Saturday, 29 October 2011

Another day, another 'one idiot short of an asylum' story

This (see ) intrigues and amuses me.
Initially, it was amusement because the prospect of yet more Manx ‘help’ being inflicted on Romania will be bad news for my many acquaintances out that way.
Almost weekly we get anguished messages from them laughing at the latest damage or general idiocy caused by a Manx-based ‘overseas aid’ group (usually faith-based, which immediately explains most of the idiocy) and asking if there is anything they can do to help shore up our economy and thus stop the constant Eastward flow of cretinism. As one of them says, Romania, like any country, has some village idiots in rural areas, but the Isle of Man now seems to be producing whole villages of the intellectually challenged and then exporting them, which is a bit like fly-tipping your entire country’s toxic waste overseas.
In addition, one acquaintance, after a brief visit here, is still dining out on his collection of Manx pothole photographs. His countrymen agree, even Ceacescu in his worst years would never dare let Romanian roads and pavements get to the state of the average Manx street. They also sympathise with our third world plumbing, the way the concept of even rudimentary home insulation has never been understood here and the lack of fresh fruit and vegetables. Some wonder we haven’t all died of either pneumonia or scurvy.
And then (as witnessed by those whose experience of the Manx is limited to seeing the buffoons who turn up there to ‘help’), there is our poor education system. Limited knowledge of geography or history is one thing, and poor numeracy or scientific knowledge more worrying. Lack of foreign languages may be almost par for the course for quasi-Brits, but what really tickles Romanians about the Manx (at least the ones they see) is that they’re even illiterate in English.
For all these reasons, this article makes me painfully aware that, in the near future, I will yet again be apologising to Romanians and the butt of yet another series of Manx jokes.
However, other things about it intrigue me. Such as the tenuous mention of a link with Florian UK.
Because Florian UK is not a UK charity. Florian UK (co. no. 03001330) was an English registered company, formed in 1994 and dissolved in 2009, apparently a non-trading property letting company, but (reading between the lines) probably forcibly closed by the companies registry after failing to file accounts or adequately explain what it was actually up to.
Operation Florian (England and Wales registered charity number 1054657), on the other hand, is a real charity. Essentially, it is something run by firefighters throughout the UK which sets out to do good deeds for folk in poorer countries. It seems to do fairly well at fundraising – I suppose based on the public goodwill for firefighters – but less well at actually keeping accounts and spending it. In fairness, that goes for a lot of small charities, so not a real danger sign.
So possibly no more than a simple understanding, but if it is linked to firefighters then why not just say so, and call it something obvious like Florian Isle of Man (or Mannanan) instead of a grandiloquent title which makes it sound like it’s a (or even the) major Manx foreign aid charity and invites confusion with the Manx government’s official overseas aid programme?
Additionally, of course, if it really is the continued adventures of a dubious Department of Home Affairs project which finds dumping redundant fire equipment abroad cheaper than scrapping it, and in the process links up with small town Romanian neo-fascists and US Baptists building a North Romanian business empire while stirring up ethnic conflict (see Chief Minister, international joke and Of spooks and spookchasers for more) then we have far more serious problems.

