Archive for August, 2011|Monthly archive page

Thousands Loot Britain’s Prestigious and Profitable Public Image

In Satire on August 15, 2011 at 3:52 PM

Last week, thousands up and down the country were seen looting, attacking or burning down Britain’s businesses, buildings, police force and its image of quaint, traditional, stiff-upper lip civility.

People broke into shops and came out with not only goods such as trainers and plasma TVs, but also physical fragments of this important British image. The TAY reporter, who bravely ventured into the chaos, reported seeing a yob coming out of a Clinton store, holding a framed picture of ‘Wills and Kate’, excitedly shouting, “YO, BRE’RIN, I straigh’ up teethed a paw’tion of da’ great British stereotype!”

And this man was by no means alone, as this British image was significantly stolen and damaged throughout. Indeed, many commentators are claiming that it will take a very long time to recover this image and some even doubt that it ever can be. This is despite the Prime Minister, David Cameron, unveiling a £20m British Image Support Scheme for the long term recovery of the image and a £10m recovery scheme to be set up in order for local councils to propagate necessary illustrations of civility and prosperity, however illusory, in the short term.

The tourist industry is the one most directly affected by the theft itself. The obvious reason for this is the reasonable prediction that tourist numbers will fall as prospective tourists stay away, fearing they will get caught up in the violence. There are more intangible reasons too, though, such as many tourists feeling the fair, aristocratic, upstanding appearance of Britain and its citizens they have been sold being one big fat lie. TAY learns, however, that some rather unscrupulous travel agents are trying to cash in on this ostensibly new Britain by organising ‘riot tours’ and ‘riot activity centres’, whereby people can smash up windows and start fires in controlled, rural locations.

The film industry is also feeling the effects of the loss. Whether satirically or sincerely, this noble if stuffy image is regularly expounded on by the small and the silver screen, by production companies from good ol’ Blightly and from abroad, especially the U.S. of A. With the rioters having stole so much of the promoted image, seemingly irreversibly, many production companies are in disarray. These companies are going to find it considerably harder to so shamelessly exploit the refined, restrained, twee British image, as it has been broadcasted to the world, essentially, how many uneducated, violent twerps the UK has like everywhere else. No longer will those who haven’t lived in Britain so easily buy the conceit that we all have dearly held connections to Royals and all live happily in comfortable upper-middle class civility, reading The Financial Times, watching that ‘strange game’ cricket and eating cream teas . No longer will the worst relationship issues be seen as (ultimately minor)romantic problems stemming from affably bumbling Englishmen. No longer will the worst civil unrest appear to be drive by arguments . And, most importantly, probably no longer will the quaintly self-absorbed bubbles of ‘Notting Hill’s and ‘Wimbledon’s (or Jane Austen period dramas) seem to matter when there is far ‘realer’ problems happening.

‘Bumbler’-in-chief, Hugh Grant, was quick to come out bemoaning the effect it will have on his career: “with so many Britons proving themselves to be…well, downright cruel fools, who is really going to buy into my carefully cultivated image of amiable yet maladroit, loverlorn English gentleman?!”  This image is, of course, a huge con. As attested by Grant’s regular appearances on talk shows in light of the News International hacking scandal, he is actually a very self-aware, even self-deprecating, politically astute and articulate man. He thus accounts for the image by  claiming “…well, our friends across the pond love this image don’t they. You may call it shallow, but unfortunately money rules in this world, and I don’t think what I’m doing is in any way as deceitful as some of the financial elite. Yes, I may somewhat cheat some people out of a strictly accurate worldview, but I’d like to think in doing so, I provide some laughs. Many bankers have humourlessly cheated people out of livelihoods.” Grant, though, sees little future in the promotion of this image: “alas, in light of recent events, I don’t think this image is really tenable. At least it’s happened now, rather than in the nineties, now that I’m rich and have enjoyed the adoration of millions (including some rather beautiful women *cheeky smile*), having rode the feel-good wave of New Labour and Brit pop…”

Grant’s partner-in-crime, Richard Curtis, purveyor of such whimsical fluff as Notting HillThe Vicar of Dibley, Four Weddings and a Funeral and Love, Actually, is also acutely aware of the probable impact of the riots on his career: “yeh, the attacks must have been heartbreaking for the families and businesses directly affected, but what about good ol’ Richard over here?! My films have always been kinda escapist, but it’s going to be very hard for me to recover my brand of feel-good, romantic schmaltz in such a relentlessly real world. Even Americans in the Mid-West probably won’t emotionally buy into my typical film now *sighing*…..” Curtis does, however, have a few possible solutions: “I dunno…maybe I could do some kind of modern-day Romeo and Juliet featuring a bird and a bloke from two rival… ‘ghettoes’ I think they’re called, ending in not being able to get to a wedding cos of the riots or summin like that. Or, I could take advantage of the very ‘British’ goodwill of the people offering cups of tea and sweeping the sweets by adding some cheesy, contrived romance and making a film out of it. The yanks would love that shit, to be fair. I could call it ‘Broomance’….”

