Irrational Encounters With The Modern World

Posts tagged “Government

Pubs, Offensive Shirts, And Invisible Children.

A letter to a national pub chain, after I was asked to remove a particular item of clothing in one of their bars. Nobody has previously complained about the garment in question, and so I curiously asked what the problem was. Instead of a reason, I got attitude. With all business names redacted, here is the letter I have just sent to their customer service department. Some of the facts, humour, and phrases have been lifted from my recent blogs, but I think they were worth reusing. I am very interested to see how, or if, they reply.

To Whom It May Concern,

I wish to make a formal complaint about the manner in which I was spoken to in one of your Glasgow pubs recently. I am not sure if the staff member in question is a manager or supervisor, but I do know that he was overly aggressive in his tone. This happened at 5pm on a Wednesday, as I was enjoying my first drink of the evening, and will require some background context.

You have perhaps noticed on the news that a former UK prime minister died recently. They tried to cover it up, but I think the story slipped through. Her name was Margaret Thatcher.

On the day of the funeral, I had elected to exercise my democratic right to protest. This is, in part, because I would like to exercise my democratic right to government – in my country, we elected one solitary Conservative MP. As there are five million of us, voting in 59 MPs at a general election, you can see the numbers are disproportionate. Scotland has more pandas than Tory MPs, and the pandas have a better chance of increasing their number.

Having recently decided to take a stance against this thoroughly unjust distribution of power, inspired by the constant and unworkable cuts being imposed upon us by a parliament of millionaires, I have taken to joining marches and demonstrations. I believe the time is right for growing public dissent to become more visible, and am doing what I can to swell its ranks. After all, if I don’t stand up for what I believe in, who will?

With this in mind, I have begun wearing a shirt that I made shortly after the general election in which Cameron was not fairly elected by majority, but managed to get into the top job regardless. On the back of my shirt, taking my lead from the DIY ethic of the original punk movement, I wrote “FUCK THE TORIES.” I am not often given to defacing my clothing, but this was heartfelt and I am quite happy to display my disgust with them and all they stand for. That was my reason for attending this rally on the day of the funeral which, at a time when there is no money for hospitals or education, cost approximately ten million pounds. It is no odds to me that Thatcher is dead, she was dead to Scotland decades ago. However, I genuinely hope that more people will follow my lead, rather than registering their discontent with the Conservatives by merely clicking on and sharing Facebook images. The rising unpopularity of this government needs to be made very obvious.

I was wearing this shirt on the day of the funeral, over a T-shirt, and as the rally to “Remember Thatcher’s Victims” against the tide of rose-tinted eulogising was taking place in George Square, I arranged to join one of my friends beforehand. We met in [pub name redacted], as it afforded us the comfort, prices, quality, and drinks selection that encourage us to be repeat customers of [name of chain redacted]. I also regularly visit [other pubs owned by the same chain] in this city, and have come to expect a certain standard of service from the pubs bearing your name. On this occasion, I feel badly let down.

I had been at the bar for approximately half an hour, enjoying a pint of Thatchers Gold cider as I have a keen sense of humour. We could see the Square through the window – one of the key benefits of windows being their inherent transparency – and watched as the crowd outside grew in number. Stepping forward, we tried to get a better look at the bus from which the speakers would address us. Then we returned to the bar, and I resumed the position I had just left, standing with my back resting against the counter as I faced the door onto the Square.

This was when I was suddenly and angrily accosted from behind, by someone whom I presume to be the manager due to his shirt and tie. He looked like he would have been more at home wearing a tracksuit and sovvy rings, accessorised with a half-drank bottle of Buckfast and a Burberry cap, but I try not to be prejudiced. He aggressively enquired “Could you take your shirt off please?”

Although he did use the word “please”, it was evidently not a polite request. I am not much of an exhibitionist, and don’t usually take my clothes off in public. At the very least, I expect to be handed a couple of notes if that is all you want, or if you want more then you can buy me dinner and a few drinks first. I have my morals. In truth, I now regret that I did not immediately comply in a mock-seductive manner, while whistling that well-known piece of music, “The Stripper.”

Instead, being a rational human capable of intelligent and reasoned debate, I questioned his request. I have been wearing this shirt for about two years – although I take it off and wash it quite regularly, as I take a pride in my personal hygiene. In all of that time of wearing it in the streets of various cities, in numerous shops, to music and comedy gigs, in the vicinity of members of several police forces, and in dozens of pubs and clubs – in all of that time, in all of those locations – I have received no complaint about the message it contains.