Poverty of Theory, Neglect by Government

According to this (see (which will now have reached the ‘proper’ local press) the Children’s Centre are putting on a conference, chaired by the Pretzel of Tynwald and a government ‘consultant’ on children, to determine if there is poverty and neglect in the Isle of Man.
If these overpaid parasites have to ask they are more useless than we already knew, and we really need to ask in return why they have claimed so much public money for decades.
They really should know how much poverty and neglect there is. Most of the Children’s Centre committee are married into the business and political dynasties which caused the island to become two distinct nations in the first place, and from talking to some of their kids I also know how dysfunctional some upper middle class Manx families are compared to, say, the average sink estate family doomed to a second generation of lifetime unemployment.
Then there is the odd selection of speakers.
We are told, for example that: “Mr McCann is a motivational speaker who encourages people to look at life differently, helping them to take a leap that will change their lives for good and make a real difference in the world.”
So he will be talking to ......who exactly at this pseudo-conference, and encouraging them to...... do what? The permanently excluded perhaps, suggesting that as local business interests have no use for them, and also have no intention of taking (even as individuals) their fair share of the local tax burden, they might as well get used to it?
But of course not. He’s just another stooge brought in, like the canting priests who harangue us from another direction, to parrot the lie that we are equally and individually responsible for our plight, and that social or economic forces have absolutely no bearing on the matter.
I hope they’re paying this pathetic, two-faced twerp good money to push that lie: I also hope it isn’t public money.
And if you really must legitimate political inability to tackle poverty and social problems with an ‘academic’ overview, why would you pick a lecturer from an establishment about which the Daily Telegraph once asked: "Is this the worst university in Britain?"
That question was asked in 2004, when Luton had an unusually high course drop-out rate, and was additionally proposing to relax consequences of students failing second year exams. Luton answered back that as it existed specifically to give chances to the kind of folk who cannot normally consider higher education the drop-out rate was be expected and extra attempts to keep students studying needed, which is fair enough in my book. But then I read elsewhere that: “The QAA conducted a thorough institutional audit of the University as a whole in 2005 (prior to the merger of the University), which resulted in the audit team’s questioning of the academic standards of its awards and its lack of confidence in the university's quality standards.”
It seems that after the audit was taken the QAA got further information showing some appropriate action in response, but it was only in July 2007 that the audit was finally signed off. Again, to be fair, University of Bedfordshire constantly polls somewhere around 70th in most ‘league tables’ of British academic excellence, which puts it just above the lowest third, but potential employers wouldn’t dismiss a 'Beds' degree nearly as quickly as, say, an MBA from the Isle of Man Business School.
Then there is the strange link with an outfit called the Institute for Optimum Nutrition. The ION is regarded by more scientifically-based nutritionists as a “controversial” organisation, and that would be putting it mildly. For example, founder Patrick Holford's apparent advocacy of vitamin C as better than conventional drugs to treat AIDS was once described as “very scary” by the British Dietetic Association.
This has not stopped the ION offering a Home Study Course and a three-year Diploma in Nutritional Therapy (DipION). Another perturbing thing is that the University of Bedfordshire previously validated the DipION as a foundation degree, and only withdrew this validation in 2010.
So, with a wealth of British academic knowledge in the social sciences to choose from – much of it cutting edge – those responsible in Manx government chose a minor academic with no peer reviewed work from a university with no teaching pedigree in the field (and who just happens to have a book to flog) to kick off a major important social debate?
Yeah, that would be about par for the course.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Oxfam would not take this tat. Why should we?

I was intrigued, and even encouraged, by a small piece of graffiti I saw in Douglas yesterday.
On the wall outside the multi-storey car park, beneath a crude image of (presumably) a hammer or axe, someone wrote: “Art isn’t always well fought out”.
Someone else then crossed out “fought” inserted “thought” and scribbled “idiot!” beside the original graffiti. But I think they missed the pun, and the point.
As a cultural academic and veteran of numerous serious (if also playful) attempts to question the point of art (and in particular if all art inevitably gets commodified eventually, so we might as well give up and do something else) it was at least encouraging that someone thinks such questions might still matter. Especially on the Isle of Man, where – to be blunt – the local Arts Council was always run by water-colouring fossils under the thumb of small town politicos who were proud to know nothing about art but know what they like and things have now hit a sub-YBA low (YBA being ‘Young British Artist’, for anyone who still cares).
In the 1980’s I probably knew three Manx artists (at most) with some sort of internationally recognisable talent, social conscience or knowledge of contemporary art history – mostly gained from being around politicised punk like Rock Against Racism. By the late 1990’s, when I returned here tooled up by direct contact in Leeds with most of the original art theorists and armed with the opportunity to explore such stuff in a local newspaper column, even they had been replaced by a new generation of dull conformists. Younger, nominally qualified but more terrifying than the ‘ladies who paint’ one still meets at Manx art gallery openings.
Yes, there is public and private money being thrown at local art world hacks to prettify awful and socially pointless new buildings and shopping complexes, generally thrown up like a bad curry after a drunken Friday night out in the vain hope some gullible tourist will splash their disposable income around. But would any sane and socially responsible artist take it?
Are there any anyway? And why is there no public engagement or debate about the arts? Sorry, but ‘government surveys’ which filter out all attempts to comment on a pre-decided policy do not count.
Real questions need to be asked. We could start with basic ones, like would you rather have a concrete seagull stuck next to some harbour-side cafes or a home help? But we could ask better ones, like would you rather pay some spawn of a banker with an art degree to come up with ‘public art’ or plan something better with your neighbours........ or just not bother?
Off hand, I cannot think of one piece of art in the Manx public domain which actually contributes to a sense of well being or pride in a community. Honestly, I just cannot, and I am actually interested in art and the regeneration of community!
These days walking through Manx towns is like walking through a surreal scene in which the family of some recently deceased person, rather than donate the stuff to a charity shop, has dumped giant versions of 50p store paintings and ornaments out in the street, where they clutter pavements or lean against walls.
Oxfam would not take this tat. Why should the rest of us?

