Friday, 12 December 2008

"An African Solution to an African Problem." Coming to a British city soon?

Louis Theroux travels to Johannesburg, where the residents find themselves increasingly besieged by crime. Despairing of the capability of the police and the courts to protect them, many have turned to an industry of private security, offering protection for a price. Are the sometimes brutal methods of these private police really a solution or just another part of the problem?

The first stop for Louis is a meeting with William Mayangoni, the local co-ordinator for a security firm known as Mapogo. Based on the outskirts of Diepsloot, one of the squatter camps that ring Johannesburg, William investigates thefts for his mainly white clients. When he catches a suspect, he gives them 'medicine': the alleged offender is beaten with a leather whip known as a sjambok.

Although his clients seem to support what they see as 'an African solution to an African problem', William's methods alienate the people of Diepsloot. Finally, their patience snaps dramatically, and William has to call out the real police in order to protect himself from the vicious threat of the mob.

In the centre of Johannesburg, a security company called Bad Boyz work in an area called Hillbrow, notorious for its high crime rate. Louis meets company director Hendrik De Klerk who explains that much of their activity involves reclaiming and securing buildings that have been taken over, or hijacked, by criminal gangs who illegally take rent from tenants. Louis watches dramatic evictions unfold, in which the police and security companies are not afraid to use force to kick out the protesting residents.

There is something deeply irritating about Louis Theroux. His pursed lips, his concern for the caught criminals appears mere lip service. I must play the role of a liberal, he seems to be thinking, and pretend to be shocked that real bullets are being used, not rubber bullets.

He asks questions such of caught and beaten criminals:

"Is he frightened and hurt?"

"Should we call an ambulance?"

"May I see his wounds?"

"Is it too brutal?"

He did get a sensible answer: "It is good for the community. He won't do that again, ever."

Louis tries to answer the question of "whether private police are the solution or part of the problem".

No, Louis. The solution is to bring back the death penalty which the liberal establishment saw fit to abolish in 1995, in their infinite wisdom. (Did our Louis mention that, in his infinite journalistic impartiality? Did he hell!!)

Louis' show made one see why apartheid was once seen as a solution. One just simply wanted to separate oneself from that horror and have nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with people like that.

I will just list a number of the more memorable pieces of information I gathered:

When they start swarming, watch out!

The concept of the "mob" and the "community" are used interchangeably. The law-makers and law-breakers are indistinguishable, caught up in an apparently unbreakable cycle of violence.

Methods of punishment were burning with petrol, stones, bricks and the sjambok, amongst other things. William of Mapogo Security, (who seemed a gentle smiling likable giant) had the mob (or was it the community?) turning on him, wanting to burn him after he had broken a thief's leg with a golf club. While Louis was asking him if it was really necessary to break that man's leg, the conversation went along these lines:

What would you do?

I would call the police.

The police are failing, they do nothing, they don't come. If they do come and take him away, after making a donation to the police, he will be meeting you tomorrow over there.

I would build higher fences.

They will climb them and still get in, and meet you later, over there. So what do you do?

To which Louis had no answer.

People are killed "like chickens".

"There is no solution. We must solve it ourselves."

The private policeman was openly on friendly terms with the Nigerian drugdealer, who called him "boss". Nigerian drugdealers and dealers in stolen goods are "human beings too", said the private cop. He doesn't give me trouble, in a way he keeps order and I am not paid to take people like him off the streets. If he were taken off the streets, he would be replaced almost immediately.

The most chilling encounter was the exchange Louis after he shook hands with a criminal and his partner in crime, who killed a traffic policeman for his gun, had been inside for 10 years and had just got out. No remorse was expressed.

"I will die for the job. I like crime. I never go to school so what can I do?"

That was certainly a very healthy attitude of accepting one's lot in life and making the best of things. His implicit acknowledgment that good education would have saved him from a life of crime suggests there is something of the philosopher about him. In any case, his question as to what he is to do now, with no job prospects and without an education, apart from continuing his life of crime, is unanswerable.

