October is by far my favourite month, there’s nothing quite like the crunching of leaves underfoot as the air gets crisper and the news gets spookier, so I thought I’d focus on two very spooky (and very scary) stories in the media for this response – a tale of treason and a tale of witchcraft!
Well not quite.
I’d like to start by responding to a question about why I don’t write about Donald trump, which is in fairness a good question (and very in keeping with the horror theme). I am very well aware of the many horrors committed by Donald Trump – trust me I wish I wasn’t, I choose not to write about them because A. They are already very well covered and B. If I tried to write a response every time Donald trump did something ghastly I’d only write about him for years to come.
The first story in the news I thought I’d cover is a very British story, one of treason, betrayal and Christian Holliday – though not in my usual sense of covering Christian holidays from a secular point of view.
Christian Holliday is a local councillor for Burpham near Guildford and as far as councillors in the news go they’re a rare occurrence (not to speak ill of councillors I know many who are great at their jobs and deserve more coverage for it) but Christian is special not only for having a name from which I will be making cheap jokes until my dying day but because he started a petition to have the legal standing for treason changed in the UK.
So far so spooky!
What does Cllr Holliday wish to include in this most heinous and dark crime you ask? Well the answer to that question is… Supporting Britain remaining in the EU!
What started out as a spooky story of treason and plots has become a scary story for a very different reason. Christian Holliday, undoubtedly deeply upset by European moves to prevent him from calling himself ‘Christmas’ anymore is so passionate about Brexit that he wants to see life imprisonment for people who support the UK remaining in the EU.
Tim Farron I’m sure will be deeply conflicted in responding to this story as a pro EU traditional Christian who I’m sure will be very uncomfortable being seen criticising a Christian Holliday, none the less I’m sure he’ll respond in his traditional kind to any sort of comment of this variety in a way far more eloquent than I will at this point.
(a great benefit of being a lib dem is that joking about the leadership won’t lose you your membership)
Cllr Holliday’s story is a truly scary one of wild arrogance, the restriction of freedom of speech and the horrifying revelation that a Christian Holliday can be an elected official in our good green secular country to which not much more than “what the hell were you thinking” can be said. Though questions about how a person who had made similar sentiments known publicly, follows fascist Twitter accounts and once made a petition to end all immigration to the UK could be an elected member of a council, let alone a conservative rather than UKIP/BNP one are open for reasonable debate.
Even the fact that he posted this, thinking somehow he’d get wild support sounds almost as ridiculous as that time a labour council candidate opened his campaign leaflet with the phrase “I am not a horse” after another local party called it a two horse race between them and the conservatives (a true story)
My favourite part of this story, one which has made me happier than I have ever been since #biscuitgate, is Theresa May’s (I bet you were wondering when I was going to mention my favourite Conservative party leader) frankly magical response. PM May’s spokesperson put this message out in response to Cllr festive tree’s – and I quote:
“Different people will chose [sic] their words differently. The prime minister is very clear that the British people have made their decision”
Which raises more questions than it answers – mostly as it doesn’t actually answer any questions to start off with.
What is Theresa May’s spectrum of responses to Brexit? It must be wild for this to not make her bat an eyelid or make any effort to dispute this comment made by a councillor of her own party.
In regards to the idea of choosing words differently, does this mean that she means a similar thing but chooses different words?
Will Theresa May ever actually answer a question? Who knows?
Moving on from this tale of October woe we find ourselves somewhere sunnier for what is probably my first real international story response. This story comes from the spectator, a news source I only started reading through my ‘follow people who disagree with you’ challenge but have actually really enjoyed reading. This story however infuriated me at every level, every word a wild turn in what is probably the angriest I have been reading an article in so long. I promised you witchcraft and I will give it to you, I’ve never been one to mislead my audience.
The decolonialisation of higher education is usually a cause I support strongly, though I myself am not a fan of tidying up history to get rid of people you don’t like because they stood for things you don’t agree with, no matter how abhorrent, as people such as that should remain as cautionary figures from which we can learn to be better. However this story is wild, truly wild.
At the university of Cape Town this wild winding narrative as taken a twist I can’t even begin to sanction. The link I’m going to put in after this paragraph is to an article with a video by students who have decided that we need to stop teaching science and using it as a method of world understanding as it is colonial – and that witchcraft is as much of a valid way to understand the world.
If you read this blog often, or know me personally, then you will understand why this story infuriates me on every level.
I understand that as people who live in Cape Town and POC they have a strong cultural link to the devastating effects of colonialism, that is something I am willing to accept and value, but this is just ridiculous.
It’s so ridiculous I don’t know where to start.
But I’ll start where the premise starts, the idea of science as colonial. Has science been used to justify colonial ideas? Yes. Absolutely. Has science been used to justify all manner of wild, dangerous and awful things in this world? Yes. It is not exclusive to colonialism.