A new generation of parliamentary privilege

An article (see by someone I recall as a local paper editor some years back caused me to raise an ironic eyebrow, and gave me a giggle or two. Nothing similar has appeared on radio or in the local print press yet, which doesn’t surprise me for the same reasons that it caused me so much amusement.
The thing is, I pottered about in Manx journalism 20 or so years ago when Hazel Hannan, then MHK for Peel, one day used parliamentary privilege to ask impertinent questions of the Minister for Tourism about Charles Kerruish. More specifically, she was trying to clarify what funding Kerruish might have received from the Tourist Board (as it then was) towards the costs of some holiday cottages he was having built, and with what guarantees.
Doubt later emerged as to whether they really were holiday cottages, and if any part of the possible grant conditions required him to pay back some or all of the grant if he, say, sold them on as private housing after a year or two because tourists didn’t rush to rent them – because tourists weren’t tending to rent a lot of holiday accommodation (or even to visit the island) at the time.
If this sounds familiar that might be because, some years later, similar questions about holiday accommodation were the undoing of a Chief Minister who Kerruish regarded as a protégé. They also went unreported until a court case some time after the questions were being asked, by which time most of the Manx public had obtained answers elsewhere.
Sadly, it seems only two journalists were in the Keys when Mrs Hannan made her enquiries. One was the hardworking Charles Guard from Manx Radio, the other was the equally conscientious and quite elderly Jennifer Leece, then working for the tiny Peel City Guardian, as was I.
Actually, this wasn’t unusual at a time before Johnston Press bought out the island’s two ‘rival’ larger newspaper groups. In fact it was something of a joke between Jennifer and Charles that the other papers only attended Tynwald if one of the MHKs who spoon-fed them was about to make a speech. Much of the time, so printworkers from that era who had to handle last minute page changes say, they just listened in to Charles’s reports and made notes, or used tip-offs from any MHK who was using them as unpaid PR, or just asked Fred Kissack (then Chief Secretary).
Charles, as I remember, did not include Hazel Hannan’s queries in his report that day. Perhaps, like Jennifer, he saw nothing startling in them. It was the usual practice, then as now, that any backbencher querying the actions of the political senility had been primed to do so by the subject in order that such wasters could make a carefully scripted reply to reassure the unwashed masses.
Jennifer, however, did report them, and they appeared in that week’s paper, as from my memory the editor also saw nothing remarkable and expected the Greatest Living Manxman (as he was then regarded) to make a routine explanation in due time.
Only he didn’t. Indeed, there were then claims the paper had misreported the questioning and the GLM even brought considerable influence to bear on both Mrs Hannan and the island’s smallest newspaper to retract all mention of such matters.
At which point the editor dug in his heels, backed the ever accurate Jennifer and said he would wait for the Hansard report to prove she had recorded it word perfect. Which she had. And then, as the editor also ran Manx Life, he continued to ask questions. Meanwhile, the island’s ‘national press’ remained silent, having simply not been there to hear the questions, even if they would be prepared to break the habit of a lifetime and for once demonstrate the gumption or tenacity to follow up.
Which they did not, as they also had not when senior civil servants (or even local police on at least one memorable occasion) ‘advised’ local newspapers not to follow up other stories in those years. The point being, unlike our shoestring operation, those papers received considerable income from government advertising and were expected, in return, to run numerous flattering stories helpfully and exclusively supplied to them.
There was, so I was told, an ‘understanding’ between senior civil servants and the two larger papers that government would prefer it if it was able to place public notices in two publications (as then and now required by various laws) but only pay once. Therefore it would sit back and wait while the papers got into a war for other advertising (which would handily also wipe out smaller, more troublesome publications) and reward the winner when the rival folded.
As it happened, Johnston Press was playing the same game on a larger scale around Britain, intent on monopolising the regional market which was then the only press growth area. When the two Manx rivals had near bankrupted themselves it stepped in, bought them both and captured the entire government contract. JP also found a huge potential one in return for bigging up drunken lunchtime pronouncements from finance sector figureheads who, in the name of all decency, should really be left to ramble incoherently into a hotel urinal until they pass out.
So, in these new and desperate times are we about to see elected politicians and the local press being told by senior government figures who lack even a public mandate what to ask, what to report, and about whom?
Or is just business as usual? In which case I predict the press won’t even need to be ‘advised’, as Manx journalists once were in quite a heavy-handed manner. They already know, and will.
As for the politicians in a parliament where procedure and access to power is controlled by characters who are not used to being questioned (or even having to suffer the indignity of seeking election)……
What do you think?