Philosophy is after all the asking of the unanswerable question.

His brother, also a criminal, was sought by a policeman who behaved "like a soldier". Apparently, the policeman killed both his parents in order to capture his brother. This could explain his rather jaundiced view of policemen.

He then gave us a few helpful tips on the art of extortion.

"You have a baby. I want your money. I put baby in microwave. I turn it on. You give me money."

"You have a wife. I put knife to her throat. I cut a little bit so you can see blood. I ask if you want me to finish the job. You will give me. No other way".

Louis must be thanked for putting the case for the death penalty so cogently and subtly. He is a liberal, you see, and not allowed to ask for such things as the condign punishment for criminals without risking losing his job or his girlfriend.

In the meantime, we wait for more African problems of to arrive on these shores, and continue the liberal British tradition of wringing our hands and pissing in the wind.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

The Boy Jesus at the Temple - The Stepfather's Version

Luke 2:41-52 (New International Version)

The Boy Jesus at the Temple

41Every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. 42When he was twelve years old, they went up to the Feast, according to the custom. 43After the Feast was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. 44Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. 45When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. 46After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, "Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you."

49"Why were you searching for me?" he asked. "Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?"

50But they did not understand what he was saying to them.

51Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

Mary and Joseph come upon Jesus after three days' of inconvenience and anxiety thinking they had lost their son.

MARY [to Jesus]:
Jesus Christ! We've been looking everywhere for you! What the hell on earth did you think you were doing? Where have you been?? Dad and I have been worried sick!!!"

JESUS [to Mary]:
Which dad do you mean, Ma? Do you mean your husband, or do you mean my real dad?

[looks skywards with a significant expression]

Anyway, I knew you would come back for me. My real dad says I am Son of God and when I grow up I will be a prophet. One of the very useful things you can do if you are prophet is predict the future and I predicted you would come back for me. Anyway, don't you know I had to be in my father's house?"

What the bloody hell do you mean? Stop talking utter rot. This [he gestured] is not my house!

I didn't mean you. I meant my real dad.

[Jesus looks up at the sky and back at Joseph defiantly.]

You're not my real dad. [turning to Mary] Is he, mum?


[to Mary] So, you've told him about your "virgin" pregnancy, have you? Well, you could have given me some notice about that so I would at least have known I would no longer have parental authority over that, that little bastard. [He spits out the last word and glares angrily at mother and child.]

Oh, Joseph. Please don't say that!

Yes, Mary. I knew I was a fool to marry you when everyone had said you had been putting yourself about. Jesus, you are superior supercilious little shit. Every time you go on about your other dad like this again, I will put you in your place and remind you about another interpretation that could be made about your origins. DO. YOU. UNDERSTAND, Son of Mary? [putting his face very close to Jesus']

Er, yes, dad. [sheepishly]

And remember, Jesus, m'boy, it ain't easy being prophet. People hate a know-it-all, preaching at them to be cleaner, neater, more giving and forgiving and telling them that nothing they do will ever be good enough. The rich especially hate being told that their chances of getting into heaven are virtually nil. No one likes a Communist Revolutionary and people like them and you are going to be make a lot of enemies who will wish you ill.

Now, Jesus, tell me the worst sort of punishment you can think of if the Roman soldiers want to punish the worst sort of people to cause them the most pain. Can you think of it, you little know-it-all?

Er, crucifixion?

Crucifixion, what, Jesus?

Crucifixion, er, dad ...

That's better, my son, and don't you forget that, or it will be the death of you.

CHAV nativity play

This is the full text of the play, understood to have been downloaded from the internet, that pupils were given to read:

Pupil One: Do you hear what we 'erd, right, there's this bird called Mary, yeah? She's a virgin.

Pupil two: Wossat then? A train?

Pupil three: She's not married or nuffink. But she's got this boyfriend Joe, innit? He does joinery an' that. May lives with him in a crib down Nazaref. Well anyways, one day right Mary meets this bloke Gabriel right.