Indeed, the only time people pass comment is to register agreement. This ranges from “Nice shirt” to “Do we add a tick if we agree?” to “Hear hear!” and sometimes just a nod and an “Aye.” The broad spectrum of society to have approved of the sentiment include families with small children, little old ladies, office workers, manual labourers, weekend shoppers, huge numbers of pub drinkers, and – while sworn to not display an opinion – nobody in the constabulary in Glasgow, Manchester, Nottingham, London, or Brighton has spoken to me about it.

I was taken aback, therefore, to be asked to remove this garment in a pub where I had been drinking for thirty minutes without incident. I certainly did not anticipate that the demand would be issued so rudely.

I asked the manager (as I will presume him to be) what the problem was. I was very calm, and eager to discover the cause for the sole disapproval I have encountered against the sentiment expressed across my attire. He could have politely explained, however his Napoleon complex must have kicked in, as he just glared at me and in an equally hostile tone said “I don’t want it in my pub.”

I don’t want my country governed by a party nobody here voted for, but we don’t always get what we want.

I want to say that he was jumped-up, but had he jumped up then maybe we would have seen eye-to-eye. I do not want to say that he was short, but if you want to promote him to the next level you can do so by giving him a crate to stand on. I do not like to get personal, but nor do I expect to be spoken to in such a way when a clear and polite request would have sufficed,

His argument, and he was unduly keen to argue, was that “I’ve got kids in this pub.”

Whether they were his kids, underage drinkers, or if they had read a statement that – really – they should be educated in the socio-political background of, was not apparent to me. Words are not offensive in or of themselves, it is context that gives them meaning. I thought that perhaps I could try and explain that to these young and impressionable minds. However, I quickly glanced around, and could only see people that I would comfortably assume to be adults. It is possible that these kids had tried the old Beano comic trick, of sitting atop one another’s shoulders and donning a large raincoat, in order to slip into your pub unnoticed. If so, your employee must be commended for his eagle eye, as I failed to spot them.

This interloper – your employee – was evidently not in a mood for any form of casual conversation or meaningful debate. I tried to explain that I was just leaving anyway, but he glared at me with such vehemence that the best example I can provide by way of illustration is that of General Zod in the second Superman film. As he tried to penetrate me with his evil rays of Heat Vision, I decided that I was now bored with attempting to engage him, and simply left.

I joined the rally, where nobody complained about my shirt, and stood still for the numerous amateur, hobbyist, and professional photographers who asked if they could take pictures of it. This has become the norm, I have discovered. There must be close to a hundred photos of my shirt now in the possession of strangers. Some of these photographers have been children with camera phones, and at the “Axe The Bedroom Tax” march a fortnight ago one mother asked if her ten-year-old son could take a photo. My shirt is not offensive, the policies and dogma of an unelected government are. This is just a succinct way of summing up wide-reaching disgruntlement.

After the rally, I went to another pub not owned by [name of chain redacted], and asked the barman outright if my apparel would pose a problem for him. He laughed as if it was the silliest question he had been asked all day, which – being in a Glasgow pub – it probably was.

I do not expect that you will do anything regards this complaint, and certainly do not foresee any admonishment of the staff member involved. I just wish to register my unhappiness with the way I was spoken to in a pub chain that I previously held in very high regard. I will not be back in [pub name redacted] in future, and I think from reading this letter you will see that I have the conviction to stay true to that. If your employee believes that the invisible children in his pub are more loyal customers than me, then he can rely on them for his custom.

All in all, I found it to be a very disappointing experience. Although, not quite as disappointing as the media’s canonising of the woman who destroyed communities with her disregard for the lives and the livelihoods of the miners and the steel workers; who condemned Nelson Mandela and strongly praised General Pinochet; who covered up for the injustices seen in the wake of Hillsborough; and who died with the blood of the Belgrano on her hands.

If you would like to reply to this, I will be keen to read your response. Certainly, you may like to go some way to restoring my faith in your brand – if indeed you would prefer to retain my future custom.

Yours faithfully,

[Me]

 

 

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Diary Of An Anti-Tory Protestor – Part 4

Scrap Trident, George Square, 13th April 2013

I had to do a bit of research before deciding whether or not to join this demo. My previous excursions into public protest had been based on long-held beliefs: that the Bedroom Tax is unworkable and must be abandoned; and that David Cameron is a reprehensible cunt and that I should seize any chance to let him know in person.

