, a Charlie Chaplin festival in Adipur, and many others.

QUOTES…

The first statement of Churchill after India got independence in 1947 was that India is not going to survive because there is nothing which unifies it.

I have met a lot of British who come here to India, they ask me the same question, “Do you feel that we were responsible for this?” I say, “Yes, when you were ruling this place. And if you leave a country which is divided, the ruler has to take the onus on. You cannot say that ‘We were not responsible.’ You were.”

Partition is the reality of this country. It’s the way this country was born. It’s in these people. You can’t know Pakistan unless you know partition.

It is estimated that up to two million Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus died and over 14 million people were forced to move during partition. You should know the history of people to understand where they are now. Maybe if you don’t understand the way Pakistanis and Indians are, why they are always angry with each other, why they are always arguing with each other, just go back a little bit and have a look at partition. It’s the complete desperation of it.

Seven decades of bitter separation have cost both Pakistan and India dearly. Not just in terms of military spending and lost lives, but also at the cost of trade, which would massively benefit the two nations. On this journey, I’ve seen so many reasons to be positive, and it’s all down to the people that I’ve met, who, despite all the problems, are just getting on with things and moving this country forward into the 21st century. The Pakistan that I’ve met today is a young country, it’s a 70-year-old country, and it’s trying to work itself out. It’s trying to work itself out with that really awkward conversation it’s got to have with its neighbour. About how they fell out 70 years ago. I’m leaving Pakistan with a real sense of optimism for the future. And not just for this country, but for myself, as a British Pakistani. This is the end of my journey here in Pakistan. It’s not the end of my relationship with Pakistan. I feel more of a Pakistani, feel like it’s more of me, and I feel like it’s just going to get more and more deeper as I visit this country more. This is a part of me.


Seven Days In Summer: Countdown To Partition

A one part documentary first shown on BBC Two on 15 Aug 2017. This documentary tells the story of the seven days that led up to the independence of India, the creation of Pakistan, and the last days of the British Raj. It moves through each dramatic day, drawing on oral histories of survivors who were eye witnesses to the complex human tragedy that unfolded.

QUOTES…

Lord Louis Mountbatten, the Queen’s uncle, was sent to Delhi as the last Viceroy. Mountbatten was sent out to effect a peaceful and rapid transfer of power. But, in reality, it wasn’t like that at all because, on the ground, there was already quite a lot of violence occurring between the main religious communities.

For centuries, Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs had shared the country, but with British rule weakening, conflict had erupted between the Hindus and the Sikhs on one side and the minority Muslims on the other.

For people on the ground, it looks completely different. They are dealing with bloodshed, uncertainty, rumours, anxiety. So there’s a real disconnect between what’s happening in Delhi and what people are actually experiencing.

Ordinary people had no clue as to what was going on. Imagine being in the village, where your access to news is so limited. What would come to you would be by word-of-mouth, hearsay, rumour. And there were so many decisions to make. Would they stay where they are, would they be travelling? Where would they be travelling to?

It’s really hard to imagine now what it must be like to say to somebody, “You’ve got to go and leave everything, leave your house, your property, your friends, your community, everything.” Older people, especially, are quite often digging their heels in and they say, “Well, I’ve been here all my life, why should I leave? My ancestors are buried here. This is the land that I have tilled. I’m not going to move.” But others are leaving, because of anticipation of violence and because of sheer uncertainty about what’s happening and what’s going on. It’s heartbreaking for people to be making these decisions. They had to leave property behind, they had to leave families behind and just embark on an unknown journey. It must have been absolutely traumatic.

Many people imagined they would come back, so they left their keys with their neighbours, buried things in their courtyards and they said, “Right, I will come back. I’m just going temporarily, for safety.” But, of course, they didn’t. They never came back.

For many, the move meant uprooting their lives. But no sacrifice was too great to make for their religious freedom. Nobody had a clue that there would be this exodus. Somebody said, “Well, “there’ll be a few thousands moving here and there.” Mountbatten said some of the educated might leave. But the scale of the movement was absolutely unforeseen by everyone involved in the partition. There are 12 to 15 million people on the move. It’s one of the biggest refugee migrations of the 20th century.

Imagine what it’s like to be one of these refugees. They’re trudging miles and miles along those hard, dusty roads. There are rumours that the wells have been poisoned, so it’s hard to get water. People are giving birth along the road, people are dying along the road and, constantly, over everything, is this fear that the other side are going to swoop down and attack while you’re passing through their territory.

The British are not saying anything. They’re not interested. They’re ready to get on to their boats and planes and be back in Britain. There is absolutely no instruction, no orders, no directions coming down from the British. They have washed their hands of India.

Some people are moving literally because they’re running for their lives. Their friends have been attacked, so they’re really on the run. But others are far more moving along ideological lines. People are thinking, “Do I believe in this new state enough to go and risk moving there? Am I really going to have a better job there? Are things really going to be as bright as the propaganda is suggesting?”

The common understanding of the violence in the villages is that suddenly Hindus and Muslims picked up pitchforks and started attacking one another, even neighbours who’d lived side-by-side for generations. But that was only a small part of the violence. Really, what made the violence take off and expand and grow so large, was that it was organised. There are small groups of militia bands, oftentimes ex-soldiers armed with weapons, that would go round from village to village, gather up other supporters, so a band of 50 might become 500, might become 5,000, then they would attack and they would wipe out entire villages.

For women, the partition is a tragedy of epic proportions, because tens of thousands of women are raped and there’s terrible sexual violence against women. Women have really hard lives in India before independence. They are like property in many ways. But they’re also the upholders of the family honour. And if women are raped or violated, that’s seen as bringing not just shame on them but on the whole community, on their whole society. And so it becomes a weapon of war, used by both sides very extensively, because the women themselves are seen almost somehow as symbols of these new nation states, and so it’s a horrific situation where women’s bodies are actually being used to kind of mark out and create the new states.

The feeling that you might actually risk your women falling into the hands of the enemy, to the other, was so shameful, such a taboo, that some men would rather kill their daughters or their wives than actually have them fall into the hands of the other. There was a sense, a really profoundly misogynist sense, that a woman’s chastity was worth more than her life.

The death and destruction in the week leading up to partition is spreading, dividing and destroying hundreds of thousands of families across Punjab. I don’t think the British had any idea about the scale of violence that was going to take place in 1947. So, in that sense, the British really didn’t understand, I don’t think, the nature of the implications of what they were proposing in the partition of India.

