If you are a decent person then your only option tomorrow is to vote IN

Listen:

It no longer matters what your economic views are, whether you have (justified) left-wing concerns about monetarist policies being written into the EU, whether you worry about the purported undemocratic nature of the institution (whilst living in a country with a wholly unelected upper house and a head of state who got her job by virtue of who her daddy was), whether you worry about sovereignty (which lies entirely in the hands of multi-national corporations, bankers, and a few super-rich individuals anyway), or anything else.

The last two weeks have seen the most toxic, vile incitement to racism, xenophobia, and islamophobia it has ever been my misfortune to witness in this country. No other real arguments for Brexit have been put forward, and one cannot claim that it is just the unofficial campaign headed up by Nigel Farage: Boris Johnson and Michael Gove have equally engaged in demonization and racism. What else could be read from their scaremongering about an apparent imminent accession to the EU of Turkey, epitomized in their challenge to Cameron to guarantee to veto Turkish membership of the EU. What is this other than an indication that Turks will never be fit to be considered “one of us”? This is deliberate playing to the lowest common denominator, the basest of prejudices, and the worst of human nature; in Johnson’s case it is also stunningly hypocritical.

Everyone knows—surely—that Johnson’s volte face from being a pro-Europe, pro-Turkey expansionist to a nudge-nudge-wink-winking dog-whistle xenophobe is solely motivated by his personal ambition. That he is willing to shove his dick in the cesspit of racist sentiment to get there far outstrips his soon-to-be-predecessor’s favoured location for that organ. Could you really vote for that? Whatever reasons you have for doubting the EU, are you going to empower a man whose personal desire to run the country is so great that he cares not if the very country he ends up running be a bankrupt viper’s nest of racists and xenophobes?

Nigel Farage and his "breaking point" poster

Nigel goes the Full Smethwick

Or would you rather vote for Nigel Farage, who has no illusions of running the country, and therefore is free to go Full Smethwick?

Racism and xenophobia are not the exclusive preserve of the Out campaign in our politics, this is true. David Cameron, though now bemoaning the stoking of intolerance by the Brexit camp, was more than happy to endorse Zac Goldsmith’s explicitly racist campaign for London Mayor, and indeed played his own part—under parliamentary privilege—in that vicious affair.

A vote for In will not purge this country of the racial politics in which it is festering.

But, without a shadow of a doubt, a vote for Out will endorse it. Whatever discussions we could have had about Europe and the UK’s role within it have been hijacked by a naked racist and a utterly self-interested opportunist monomaniac.

A win for Out will be, first and foremost, a win for racism and xenophobia. If you are in any way a decent member of society then—whatever justified concerns you may or may not have about the EU—this time you must vote, and you must vote In.

 

 

Zac Goldsmith, a man with integrity?

Zac Goldsmith ran a racist campaign for London Mayor. You know that, right? He mailshot Indian voters telling them that Sadiq Khan’s party wanted to put a wealth tax on family jewellery. He repeatedly used the dog-whistle word “radical” in talking about Khan, and attempted to claim he was in cahoots with the “one of the most repellent people in the country,” the imam of Khan’s local mosque, Suliman Gani, who he claimed to be a supporter of ISIS—a claim which rather unravelled as it transpired that the gentleman in question had regularly spoken in events denouncing ISIS, had broken with Sadiq Khan over the latter’s support for equal marriage (which is, to be honest, on the repellent scale—but rather further down it that Goldsmith was implying), and tweeted a lovely photograph of himself posing with, um, Zac Goldsmith, who looked rather more comfortable next to this apparently scary West-hater than he does attempting to do what a sizeable portion of the population do with thoughtless ease. And he penned this article for the Daily Mail (hold your nose).

But if not leaping to his defence, at least nodding a little in his favour, his sister! Jemima tweeted this a while ago:

Sad that Zac’s campaign did not reflect who I know him to be- an eco friendly, independent- minded politician with integrity.

Here’s the thing, though, Jemima. Integrity means sticking to your principles, no matter what. You can’t turn it on and off as suits you. That’s, um, lacking in integrity.

Zac Goldsmith is either a racist, in which case he may well have integrity, but a racist with integrity is still a racist. Or he is not a racist but ran a racist campaign, in which case he has no integrity. It has to be one or the other—and, whichever way it is, London is rather better off without him.

 

 

Clever, but absent-minded

We are, in general, rather lazy creatures who avoid cognitive exertion wherever possible, and remarkably often fall back on established categories, tropes, and clichés. One can see how, in evolutionary terms, this could have developed: though I am suspicious of evolutionary psychology in general as it is only ever retro-fitting a plausible developmental narrative to the observable phenomena, a few of its basic principles seem pretty reasonable, and the tendency to interpret the world by reacting to novel stimuli using established cognitive categories rather than analysing the scenario from scratch is an efficient use of cognitive resources as (in evolutionary terms) a false positive never harmed anyone, whereas presuming the null hypothesis, or spending precious processing time and resources performing an online judgment almost certainly did. When the long grass waved in the absence of wind, the caveman who consistently interpretted this as the presence of a tiger will have been more likely to survive when it actually was a tiger than the ones who presumed it was nothing, or stood still for a while whilst they decided.

This, ultimately, is the origin of the tendency to believe in the supernatural—because assigning active agency to unexplained phenomena is the safer false positive—but also, for the purposes of this post, is the origin of interpersonal stereotyping: racism, sexism, homophobia, and thinking that all clever people are absent-minded.

Clearly, by asserting an evolutionary origin to these traits, I am not attempting to defend them: merely to explain them. As Richard Dawkins often asserts—when he is not busy applying several of the isms mentioned above, in direct contravention of his very assertion—we are better than our genes: we have arrived at a level of self-awareness where we can say “No, I will not do that, even though it be my instinct.” The fight against the evils of racism, sexism, and cleverism is long and drawn-out precisely because it is a fight against our basic natures. Again, this is not to defend these natures: they are repugnant. But if the Catholic Church, Martin Luther, and John Calvin can all agree that my basic nature entitles me to no more than eternal torment (though whether I escape that through faith, grace, or works I understand is something of a moot point), I feel I can at least assert this somewhat lesser stance of the worser devils of our nature.

All of this goes to explain that, though I understand why people persist in applying the “clever, but absent-minded” stereotype to me, I still feel perfectly entitled to my deep irritation at it. I am clever, yes—I have enough contempt for goddamn English false modesty to feel no embarrassment in asserting that—but it is only lazy, cavemanish cognitive simplicism which leads you to presume that I am therefore also forgetful, distracted, useless at things practical, and generally incapable of finding my arse with both hands.

I mean, a clever but absent-minded person would not be able to run their own business successfully for ten years, would they?

A clever but absent-minded person wouldn’t have the attention to detail to make them a rather good editor, would they?

And a clever but absent-minded person certainly wouldn’t be so spectacularly fucking brainless as to leave their passport in their jeans pocket when washing them barely two weeks before travelling to Australia …

A rather damp passport

Can on travel on this?

… would they?