We await to see if the UK is swept off its feet…..

Joel Durston

Why The Riots Happened: From the Criminals’ Perspective

In Satire on August 15, 2011 at 12:56 AM

With commentators variously claiming the riots were caused by humiliating and inescapable social inequality, to lazy, morally bankrupt, ‘feral beasts’, sponging off the state, to everything in between, TAY took a walk off the beaten track to actually ask some of the guilty parties what drove them to do what they did….

Ray Jing, who was for some reason happy to have his name published, is a friend of a friend of TAY writer who was seen burning down a Foot Locker in Camden Town, but escaped arrest. The pyromaniac, speaking to TAY on the phone about the situation, claimed: “well…I’m just a firestarter…twisted firestarter. I gots a call from my boy, Jermaine, that shit was kicking off down Camden, which I was welllll buzzing about cos I usually just blow shit up from my garden, innit. It was good, man. That Foot Locker went down in fffflaaaaames. And peoples usually ain’t too ‘appy about my….passion, but this is good cos apparentlys a lot of people is saying that we did it cos of…. *shouting somewhat out of earshot*, mum, what’s that word I asked about that means ‘unfair’?….injustice… tha’s the one! I just wanted to stir some shit up, ennit. ”

TAY also spoke to another man, who requested to go by the name of ‘Geezer’, and who stole a plasma TV. “Yeh, I probably shouldn’t have stole the TV, but do you really expect a geezer to watch his beloved Hammers on a 14 inch?! Good thing is that the ol’ Bill, the ‘acks and the politicians seem too busy squeaking and squawking abbart rights, differen’ police tactics and social context or whatever to actually try and convict people like me who’ve robbed stuff. Right, gotta mosey along…we’re playing those filthy sheepshaggers, Cardiff. And now I can catch it all in glorious, 32-inch definition, as they say….” *puts the phone down to a chorus of ‘I’m forever blowing bubbles’*.

We also had the good fortune of being able to speak to a somewhat more eloquent, sophisticated looter, who wished to go by name of ‘Enigma’.  ‘Enigma’ was one of the select few looters who stole from a bookshop, in addition to the standard hunting grounds of HMV, Foot Locker, Currys and such like. ‘Enigma’ declared: “yes, I opportunistically looted some items, but this is little different in principle from all the MPs who effectively stole tax payers’ money in the expenses scandal. Even, little different from all those who pirate music and films and illegally stream live sports. All the ultra-left commentators are claiming this is a somehow a politically motivated outcry against the social cost of the ‘greed’, ‘irresponsibility’, even plain ‘thievery’ of the financial and political elite, and/or the general ills of ‘vacuous’ and ‘unjust’ capitalism. If this is the case, is it not a great irony that so many of us are looting plasma TVs, Nike clobber and such like? As Darwin proved, essentially, we’re all just self-interested creatures, grabbing what we can, how we can, in this hellish Hobbesian society…”

Joel Durston

An Inconvenient Necessity?

In Opinion on August 13, 2011 at 12:52 PM

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past week, you will be aware of the riots and their aftermath and the way they have been largely conducted over social media, for good and for ill.

I have already explained in a previous article, my idea that short, snappy soundbites that abound on social media sites largely foster a polarisation of public opinion (probably unintentionally). The good in the case of the riots is the proliferation of movements such as Riot Cleanup, Operation Cup Of Tea, Something Nice for Ashraf and Youth Against Violence, which aim to clear up the physical and metaphorical rubble. Alas, as much as these groups deserve more publicity than the bad, they are not nearly as controversial and in need of discussion.

The difficulty is what, if anything, to do about the fact that much of the criminal rioting was organised via social networks. Many rioters instantly (and selectively) communicated to friends the timings and whereabouts of the commotion, thus playing a large part in turning what was initially a small, localised demonstration into widespread civil disorder. In this manner, it is very similar to the Arab Spring, which spread exponentially with the help of social media after an equally particular catalyst (Tunisian street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire, in reaction to the confiscation of his goods and harassment and humiliation at the hands of officials).