Pupil two: Gabriel? What sorta name's that den?

Pupil one: Dunno, sounds Chavvy to me.

Pupil two: Innit! Bruv.

Pupil three: She's like 'Ooo ya looking at?' Gabriel just goes 'You got one up the duff, you have.' Mary's totally gobsmacked.

Pupil two: Innit?

Pupil one: She gives it to him large 'Stop dissin' me yeah? I ain't no Kappa-slapper. I never bin wiv no one!'

Pupil two: Yeah right! Bet she was a right goer.

Pupil three: Well, see the thing is she hadn't bin wiv no-one. Honest! So Mary goes and sees her cousing Liz, who's six months gone herself. Liz is largin' it. She's filled with spirits, Bacardi breezers an' that. She's like 'Orright, Mary. I can feel me bay-bee in me tummy and I reckon I'm well blessed.

Pupil two: Think of all the extra benefits an' that that they are gonna get. Mary goes 'Yeah, s'pose you're right.

Pupil one: Mary an' Joe ain't got no money so they have to ponce a donkey an' go dahn Beflehem on that. They get to this pub an' Mary wants to stop, yeah?

Pupil two: No surprised, I'd wanna pint an all.

Pupil one: Nah, to have her bay-bee an' that.

Pupil two: What, have the kid in the pub? That's outers, people in the pub having a quiet pint then in comes this bird screaming and hollering 'n stuff. Put me off me drink that would!

Pupil three: Shut up will ya! See the fing is there ain't no room at the inn, innit? So Mary an' Joe break an' enter into this garridge, only it's filled wiv animals. Cahs an' sheep an' that.

Pupil two: On that's gross, near turned my guts that as!

Pupil three: Well then, these free geezers turn up, looking proper bling wiv crowns on their 'eads. They're like 'Respect, baby-bee Jesus,' an' say they're wise men from the East End.

Pupil two: What Minty and the Mitchell brothers?

Pupil one: On shut up! Joe goes: 'If you're so wise, wotchoo doin' wiv this Frankenstein an' myrrh? Why dincha just bring gold, Adidas, and Burberry?'

Pupil two: On yeah, that's proper stuff to give to a kid.

Pupil three: Well. Then blow me, some Welsh bloke's turn up wiv a sheep, well it's all about to kick off when Gabriel turns up again an' sex he's got another message from this Lord geezer.

Pupil two: Shoulda used his mobile, he sounds a proper nutter.

Pupil three: Shut it! Anyways he's like 'The police is comin an' they're killin' all the baby-bees. You better nash off to Egypt.

Pupil one: Joe goes 'You must be monged if you think I'm goin' down Egypt on a minging donkey.'

Pupil two: Wouldn't get me on no minging donkey. Went on one at Margate in the summer, it proper stunk.

Pupil one: Will you give it a rest? Gabriel sez 'Suit yerself, pal. But it's your look out if you stay.' So they go down Egypt till they've stopped killin' the first-born an' it's safe an' that. Then Joe and Mary and Jesus go back to Nazaref, an' Jesus turns water into Stella.

Pupil two: Wicked! Wherdya hear about all this den?

Pupil one: Dunno, can't remember.

Pupil two: Well what yous getting for Christmas this year?

Pupil three: Dunno, perhaps a bita bling. I don't see wat all the fuss is about Christmas, it's just an excuse to get stuffed and fall asleep in front of the telly innit?

Pupil two: Yeah bruv. Innit?

how to stop the run on sterling - reject "hair of the dog" economic policy

In view of the run on sterling and Germany's criticisms of UK and US "hair of the dog" economic policy, I have this morning sent some well-meant advice to the Chancellor's advisers at HM Treasury.

The recipients are:

Catherine Macleod (Special Adviser)
Sam White (Special Adviser)
Andrew Maugham (Council of Economic Advisers)
David Pinto-Duschinsky (Council of Economic Advisers)
Geoffrey Spence (Council of Economic Advisers)

Subject: "hair of the dog" economic policies cannot reverse run on sterling

... but sensible economic policies will!