My knowledge of Trident is less intricate. While I am opposed in principle to Scotland housing nuclear weapons, it is not something that I previously felt strongly enough about to merit my presence at one of their many protests. Every so often, there is a story on the news about activists (or maybe they should be termed deactivists) being arrested for blockading the naval base at Faslane where Trident is housed. These people invariably look slightly “hippier” than me, and while I am glad they are prepared to make their resistance known, I had no interest in joining them.

As previously asserted, I have recently reached the conclusion that the best way to oppose the Tories is to visibly oppose the Tories at every opportunity. This was undeniably an opportunity, to once again show that public opinion runs contrary to their policies. I do not want to blindly march for causes I know nothing of, and so I did a little background reading in advance. It paid off.

Trident sign

None of the friends who had made previous marches were able to make this one, and so I went along by myself. I had posted on Twitter, hashtagging various relevant terms, to see if I knew anybody who would be heading down. That was later picked up on and retweeted by some unknown accounts, resulting in my first trolling. Somebody composed a tweet to me, wrote “RT” at the start of it to make it look like they were simply forwarding what I had written, and then put their own words in my mouth. I forget the exact phrasing now, having blocked all those involved, but trust me when I say that “Keep Trident. We need Trident. RIP Maggie” is not the kind of thing I am likely to post.

I had not been in George Square long before somebody with an armful of them offered me a placard to carry, and I accepted. I had my flag with me too, although it was still folded up in my back pocket. Looking around at the assembling demonstrators, I was happy to see my friend Alasdair in the crowd, and I went over to join him. He was marching alongside the red banner of one of Scotland’s socialist parties, although I had to rely on the photographic records below to check which one. As far as names go, sometimes it can get a bit “People’s Front Of Judea/Judean People’s Front” when it comes to parties using the words “Scottish” and “Socialist.”

 

As we began marching, it became apparent that we were amid the quietest section of the crowd. There was little in the way of mass chanting or protest songs, but with Thatcher dead and not yet buried there were a couple of attempts to start a singalong of “Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead.” The key problem there was that nobody knew the lyrics, which did nothing to prevent a few valiant and enthusiastic renditions of what might be the correct words. Whereas, for reasons I am unable to explain, I think I do know the words – at least to the second line, which is where they kept falling down. I kept this information to myself, however.

Soon, and somehow, we had migrated into the realms of another Disney film. In what I think was a group effort, as lines were added by different people until the best ones came together, we began singing “Hi Ho, Hi Ho, Trident’s got to go. Now Thatcher’s gone let’s ban the bomb, Hi Ho, Hi Ho, Hi Ho.” It lended itself very easily to repetition, and quickly caught on around us. There was a good sense of cameraderie, and an upbeat atmosphere, although less of the anger and sense of civic pride I had felt during the anti-Bedroom Tax march two weeks previous. Somebody with access to the Scrap Trident Twitter page must have been right behind us, as they posted a photo of my shirt.

trident tweet shirt

Once we arrived back in George Square, having marched through and around the city centre, we spread ranks and listened to the various speakers. Then there was music, and more speakers, and more music, and more speakers. They just kept going, and by the third section of speakers a sizeable protion of the crowd had dispersed. Two sections would have been plenty.

As I stood listening to the first couple of sections of speakers, somebody else got a photo of my shirt. This is about the fifth picture I have found online, and that is a tiny fraction of the number actually taken – all by different people. I hope at some point that more folk will join in, and customise their own clothing. I would rather see heartfelt political messages walking up the high street than the names of a dozen faceless corporate brands.

Trident shirt george squarePhoto: Ritchie James Patton

While standing in the square, I was approached by a woman who introduced herself as being from the Scotland On Sunday newspaper. She asked if she could interview me, and I agreed. She wanted to know why I was there, about the statement on my shirt, and what I hoped to achieve, and I made her aware of the views that I have expressed in this and my other recent Anti-Tory blogs. She was familiar with the film “Network” and seemed to appreciate my “Mad as Hell” analogy. When she asked if I thought Thatcher’s death had helped drive support for this particular movement and protest, I answered honestly that “I don’t think it has hindered awareness.”

I was glad that I had read up on the history of Trident before leaving the house, and managed to remember some of the pertinent facts from this particular article. There were a couple of instances where I looked to my friend Al to confirm what I was saying, and he ably assisted by adding points. Like, for example, how they refuse to relocate Trident to Plymouth because of the risk to life, yet at Faslane it is closer to the nearest densely-populated area. It is these double standards, and contempt for Scottish life, that help fuel my dislike of Westminster rule.

trident interviewAbove: Being interviewed for Scotland On Sunday. Photo: Alasdair McDougall

Having handled myself well and answered fully and eloquently, Al approved. I posted about the interview on Facebook, and soon received a reply from one of my comedy friends who tagged her journalist friend and asked if that was who had questioned me. I looked at her profile, and it was. Small world.