While admitting social media can be used for ‘good’, Cameron asserted it can also be used for ‘ill’, such as the London riots which had been “organised via social media”. He also claimed and that the government was “working with the police, the intelligence services and industry to look at whether it would be right to stop people communicating via these websites and services when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality”. To this end, Cameron and his cabinet have communicated with social media companies such as RIM (the company that produces Blackberrys), Facebook and Twitter regarding the possibility of shutting down networks in emergency circumstances. All the above responded co-operatively, expressing a willingness to at least discuss the matter. While nothing to this end has been implemented so far (and looks unlikely to in the immediate future given the dissipation of the current riots), the idea is a very real possibility for the future. This is given the companies’ express willingness to co-operate and statements from the Prime Minister, such as: ‘When people are using social media for violence, we need to stop them’. In a similar vein, the government may grant police greater freedom to remove scarves or hoods (so people may be identified by CCTV) and to stop and search.

This topical idea is very contentious because it is so intrinsically linked to the ever-controversial topic of civil liberties. Such curbing, even ‘denial’, of freedom of expression is always met with suspicion and condemnation in many quarters, and this situation is no different. The Open Rights Group – an organisation which aims to raise awareness of digital rights and civil liberties issues – has attacked the idea. Executive director Jim Killock claimed: “Clearly, a service will be used by people for legitimate activities, some of which will mitigate or deal with the problem encountered. In any case, innocent people should not be punished for the actions of others”. He furthered to declare the measures would be abused and generally “seized upon by oppressive governments to justify their own actions”. My posing of the issue on the aforementioned Youth Against Violence Facebook page was also met with disapproval, even vitriol: ‘helllll no’, ‘foolish’ etc. liberate? liberate?

So, on the surface at least, it seems like a somewhat scarily authoritarian idea. I, and I daresay nearly everyone else, is in general agreement with the right to freely express oneself, whether on social media, in person, on the phone or whatever. Indeed, this is a right is enshrined in the cornerstone of utopian governance – The UN Declaration of Human Rights: ‘Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers’. This is all gravy, until it is seen to conflict with other freedoms set forth in the declaration, as it often is in the argument about what views on race/cultural heritage it is acceptable to air. An infamous case of this is the debate over whether BNP leader Nick Griffin should have been allowed to speak on Question Time (he eventually was). Some asserted that he was a legitimate party member with the freedom of expression to air his views. Others claimed that his ‘racist’ views would unduly infringe upon others’ freedoms – variously, rights to freedom of movement, equality, even ‘life, liberty and security of person’ through the supposed increased racial hatred/violence. The latter freedom is probably the most conflicting in the case of the riots.

Look beyond the admitted slippery slope to nightmarish visions of Orwellian societies, though, and Cameron certainly has a point. By nearly all accounts, the riots were largely organised by social media, and with a consequent alacrity and spontaneity that made them very, very hard to effectively police. Moreover, social media companies are suggesting that such widespread censorship is at least technically feasible. Essentially, if we ignore all undeniably sensible considerations of ethics/principles and ‘slippery slopes’ for just a second, the idea is practical and would in all likelihood be effective at quelling violence.

Furthermore, the argument can be cunningly flipped around; since these companies are private, their owners arguably have the freedom to choose when to temporarily shut them down, as they occasionally do for maintenance. I’m sure that’d be in the small print somewhere. Despite this idea, I’d still tend towards the theory that these measures would in principle represent an ‘infringement of civil liberties’ (‘opinions without interference… through any media and regardless of frontiers’ etc.). Nonetheless, I still support these measures….

...or, to censor?

...or, to censor?

Very few would argue these ideas are ideal, but we quite fucking obviously don’t live in an ideal society (nor world). We live in Britain; not Utopia, and a fractured Britain at that. In this undoubtedly volatile social context (the reasons for this are a different argument altogether), I’m not sure we can afford the privilege of absolute freedom of expression. The cycle works both ways, but I do think we need to show responsibilities to gain rights. Frankly, some have not shown responsibility by thieving plasma TVs, burning buildings and throwing bricks. The fact is a minority – a significant one, but a minority nonetheless – have committed acts considered by the majority (including myself) to be reprehensible and exacted upon innocent people. Surely, given this, the greater good is to do our upmost as a society to protect and help decent people and livelihoods such as the late Haroon Jahan and the burned Reeves Furniture Shop of Croydon. If the result for this is having to not Tweet or write typically pithy status updates for a few hours, then, personally, so fucking be it.