Now, with the clock running out, thousands of details, large and small, are still up in the air. Nobody’s ever done anything like this before and it’s absolutely astonishing in its recklessness. There is no sense of how this is going to be done. This whole process is a good example of just how difficult it is to split any political entity, this big, that has been held together for so long. It involved everything from the big questions of who is going to get how many fighter planes from the Indian army, of currency, who is going to print it and how, to the smallest things, the police band, who is going to get which instruments from it. We see the division of the army, we see some of the great treasures of archaeological India being divided down to the actual beads on necklaces. We see the encyclopaedias being divided, sometimes, by letter in the alphabet. The pettiness is astonishing. I mean, rugs, ceiling fans, cutlery, pieces of stationery, boxes of paper clips. I mean, things were being counted out with forensic detail. There was a ratio of 4:1, India-Pakistan, because of the respective size of the countries, and so these things were being kind of carved out.

One of the most poignant elements of this moment is, where are the so-called insane going to go? There is a very major insane asylum in Lahore. It has Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs. And it opens up this absurd bureaucratic debate – do the mad, who have been certified as people who do not belong to society, should they also be now divided up as Indians or Pakistanis?

What is so peculiar and unique for this time is the fact that almost everyone is drawn into this macabre narrative of violence. The ordinary householder going about their business, the regular professional man, everyone is baying for blood, everyone’s out there on the streets and ready to attack the rival community.

How do you know how you will react under this kind of pressure? At a time of such great chaos, where there’s a total breakdown of law and order? You may never envisage that you could be someone who kills someone and yet that is what happened…But, equally, there are stories at this time of extreme bravery, where people really put themselves on the line to protect people.

Partition, when it became inevitable, could have happened in a different way. It could have been more organised, it could have been dragged over time and people could have moved in a manner that was more safe and secure, over a period of months or maybe even a year. It was the rush of partition that created the tragedy, not just the partition itself.

It was hard for anyone, if you were faced with the mob from your own community, to resist that. Even if you didn’t want to participate in the killing yourself, for individuals to try and stand against this was virtually impossible, so the best they could do – and many, many people did do this – was to shelter friends or neighbours, individually try and get them away to safety.

The rail network has always been seen as one of the great successes of Britain’s Indian Empire. But now, with only three days before the Raj is finally over, trains are becoming the dark symbol of its chaotic end. This is when killers on all sides begin to discover that they provide the perfect means to identify and destroy the enemy. The direction that you’re travelling in gave off your ethnic identity, because if you’re travelling towards Pakistan, you must be Muslim. If you’re travelling from Pakistan towards India, you must be either a Hindu or Sikh. And this week leading up to independence is when train massacres really start in earnest. Trains become the centre of violence in this period. Targeting people who are moving from one part of the country to another in the hope of safety, in the hope of being with their co-religionists, but this becomes the most perilous journey of their lives and the carnage is excessive and complete and bloody. The violence on the trains is absolutely horrific. These are contained spaces and people can’t run out, as they’re attacked. The perpetrators just move from carriage to carriage, hacking people to death as they move along. And, as the train pulled into its destination, almost completely, the entire train would be full of corpses. As the massacre spread, whether your train is attacked or reaches its destination safely is just a question of fate.

In the space of the train carriage, what happens is your identity became reduced, largely to your religion. You might be a civil servant, you might be a teacher, you might be a gardener, but at that moment you become a Hindu, a Muslim, a Sikh, a Christian and I think that is a really important facet of the violence because it reduced people’s identities to that of religion and it meant that they became targets for systematic religious violence.

There are some people who don’t agree that their identity is just about being Hindu, Sikh or Muslim and there are people who are trying to bring peace, who are trying to bring people together and they are just sort of drowned out, really, by the wave of hostility and violence that takes place.

It was the madness that was around the people, religious fanaticism and then it’s a vicious circle. It’s a very sad thing. The partition of this country was a misfortune for humanity.

Somehow, all these leaders had convinced themselves that it was not going to be as big a deal as it was. That it could be managed. This kind of enormous, nation-breaking, continent-splitting project could be managed without vast loss of life, without vast crisis and, of course, they were wrong.

Nehru and Jinnah are about to become leaders of these new countries and to have control over them but, actually, they’re worried about the states they are going to inherit. Everything that these men had fought for their whole adult lives was now coming apart at the seams, so they are really traumatised, these leaders, by what’s happening, but they just keep going, really because what else can they do? The agreement has been made with the British, independence is coming, come what may, and they have to just keep ploughing ahead.

Why would somebody just carrying on a normal profession in their daily lives be suddenly eager to kill as many members of the other community as they wished to? That, in a sense, for us, seems like madness.

It’s one of the really dark mysteries at the heart of partition, is why ordinary people could turn into killers. I think the best answer that we have is that people were just so whipped up through demonisation of the other and the sense that you have to kill or be killed, that they were fulling themselves into thinking they were killing in self-defence.

Partition turns just regular people into killers and that’s a chilling thing to think of…If you’re caught up in those times, that is the only way in which you can defend your communities. Attack becomes the only form of defence…This is not to justify, of course, what went on, but this is what was going through people’s minds.

Jinnah is happy that he’s achieved a separate state, but, at the same time, there’s this lingering doubt, because Pakistan is really trying to rise from the ashes at this time. I mean, it’s not actually a fully functioning state. One in five people is a refugee in West Pakistan. So, there’s a paradox there, because, on one hand, people want to celebrate independence but, at the same time, it’s starting them in the face that millions have been moved and this terrible death and destruction and it’s not just been done to them, they’ve also been acting out and involved in that violence themselves.

People are rejoicing, ready to welcome their long-awaited liberty. There was unbounded joy…After decades of doing everything they could to make sure this day would never come, the British have planned an elaborate handover ceremony tomorrow, in Delhi. But, for the 100,000 refugees crowding into camps around the capital, there is little to celebrate. These refugees, who’ve lost so much in the run-up to independence, don’t fit in with the upbeat narrative of the day. The British, were, of course, keen to orchestrate these images of a smooth transfer of power. You know, the whole thing was so well orchestrated, it was a spectacle. But, in reality, these smooth narratives of the transfer of power really need to be placed alongside these individual stories of trauma, of uprootment, of migration and violence, of killings and murder. And this was the reality of what was going on in some parts of India.

On 15th August, 1947, Britain’s Indian Empire was over. India and Pakistan were now independent, although the border between them, the Radcliffe Line, would still not be announced for another two days. Britain proclaimed to the world that the handover of power had been a great success.