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Alabama madness, coming soon to Ramsey

A terrifying flyer fell out of my Courier this week.
It appears that Living Hell, having turned Port St. Mary into a smack-riddled trailer park within a decade, are planning to hasten the degeneration of Ramsey too. Frankly, with the Ramsey Degeneration Committee already destroying anything of local character, taste, interest or colour I’m not sure we need the help.
I can only think this is some sort of revenge attack by crazed Southerners for the Michael Starkey exhibition down at Port Erin Arts Centre, and if so nobody could blame them. Ever since his awful ‘muriel’ went up on the wall opposite a particularly nice Ramsey cake shop I’ve had to stop patronising it. I can’t leave the shop without feeling physically sick, and I don’t want the owners or potential customers to think my nausea is a result of something I ate there.
Anyways, starting tomorrow evening, the Batshits have booked the Grammar School Lecture Theatre twice monthly for (and I quote direct from the flyer):
“an evening of contemporary music, an encouraging, life changing message, a chance to encounter God and coffee and donuts too!”
Charming, and just when they finally got all the stains and smells caused by incontinent freaks at the last evangelical screechfest out of the assembly hall floor at the town’s infant school.
So that’s junk food and cringeworthy cut and paste ‘sermons’ (courtesy of an Ulsterman who couldn’t cope with equal rights in his home community, armed with a correspondence course divinity diploma) twice monthly from now until…whenever someone at the Education Department turns down the loot I suppose.
Which will be never.
Paying punters at such atrocity exhibitions deserve all the pain they get, but I hope that at least the neighbours (especially residents of two nearby sheltered housing schemes) are spared the UNITE Worship Band. Think of a Cliff Richard tribute band formed by tone deaf inmates of a long term mental institution and you would be on the right lines.
Scary thought, is it not?