Similarly, I view increasingly stringent security and CRB checks as necessary; annoying, but necessary. Being what most would class as a ‘white middle class’ Brit, it is hard to realistically put myself in the position of ethnic minorities being consistently stopped and searched. Alike above, though, I would like to think I would have the sense of perspective to see the police officers were merely stopping me being, to their largely unknowing eyes, statistically more likely to be carrying a dangerous weapon than a white person from Chelsea – to make a crass, but largely accurate, generalisation. This can of course be a vicious cycle, and just one of a very complex web of cause and effects of deprivation, but this is not the debate I’m focusing on here.

I sense many people attacking this idea are usually the same left-leaning people that, whilst generally ruing the riots, rightly or wrongly call for lighter punishment for rioters in favour of forgiveness, empathy and societal change (education, bridging the economic divide, re-integration etc.). I regard this view as slightly over-optimistic and unrealistic, but I do think it is an admirable view to hold (indeed, I would generally regard myself as a liberal ‘Guardian reader’, but in light of recent events I’m coming to gradually regard these views and values as somewhat merely hypothetical). Given this, I see an irony in these undeniably innocent people not willing to pitch in by being inconvenienced in their cyber activities for an hour or two. Maybe it’s the fact that Cameron and the ‘bloody’ Tories are proposing them….

Another objection is the supposedly Big Brother-esque implications of it, for which one only has to look to China for support. I, though, have the faith in the politicians and the parliamentary structure for censorship to be only used when some serious, bad shit is going down. This is fully compatible with my support of the popular view that in a democracy one has to be prepared to be ‘offended’, but not physically ‘harmed’. The other argument advanced in this camp is that the government would have to be sinisterly monitoring social media at all times to see when trouble’s a’brewing. They wouldn’t really, however, because they could be alerted to this by the companies themselves, who all cast a somewhat shadowy yet omniscient eye over the blogospheres. How else do you think those Facebook ads are targeted with such unerring accuracy?!

A wise man once said, “you can have peace. Or you can have freedom. Don’t ever count on having both at once.” I’m not sure this always true, but I think it has a lot of pertinence for this discussion. If in this case, it is the feasible and moral choice I’d incline to say it was, I would most definitely go for peace. ‘Hypothetical simplification’ it may well be, yet I would be perfectly happy to sacrifice for a night virtual organisation of some party, or proffering my two cents worth on things, if there was any realistic chance of stopping some dickhead assaulting just one unwitting bystander or destroying just one innocent person’s business. Wouldn’t you?

Joel Durston


In Satire, Sport on August 12, 2011 at 8:16 PM

This Saturday, something  more incredible happened than a standard day in the life of Mario Balotelli or all the £50 million transfers and Rooney bicycle kicks put together; notorious dickhead (and sometime professional footballer) Joey Barton retweeted a Nietzsche quote.  I shit you not. The quote in question was:  ‘whoever feels predestined to see and not to believe will find all believers too noisy and pushy: he guards against them’. Indeed, the quote, which warns against dogmatic belief, is actually rather sophisticated; not one of the many philosophy ‘rent-a-quote’ that abound. This is especially so for it being so axiomatic to those (like myself) who see that Joey Barton has Tweeted a Nietzsche quote, but don’t quite believe it. Maybe Barton is aware of this and using the logic of the quote itself to prove itself. Yes, retweeting is simple, but it suggests he must have had at least a vague knowledge and/or interest of Nietzsche to follow the page in the first place. Further research into his Twitter activity reveals that he allows follows and re-tweets ‘Philosophy quotes’. Maybe the philosophy graduate side of me is reading too much into it, but why can’t one be fanciful.

An usually thoughtful Joey BartonAn unusually thoughtful Joey Barton


Maybe this not only marks a positive turning point in Barton’s life (at last!), but heralds a new zeitgeist in football culture;  a vision infamously satirised by Monty Python, where the self-examination reaches greater philosophical depths than clichéd at-the-end-of-the-days. TAY envisions  this by taking a prophetic look back at the philosophical musings on the season that will be (don’t worry, all will make sense)….

