A Mind @ Play

random thoughts to oil the mind

Month: January 2018

Return to Monolingualism

Over the years I’ve run through a number of plugins on this blog, many just for fun, adding non-essential little features for giggles or purely for show. Often the plugins run their course within a few years, going through a period of rising popularity with improvements, additions and occasional feature bloat, before ultimately overwhelming the poor one-man development band who subsequently goes silent and drops all support for their once pet project. Sometimes the functionality is superseded by happenings elsewhere – another plugin, an external service offering their own widgets, added functionality in the core – but othertimes the plugin just slumbers by the wayside and it falls to the community to pick up the pieces and carry on the torch.

So it is with the demise of the latest multilingual plugin. I’m honestly unsure how many different plugins I’ve used over the years, but certainly watched the demise of Polyglot, Language Switcher, qTranslate and most recently qTranslate-X. A new champion has started up a project to continue the crusade, but I honestly don’t have the energy or enthusiasm to mount up and join. For a blog with a readership slightly smaller than its authorship, it hardly warrants the effort.

The current plugin, qTranslate-X, seems doomed to break with the integration of the Gutenberg editor at the latest, but as ever with any unsupported software, it will fall on its heels sooner or later, so I’m determined to deactivate it and return to a monolingual setup. That will mean cleaning a lot of SQL tables and perhaps duplicating some contents for a few posts, but long-term it’s an easier prospect than hunting for another horse to back and watching it flogged to death like all the others.

[Photo by Lucas Gallone on Unsplash]

Daily Links

Black Mirror – A wonderful photo project with Deddeh Howard, highlighting the lack of racial diversity in major advertising campaigns.

#MoreThanMean – Give a man a soapbox to stand on and a wall to hide behind and watch the torrents of abuse they sling. [Via Coding Horror]

BBC News – Something I apparently missed: now you need to visit your doctor to get a ‘fit note’ designating you unfit for work. Presumably in extreme cases you get an ‘alive certificate’ certifying that you’ve shuttled off your mortal coil?

Freedom Next Time

What you need to know about humans is that they are dicks. And if you give them any power their dickness prevails over everything else.

That beautifully succinct phrase comes from a review on Good Reads and is an understandable frame of mind to find yourself in after reading this book. Reading it ten years after publication, it’s almost surreal how little has changed in the intervening period, how the wheels of progress continue to grind on the gears of conservatism. In Freedom Next Time John Pilger surveys the state of peoples suffering under the weight of ignorance, ill-will, apathy and condescension in various theatres of the world, turning the spotlight in turn on Palestine, India, Afghanistan, South Africa and the Chagos Islands.

The Chagos Islands is a pretty clear-cut test, and one which our western democratic system will likely fail miserably. In the dying days of empire, the British government swapped a conveniently located group of rocks in the Indian Ocean for a few bits of military hardware from the Americans. The people living there were forcibly evicted and will never be allowed to return to the place of their birth, never mind that their removal constitutes a crime against humanity. As Pilger attests, this buck will be passed back and forth, the Brits blaming the Yanks, the Yanks blaming the Brits, while the case is shuttled often enough through the courts until everyone affected by the travesty is tidily dead. Maybe in the middle of this century we’ll see an official apology to the victims’ descendants, similar to the likes given to victims of slavery and oppression elsewhere in the world. But the political establishment doesn’t give a rat’s arse, and those individual politicians who might are far too lightweight to go tilting at such windmills.

At least with the Chagos Islands, the case of moral virtue is clear and it is merely the duplicity of realpolitik which means that justice will never be served to the islanders. In covering Palestine, however, Pilger covers an area of the world which can only get worse until it gets better. The social equation underlying the political facts is a simple one, even if it remains unwritten: Jews > Arabs. Big mon Trump’s recent declaration of support for the occupying forces is just the latest embodiment of this, and indeed a rare case of someone being up front about reality. A two-state solution is a nice sound bite to be throwing around, the ‘peace process’ a wonderful phrase to pay lip-service to, but Palestine will presumably remain a problem zone until it is eventually eradicated, almost like Kosovo in reverse.

The more interesting chapters are also the less clear cut, more contestable issues, where Pilger investigates the lot of people left behind by political and economic change in South Africa and India. He points blame at the ANC for selling out the anti-apartheid movement and abandoning some of its core principles in cosying up to vested interests. However it’s hard to imagine how his occasional purported alternatives would have brought about more prosperity than the current situation. Similarly his chapter on India shines a beam to highlight the transparency of India’s booming economy, though the overall picture here is murkier than elsewhere, and there’s certainly been more positive change in this part of the world in the past decade than elsewhere, even if the problem of poverty remains a massively significant burden.

Obviously the style of this collection is journalistic and as such suffers from those usual pitfalls. Chapters are padded with random exemplary introductions, events highlighted which don’t necessarily have any bearing on the case at hand and indeed over time start to lose relevance and punch. But in particular, as Pilger has his agenda to pursue, the narrative isn’t drawn as broadly as it could be. Whilst happy interviewing the politicians and the victims of their policies, he does little to examine the opinions of the pillocks who put those politicians in power, which would have been of particular interest for example in the Palestinian conflict or the missed chances of the ANC.

Despite its advancing age, Freedom Next Time remains a worthwhile read since the political situation in many of these regions has barely evolved. The basic working principle which Pilger highlights time and again is that simple human trait, where political representation fails to defend the rights and interests of the downtrodden, whether it be through ignorance, apathy or occasional sheer malice. The book greatly attests to the prevalence of dickness in human nature.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén