“What’s that?” I cried, pointing to a suspicious black dot at the apex of the room. Nestling up there in the the corner was a false widow. You know, one of those small venomous spiders that have a face-like marking on their lower anatomy. Steatoda nobilis.
Anyway, it was promptly removed (not by me) and put outside, from where it would undoubtedly soon make its way back in.
Later I saw another, dangling on a short thread from a gap behind a cupboard. Realising it had been spotted, it beat a speedy retreat up into the gap.
Getting dressed, I now have to check my clothes in case I put on a spider. This is terrorism. This is exactly how terrorism operates.
Obviously I don’t like those false widows because I know they have a nasty bite, but I’m not sure why I don’t like great big house spiders that bob along the floor like lightening, specially when they disappear under furniture before you can find a receptacle to trap them under till your non-arachnophobic partner shows up.
There are spiders that I don’t mind at all. Little tiny ones and those spindly ones with tiny bodies and long, long legs, thinner than a human hair. They make huge webs, which come back bigger and better, almost straight after you’ve knocked them down.
So. Have I got arachnophobia? “extreme or irrational fear of spiders” Kind of yes and no.
You can probably tell what this is leading up to, or is that too Rolph Harris.
Well it’s because I have been mostly reading about racism, and in particular Islamophobia.
There’s an article about Islamophobia on Harry’s Place, in which someone on a btl comment made the following comparison.
“You don't get criticised if you are arachnaphobic so you shouldn't worry if you are Islamaphobic.”
Nice one. That’s a defence of the irrational part of the condition, the phobic part, the part you can’t help because it’s a medical matter; a mental health issue. You can’t be blamed so you shouldn’t be ashamed. So as far as Islamophobia is concerned, if you suffer from it, why not admit it? “Poor me. I’m ill.”
But wait. What about the rational part? What about the fear of Islam generated purely because of its nasty bite?
Maybe it’s irrational to fear harmless individuals (spiders and Muslims) because of a justifiable fear of the harmful ones - but the fact is that when you can’t immediately tell which is which, perhaps it’s best to err on the side of caution.
On the H.P. thread, there is an interesting but slightly digressive discussion about Islamic dress.
A liberal friend of mine says the dislike of headscarves and burkas is illiberal and bigoted. She probably wouldn’t like it if people went round in jackboots or wearing pointy white shrouds, but she would probably still argue ‘different strokes for different folks’.
Not me. I see Islamic dress as a badge symbolising, among other things, antisemitism; if antisemitism is not something espoused by the individual beneath the burkha, at least it proclaims allegiance to those who do espouse it. Is that irrational? Maybe.
Anyway the difference between antisemitism and Islamophobia is clear to me, but not, apparently, to others.
And with that, I’ll return to the BBC. I watched (in the line of duty) the BBC 3 programme about racist Britain.
It was called “Is Britain Racist?” a question to which, somehow, one already knew the answer because this was BBC3. Britain would be racist, but not necessarily in an obvious way.
On the iPlayer there’s a warning. “Contains some strong language and some upsetting scenes”
I must have missed those. The presenter Mona Chalabi was portraying herself as an assimilated, tolerant and thoughtful British Muslim. Arguably, not very typical. She had the biggest hair I’ve ever seen. It reminded me of those sheep that have just emerged from years of unshorn isolation, weighed down by giant, life threatening fleece. It was almost an act of defiance. “I will not cover my hair - and even if I wanted to I probably couldn’t.”
The first thing that struck me was that this programme is based on the premise that Islam is a race. Mona went to an EDL meeting and felt uncomfortable. It was a scary mob, and there was a palpable atmosphere of aggression, but it was, very visibly and openly a demo against “Islamization”.
Is Britain Racist? “Three people are going undercover to find out”
Hanna the headscarved, sweet and innocent Muslim girl said:
“The common perception of Muslims at the moment is that they’re all terrorists”
No, Hanna. Sorry. Straw man. Your opening statement is neither true, nor pertinent.
Later, having experienced some unpleasant drive-by ‘Islamophobic’ abuse - “Fuck off back to your own country” - whilst walking along a street dressed in the full-on top-to-tail Islamic burkha, she got back to the car.
“It was just quite scary that someone could be fearless, as if nothing stops them from scaring you. I felt quite powerless and intimidated. It makes me feel quite sad”
she said, throwing back her face covering
”you know, it’s not like these men were children, - that they are just young children who don’t know much; they, they’re adults, the fact that they’ve chosen to hurl abuse at some random stranger just makes you feel quite hopeless. I mean, what can you do about that?”
It simply didn’t cross her mind that the highly conspicuous uniform she was wearing made a statement. It’s not as if it was even an unobtrusive statement, like a cross or a Star of David. It was a full, black, head-to-toe shroud, with a slit to look through. No visible facial or other recognisable distinguishing feature was on show. One has to ask, whom has chosen what? Not that I condone drive-by insults. It was just the way she saw things in such narrow terms.
|Not a terrorist|
Deji, the Black man, and Richard the Jew proved to be more interesting and more subtle cases. The black man in Somerset got on well. There was no hostility. The Jew in Bradford had a few problems, from both white and Asian Bradfordians.
The presenter introduced Richard’s experimental ‘walk amongst the natives’ by telling us that recent conflicts in the Middle East were the source of any expressions of anti-Jewish sentiment by Asians. So, not very accurate there. But it did offer a ‘good excuse’ for antisemitism expressed by ‘Asians’.
The shopping experiment showed that there was more suspicion “Can I search your bag, sir?” shown towards the black man than the Muslim, and none at all towards the Jew.
This, like the police’s much criticised stop-and-search policy, is allegedly a strategy based on ‘profiling‘ - i.e., crime statistics. Targeted interventions are undoubtedly more cost-effective than time consuming non-discriminatory interventions, but they come at the cost of ‘not helping’ social cohesion. The cost of one thing at the expense of another. One might say it’s racist, but rational.
I was confused by the allegation that there was a recorded 50% rise in antisemitism and a 70% rise in Islamophobia. Funny. I thought it was the other way round. Say, 93% and 70% respectively.
The presenter, Mona Chalabi was quite an angry person. She was possibly the most racist of anyone in the programme, if one interprets ‘racism’ as prejudice. Hers was a prejudice against Britain’s concerns about enforced multiculturalism.
The ‘psychological’ experiments that she saw as a guilt-inducing, universally inherent fear of black faces that had to be overcome, was a wrong interpretation on her part. It simply showed that people have an inherent preference for people who look like themselves. She couldn’t see it.
She was allowed a lengthy, self indulgent rant at the end, which actually made this viewer warm to the defiant chant from those football hooligans on the tube that were featured in a clip at the beginning of the programme: “We’re racist .......and that’s the way we like it.”
Just to be clear. It was only the chant I warmed to, not the thuggish, imbecilic, shove that pushed an unfortunate black man off the carriage and back onto the platform. Now, that really was racism in its purest form. With a bite.