The epistemology of officials’ decisions

In January’s top-of-the-table clash between Arsenal and Manchester United at the Emirates Stadium, Alex Ferguson was unusually sanguine about the decision to play over the already excessive five minutes of stoppage time – time that ultimately proved United’s undoing as Arsenal scored a last-minute winner from a dubious penalty. He claimed: “though, as I experienced it, sufficient time had expired to warrant the blowing of the final whistle, I would venture that we cannot be objectively certain of this. O.K. in the past, I have been known to get rather impertinent about stoppage time, but I have done some research on the philosophy of time and perception and come to think time is not necessarily as concrete as I hitherto perceived it to be. For I am just one entity receiving particular, potentially fallible, sense experience datum. It is the classic problem in the epistemology of perception isn’t it? How do I know that what I see as the red of our great club’s shirt, you do not see as blue which you have merely been socially conditioned to acknowledge as ‘red’.  I can’t know this for sure. Indeed, greats such as Ayer and Russell have, with the argument from illusion amongst others, exposed the flaws of this view appositely deemed naive realism.”

Despite the TAY interviewer’s gestures hinting that he needed to wrap things up, Fergie was well and truly off on one: “furthermore, what is time? Because we have always lived with it and have no reference points, so to speak, we accept the absolute, inevitable uniformity of time as a certainty. But this is not necessarily accurate. In his discourse with Newton (who expounded the accepted view), great German thinker Gottfried Leibniz postulated some very interesting points in opposition to this view. He espoused a ‘relational’ view of time, which I am very taken by, whereby time is merely a contingent, human ordering upon actual objects. So, in answer to your question, yes, I thought there was a lot of time, but I am liable to error.”

A pensive Alex FergusonA pensive Alex Ferguson

Elsewhere, forthright Neil Warnock and Ferguson’s one-time player Steve Bruce have also been far more considered in their critique of officials’ performances this season. In one interview following a match in which Malbranque was harshly sent for an early bath, Bruce even sympathetically (if a little patronisingly) accounted for the referee’s supposed poor judgement by comparing him to one of the prisoners in Plato’s allegory of the cave; consigned to believe mere shadows of real life are real life.

A discourse of justice in football

Wolves’ midfield enforcer Karl Henry, infamous for making Joey Barton look rather cuddly, was also oddly philosophical about his seventh red card of the season against Villa in late January. “Yes, regretfully, it was a poor, reckless challenge for what was, with the wonderful benefit of hindsight, a 20/80 ball in a not particularly dangerous area of the pitch. I should have heeded the great Ray Wilkins’ advice to ‘stay on my feet’, but this is easier said than done. For, in the words of the great Hume I believe, ‘reason is the slave of the passions’. I’d venture that nowhere is this more true than when you’re out there, fans singing their hearts out, blood curdling in your veins, heart beating at 100mph, literally and figuratively behind the beloved club badge. I saw a flash of the ball and passion overcame me. Should this one transgression with no malice merit such a draconian sentence in our supposedly compassionate, forgiving, big, if you will, society? I don’t think it should. Arguably, it even reduces the punishers to the level of the punished and thus perpetuates the cycle of transgression. For one, it hasn’t work on me this season. I am a strong advocate of rehabilitative, not punitive, measures for those who have transgressed, such as education, community service, apology and general reintegration into society. I believe this should and could be effectively translated into football, with sin-bins, enforced apologies and equivalents to community service in having to help the opposition. For example, helping with the water-bottles and half-time oranges or even playing for the other team. Football should be about sportsmanship, redemption and general human virtue, no?”. To which the perplexed TAY reporter said “errr…yeh. Thanks, Karl”.

Self and society

After a typically perfunctory performance, right-back Luke Young gave a brilliantly abstract – and scathingly honest – appraisal of his role in the Aston Villa win against Sunderland (and indeed, in the grander scheme of things). “Yeh I thought I put in a decent shift today, but the right’s back role is not one of the most prestigious in the game. Us full-back’s are, along with the other defenders and the keeper, somewhat analogous to the ‘productive’ or workers caste Plato outlined in his masterpiece, The Republic. We are just the allegorical abdomen. Yes, we have moderation inherent to the whole system and the ‘appetite’ to win the ball, but it is the ‘spirit’ of midfielders who, like the ‘protective’ caste, are strong, brave and adventurous to do the more creative work. And it is the strikers who represent the head of the system; they have the wisdom and decisiveness to make the important decisions which translate into collective virtue. So, yeah, at the end of the day, I thought I had a pretty good game, but it was a team performance.”