Noon of the Dead

Well, had other stuff to do today –such as the copy for the latest column bearing this name (yes, I still rant in print as well as cyberspace. I know, how quaint, how retro…). But I just have to pass on today’s encounter with the living dead in a supermarket.
There we were, one happy family, having successfully parked the jalopy in what’s left of the supermarket car park now that the powers that be have finally decided to fill the stonking great hole that appeared in the middle of it two years ago. In the process they’ve created a rubble pile three times the size of the hole, parked a digger which is fast disappearing into the ever-subsiding perimeter of the hole and managed to block off the recycling bins, but ho hum….whatever!
Next we successfully steered a trolley with duff wheels round shelves remarkable for the absence of anything vaguely fresh or edible, and even found a till with no queue staffed by a kid who actually seemed keen to serve us. As Her Indoors and Junior Management took up position ready to pack stuff as it was scanned, I placed the first item on the conveyor belt…..and then the nonsense started.
Some three-nippled, mouth-breathing old throwback in an IOM Steam Packet jumper (which is tantamount to an admission you only procreate with siblings and cousins) put one of those ‘next customer’ plastic things just behind my first item and then dumped a 24 pack of industrial effluent-based lager on the conveyor belt just behind that.
He seemed intellectually incapable of understanding that this, once placed on the conveyor belt, would not stand still and that the six free inches between my first item and it would not magically expand as I tried to unpack the rest of the contents of a large trolley into it.
Believe me, I tried to educate him. Politely, in words (short ones), and by pointing to my full trolley and indicating the vast difference in height, width and depth between the two spaces.
I even pointed out that there was a space at the end of the till which wasn’t part of the conveyor belt, where he could place his economy priced mouthwash without it moving. His answer was “Well, you could pack faster than that”, which suggested a worrying unfamiliarity with basic concepts of time and space…or anything else really.
Eventually I was reduced to moving his 24 pack back to the end of the conveyor after unloading every second or third item from our trolley, while he grumbled to a (presumably female) co-idiot with slightly less facial hair about the time it was taking me to empty my trolley so he could get served. The kid on the till was almost blue in the face in an effort not to laugh in case Barnacle Bill noticed and he got drawn into the action , while somehow I managed not to explode.
What more can I say? I bend over backwards to defend quaint Manx eccentrics against a harsh, unforgiving world, but there’s a limit.
Hopefully this Neanderthal was too old to catch any female relative over the age of, say, 12. He was also ugly as sin and unlikely to be economically active enough to pay for sex, so at least he can’t add to the sum of local stupidity.
However, simpletons like this are still a major factor in disasters like the election of Leonard Singer, the current Ramsey MHK who isn’t Allan Bell, and that has to be a cause for concern.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Beware of unsolicited texts from pestering pastors

I really feel sorry for folk around Port St. Mary.
There was a famous TV advert a few years back in which a small girl had to choose between ‘Daddy’ and ‘Chips’, and chose the chips. Sometimes I think it could be revived for unfortunates around the island’s answer to an Alabama trailer park, except in their case it would be ‘Jesus or Heroin?’
Seriously, have you SEEN Port St. Mary since Living Hell (‘Living Hope Community Church’, to give them the current trading name) set up shop and anyone who could spell their own name tried to sell up and move out?
Which brings me to this week’s Manx Indifferent and an article under South News about a ‘community choir’ being formed to have fun and raise cash for charity in the process. Given that Living Hell are involved any sane person will disregard such myths as the ones about choir members choosing the music or the charity. Forget it, that money has a US bank account's name on it already, however many 'religious charities' it has to pass through to get there.
But a more serious word of warning – especially if you have a daughter who is slightly under the age of consent but could (especially in dim lighting) pass as older. In the near future your daughter may start to receive texts ‘inviting’ her to join the choir. These could become persistent, and will emanate from adults who have obtained the number via Education Department staff, though neither the Education Department staff nor the persistent pests they passed it to obtained it by legitimate means.
If this happens, also be aware of several other things.
Firstly, this has happened before, and even though one culprit was identified and an official complaint made to the school it was not investigated. The culprit continues to roam schools preying on under-age girls under the pretence of ‘mentoring’ and the Education Department staff member who illegally obtained the child’s mobile number and passed it to him was never reprimanded, or even questioned.
Secondly, as long ago as 1999, other individuals involved in the project helped cover the tracks of a Ramsey evangelist, also with an unhealthy interest in girls in their mid-teens. Though he was eventually charged over one incident of many alleged to have taken place in Ramsey, Douglas, Peel and Port St. Mary it was only due to the persistence of a family who later left the island to avoid the backlash. Other incidents were simply never investigated, due to the collective refusal of the church venues involved to cooperate and the lack of will on the part of appropriate government staff to make them (including, to my certain knowledge, at least one church elder).
Should a young relative be pestered as the result of the current project, my advice would be report it to the school and the Education Department, but before either of those to the police. Mud sticks eventually, and while evangelicals hold key positions in the Education Department and Police Consultative Forum thankfully they no longer do so in the police force itself.