Independence meant different things for different people. For the Indian elite, independence was a great moment of celebration. But, for the poverty stricken man who’s been uprooted and has migrated over miles, who has lost his means of livelihood, lost property, what does independence mean? It means absolutely nothing.

One of the legacies of partition was the way in which violence scaled up from being about individuals, but families, about conflict between communities and religions, into something much bigger, violence between armies, violence between nations. This one week transformed the world we live in today. If you look at Pakistan and India right now, this border that was created in this week is the most dangerous border in the world.

For me, the tragedy is that the war has never ended. It’s really become a cold war, at times it’s been a hot war, there have been three wars between the countries. So, really, we’re still seeing that fight that went on in 1947, replayed and replayed. It’s never really come to an end. Memories of that time still echo and rebound now, in that relationship between the two countries.


India’s Partition: The Forgotten Story

A one part documentary first shown on BBC Two on 22 Aug 2017. British film-maker Gurinder Chadha, director of Bend It Like Beckham and Viceroy’s House, travels from Southall to Delhi to find out about the partition of India – one of the most seismic events of the 20th century.

QUOTES…

Growing up in an Indian or Pakistani family, there’s one piece of history that we all know about. It’s an event that’s had a huge impact on all our lives. The partition of India. In 1947, the British divided India in two, creating a newly independent India, and a new country, Pakistan. People of different faiths turned on each other. 17 million people became refugees overnight. And over a million lost their lives. It was a seismic event that tore apart millions of lives including my own family’s. But why did this happen? Like so much of history, the answer depends on who gets to tell it.

After six years of World War II, Britain was bankrupt and India was a massive drain on British resources. So the British announced elections for an Indian national government, to help them run the country in the lead up to independence. But these elections would divide the Indian people even further along religious lines. While Congress campaigned for a united India, the Muslim League declared that a vote for them was a vote for Pakistan. But Hindu hardliners dismissed Pakistan as an absurd concept. These were the elections that really brought religion into politics. By taking up the slogan of ‘a vote for Pakistan is a vote for Islam’, Jinnah changed everything. Once he started that kind of sloganeering, other communities started questioning themselves. You had the Sikhs calling for their own separate homeland. This was not what the Indian Congress had been fighting for. Religious identity was being used by all parties to turn the Indian people against each other.

There was a perception that matters were spiralling out of control. The British felt that they didn’t want to be holding the reins while this happened. They didn’t want to be blamed. Therefore, they thought, if they made their exit sooner rather than later, the Indians could kill themselves, and it wouldn’t be the British’s problem. That seems a cynical way of putting it, but I think, almost certainly, that seems to have been their thinking. They were rats leaving a sinking ship…The British scuttled. They actually sank the ship first. And then they swam away from it.

Nobody was happy with the Mountbatten plan. The Muslims ended up with a Pakistan which they called “moth-eaten.” The Hindus ended up with a divided India. And the Sikhs lost huge tracts of their religious and holy lands. Everybody was unhappy, except the British, who couldn’t wait to get out fast enough.

The day after independence, the precise details of the line dividing the Punjab and Bengal was announced. Millions of people found themselves on the wrong side of the border. On the Indian side, gangs of Sikhs and Hindus attacked Muslims. On the Pakistan side, gangs of Muslims attacked Hindus and Sikhs. This was largely the work of organised militia, grabbing land and property…As many Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs died. Everybody was a victim.

For every Sikh and Hindu woman who was killed, a Muslim woman was killed too. The violence was on all sides. Both Nehru and Jinnah expressed their dismay at the violence. But neither they, nor the British, had planned for the scale of the upheaval. An estimated 17 million people fled their homes. And at least a million men, women and children lost their lives.

During the Cold War, Pakistan became a loyal ally to the west, just as Churchill had wanted.

Pakistan’s relations with India have been beset by distrust and conflict. There have been three wars between the two countries since 1947. And today, they both have nuclear weapons aimed at each other. Yet, there was nothing inevitable about partition. It was politicians, not ordinary Indians, who were the driving force behind it. First the British, with divide and rule, and then some of India’s leaders encouraged religious difference as a weapon to win power.

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HAVE SMARTPHONES DESTROYED A GENERATION?

Smartphone Smarter

I have just finished reading a rather fascinating article about ‘transhumanism’, the idea that we can meld technology with our biological selves, the ultimate merging of man and machine so as to make humanity a whole lot better. The article describes a transhuman as “a chimera, a fusion of two forms, one an ugly bag of water and the other a nice clean circuit board inscribed on silicon (or similar).”

The benefits of this technological advance is, apparently, immense. At one point Martin speculates that “Somewhere out there is a guy with a chip in his head (or ‘neural implant’) that enables him to know whether there is any broccoli left in the fridge without ever opening the door.” Which one of us wouldn’t want that special power?

Smartphone Laughing

Martin continues to say that this process of ‘hybridisation’, where we become more and more engineered, will result in a different type of makeover:

A full-body engineering makeover, physical and mental, bionic and cognitive: the temptation to become a Hollywood superhero will surely become irresistible. In the realm of the Matrix, humans will become simulacra of themselves, but very good at running up walls and firing guns upside down. – Andy Martin, 24 Aug 2017, independent.co.uk, from the article Transhumanism: The Final Chapter In Humanity’s Perpetual Quest To Be Kitted Out In Comforting Accessories

And what of those fools, like myself, who would likely resist such silicon advances? Martin has a response for that too:

And alongside the homo deus would presumably stand the homo stultus, the village idiot or holy fool who remains regressively or aggressively unenhanced. Smartness versus dumbness – who will win? The knowledge-based economy has only one answer. – Andy Martin, 24 Aug 2017, independent.co.uk

Transhuman Eye

Currently there are two types of articles written about technology. You have the utopian ideals of technological advance mentioned above, but you also have dystopian dilemmas presented by other writers. I recently came across another technology related article that shows clearly how, in the age of all this modern technology, we are not as progressive as we think we are, due to our mental well being or lack thereof. The article, by Jean M Twenge, is rather lengthy but well worth a read. I have picked out my favourite quotes and presented them below.

However, just before we get to the serious stuff, here is a video that somewhat illustrates where I think we are actually heading. As always, enjoy!


Our Generation Is F*cked


Have Smartphones Destroyed A Generation?

Jean M Twenge, Sep 2017, Atlantic Monthly

More comfortable online than out partying, post-Millennials are safer, physically, than adolescents have ever been. But they’re on the brink of a mental-health crisis.