Discourse of Aristotelian purpose in football

What came as most surprising though was how deeply pensive Wayne Rooney and Rio Ferdinand (two hitherto not particularly known for their intellect) were in their April defeat to Chelsea which ultimately lost them the title:

Rooney: “Yes, of course, I’m disappointed, especially because I skied the penalty. But when the chips are down, football is, on the surface at least, just a bunch of athletic people with extremely co-ordinated feet attempting to shepherd a bit of leather into an outdoor cupboard. It doesn’t come close to matching in import some of the huge issues that are unfortunately plaguing the world we inhabit today. To name but a few; global warming, institutional corruption, political injustice, the reality of the Pareto principle, lack of clean water, infant mortality, insufficient education and, perhaps most importantly, widespread ignorance of and indifference to these problems. I love football, but its purpose is not easily explicable, not least by Aristotle’s notorious four causes; in my humble opinion, a cornerstone of classical philosophy. Thus, I am left to conceive of football as ‘just a game’, as the age-old cliché goes.”

Ferdinand: “Interesting thoughts, Wayne. The problems in the world that you note are indeed very real and worrying, but I think football can be in harmony with, not in opposition to, these issues as it has a huge effect on millions of lives, tangible and abstract. Tangibly, it brings people together, helps a healthy lifestyle and promotes fair play, co-operation and team-work. And, as testified by the foundations and trusts we are part of, football can also be a great vehicle for positive societal and cultural change. See, for one, the hugely positive role the ‘Let’s Kick it Out’ campaign had on race relations in Britain. I for one can now, thankfully, play football free from the malicious chanting and banana-throwing which so blighted the careers of some of my heroes’ such as John Barnes.”

Rooney: “Yes all valid points, Rio, but I find this vision rather idealistic and utopian. Just as there are many who are inspired by us to take up football, many are sadly content to merely gaze for hours at screens, watching live games or playing the litany of football-based videogames – ironically causing obesity somewhat. And, yes, football can be a force for change, but with all due respect I think you overstate how much it is. In addition to commendably promoting many a human virtue, football also brings out much of the worse in humanity; prospering only through cheating or deceit in the frequent diving and histrionics evident in top-level football, lack of respect in the demonisation of officials and undue aggression in foul-tempered outbursts. I must concede culpability for the latter two, for which I again apologise profusely.

Ferdinand: “*patting Rooney on the back* It’s o.k., Wayne, and it is very admirable of you to admit to your shortcomings, in addition to the other ills that unfortunately blight the beautiful game. I think that football does, though, offer a very important sense of cultural and regional identity, even ‘hope’, which Obama showed to be such a powerful motivator.

Rooney: “Yes, but footballers are so divorced from those they represent. It’s bizarre; very few players actually grow up supporting the team they now play for, even kiss the badge of, yet the fans imbue such a sense of community purpose in to them. Furthermore, up until around 20 years ago, players would have a real connection with the fans; having a pint with them in the pub after the game. But now players and clubs are so rootless; divorced from those who idolise them in geography, lifestyle, even language and, perhaps most importantly, finance. I, and I daresay you too my dear friend, must admit we are prime examples of this; growing up Everton and West Ham fans and living in our mock-tudor  mansions in gated communities….

Ferdinand: Hmmm…Lady Gaga is absolutely nutty I should say, but she is one of the most popular figures on the planet at the moment. Undoubtedly, the culture surrounding football has transformed from a gritty, ‘sporting’ affair to one that is a heady maelstrom of commerce, business, entertainment… and sport. I don’t know that this is such a bad thing, though. Much of the rest of popular culture offers utopian escapism, so why shouldn’t football? The fact remains that we are worshipped by millions worldwide, particularly in this country.

Rooney: Granted, Rio; we are, but I’m still postulating as to quite why we are…

Ferdinand: …well, Wayne, the great Emile Durkheim and Karl Marx, both whom I know you are familiar with *Rooney nods in agreement*, successfully illustrated how powerful and socially cohesive the forces of religion and industry can be, regardless, or even in spite of, their opinions of these forces. In the post-structuralist, post-industrialised, heterogenous, secular society (and to an extent, world) that we undoubtedly live in today, football has for me somewhat assumed the role that religion and vocation used to largely fulfil. People literally live for the game. Arguably, it has even become a new Marxian ‘opiate of the masses’….”

And with that, Rooney and Ferdinand ambled back to the changing room, index finger and thumb on chin, continuing their deep discussion on the ultimate purpose of football (if any), leaving the TAY interviewer, quite frankly, completely befuddled.