Meanwhile, on Twitter, I posted about being interviewed and how, if you write “Fuck The Tories” on your shirt, it is useful to be able to articulate why. A friend asked if this was “Off the back of Tweetgate?”
“No, it is off the back of my shirt,” I replied. The press interest had been totally unrelated, a coincidence.
“Do they not know you are Tweetman?!” she asked, before telling me that she would buy a souvenir edition of the paper, and would I sign it?
“My secret tweet identity is safe! Unless they read this,”  I told her, agreeing that “I will happily sign anything for you, except cheques.”

In the end, the paper ran nothing of what I said, not even twisting my words to suit whatever their agenda may be. Instead, they printed a column reporting on a 12-person conga line that formed an hour after the end of the rally, in “celebration” of Thatcher’s death. I guess that is more newsworthy than a two- or three-thousand-strong march against nuclear weapons and unpopular government mandates. There is a video of the march here.

trident crowdAbove: Al and me, in the crowd. Photo: Scotland On Sunday.

On the Monday following this Saturday protest, there was a scheduled blockade at Faslane, with several hundred people present and forty-seven arrests. I was not part of that protest, although I took the time to read the briefing pack that was issued. I canot now find it to link to, but it is a thorough document detailing precisely how and why to protest, and how to avoid arrest if you want to show support without risking a blemish showing up on future Disclosure Scotland checks. They have done this before, you see.

As much as I disagree with Trident, my priority just now is to urge a rethink of the Bedroom Tax. That ill-thought-out piece of legislation is imminently about to leave people homeless, which will result in increased levels of crime too, as well as damaging families and communities. I also want to help stop the cuts on the welfare state, in particular the immoral activities of ATOS, which are seeing increasing numbers of affected people resort to suicide.

Meanwhile, That Cunt Cameron has just approved plans for a £15 million Thatcher Museum, while the privatisation of the NHS will directly profit a huge number of MPs. As for the myth of benefit “scroungers” – “Most benefit recipient – 60% – are working people who are so poorly paid by their employers or so exploited by their landlords that they can’t manage without state assistance.” Source.

This government is corrupt. It was not democratically elected by majority in England, and it certainly does not represent the views of the people of Scotland, who did not vote for it at all. I do not know how much more I can do, but I do know that – until the referendum in 2014 – I will do what I can to ensure that Scotland votes Yes and breaks away to fully govern itself. Westminster has consistently proved that they do not have the best interests of Scotland or its people at heart.

vote yes

The next protest will be on the day of Thatcher’s funeral. Then there will be speakers at the May Day Parade in Glasgow, and an Anti-Bedroom Tax day of protest on 18th May. I plan to be at them all, and anything else that crops up in-between. I am angry, and I am fed up, and I hope that if you are too then you will join me, as I have joined the thousands of others who got here before me.

“I believe [an independent] Scotland would legalise same-sex marriage. I believe it would reject Trident. I believe it would refuse to accept the victimisation of the poor, the ill and the weak.”
Source.

As far as the current balance of power goes, I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this any more.

Trident FTT flagPhoto: Robyn Ramsay


Repercussions Of Retweeting Abuse.

This is a follow-up to my 21st Dubious Claim To Fame post, in which my request that someone smack That Cunt Cameron in the face with a shovel was forwarded by an MSP. The story was published in the Daily Record on Wednesday 27th March (page four.) On the Thursday, I received the first – and so far only – criticism for what I had written. It didn’t attack anything I said in the original tweet, or talk about the subsequent minor publicity, instead picking me up on a sentence I’d written in the blog post linked to.

I googled the email address and name of the commentor, discovering him to be an apparently well-respected author of (it seems) books on subjects as diverse as marketing techniques and the Titanic. He appeared to be accusing me of instigating anti-English racism because I had suggested that the majority of Cameron’s supporters live in the south of that country. I maintain that it is not possible to be racist to a specific geographical district, as the very term suggests an inherent prejudice against all of a country’s inhabitants. I have also made no mention of (nor exhibit) any general dislike of English people, or of their national character traits, and my statement related to the voting patterns of a particular area. The nationality of these voters does not factor. Here is what I believe to be the contentious sentence:

Show me a person who approves of, likes, or voted for David Cameron, and I will show you somebody who lives in the south of England.