Falling Phone

Theirs is a generation shaped by the smartphone and by the concomitant rise of social media. I call them iGen. Born between 1995 and 2012, members of this generation are growing up with smartphones, have an Instagram account before they start high school, and do not remember a time before the internet. The Millennials grew up with the web as well, but it wasn’t ever-present in their lives, at hand at all times, day and night. iGen’s oldest members were early adolescents when the iPhone was introduced, in 2007, and high-school students when the iPad entered the scene, in 2010. A 2017 survey of more than 5,000 American teens found that three out of four owned an iPhone. The advent of the smartphone and its cousin the tablet was followed quickly by hand-wringing about the deleterious effects of “screen time.” But the impact of these devices has not been fully appreciated, and goes far beyond the usual concerns about curtailed attention spans. The arrival of the smartphone has radically changed every aspect of teenagers’ lives, from the nature of their social interactions to their mental health. These changes have affected young people in every corner of the nation and in every type of household. The trends appear among teens poor and rich; of every ethnic background; in cities, suburbs, and small towns. Where there are cell towers, there are teens living their lives on their smartphone.

Rates of teen depression and suicide have skyrocketed since 2011. It’s not an exaggeration to describe iGen as being on the brink of the worst mental-health crisis in decades. Much of this deterioration can be traced to their phones.

The twin rise of the smartphone and social media has caused an earthquake of a magnitude we’ve not seen in a very long time, if ever. There is compelling evidence that the devices we’ve placed in young people’s hands are having profound effects on their lives—and making them seriously unhappy.

So what are they doing with all that time? They are on their phone, in their room, alone and often distressed. One of the ironies of iGen life is that despite spending far more time under the same roof as their parents, today’s teens can hardly be said to be closer to their mothers and fathers than their predecessors were. “I’ve seen my friends with their families—they don’t talk to them,” Athena told me. “They just say ‘Okay, okay, whatever’ while they’re on their phones. They don’t pay attention to their family.” Like her peers, Athena is an expert at tuning out her parents so she can focus on her phone. She spent much of her summer keeping up with friends, but nearly all of it was over text or Snapchat. “I’ve been on my phone more than I’ve been with actual people,” she said. “My bed has, like, an imprint of my body.”

Stampa

Teens who spend more time than average on screen activities are more likely to be unhappy, and those who spend more time than average on nonscreen activities are more likely to be happy. There’s not a single exception. All screen activities are linked to less happiness, and all nonscreen activities are linked to more happiness.

When teens spend more time on smartphones and less time on in-person social interactions, loneliness is more common. So is depression. Once again, the effect of screen activities is unmistakable: The more time teens spend looking at screens, the more likely they are to report symptoms of depression.

What’s the connection between smartphones and the apparent psychological distress this generation is experiencing? For all their power to link kids day and night, social media also exacerbate the age-old teen concern about being left out. Today’s teens may go to fewer parties and spend less time together in person, but when they do congregate, they document their hangouts relentlessly—on Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook. Those not invited to come along are keenly aware of it. Accordingly, the number of teens who feel left out has reached all-time highs across age groups. Like the increase in loneliness, the upswing in feeling left out has been swift and significant.

Social media levy a psychic tax on the teen doing the posting as well, as she anxiously awaits the affirmation of comments and likes.

I asked my undergraduate students at San Diego State University what they do with their phone while they sleep. Their answers were a profile in obsession. Nearly all slept with their phone, putting it under their pillow, on the mattress, or at the very least within arm’s reach of the bed. They checked social media right before they went to sleep, and reached for their phone as soon as they woke up in the morning (they had to—all of them used it as their alarm clock). Their phone was the last thing they saw before they went to sleep and the first thing they saw when they woke up. If they woke in the middle of the night, they often ended up looking at their phone. Some used the language of addiction. “I know I shouldn’t, but I just can’t help it,” one said about looking at her phone while in bed. Others saw their phone as an extension of their body—or even like a lover: “Having my phone closer to me while I’m sleeping is a comfort.” It may be a comfort, but the smartphone is cutting into teens’ sleep: Many now sleep less than seven hours most nights. Sleep experts say that teens should get about nine hours of sleep a night; a teen who is getting less than seven hours a night is significantly sleep deprived.

phubbing

Children who use a media device right before bed are more likely to sleep less than they should, more likely to sleep poorly, and more than twice as likely to be sleepy during the day. Electronic devices and social media seem to have an especially strong ability to disrupt sleep. Teens who read books and magazines more often than the average are actually slightly less likely to be sleep deprived—either reading lulls them to sleep, or they can put the book down at bedtime. Watching TV for several hours a day is only weakly linked to sleeping less. But the allure of the smartphone is often too much to resist. Sleep deprivation is linked to myriad issues, including compromised thinking and reasoning, susceptibility to illness, weight gain, and high blood pressure. It also affects mood: People who don’t sleep enough are prone to depression and anxiety. Again, it’s difficult to trace the precise paths of causation. Smartphones could be causing lack of sleep, which leads to depression, or the phones could be causing depression, which leads to lack of sleep. Or some other factor could be causing both depression and sleep deprivation to rise. But the smartphone, its blue light glowing in the dark, is likely playing a nefarious role.

24 Quotes From Muslim Comedians

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I am taking a quick break from ISIS related attacks in Barcelona, white racist related attacks in Charlottesville, continued chaos in the very White House, depressing BBC documentaries about the partition of India, and the prevailing dust in my house thanks to the awesome extension my wife has embarked upon (very much a solo endeavor on her glorious part).

So, before I catch my breath back, here are 24 quotes on a range of subjects from Muslim comedians, along with an eight minute video from up and coming journalist Aymann Ismail on the touchy and complex subject of Muslims and jokes. As always, enjoy!