Government 'advice' from the thick and the dead

I had to laugh at I know by now you’ve read this in what passes for a local press, but I feel obliged to quote from the original, as presented to the press to regurgitate whole. Because, unlike certain public notices (see (Oh ‘L’) someone in the Chief Sickbag’s office WILL check closely, and if ‘independent’ reports are cut, so future government advertising may be.
This kind offer, on the surface at least, invites mere plebs to become public representatives on advisory bodies. Except, as anyone who’s ever encountered either the drawn-out, secretive and (frankly) dishonest application procedure or the kind of freaks who end up on these committees can tell you, it does not.
The thing is, the Chief Sickbag’s office draws up a list of ‘suitable’ candidates (generally over-the-hill figures from the ‘special interest’ groups who civil servants have accepted ‘free lunches’ from over the years) and the current one was agreed with the last Council of Ministers. This is only vaguely hinted at in any COMIN minutes, because the Chief Sickbag writes them.
Procedure requires that there is then a’public invitation’, unwelcome responses to which inevitably get ‘lost’ before the Chief Sickbag presents the names of those appointed to a future COMIN meeting to rubberstamp. In the case of the public bodies in theory considered later, the process is even more opaque. Frankly, if you can count to ten, haven’t subsidised a ski holiday for a senior government figure and/or aren’t gaga already, don’t waste a stamp or rack up a phone bill.
For example, I remember talking to one MNH member with enough self-respect to step down before his short term memory was completely shot (unlike, for example, an old biddy on another cultural advisory body who was marked present at meetings for around two years even as staff in her nursing home tied her into her chair to prevent her wandering off). He swore that, at one point, some members were so sedated and the need to rush new policy through so urgent that their silence was recorded as votes for the motion. I even wonder if, like Jeremy Bentham, the stuffed bodies of deceased members are wheeled in to make up a quorum, though I doubt if they’d be marked “present but not voting” as Bentham famously is at UCL meetings marking major anniversaries.
There was also the day that a senior figure in the heritage racket was rescued in Strand Street by a concerned bypasser, having not set foot there since the first mid-80’s redevelopment. Even as he was escorted onto the nearest bus back to Arcadia, he was still muttering ‘I’m sure you just turn left at the Dog’s Home…..’
(For those not old enough to remember, the Dog’s Home was a legendary 1980’s pub - one of the few where individualists of all ages could feel secure and rednecks never came to drink. It was the key building in a block of small businesses which was knocked down under a secretive planning deal involving compulsory purchase, eventually providing the site for the current Marks & Sparks. Few, if any, of the owners got enough compensation to continue elsewhere.)

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Ignorance is not a traditional value

Yesterday I saw yet more evidence that while, on the one hand, it is churches who claim to be the champions of community and local identity it is their members who, in practice, are fast destroying both. This example would be simply hilarious if it were not so startling and very, very dumb.
We were looking for a child’s birthday present, so thought we’d do the right thing by getting something that would encourage the child to learn something and also looking for it in a proper local bookshop, rather than Waterstones.
While there a bloke I’d take to be a fairly new resident came in and asked the staff for assistance. He had friends coming from across, and as they’d be here at the end of October, wanted to give them a suitable book on Manx folklore which might explain Hop Tu Naa.
For non-Manx readers, Hop Tu Naa is the Manx variant of those Halloween customs whereby kids dress up and go door to door asking for treats. The fun bit is they get to dress in witch costumes, but to get the treats they must also (a) carry a carved turnip lamp and (b) successfully sing the Hop Tu Naa song. So, most would agree, harmless fun stuff that gets kids away from the Playstation and keeps local tradition going.
Apparently not the shop assistant, who froze as if asked if they had anything on practical Satanism and child sacrifice, after a few seconds said, rather stiffly, they didn’t stock “that sort of thing” and then, when asked who did, uttered the phrase which is enough to get you slung out of the Independent Book Retailers Association, “Try W.H. Smiths”.
Seeing all this, and in particular the bloke’s dazed expression as he headed for the door, the Light of My Life steered him towards me and ordered me to list suitable Manx shops and book-titles. This I did, and duly put his business the way of a nice little guy who stocks old Manx books, posters, postcards and other memorabilia, just across the street from the bookshop as it happens.
The irony is, a few metres away from the shop assistant was an entire bookcase of local titles, mostly nonsensical whimsy but including several copies of Sophia Morrison’s Manx Fairy Tales, an Edwardian local classic reprinted in a ridiculously over-priced edition a few years back by Manx National Heritage to take advantage of the need to cover Manx culture in the school curriculum.
It’s a great book, something like a Celtic version of Grimms Fairy Tales, but also with several chapters on Manx customs and all very accessible to kids. The Manx elders who introduced me to it and other out-of-print local classics years back were, without exception, stalwart churchgoers and also, for example, involved in keeping things like mhelliahs (harvest produce sales), Sankey Evenings, carvals (Manx carols) and suchlike going in village churches.
By comparison, the annual Manx outcry about the ‘dangers’ of Halloween comes from a nastier, more recent Christian tradition (if something recently concocted in the half-mind of a deranged fundamentalist can yet be deemed ‘tradition’). This was predominantly introduced by exiled Ulster Unionists who, before fleeing a fairer, more humane Northern Ireland, discovered the advantages of US correspondence course theological qualifications and superchurch pyramid schemes. Like our worst politicians, they know nothing of morality (and never even study the big moral questions) but do know (in their case by filling in the blanks on those helpful sermon templates that come with the franchise) how to create moral panic out of tabloid non-stories.
It is they, and not ‘militant atheists’ or ‘aggressive secularism’, who are the greatest threat to Manx community life and common decency. But for now, as their entire lives revolve around material wealth and their pretensions towards ‘spiritual values’ are just ridiculous, I’m happy to laugh, or put them out of business by pointing punters towards proper, community-orientated, competitors who do deserve neighbourly support.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Different arseholes, same old shite