I amended this accordingly, and inserted the word “probably” in front of the word “lives.” I also replied to the poster’s comment in full and offered to engage in further discussion. To date, as I write this a fortnight later on 14th April, I have heard nothing more about it, (or about the fact he posted it against the index of articles and not the blog in question.) This makes me glad, as to be racist against the English I would have to decide whether to base it on birthplace, current location, parental nationality, all of those, a combination, or some other criteria. Frankly, that is far too much effort, and involves far too many decisions. I’m just going to stick to hating the majority of all humanity, and in particular hypocritical or patronising figures of authority. With that in mind, you can read the comment and my response here (opens in new window) or in the screenshot below,

tweet blog comments censored

I have also heard nothing negative (and, in the interest of balance, nothing positive from people I don’t already know) despite having my Twitter username published alongside my tweet. If anyone disagreed with the sentiment of my words, it was very easy to let me know. Simply searching online for the story brings this blog up at the very top of the results page, and yet that one comment is the only feedback I have received. In the meantime, it started to bother me that – of all the things I write online: the carefully-worded and thoughtfully-edited blogs; the one-liners and jokes; the pithy statements, insightful observations, aggressive criticisms – the piece of writing getting most attention just now, comparatively, is neither very clever nor very subtle. It is far from my finest work. Hopefully it is not the epitome of my writing career. It did, at least, allow me to have a bit of fun – see the screenshot below.

tweet satire

On the Saturday of that week, I went out marching in protest against the Bedroom Tax, wearing my “Fuck The Tories” shirt which was much-photographed that day. There is a dedicated blog about that protest, the first in a series as I join and write about further protests against this Tory Government who, with only one MP elected in Scotland, do not have a democratic right to rule here. As I was posting on Twitter that day, I got a message from a girl I know. She told me that the issue of my tweet had been raised in Parliament, where she works, brought up at First Minister’s Questions a few days before.

tweet Ruth Davidson FMQ

I asked her if there is a public record, like Hansard, and later checked directly. The Public Information Office replied quickly to my email and informed me that: “The Scottish Parliament equivalent of the Hansard is called the Official Report and is generally available within four hours of a meeting of the Parliament finishing.  You can find the Official Report on our website at this address: http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/parliamentarybusiness/OfficialReport.aspx Chamber business is also recorded and made available to watch online here: http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/newsandmediacentre/30931.aspx.”

To save you some time, here is a YouTube link to the exact point where the Tory Ruth Davidson MSP mentions it, and the full transcript  can be found in the Official Report for 28th March 2013. As I later discovered, the Tories are not blameless when it comes to ill-considered tweets, in their case sectarian ones. This hypocrisy, of course, did not stop the Tories from gloating about it on their website. The Scottish Express printed an article about it too, but it all focussed on the issue of the retweet and the actions of MSPs rather than on very much of what I wrote, far less why I wrote it. I am very glad that I did not mention Robin Hood Airport, this is a level of publicity and scrutiny that I am comfortable dealing with. I don’t really need a two-year criminal trial with multiple appeals and vast press coverage.

tweet Tory Hypocrisy

My friend further elaborated on her message to me, explaining why she felt unable to tell me publicly about it and saying that the MSP in question, Derek Mackay, had been present in the public gallery at the time and “looked mortified.” Despite it being a casual throwaway (yet heartfelt) remark, I do seem to have accidentally generated quite a lot of hilarity among my friends. I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

As for the original blog, it has had 109 views as of today, and (excluding encrypted searches, which don’t show up in the stats) nineteen people have found it using the search terms below.

tweet blog searches

What this whole thing has been, apart from an unintended but appreciated source of amusement, is a personal catalyst. It has become clear to me that – except perhaps for the work of Anonymous – online revolution is close to no revolution at all, and that it will take physical action and organised protest to make our voices heard. The Tories have no mandate here. They are enforcing unworkable policies that affect us all. People are taking to the streets to protest the Bedroom Tax, because if they don’t then inordinate numbers of people will be forced to LIVE on the streets. That’s when homelessness increases, and then crime increases, while businesses fold as people divert disposable income into living expenses.

Somebody, somewhere up the line, decades before I was born, stood and marched and shouted and rallied so that if I got sick, or lost my job, or had been born (or became) less abled, then I could still live without having to starve and freeze and sleep on the streets while I found my feet again. Someone I don’t know fought for that – for me, and for you, and for all of us. Now it is under threat, I consider it my duty to fight for it too. These were hard won rights, and we can’t let that count for nothing. If you too have had enough, then lend your weight to the peaceful but increasing public protests. It’s time to fight back.