Muslims Can’t Take A Joke About Islam? Don’t Tell That To These Muslim Comedians…


9/11 was a tragedy because we lost 19 of our best guys. – Kumail Nanjiani, from his movie The Big Sick (2017)

Aziz Ansari Composite

Being Muslim American already carries a decent amount of baggage. In our culture, when people think “Muslim,” the picture in their heads is not usually of the Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar or the kid who left the boy band One Direction. It’s of a scary terrorist character from “Homeland” or some monster from the news. – Aziz Ansari

Bigots hate all of sorts of groups. So if you say you are Muslim, in a way you are also gay, you are also Mexican, you are also Asian, you are also vegan. It literally does not matter what you are to those who hate. You turn the dial and you are that thing to whoever is hating, because bigotry is not super nuanced. So it is patently absurd when we don’t fight other peoples fights. It is just absurd. – Negin Farsad

For the moderate Muslim it is very easy to scare the living shit out of everybody now…It’s because we don’t have a lot of representation, that’s why people are scared. We don’t see a lot of Muslims on television. You’ve got Fareed Zakaria, Dave Chappelle, Barack Obama. That’s about it. – Aasif Mandvi

For those of you who don’t know much about us Muslims, you’ll recognise us from that hit TV show, the news. We have been on that one a lot this series, haven’t we? We’ve got recurring characters. It’s on at prime time. We’ve smashed that show. – Tez Ilyas

Here’s the big secret I’ve learned in the last few years. Nobody knows what they’re doing. Nobody does. Everyone’s winging it out there. Some people are just better at pretending to be confident. Because nobody, nobody’s done. Nobody’s cooked. People are constantly growing and evolving and changing. When I was a kid, I thought of my parents as these superheroes who knew everything, and that they were already the people they would always be. And as a grown-up, I realize they have the same struggles I do, that everybody does. They uprooted their lives and moved to America in their 50s, started over. In the last ten years, I’ve seen them change in ways I never thought possible. – Kumail Nanjiani, May 2017, from the Grinnell College Commencement Address in Iowa

I am an immigrant. I am an Indian, and also a Muslim, but I lead with the Indian part just because the Muslim part is a little controversial sometimes. – Aasif Mandvi

I asked my mate Chris about his wedding. I asked him “Chris, what’s it going to be like? What can I expect? Is it going to be a big wedding? How many days do I need to take off?” And this lunatic said “One.” One day! How do you fit it all in mate? I said “Alright, one day. That’s mental!” I then said “Alright, but it is going to be a big wedding?” He said “Massive mate. Massive wedding mate.” I said “Cool. How many people are going to be there?” This guy goes “A hundred.” And I’m like “Bruv, I have a hundred people over at Sunday roast in my family.” A hundred people! This guy’s bragging about his big wedding. Now, I went there, I had an amazing time, it was wonderful. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a white persons wedding before. It was really, really nice and well organised. And that’s not even a dig, I’m just saying it is, they are. Just the people invited, only they turn up, it’s crazy, it’s insane. – Tez Ilyas

I censored myself after the Manchester attack. It just felt too raw going on stage and talking about terrorism. As a comedian you have to understand the climate you’re performing in. There’s a time and a place to do that material. I was hurting too – I grew up half an hour away from Manchester. Also, audiences can be a bit drunk at a club night and what you’re saying can get lost sometimes. There are times when I’ve made a point of not censoring myself, like after the Paris attacks. I wanted to show that Muslims are not those people who committed those atrocities and so wilfully kept my material the same. – Tez Ilyas

I did kiss my boyfriend’s many times…via text message. – Sakdiyah Maruf

Ramy Youssef

I feel something in my heart when I pray. I really do. The connection is there. But I also really feel something in my heart when I get a Tinder match at 2 in the morning. And I don’t know how to deal with that. Do I drive over? Do I pray Fajr? I do both. – Ramy Youssef

I grew up in an Indian Muslim family. A lot of Americans can’t understand how Indian and Muslim goes together. It doesn’t compute for them. It’s sort of like seeing a construction worker eat a sorbet. They’re like how do these two things go together? But it was tough growing up in a Muslim home because I didn’t have a lot of things that my western friends had, like the Easter bunny, and bacon bits, and I never got to see my mother’s face. Things like that…[Waits for audience to laugh] That’s wrong. That’s wrong. Fuck you all for laughing at that. You’re all racists. – Aasif Mandvi

I love being British. If you are not British, you are missing out. Frankly, that is my conclusion, because there are so many benefits to being British. Literally. There are so many benefits. Just learn how to fill out a form, and it is brilliant. I don’t call them benefits, obviously, I call them reparations, but never the less they are great. – Tez Ilyas

I never feel that I need to worry about a fundamentalist reaction to my stand up because I live in America. That’s why I think being Muslim in America is the best place to do stand up. Yes, okay, there is all this stuff, there’s bans, there is this, that, or whatever, and all this politics. But I think we get to be ourselves in a way that we can’t anywhere else. And I think that’s why our parents came here, because they want to be Americans because they feel like that is the thing that will allow them to be Muslim. – Ramy Youssef

I recently learned that being in the vegan club is the exact opposite of being in fight club. In that, the first rule of vegan club is: tell everyone about vegan club; and the second rule of vegan club is: tell everyone about vegan club; and then the third rule is: don’t eat meat, et cetera. – Tez Ilyas

I went to this Catholic church…and I did notice that it was a bit cold in there because they don’t have central heating in there like we do in mosques. I’m not showing off, I’m just saying, you know. We haven’t got as much money as they have, but we don’t spend it on stupid things…like ruby slippers…and all that compensation. – Imran Yusuf

I’m not good with my feelings, which is why I try and deflect people using my bad jokes. – Kumail Nanjiani

It is hard to be Muslim in America. It is difficult, because we are Muslim and we want to believe, but we also want to do what everyone is doing. And the hardest day is Friday, because there is Friday prayers, and then there is Friday night. Sometimes you see the same people in both places. – Ramy Youssef

It’s an interesting time being Muslim at the moment because a lot of people have written and said a lot of things about us over recent weeks, months, even years. Like some people, you know, the ones out there, the ones with access to the internet, they think being Muslim is only about animal cruelty, oppressing women, and claiming benefits. That’s what they think it is, and what those people haven’t realized is there are downsides as well. It’s not all summer camps and Nandos up here! Have you tried looking after four wives in today’s economy? It’s expensive. It’s expensive. – Tez Ilyas

My mother wears the burqa, mainly because she doesn’t want to be seen with my dad. – Shazia Mirza

Never in my wildest dream did I aspire to become a stand up comic. In fact dreams and aspirations are luxuries for women living in my community. – Sakdiyah Maruf

We are all human. And I guess that is what comedy is all about. Comedy is not about me. Comedy is about you and me. It is about us. It is about us celebrating our humanity, acknowledging that we are all human and, by extension, that we are all flawed. And that we do not have the right to feel that we are the rightest of the right or the truest of the truth. We’re just human. We are flawed. – Sakdiyah Maruf

Why is it that when Alex grows a beard he’s a sexy lumberjack, but when Tez grows a beard we gotta ask him questions? – Tez Ilyas

Citizen Khan

Comedy has the ability to humanise communities, as you are constantly looking for common traits, you are looking for universality. So when you are writing a comedy, I think, especially on BBC One, if you can get to the point where people can connect with a British Muslim Pakistani father, that’s a good thing, so that you in a sense laugh at the same things, the same concerns. – Adil Ray, creator and star of the BBC sitcom Citizen Khan

THE BATTLE OF THE MAN BABIES RAGES ON

Trump Man Babies

We all know the media is obsessed with Trump, especially CNN. But why am I? Even after all that has happened? And my obsession is dark, it is negative, and it shows no signs of abating. There is nothing about the man I like. At all. Is there a psychological definition for someone who is obsessed with all things Trump? Can my own symptoms be described as some form of mental psychosis? If so then, dear reader, I most terribly afflicted.

