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Showing posts from April, 2011

The worst form of bigotry today is the liberal elite's view of the working classes as a mongrel race of slothful drones


Brendan O'Neill is editor of

The metropolitan elite regard the working class as slothful (Photo: Getty) We often hear of self-loathing Jews, but what about self-loathing proles – working-class people who look back with contempt at the communities they had the misfortune to grow up in? There’s a very good example of it in today’s Guardian, in this column by Lynsey Hanley, a woman who has made a writing career on the back of the fact that she grew up on a council estate. (It is testament to the middle classes’ continuing colonisation of the media that Ms Hanley can be treated as a curious novelty by Granta and the Guardian, almost as a messenger from some distant, dark planet, simply because she once lived in social housing.) Ms Hanley writes of the “terrible ignorance” of the community she used to live in, prior to her moral and mental rescue by “metropolitan elite liberal values”. Perhaps ke…

My column on

Is happiness immoral?Monday April 18, 2011Suddenly, happiness is on the political agenda. But how do we define happiness, asks Jason Smith, and shouldn’t we be concentrating less on our inner emotional well-being than on the fight for a better society. Are you happy? A new campaign, Action for Happiness (AFH), would like you to be. Their project is about an idea; to improve our quality of life by having as much happiness as is possible and, above all, as little misery. We all want that, surely? Following on from the publication of his book, Happiness: Lessons from a New Science in 2005, Lord Richard Layard (founder of AFH) says “The causes of happiness differ hugely between people. Some like quiet, some like noise; some like to study, others don’t. We get happiness from different things. But we all know what it is to be happy – and to be miserable. It is a matter of our feelings. What matters is how we feel in general, rather than the short-term ups and downs”. Our problem is that we hav…

Next Birmingham salon: Wednesday 11 May

The struggle for democracy in the Middle East and Africa: Can the Arab movements survive western intervention?

Wednesday 11 May 2011
The Studio, Cannon St, Birmingham B2 5EP. 7.00pm until 8.30pm and in the pub afterwards. Karl Sharro is an architect, writer and commentator on the Middle East. He previously taught at the American University of Beirut. Karl has written for a number of international publications, such as Springerin (Austria), Mark Magazine (Holland), Novo (Germany), Glass (UK) and Blueprint (UK), and he contributes regularly to the online publications Culture Wars and The uprisings in Arab countries came as a surprise to most; even President Obama questioned US intelligence agencies’ failure to predict events. Those uprisings are driven by genuinely popular democratic movements, but their outcomes are still unclear. Given the lack of traditional forms of political organisation spearheading those uprisings, how will events unfold and who are the main players deter…

Putting the 'Library of Birmingham' into some perspective. Will it rewrite or ditch the book?


Britain’s public libraries, like many other state services, from the National Health Service to schools, are not what they used to be. It’s not even clear that providing people with books is their main function anymore. ‘Digital inclusion’ and ‘community cohesion’ seem to rank equally highly nowadays.
Still, for many self-styled liberals and self-appointed anti-cuts activists, reality comes a poor second to political fantasy. In their 1980s dream world, not only are libraries as vital as they once were, bastions of learning and self-improvement, they are also threatened by the spectre of Thatchers in Cameroon clothing, a Tory scum government of the posh and the parvenu, who, with Hayek in one hand and the blood of public-sector cuts on the other, are waging ideologically motivated war on the poor and dispossessed.
The latest addition to this Red Wedge historical re-enactment society is doleful author Zadie Smith. Speaking l…

Can opera involving ordinary people be more than a social inclusion project?

Not what you expect from opera?Birmingham Opera Company and the politics of outreachNiall Crowley A couple of years ago I was invited to a dress-rehearsal of an opera made up largely of untrained performers recruited from ‘deprived’ inner-city Birmingham, and staged in a disused factory. The cynic in me feared I was in store for a worthy ‘social inclusion’ project rather than an evening of ‘real’ opera. But then I had never heard of Birmingham Opera Company or its renowned director Graham Vick.
At first sight the company’s approach to opera resembles many of the initiatives around today which claim that opera is too elitist and needs to get out of its stuffy theatres and become more ‘relevant’ to the lives of ordinary people. Birmingham Opera Company certainly likes to ‘get out’. It has never staged a production in a traditional theatre, opting instead for large disused, or unlikely urban spaces; a shopping mall, empty factories, an abandoned ice rink and even a former city centre bank.…