As my 10-year British passport is due to run out soon, I need to apply for another passport. The choice is between British and Irish. The British passport costs 66 GBP, or 97.69 Euro. The Irish passport costs 75 Euro. My fundamental right to leave and re-enter the UK ain’t worth 22 Euro, I reckon.
Archive for November 20th, 2006
Mary Kenny wrote a short piece in the times bemoaning Peter Hain’s description of the BNP as ‘racist and fascist’, describing it as a ‘common portmanteau expression’. But this is sloppy thinking, and a loss to the distinction in language.
Actually, the last sentence is her words, and not mine, and should therefore be in quotation marks, but the same sentence applies perfectly to her own judgement. First of all, portmanteau has a rather specific meaning when applied to language:
a new word formed by joining two others and combining their meanings
whereas what she is denouncing is the use of two distinct words. Peter Hain did not describe the BNP as ‘rascist’ or ‘facist’. Second, she appears to have dismissed the possibility that the British National Party might be both a racist and a fascist party.
Perhaps with one eye towards today’s, ah, celebrations, Mary Kenny takes a stab at a partial defence of Francisco Franco (presumably since Mussolini and Hitler, the figures most commonly associated with fascism in the public imagination were evident racists):
The Spanish dictator Franco was a Fascist but not a racist: in the 1930s, the left-wing New Statesman disparaged Franco as a “negrophile” (he employed Moroccan troops with gusto). And Franco gave asylum to more Jewish refugees than democratic Sweden.
As proof of Franco’s non-racism, this is not particularly convincing. Just because you are disparaged with a racist comment does not mean you are not racist. Just because you employ troops from another racial group with ‘gusto’ does not mean you are not racist. Black troops were employed by America during WWII, perhaps with ‘gusto’, but the armed forces were segregated by race.
In fairness, I guess writing a film script-cum-novel entitled ‘Raza‘, or ‘Race’, exalting the idea of a Hispanic ‘race’, reflecting your own prevailing fascination with Nazism, does not make you a racist either.
But it’s evidence worth considering.
It would have to be a rather face-hugging burqa to permit identification by facial recognition software. The Dutch immigration minister offered the following rationale for banning the wearing of the burqa (and motorcycle helmets, and Spider-man masks, and dustbins, and paper bags) in public places:
From a security standpoint, people should always be recognisable and, from the standpoint of integration, we think people should be able to communicate with one another.
This is bullshit, of course. Walking down the street in Dublin, I don’t recognise anyone, but I don’t feel any less secure as a result. What the woman surely means, and she may have been mistranslated, is that people should always be identifiable, that is, for the state’s own purposes, you should be identifiable anywhere where there is a CCTV camera, whether you consent or not. The images produced by your face are rendered property of the state, and you become bound by law to treat your face as such.
As for ‘people being able to communicate with one another’, how rude of you to talk to me with your back turned. Don’t you realise it’s against the law?
I have said it before, but it is a source of lingering disappointment that I was never approached to join MI5. Not that I would have accepted, of course, but it would have been nice to get asked.
There was this one time in England, as I was sitting beside a former British Army major at dinner, and he was telling me about his time based in County Armagh, and how delighted he was that Seamus Heaney had just received the Nobel Prize and how wonderful he thought John Hume was, and how glad he was that the peace process was up and running and all that terrible stuff was over and done with, and how much he loved the people there, I had an inkling for an instant -since all of this was clearly for my benefit- that, as he switched his gaze from the end of his lit cigar to my eyes and back, he was about to add something like “of course it’s very difficult to keep things on an even keel. Would you like to find out how that sort of thing works? Come back to my office and let’s have some more port”.
But the instant passed, perhaps the result of my lazy eye kicking in after hogging the port decanter a little too much, and so the closest I ever got to joining MI5 was a fleeting sensation that a former British Army man was going to proposition me about something, although in hindsight, that something is far from clear.
As I lurched out of the dining room toward the bar in search of more drink, I turned to wave goodbye to my assembled dinner companions, and brushed my shoulder against a portrait of the Queen, leaving a youthful Elizabeth oscillating gently on her nail. As usual, the Queen was unruffled, but the major looked on with a face that seemed to tell of another night wasted.
I have never been one to fail to pass up on career opportunities, and if MI5 plans for Northern Ireland are anything to go by, this tale might contain another one to add to the long list. Were it not for bridges burnt down the years, I might have been able to get myself a nice desk job, nothing too risky, just low-level propaganda operations, like placing happy/sad/intrigue stories in the local press and sending poison-pen letters to civil servants. Northern Ireland ‘beacon of hope for rest of humanity’/Masked men beat ostrich senseless with hurling sticks/’Large black cat’ spotted in County Antrim, that sort of thing.