But it seems I am not the only one. The website Quora asked Why Is Everyone Obsessed With Trump? and here are some of the responses:

If Obama didn’t have so much attention, it was because no one thought he was unstable enough to launch a nuclear war on the basis of a Tweet, or gullible enough to trust his gut over the data provided by seventeen intelligence agencies. Trump is a loose cannon.

Imagine you are in a room with a toddler and he has a loaded gun. Trump is that toddler…While we are all in that room we should all watch the toddler closely.

He’s the biggest circus to come to town in a century. How could we look away?

And it is not just adults who are afflicted. The journalist Annie Pfeifer describes how her 3 year old is also plagued:

My 3-year-old daughter is obsessed with Donald Trump…Who could blame her? He shared a first name with Donald Duck, and his last name rhymed with “jump,” her favorite activity. She was never able to pronounce Hillary Clinton, which evolved into “Hairy Clinton,” and then finally, “Mustache.” (I can’t pretend to follow a toddler’s logic, but it appears this was one more demographic with which Secretary Clinton failed to resonate.) – Annie Pfeifer, 20 Jul 2017, nytimes.com, from an article entitled Help! My 3-Year-Old Is Obsessed With Trump

So what has my obsession been up to these days? He has been doing his best John Wayne impression, hoping it scares off Kim Jong-Un. In the World War II movie Sands Of Iwo Jima (1949) John Wayne proudly declares “Lock and load.” Fast forward to 2017 and we have President Trump boasting from his New Jersey golf resort that “Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded.”

At this precise moment the Battle Of The Two Man Babies is raging on, albeit verbally, with the self-declared leader of the free world and his Asian-lookey-likey trying to out-whack-a-doo each other. As we all seem to be dragged towards a nuclear zombie apocalypse, I thought it best to laugh while we still can. In that hopeful vein here are some rather satirical comments about Trump. Enjoy!

PS For more funny Trump quotes please see here and here.

Trump Breaking Alert

The nuclear age began this week in August, right around this time in 1945, when we dropped two bombs called Fat Man and Little Boy. And this week it came full circle with a different Fat Man and Little Boy. Oh yes, Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un, if you haven’t read about it, are trying to see who has the bigger micropenis. That’s what this is all about, isn’t it? This whole conflict could be resolved by two hookers willing to lie. That’s all I’m saying…Also, they changed the hats. It says ‘Make America Glow Again’. – Bill Maher

Knowing this administration the nuclear launch code is probably ‘password’. – Bill Maher

Trump once said, and this is an actual quote, “We love the Bible. It’s the best. We love ‘The Art of the Deal’ but the Bible is far, far, far superior, right?” Not only is the Bible better than ‘The Art of the Deal’ it’s also the opposite. The only thing they have in common is that Trump has never read either of them. – Seth Meyers

Citizens around the world have been hugely relieved to know that the missiles and bombs which will end their lives will be fired not by mad terrorists from an armoured truck, but by responsible pilots carrying out the whims of a mad president. – from Private Eye magazine, Number 1442, 21 Apr 2017

Trump would hate church. It’s an hour of people talking about someone other than him. [Imitates Trump] “Is this whole thing gonna be about Jesus? Did you know he had zero hotels? True story. On the day he was born, he could not get a hotel reservation. It’s sad.” – Seth Meyers

He fulfills an important role of celebs: giving millions of people the chance to feel superior to him. The gloomy face and the antique adolescent hair, the mannequin wife and the clueless children of privilege, the sheer pointlessness of flying around in a 747 to say inane things to crowds of people — it’s cheap entertainment for us, and in the end it simply doesn’t matter. – Garrison Keillor

Voting for Trump is how a country commits political suicide. – Tony Kushner

To summarize: Spicer quit because of Scaramucci, who took down Priebus, who was replaced by Kelly, who took down Scaramucci. – tweet from Paul Farhi, 31 Jul 2017

There’s not enough Prozac to get through the day. – Al Gore, referring to living in the era of President Trump

In London last week, I met a Nigerian man who succinctly expressed the reaction of much of the world to the United States these days. “Your country has gone crazy,” he said, with a mixture of outrage and amusement. “I’m from Africa. I know crazy, but I didn’t ever think I would see this in America.” – Fareed Zakaria, 27 Jul 2017, before Priebus and Scaramucci were fired

A guy that shits in gold plated toilets is talking to blue collar workers. – from a CNN report

I said I would drain the swamp but then I clogged the drain with Goldman Sachs turds. – Trump, from the satirical TV program The President Show, 27 Jul 2017

I’m telling you guys, this White House, you can’t get this big a shit-show at 3am in Berlin…I love this White House so much. You know, most presidents would try to get their team all on the same page, but Trump has his team try every page. He’s like “Okay, you tell them we didn’t talk about pardons. You tell them we only talked about pardons. You tell them I died during the meeting. And I’m going to tweet that I’ve never met any of you guys. All right? Go!” – Trevor Noah, Jul 2017, referring to Trump’s lawyer and his communications director saying opposite things about discussing presidential pardons

The Trump presidency is the answer to the question: what would happen if The West Wing was written by Adam Sandler? – Nish Kumar

I have a very simple test for fairness: does this thing earn me money, make me look smart, or arouse me sexually? If the answer to any of those is no, totally unfair. – Trump, from the satirical TV program The President Show, Jul 2017

I make promises, and when I break them I make excuses. I make something out of absolutely nothing, like voter fraud. I can even make something into nothing, like climate change. Poof! Where did it go?! I make a spectacle of myself, the networks make a killing, and you make believe everything is going to be okay. And I don’t know, maybe it will. – Trump, from the satirical TV program The President Show, Jul 2017

Trump thinks impeachment means really enjoying a peach. – from BBC TV program The Mash Report

6 FUNNY VIDEOS ABOUT MUSLIMS

Guz Khan

Due to the loss of my broadband for a week, and with my house currently being a building site as it is extended because my wife wants so desperately to keep up with the Kardashians, I have not really been able to blog that much. Not that anyone has noticed.