A sensible economic policy would consist of

(1) cutting taxes AND

(2) cutting spending

For all the usual reasons, the government will NOT be exercising Option 2. The Tories hardly dare say it themselves. Cut public spending? Why, that is like proposing that we all start eating babies!

However, were you to exercise Option 2, the run on sterling would stop and might even reverse, without any adjustment to interest rates.

Try it and see!

But Brown, Darlng and Mandelson will not dare, for they worship at the shrine of the Welfare State and I am asking them to slay their sacred cow.

Perhaps their advisers are braver than they are.

The Royal Variety Performance 2008 - how to make it more entertaining

Someone on the Today Programme said she wanted to scrap the mind-numbingly dull Royal Variety Show, so dull that the Queen herself can only bear it once every 24 months and has been known to make jokes about its interminability. The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall are standing in her for this year.

I would like to make the following suggestion:


That would create a sensation and make people watch. Long-suffering members of the Royal Family would enjoy themselves more for being able to their feelings through low and even minus scores, and also be able to press - at any point in the performance - the "Thank you very much. That will be all. Don't call us, we'll call you" button.

The performers will be allowed to finish their act without knowing till afterwards when it was and at what point in the performance the royal "stop" button was pressed.

Viewers at home would however know exactly when, and perhaps be given their own stop buttons to press on their remote control. Those who pressed theirs the same time as any member of the Royal audience gets a prize.

This slight tweaking would add enormously to the joy and gaiety of the nation and significantly increase viewing figures, in my opinion.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

What I actually did

I had an interesting moral dilemma yesterday. Hurrying to a friend who wanted me at a certain place at a certain time on a cold icy day with dangerously slippery pavements, I found I had nearly fallen over twice before I descended a footbridge and encountered a mother struggling to carry a pushchair up the stairs.

I remarked that the streets were lethally slippery and that I had nearly fallen over a few times. I added that I would take the long way round if I were her, just because the steps coming up were already very slippery.

She brightened up at my chattiness and asked if I would do her the favour of helping her with the pushchair.

The long and short of it was that I declined, saying that

(a) the stairs were very dangerous and slippery and I did not want to fall over myself

(b) I was already late for an appointment

(c) I really did recommend that she took the long way round even if it took more time

I did not say that I would never forgive myself if I assisted her in something I had already warned her against and injured myself in the process. Having an idea of the kind of temptation that Providence would find irresistible, I felt falling down the steps and breaking my crown or being the one tumbling after would be an outcome not at all unlikely.

It was only a day later that I realised that I should have helped her down the stairs again with the pushchair so that she would have been in a better position of following my advice of taking the longer way round.

Instead, I hurried on leaving her to struggle alone, falsely reassured that I had at least given her sensible advice and done all I could as a good citizen. A better citizen would have seen to it that she received the assistance and encouragement she needed to follow my advice.

What is one to do?

A discussion at dinner tonight raised the subject of how posh people used to talk using the generic pronoun "one" as in -

One would think the airlines would have to close down.
One would think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.
The young comedian was awful; one felt embarrassed for him.
If one fails, then one must try harder next time.

I suggested that "one" was more nuanced than commonly thought, in that "one" used by posh people had more the sense that "people like one of us".

What is one to do? - What are people like one of us to do in a situation like this?

Common people don't use it because there is no such assumption of common standards of behaviour and morality.

You would think the airlines would have to close down.
You would think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.
The young comedian was awful; you felt embarrassed for him.
If you fail, then you must try harder next time.

do not after all quite have the same ring of subscribing to common standards of perception and morality, and have the subtext of taking the reader or hearer (the "you") into, er, one's confidence and appealing to others' standards of perception and morality.

In our age of moral relativism, it is only to be expected that one now rarely hears this generic pronoun being used.