A philosophical Wayne RooneyA philosophical Wayne Rooney

Joel Durston

What I Should Have Said to the Bitch on the Train

In Opinion, Satire on August 12, 2011 at 6:11 PM

It started as inauspiciously as any old train ticket inspection. Then the ticket inspector turned to the teenage girl on the table adjacent to mine expecting her to produce her ticket as any upstanding citizen would do (I refuse to call this person a ‘woman’ for reasons that will become apparent). She gave some tall story about ticket machines being down at Preston Park (a small, often unmanned station in North Brighton) and then not being able to get money out at Brighton station, where she had connected to this London and Bedford, because a new card was in the post or some such spiel. I was focusing more on my beloved Sudoku at this point, having heard people try on this kind of trick countless times. Hell, I even have myself twice. The first did happen to be a (mostly) an honest confusion, however seemingly contrived, and the second, I just plain lost my ticket on the train (the guy genuinely seemed to believe me, but alas had to fine me anyway). Essentially, hers was a story that, even if somehow true/honest, was far more likely to be judged dishonest by the unknowing ears of a train conductor. It certainly was to these ears.

So, nothing remarkable at this point; chancers/scumbags try and catch a (literal) free ride on trains all the time. Most though, at least have some sense of perspective/moral compass to face up to the penalty (often £20) when they roll the dice and lose, so to speak. Or, they have some cunning in their mischief, for example, the classic remarkably convenient trip to the toilet.

How this progressed was remarkable, though. Not believing the tall tale of the girl who was quickly descending in my estimation to the titular ‘Bitch’, the ticket inspector calmly, comprehensibly and professionally explained the flaws in Bitch’s story. Thus, she reasonably (even if wrongly) deemed Bitch’s actions criminal, and outlined the subsequent choices she had for the penalty. The preferable option was that Bitch pay some of the penalty there and then, but, of course, this was not possible because of the card situation – a situation the inspector, quite understandably, had a little trouble understanding and offering a solution to. This hesitation was, however, interpreted as severe linguistic and/or comprehension-based failings by Bitch, who attacked them mercilessly. At this point, my eyes and ears had pricked up a little as Bitch claimed; “if (the inspector) can’t speak English, then (she) shouldn’t be working on this train” (at a guess, the inspector was of Italian or Eastern European descent). The judgement was frankly ridiculous given that they had understood each other perfectly until now.

But oh no, it didn’t stop there. Bitch somehow thought that it was that a polite request to pay for a service which openly advertises the fact that it charges (and prosecutes those who don’t pay) was ‘disrespectful’ to her, and that, thus, the inspector should “GET OUT OF MY FACE”…”GET OUT OF MY FACE”. Bitch also inferred from the inspector’s supposedly poor command of the English language that she should “get out of the country” and “go home”, despite knowing absolutely none of this woman’s cultural/racial heritage. She also plucked a straw man from thin air to aggressively argue against, claiming; “I was born here. I was born in Southampton and have lived here all my life!”. (Bitch was – well is – of mixed race). Below is how a better artist than myself might depict her.

Artist's likely representation of Bitch

Artist's likely representation of Bitch

For a good five minutes, I quietly seethed (as I assumed others were), hoping that Bitch would relent . Alas, she didn’t. So, ashamed to share oxygen, let alone a country with Bitch, especially in light of the bitches and dickheads of the recent riots, I thought the proper thing to do was to stand up to her in support of the inspector. I said something like “look, this woman is just doing her job and, to be fair, your story does seem far-fetched”. When she asked “what it had to do with” me (“not wanting to disrespect” me, surprisingly), I offered a vague, unconsidered suggestion that I did so because I was angered that it was people with a similar mindset who have caused ‘all this mess’ . She countered that she was “going through a hard time” and is “normally nice”. Needing to get off, I simply argued “well, that may be, but you shouldn’t be taking it out on this woman who has nothing to do with it and is just doing her job”.

I then pondered it and came to the conclusion I was largely right and, in doing so, rued all the clever lines and arguments I wish I’d had the balls, eloquence, quick-thinking and time to advance (I’m a little petty like that, you see). So, here is what I’d have said given the memory of Hawking, derring-do of Balotelli, eloquence of Fry and Click remote of…errm, Sandler….  *If you happen to know a girl fitting Bitch’s description who was travelling on the 14:04 First Capital Connect service from Brighton to Bedford, by all means forward this.*

“Hi there,

Yeah I was sitting over there, minding my own business, enjoying my Sudoku, but couldn’t help but overhear you being a self-righteous, racist (or at least xenophobic), disrespectful, small-minded, short-sighted bitch.

