Friday, August 27, 2010

what the hell are we supposed to use, man - harsh language?

I haven't had such an enjoyably cathartic session of bellowing OH FUCK OFF at the radio for quite some time as I did this morning on the way to work, so I'll share it with you. Jim Naughtie's interviewee on the Today programme was Dr. Tom Wright, the current Bishop of Durham. I must have missed the bit where it was explained why he was on, i.e. why his views were specifically newsworthy today, but basically the thrust of his argument seemed to be that actually the received wisdom about society gradually getting less and less religious is incorrect, and that actually people are getting more religious, though perhaps in a sort of secret private way involving stopping going to church so that to the hopelessly naïve observer, bless 'em, it might appear that people are abandoning religion. Not a bit of it, though. Also, that whole enlightenment thing hasn't really worked out, has it? I mean, yes, the electric screwdriver, cancer drugs, kidney transplants, computers, digital watches, all that rubbish, but really it's been a nice but ultimately failed experiment, and instead of all this empirical rationalism nonsense what we really need in these troubled and difficult times is to go back to getting our knowledge about the world from a beardy bloke in a dress. Also, what have the Romans ever done for us?

Obviously that was enough to make the blood boil, but there were a couple of other specific things that are absolutely guaranteed to cause some sort of bile embolism - firstly the refusal to answer a direct question if it's in any way awkward to do so, and to refuse to do so in a tweedily chuckly indulgent Eagletonesque sort of way, as if patting a well-meaning but errant schoolboy on the head as he vainly struggles to understand an algebra problem that's beyond his ability to grasp. Wright even went so far as to say that what the church needed to do was return to a rich tradition of storytelling (cf Jesus' parables) rather than get sucked into discussions it didn't want to have with people not necessarily well-disposed towards it, in other words instead of ANSWERING THE FUCKING QUESTION just wave your hands around and make some waffly old shit up about loaves and fishes or passing through the eye of a camel or something like that. That'll help.

Secondly, almost the first thing he did was to disparagingly refer to critics of religion (and specifically Richard Dawkins, as it always is) as "shrill". This is very interesting for a couple of reasons. Firstly because for all his faults one thing Dawkins is not is "shrill", he's always rather softly-spoken and donnish and Englishly polite, a little too much for his own good sometimes. Not that Wright really thinks of Dawkins as "shrill", mind you; this is just a classic bit of othering and well-poisoning - subtly conflate the notions of "shrill, aggressive, unreasonable" with "any criticism of religion" and you have a means to shut down discussion without having to engage with it. Think back a few years. Who remembers the feminist pioneers like Germaine Greer being described as "shrill" in their demands for equal rights? More recently, remember the same word was applied to Hillary Clinton once it became clear she might have had a shot at the Presidency? Think back to the civil rights movement of the 1960s. You know, we might be prepared to accommodate those uppity niggras, if only they weren't so goddamn shrill. You know, demandin' stuff and shit? Why can't they just ask nicely, so we can ignore them?

Sometimes I feel optimism about progress being made, and sometimes I hear shit like this and I think, no, just take off, nuke the entire place from orbit; it's the only way to be sure.

[Note: this is an image-free post as Blogger's image-uploading facility appears currently to be broken. Some of the images in old posts aren't displaying properly either. I'm sure they've got their best people on it.][Stop press: seems to be fixed now.]

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