Anyways, as you may have gathered I absolutely love riding that big wave of comedy, so I thought why not just do a quick blog post featuring some short funny video clips, just to add a wee bit of levity to proceedings.

Therefore please enjoy the following 6 rather funny videos which, as with all good humour, make some thought provoking points inbetween the punchlines. Enjoy!


Playground – A Muslim, A Sikh And A Racist & 9/11

Amir K – Fake Terrorist

Aasif Mandvi – Aasif Mandvi’s Deportation Jamboree

Guz Khan – Why Do Muslims Commit Terror?

Ali Hassan – Best Joke Ever

Omer Wahla – Muslims Are Terrorists?

Immigrants! Immigrants! IMMIGRANTS!

Kevin Bridges

Immigration is one those nuanced issues that can be very hard to understand. Many viewpoints are put forward, and whilst you are trying to understand these along come a horde of counterpoints, making confused matters very confusing indeed. In such cases it is often a stand-up comedian who will provide some much needed clarity to the topic in hand.

Take for example American Indian comedian Rajiv Satyal who, in just over 8 minutes, tackles issues of immigration, racism, Pakistan, India, Kuwait, the American dream, and more:

As Americans I feel like we are dicks about immigration. I feel like, you know, we wonder why people want to come here and yet we say it is the greatest country in the world. Well of course the advertising campaign is working, people want to come here. And of all things, we put a state called New Mexico on the border. Of course Mexicans want to come here! It’s newer! That’s just a dick move. “And this is Old Mexico, by the way, so that is really, really uncool.” I’m just saying that if there was a New India and Pakistan my parents would have gone to check it out, you know what I mean. It just sounds like a good deal. “Same price, newer. Okay, we’ll go.” – Rajiv Satyal

And here is the always brilliant Russell Brand who needs only 92 seconds to explain the concept of immigration in terms of our global economy all via the medium of Fox News:

Not only is Fox News bigoted, it’s also misleading. I once watched it for 12 hours and there was not one story about foxes. Just stories about immigrants, really. Not even stories, just shouting. “Immigrants! Immigrants! Immigrants!” All right. What? “IMMIGRANTS!” You know that an immigrant is just someone who used to be somewhere else. “Aaahh! Have you always been there?” “No, no, no, I used to be over there.” “Aaahh! Keep still! I can’t relax with people moving around. Keep still on this spherical rock in infinite space. Keep still on the spherical rock with imaginary geopolitical borders that have been drawn in according to the economic reality of the time. Do not pause to reflect that free movement of global capital will necessitate free movement of a global labour force to meet the demands created by the free movement of that capital. That is a complex economic idea and you won’t understand it. Just keep still on the rock. And don’t be gay on it!” – Russell Brand, from his live show Messiah Complex

Another comedian who has tackled this thorny subject is Scottish stand up and author Kevin Bridges. I recently finished reading his excellent autobiography We Need To Talk About…Kevin Bridges, in which he does indeed talk about immigration. Please find below an extract from this book and, just to provide some context, Kevin is referring to a then recent trip he made to London with his older brother John in 2005, and the Festival mentioned at the start is the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Anyways, not only do I hope you enjoy this extract, but I also hope it provides a wee bit of a fresh perspective on how you think about immigration. Enjoy!


Kevin Bridges Book

Just a month before the Festival started, the London 7 July bombings took place. I watched all of the footage on TV, and I recognized places where I’d been with John.

I recognized Tube stations and streets, and London seemed much closer to me now that I’d visited and felt a connection with the place.

It was a tragic loss of life. As I watched the reaction over the weeks that followed, I started to write down some things I’d noticed. I’d watch the fear and the hysteria being perpetuated by some media sources. Then, two weeks later, the shooting by the Metropolitan Police of the innocent Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes, in Stockwell station, blew my mind.

The story of what had actually happened was unclear in the immediate aftermath, but it was commonly accepted at the time, although since proven false in court, that Jean Charles de Menezes had been running, was told by police to stop, but kept on running, presumably to catch his train.

There were also tabloid articles reporting that he had been ‘acting suspiciously’.

I’d hear people say how they ‘sympathized’ with the police officers and the stress they were under, how they ‘couldn’t take any chances’, and making other statements like that which wouldn’t have been alarming if we were in the Deep South of America.

‘He was acting suspiciously in a train station. Who doesn’t act suspiciously in a train station? If you need a piss or have an itchy arse in a train station, you act suspiciously,’ I’d say, and act out edgily looking around, uncomfortable and trying to have a scratch without anyone noticing.

‘You’d maybe expect people to walk away from you, but not seven fucking bullets in your head.’

Comedy could be social commentary as well, and I’d enjoy it when the audience would laugh and then applaud, recognizing there was more behind the joke. I liked getting into a ranting style and giving what I was saying some conviction.

This was coming with confidence and experience, and if I could keep my writing up to the same level, I’d be on my way to becoming a good comedian and a professional comedian.

London had recently been awarded the 2012 Olympic Games, and it led me to make a joke about an Olympic city where people are shot for running.

I’d never go into a subject as dark as a terrorist attack purposely looking for a humorous angle, but it was through watching comedians like Richard Pryor and Chris Rock that I saw comedy could also make a point, as long as it was funny.

Articles I read about the ‘true cost of asylum seekers to the UK taxpayer’ also caught my eye, around about the same time, with certain newspapers rinsing everything they could from the racial tensions and anti-Islam feelings that followed on from the 7 July bombings.

I’d listen to people, guys in pubs, guys in the bookie’s, guys on the bus, guys on radio phone-ins or being vox popped on current affairs shows — always guys, guys who’d read tabloid newspapers at face value, taking every headline entirely as fact — ranting that the country was being taken over.

I’d never say anything, but I’d listen and wonder what the real reasons were for what they were saying, what their real problems were.

There was no point engaging in a one-on-one debate with someone who had no real weight behind their claims other than that they wanted to believe them. They wanted to believe that every foreigner who arrived in the UK was immediately given a luxury penthouse apartment and a Premiership footballer’s wages every week on benefits.

They wanted to believe that ‘this country’s lost its identity’ because it’s an easier way of saying, ‘I preferred it when it was all white people.’

