By 9 pm it's usually time to accept that whatever you're working on isn't going to get any better if you stay another hour, although driving home there's always something you realise you should have added ... get home and the blogging energy is low. So I'll be late in this morning ...
It was entertaining to see the mighty Smeato get a standing ovation at the Labour Party Conference, from an audience most of whom would rather see him as a violent Islamophobe who deliberately ignores Health and Safety procedures. This time last year they were deriding Cameron for wanting to reach out to the excluded hoodie community.
At Harry's Place there's a transcript of a fascinating Labour fringe address by Alan Johnson, of all people. Despite his clumsy concept of a 'framing war' (he means a culture war) and the sociological jargon, he's actually looking at the cultural side of things. Someone in the Labour Party has opened his eyes.
"What the Islamists have understood but we have not, is that the driving force behind every large-scale cultural and attitudinal change of the last 30 years has been a social movement. A social movement or network brings together intellectual-cum-educational activity, political organising, life-style pioneering, artistic work and cultural production, social entrepreneurship. All these activities are means to wage and win the ‘framing war’.
We see this when we study the rise of ecological awareness or the rise of a new feminist consciousness. For that matter, we see it when we look at the rise of Islamist extremism. In each case there was a sustained process of political and cultural and intellectual activism - ‘cognitive praxis’ we call it in the academic jargon, ‘organising’ we call it in the labour movement. In each case there was a social movement. "
So far so good. He disses what he calls the "Academic-Media Complex", the Chomskys and Mad Dog Milnes, in fine style. Then he asks the question that I don't like the answer to.
"Times have changed. Stalin once famously asked ‘And how many divisions does the Pope have?’ Today, the new totalitarians, the Islamists, ask ‘And how many activists do the democrats have? And it's a good question. Where are our websites, blogs, DVDs, bookshops, magazines, training programmes, and organised retreats? Where are our networks of community centres that reach out to youth? Where is our global network of moderation able to match their global network of extremism? And where is our zeal? It feels sometimes - to steal a quip from Mark Twain – that the Islamists have run half way round the world and we are still tying our shoelaces."
There's an activist network of sorts - the Eustonites and bloggers to the right of them. But you wouldn't call that a social movement. I don't see Norm Geras and Brownie fronting up the white-water rafting expeditions. The fact is there's not much there. We saw in the cartoon dispute that the brave and transgressive arty types, the Stewart Lee's, were just as uncomfortable about being stabbed or decapitated as anyone else. People aren't prepared to die for "moderation" - which appears to be what Brit culture in 2007 boils down to.
Ah well. At least he's identified the problem. But as I've said before, the solutions will be the entertaining bit.
"Too late, mate. The solutions will be the entertaining bit. Having knocked down Britishness over 40 years, they're arrogant enough to believe they can rebuild it with a few citizenship lessons, a rebuild of the history curriculum and some media pressure. They'll find destruction is much easier than construction."
The Ghouta sarin massacre: one year on
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