Science was used to justify colonialism as it was used to justify slavery, the monarchy and God at all manner of times – it is not intently science to blame for those faults, but people using science for bad things. Science will reflect its contemporary period as much as it will its historical one, and will continue to reflect social attitudes and ambitions for millennia to come, not because science is awful but because sometimes awful people use science for bad reasons. Science itself is a great leveller, a method of exploring and understanding the world in which we live which we can’t afford to lose.
The people in the video fundamentally do not understand science, and I don’t just say that because they disagree with me but because of how they refer to science. The video opens with the idea that people think that ‘science is right because it’s science’ which is absolute nonsense and only goes on from there. Science is not right because it’s science it’s as right as it can be based on what we know and is widely peer reviewed and done according to strict methodology.
The lead speaker goes on to declare that science is a product of western modernity which should be scratched off as part of a wider move towards decolonialisation. A rather odd suggestion seeing as some of the strongest roots of science as we know it are from the Middle East.
She believes that to do science right in a decolonial age we would have to restart science and do it from an African perspective, which is again a misunderstanding of what science is. Is science wildly dominated by white men? Yes. Does that need to change in order for it to improve? Yes. But does that mean we need to restart science from an African perspective? No. Science isn’t about personal perspective or personal emotional or cultural experience, it’s about objective empirical data. I completely understand that science has been twisted to justify all matter of horrors but that is what happens when you bring personal emotional experience into it, not a reason to encourage such things.
If you thought the video couldn’t get much wilder then have I got a spooky twist for you! It’s witchcraft and black magic! The lead speaker goes on to tell a story about a tribal idea from a local area about summoning lightning through magic, then offers no proof for this suggestion outside of the idea that the tribal myth believed such a thing, and asked the science side of the room to explain with science. Putting the reaction I experienced to this into words is an art which truthfully escapes me beyond the fist clenching headache inducing anger this whole video invokes in me, especially as when the science side gave an answer, a reasonable one suggesting that the story isn’t true, the whole side started shouting like they’d kicked someone’s cat.
The arrogant laugher by what is clearly an unbalanced in number group designed entirely to silence a reasonable suggestion that happened to go against their belief is shocking, and incredibly disappointing as they’d be the first group to complain of someone acted in this way towards them. In a fashion describable only as patronising the central speaker goes on to tell the person who made the suggestion off for going against house rules. The rule he broke? He disrespected the sacredness of the space!
Oh my god oh my god I feel like I need to get a blood pressure check as this absolutely infuriates me on every level known to man or god. I am often accused of being a bit Dawkinseqsue when science or faith comes up and while I usually try my very best to not be like that this whole thing infuriates me to a level which can only be described as Dawkinsesque.
He can’t question wether the story is true because ‘it disrespects the sacredness of the space’!!!! What a ghastly concept I cannot even come close to believing such a thing possible, and as someone who is a strong defender of safe spaces I have to stand up and say that this a case of abuse of the above system, something I abhor.
When I first heard this clip I threw a pencil at my wall infuriated, and I feel that this is the only way to describe how I feel in words.
If it you thought it couldn’t get worse then guess what? It can! She then asked him to apologise for asking the question! Something I would never do but the guy takes it in good spirit for the sake of continuing the discussion and apologises none the less. She does this because “this is not an antagonising space” which in itself is a wild concept because any space can be an antagonising space with enough enthusiasm (I’d know) and because their discussion is in fact a debate – all this ignoring the fact that the statement wasn’t antagonising!
In another wonderful twist that made my eyes water the lead speaker then goes on to say that this is a space for people to express their opinions! Which is wild in itself based on how she’s just responded to the expression of an opinion!
We return with good grace having repaired the safe space guidelines to the second speaker from previous mentions, who goes on to completely misunderstand science by telling the story of Newton as a story of him magically realising gravity existed and challenging the idea that he was the only one who knew such a thing – neither claim having actually been made by science.
I could go on and challenge every single misunderstanding expressed in this video – but I won’t as it is a deep, distressing and entirely wilful kind of misunderstanding shaped to fit their own narrative and I haven’t got time to sort their problems out.
This story infuriates me. It is a word I have used a lot as I can’t think of a word strong enough to encapsulate how angry this story makes me. A truly nasty vein of wilful misunderstanding gone vitriolic is the true root of this story, not the kind of positive narrative that they attempt to paint for themselves.
“Science must fall” they say? Not a chance
My favourite this about this outlook is that this isn’t a new one for me to hear – I had a friend who along with all matter of wild and outrageous, often rather offensive things (which was always interesting as she was against the right to offend) once to sell me this very narrative, which I found as ridiculous then as I do now
There you have it! Two spooky stories of horror, darkness, treason and a sense of scientific understanding best kept in the dark ages for you to enjoy, and I do hope you enjoyed my writing!