Challenging or questioning these outlooks would maybe make people consider looking at the issues in a different way, but only until they met someone who agreed with them and reassured them that they were right, that immigration had destroyed everything.

On stage, though, I could make light of these flawed but increasingly popular viewpoints and maybe offer some sort of defence for people unfortunate enough to be born in a war-torn hellhole, who had managed to make it out, to start a new life.

I’d done some research and found that the majority of asylum seekers, at the time, were fleeing from Iraq and Afghanistan and their ‘true cost’ to the UK taxpayer was a fraction of the cost of the two wars the UK was needlessly involved in, in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We were the ones dropping the bombs on them, so we couldn’t complain when they were looking for a place to stay.

‘If somebody blew your house up, you’d expect them to at least put you up. If my house was bombed, I’d be asking questions. Did you just fucking bomb my house? I’ll be crashing on your couch for a bit, then.’

 – Kevin Bridges, from his autobiography We Need To Talk About…Kevin Bridges (chapter 60, pages 428-430)

NONE OF US KNOW WHAT’S GOING ON WITH ANYTHING

Frankie Boyle NWO

Whether we like it or not we are bombarded with information daily, hourly, minute-by-minute. This makes it virtually impossible to cut through all that digital data and get to the true heart of the matter. I am therefore always in admiration of anyone who can achieve this no mean feat of providing clarity in our world of ever increasing confusion.

Frankie Boyle is such a person. The author and stand up comedian has for many years been commenting on everything from religion to politics to gender identity and beyond. He is someone I have blogged about many times before (for example here). A recent example of this ability to clarify are comments he made as to why people are so intrigued by the upcoming much hyped boxing match between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor:

It’s about time we found out whether a non boxer can beat the world’s best boxer at boxing…Don’t get me wrong, I think someone trying to beat possibly history’s best defensive boxer purely by being a mad cunt is actually beautiful. – Frankie Boyle, 12 Jul 2017, from his Twitter feed

Not only is he active on Twitter with over 2.6 million followers, but he also does things like discuss philosophy for 70 minutes with another inquisitive mind, Russell Brand, on a recent podcast entitled Is It Possible To Live A Moral Life? (well worth listening to if you get the time).

Another example comes from the 4 glorious episodes of his TV show Frankie Boyle’s New World Order, aired recently by the BBC and with each episode well worth watching if you can find them on YouTube or BBC iPlayer.

Below are some of my favourite quotes taken from these programs. They come not only from Frankie himself but also from some of the special guests he had on each episode, and they cover topics as varied as Trump, Obama, technology, the state of the world, class warfare, racism, and much more. Enjoy!


Politics is a sort of class warfare. You have a political class engaged in arms deals, profiteering, and corruption, ranged against a public who have been educated out of any understanding of the situation and trained to despise each other. And that’s how we end up with Theresa May. Therese May is the first Nazi in history who can’t get the trains to run on time. – Frankie Boyle, Jun 2017, a few days before the general election

Putting shit through someone’s letterbox has always been a very ironic tactic used by racist people, because they will be like “We’ve got to get them because they’re like monkeys.” “How do we show them that they’re monkeys?” “Well, we’ll shit in our hands and throw it at them.” At some point does no one say “Look, white power and everything, but I’m carrying no shit.”? – Dane Baptiste

None of us know what’s going on with anything. I have a mobile phone contract that is 89 pages long. I don’t know how much of my soul is owned by EE. We don’t know anything about anything. Why should Brexit be any different? – Katherine Ryan, June 2017

I just think this is a genuine moral thing. Sir John McDonnell was in trouble for saying this was like social murder, or whatever the phrase was. But I think it is worse than that because if you set out to murder someone in a moment of passion, that’s one thing. But if you set up a whole series of circumstances that will probably lead to people dying, and then you just let them die like bugs on your windshield, that’s a different level of immorality. – Frankie Boyle, June 2017, speaking about the fire at Grenfell Tower

Brexit will be Christmas for racists. People said after the Brexit vote that British people don’t trust experts anymore. I don’t think that that’s the problem. I think the problem is that British people have strong opinions based on fuck all. And while there are a lot of perfectly valid reasons to want to leave the EU, the people who were most empowered by the result were, let’s be honest, racists…Yes, Brexit will be Christmas for racists. A proper Christmas where all the shops are shut because there aren’t any Muslims who don’t care about Christmas to work in them. – Frankie Boyle, June 2017

It takes quite a bit of work to be the black sheep in the Trump family. – Frankie Boyle, July 2017, referring to the unveiling of Donald Trump Jr and his Russian meeting in 2016

We live in a world where foreign policy norms seem to lack any kind of morality, where neo-colonial policies make our military adventures abroad little more than licensed murder, where Britain thinks of itself as having a special relationship with America but America thinks of Britain as somewhere that it stores its missiles, somewhere a bit like a shed. We live in a world with an encircled Russia, with a North Korean leader firing missiles into the sea of Japan raising the very real risk of waking Godzilla, and with a US president so deranged you could form a better president from the meat in his colon. – Frankie Boyle

Say what you like about Trump he has proved a lot of people wrong, sadly not George Orwell, Margaret Atwood, or whoever wrote the Book of Revelations. – Frankie Boyle

One of our main problems is that we don’t really understand the moral problems of how we act in other countries. We think that we target militant people with missiles with precision targeting. You can’t do that. You can’t target something specifically if you are going to blow it up with high explosives. There is no point finding the clitoris if what you find it with is an uppercut. – Frankie Boyle

Trump is not going to be assassinated because the assassinators are on his side. You are not going to have a vegan shoot him in the face. – Katherine Ryan

The assumption is that Obama was not a violent president but Trump has highlighted, by his idiocy and madness, how dangerous the times are we live in. That is a positive thing about Trump. That is a thing about him that is better than Obama. – Romesh Ranganathan

Our lives are being ruined by technology. Technology has consumed what happiness we once had. I was sitting in the park the other day, reading my phone, and everybody else was sat there on their phones, and a guy came along and you know what he did? He stood around in the park just looking at the trees, like a fucking serial killer. – Frankie Boyle

Technology could be a good thing but it exists within the constructs of capitalism. YouTube could be good but it is ruined by adverts. What is it about me spending 5 hours watching pensioners falling over that suggests that I am in the market for a brand new Lexus? – Frankie Boyle

I love technology. It has enhanced my life in every way. I am very lazy. Sometimes I will ignore my own child just to look at photos of my child. – Katherine Ryan