From the beginning…  Your tale of public transport and personal woe could be genuine, but how is this ticket inspector to know this. (*to ticket inspector*, sorry I didn’t catch your name in the midst of all her abuse *we’ll say it’s ‘Sofia’*).  Sofia wasn’t with you so doesn’t know and thus has to base it on her judgement. I can tell you from a fellow outsider’s view, I think you are being deceitful. At best, you have been negligent and short-sighted, for which you probably still deserve the fine. Yet, you stubbornly refuse to look at your tall tale from any perspective but your own.

This leads me on to my next point; as far as I know, Sofia is neutral. She is just doing her job, and in a professional and competent manner from what I’ve seen. Furthermore, it is a job which is necessary to ensure the continuation of a service which facilitates tourism, business, entertainment, sport and much, much more, and in an arguably ‘green’ way, too. Specifically, Sofia’s role involves ensuring people don’t catch a free ride, lest the industry miss out on a lot of the money necessary for its continuation. The alternative to inspectors is that the government dramatically raise taxes. Judging by your angry reaction to being asked for money now, this would not best please you. This is, of course, presuming you pay taxes in the first place.

As I’ve heard, nowhere has Sofia even implied a xenophobic comment, let alone a racist one. As such, your assertions that of your right to live “here” are merely a straw man, only serving to highlight the hypocrisy of your xenophobic/racist comments (I’ll come on to these). Even if Sofia privately harbours controversial thoughts on race relations (she certainly doesn’t seem to), it would be utterly retarded of her to bring these into her workplace given the aforementioned need for finance to sustain the industry and, by extension, her livelihood. What do you think; that inspectors really give a fuck what colour face they see in the backgrounds of their vision when inspecting tickets?!

Claiming that you have been racially targeted when there is, personally, no hint of evidence of this is just fucking arrogant and imbecilic. You are just dressing up in supposed racism the real reason Sofia is targeting you – you haven’t paid for a bloody ticket! This victim culture can be corrosive to society, even if warranted (which it isn’t here). Look at all these dickheads looting and rioting in the country at the moment. Regardless of how much they actually have been (which is too complex an argument for me to detail here), many people are rioting because they feel they are victims (of economic injustice, police malpractice, being ‘ignored’ by politicians and many other things). This victim culture can create a very dangerous cycle of blame begetting blame, and punishment begetting punishment (or just arseholery begetting arseholery). Instead we need to look at the bigger picture. The rioters are short-sighted enough not to fully comprehend the immense complexity of the web of cause and effect which has led to the socio-economic environment in which the riots occurred, instead typically blaming a vague ‘government’ or ‘rich’. You are too short-sighted to even see the straightforward need for the inspector to want you to pay your face (I shouldn’t need to explain these again). As such she will not ‘get out of your face’. You have not only failed to pay for an openly consumer service, but are now steadfastly refusing to comply with the stated punishment for not doing so. You should consider yourself lucky that the exact opposite is not true – namely, you are not being asked to get out of her face at the next station, which the train company is fully entitled to do.

I am also abhorred by the msiguided self-entitlement displayed by many rioters in believing to be somehow personally above the law. ‘Having a tough time’ and ‘normally being a nice person’ simply does not legally entitle you to hitch a free ride, much less be aggressively racist in my opinion. Excuse me if I’m wrong, but we are enjoying the service of a train, not a fucking therapist. The train is neutral to people’s emotions; you think the chairs are there to give you a supportive hug or the table is there to counsel you?! No. They’re there to be fucking sat on, rest papers on, and such like. You realise how fucking retarded your reasoning is if taken to its logical conclusion? People would be hitching free rides and spouting racist bile left, right and centre, consequently ruining the public transport system and inciting racial hatred, yet the individuals in question would be let off if they merely said I’m ‘having a tough time’, as authorities couldn’t verify this inherently subjective assertion. Do you happen to have some kind of device which instantly and accurately assesses the recent emotional situations of train passengers and the veracity of their convoluted excuses for not having valid tickets….. *pause, while, I imagine, Bitch exasperatingly scrabbles for an argument to follow “BUT…. BUT….”.*

As I suspected, no, you don’t. So, zip it, and pay your fucking penalty, which by the way has no doubt been exacerbated for your stubborn refusal to pay it in the first place.

*Getting up to get off* I’ve got to go back to sleepy, but ‘peaceful’, Devon.

*Turning back, remembering one last point* Oh yeah, and if you think I’m being mean and unsympathetic, you can find some solace (misguided , personally) in the fact that I’m considered ‘normally an o.k. person’….  ”

Joel Durston.