Friday 29 September 2006

God TV

Last night in the category of 'you couldn't make it up':

Late night cable TV is something of a modern day freak show. Monster truck racing, endless documentaries about the Third Reich, soft porn, Korean art-house movies ... and GOD TV.

The channel has a homely, amateur feel to it hosted by a scary, smiley South African couple Rory and Wendy. The programming consists of fire-and-brimstone sermons, financial appeals to help GOD TV to reach out to new areas apparently ripe for the good news (.. like Pakistan and China), Christian Rock videos, and messages sent in from viewers to request prayers for miraculous healing.

But best of all is their current affairs magazine, 'The 700 club'. This features Fox-type US-centric news alongside analysis from Pat Robertson. One minute we are looking at footage from the war in Lebanon and the next minute Pat is giving an explanation of the events with reference to the book of Revelation.

This incomprehensible bad acid trip seems to be their only guide in making sense of the new world order.
You can find the basic proposition on any crank website; we're living in the final days awaiting the last judgement and have to fulfill the pre-conditions; the temple has to be restored in Jerusalem, Jews return to the biblical borders of Israel and the Antichrist (Islam or the UN it seems to vary) is defeated. Pretty much any disaster that occurs in the meantime be it hurricane Katrina or global warming can be explained as evidence of the impending crisis (or 'Rapture' as they call it).

It's too easy to dismiss these cranks as obviously bonkers but it has to be said that they are actually evil as well.

Their attitude to the horrors and suffering that the Rapture obviously entails is; bring it on - its all part of God's plan. I can't understand how this sits alongside the prayer requests sent to help with in-growing toenails or cashflow problems. It's a strange view of God as a kind of Santa Claus who is quite happy to micro-manage small requests but when it comes to the fate of millions of innocents is a bit of an uncaring git.

I have to confess that I have an axe to grind here - I am an atheist. But I had a Catholic education and was taught by priests and brothers, and despite rejecting it all I did come to an understanding that good people can still believe crazy things.

The trouble with these evangelical nutters is that they read a lot of the Old Testament with all its smiting with plagues etc, and then skip on to the barmy book of Revelation at the end. Along the way they seem to miss out the Gospels. This is the only bit of the bible that I ever had much time for - all that stuff about being nicer to each other; don't judge others, show forgiveness, all that sort of thing.

But I guess all that seems a bit too much like liberalism to these self-righteous, joyless, loveless, bigoted bastards.

Thursday 28 September 2006

Who are the citizens ?

I see the BBC website today reports that UK schools are failing to teach citizenship.In the 'have your say' section there is a predictable chorus of Middle-England bigotry. 'Why not a flag in every classroom and start the day with the national anthem - it works so well in US schools ?'

Blairites call this 'respect' - the same thing the Thatcherites used to call 'traditional values'. Either way it doesn't add up. You don't have citizens in a monarchy; we are subjects and our national anthem is 'God Save The Queen'. Even in a republic where the concept of citizens does belong, there are a few inconvenient problems.

All the great republics were founded on the existence of a disenfranchised underclass. Athenians had slaves outside the body politic, as of course did the US founding fathers, and even the Jacobins didn't embrace universal suffrage. The same is true today, whether it is migrant workers in the 'black' economy or rigged electoral registers in Florida.

You can't teach citizenship without citizens. And nobody is a citizen unless we all are.

Wednesday 27 September 2006

That 'new term' feeling.

Despite being over 40 and having been out of the education system for almost twenty years, September always feels like the start of a new term. Maybe it is about coming back to work from holiday having done more reflection than is normally the case (or maybe than is actually healthy).

This September the theme of education seems to be particularly strong.

My eldest daughter started secondary school this month. On the first day she came home clutching a glossy spiral-bound manual full of mission statements and milestones. More reminiscent of the kind of corporate bullshit that I have got used to seeing at work. I had assumed that her school, a comprehensive that harked back to former 'glory days' as a grammar would be essentially like my own; a bit crap and run down but essentially humane and with its heart in the right place. This seems altogether more sinister.

I also attended my twenty year graduation reunion dinner. Being an Oxbridge institution this was an opulent and grandiose affair, including an overnight stay in college rooms. The whole thing is free, probably with an eye to encouraging alumni to make some sort of benevolent bequest (not much chance in my case though). I had very mixed feelings about the whole thing - much as I did about my time as a student. Twenty years ago I had a pretty big chip on my shoulder about class and I felt politically vindicated in regarding most of the students as 'the enemy'. At the reunion there were some that I could still quite happily regard as one day being on the other side of the barricades. But the vast majority were actually pleasant, albeit surprisingly very dull given the supposed collective intellect gathered in the room.

I go to the gym to keep in shape physically but I have become increasingly worried that my brain may be wasting away through neglect. So, I have signed on for a distant learning course in archaeology. It is only a short, non-accredited course because I just want to dip my toe in the waters of learning again and I am not really concerned about getting any further qualifications. I have always read widely and in spurts of interest on particular subjects that become an obsession for a few months - so it is good to have the discipline again of working through a reading list and taking notes.