Well, the Manx election is over, and now the dust has settled we see that although a few different arseholes got elected all we can expect is the same old shite as before.
My experience as a Ramsey voter was fairly typical of most working people outside the capital.
As there are few jobs in the town, most of the working population commute 15 miles each way to Douglas and back, which should have meant a rush to the polls after 6 PM. Nope, just the election supervisors, the candidates and their blue-rinsed back-up teams when I got there.
Only exception was the campaign workers for Laurie Hooper, at 24 the youngest candidate and one of only two brave enough to say that, if elected, he’d push for scrutiny of government spending and policy-making procedures. Neither he nor the other guy making that promise (a junior civil servant, as it happens) got in. Thankfully neither did the truly scary woman from Liberal Vannin – a party with a campaign run by Robert Kilroy-Silk’s former campaign manager, so more UKIP-lite than liberal in values.
Various crinkly folk tell me that all the top four polling candidates visited them, but no working people recall seeing more than one candidate on the doorstep – and he was a working guy himself who could only make the rounds over evenings and weekends.
In fact, one neighbour, a sprightly ex-schoolteacher, deliberately went on holiday to Italy during the election week. She correctly forecast that (1) almost all of the votes in Ramsey would be cast by retired people, as commuting workers won’t be able to get to the poll in time and the unemployable don’t vote, being too illiterate to read candidate names (2) knowing this, career con-artists always make a point of touring retirement complexes and known homes of retired people and (3) if elected they never keep their promises.
Therefore, rather than becoming so irate she clocked one of the lying sods (which would be undignified for a genteel lady of advancing years) she would sit in the sun until the lying stopped and the toads most able to get frightened, superstitious half-blind biddies to leave the house, daytime TV and the Daily Mail long enough to put an X in roughly the right spot were declared the winners. At that point the highest paid civil servants can continue cutting deals with the skankiest local employers and the rest of us can carry on as normal.
Incidentally, as a lapsed member of the Official Monster Raving Loony Party (I participated during the Wild Willi Beckett years, when a combination of inspired lunacy and more serious campaigns on homelessness and sleaze actually got us York and Bradford council seats) I will be informing the party hierarchy of a Manx politician canvassing under false pretences. In this story (see, Leonard Singer is clearly sporting an OMRLP rosette with the centrepiece altered. Ironic really, as the original said: “VOTE FOR INSANITY. You know it makes sense” .
Come to think of it, the Isle of Man may be one of the few places outside Washington DC or Tehran where, rather than restrict the voting rights of the clinically insane, we just employ them as politicians to keep them off the streets.