Notes from underground

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Archive for the tag “bullying”

Fighting racism with racism

For as long as I can remember, when people said that someone is “holier than thou” they mean that that person has a bad attitude.

But in South Africa, we seem to think that “unholier than thou” is a good attitude, and people seem to be vying with each other to see who can be the most racist.

Racism been around for a long time, but it it is no longer enshrined in legislation. We are no longer obliged by law to be racist. There is no compulsion to be racist, yet people seem to be taking it upon themselves to promote racism, and even boast about it.

Last Saturday I saw a link to this article: Rhodes must fall leader refuses to tip waitress because of race. South Africa responds by collecting money to tip her! – Good Things Guy:

Ntokozo Qwabe bragged online that he and a friend made the woman cry ‘typical white tears’ after writing on the bill ‘we will give tip when you return the land’.

The incident, in a cafe in South Africa, provoked a fierce backlash from critics who branded him a ‘hypocrite’.

Ntokozo, 24, is one of the leaders of the Rhodes Must Fall movement, which campaigned to remove a statue of the 19th Century imperialist from Oriel College.

When I saw it on Facebook I commented that the student seemed to be channelling Cecil Rhodes — it seemed like the kind of “town and gown” snobbery that I suspect was more common in British universities the imperialist era than it is now: the privileged student bullying the disprivileged waitress. Or perhaps he was channelling Flashman.

Notokozo Qwabe, student at Oxford University

Notokozo Qwabe, student at Oxford University

But racist snobbery seems as common today as it was in the imperialist era, and that was not the end of it.

I saw an invitation to sign a petition on Avaaz to have Qwabe expelled from Oxford University, and “send him back to the kraal where he belongs”.

So here was someone trying to be more racist than thou.

It’s bad enough for Qwabe to boast about being a racist bully on social media, but here is a someone inviting others to join them in racist snobbery. I noticed that there was a place provided by Avaaz for people to report inapproprate petitions, and I reported that one for “inappropriate language”.

It’s hard to get rid of racism when people are bragging about it, and soliciting it in web petitions. You can’t fight racism by racism. You can’t fight evil with evil. If you try to fight fire by fire you end up with a holocaust.

Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21).


The Bishop and the chocolate factory

One instance where this guy’s opinion is spot on

A Church of England bishop challenges Cadburys UK over its self-proclaimed rights to the colour purple.

Bishop’s challenge to Cadbury over the colour purple – Telegraph:

A leading bishop has issued a warning to the US-owned confectionery giant after a small Christian fair trade producer was forced to redesign its products because Cadbury had successfully trademarked the colour for the sale of chocolate.

In a landmark High Court victory last week Cadbury, now owned by the US conglomerate Kraft, saw off a challenge from its rival Nestle over the exclusive rights to use the distinctive shade of purple used on its Dairy Milk wrappers.

The ruling was the culmination of a long-running legal battle between the two of the world’s biggest confectionery companies but it has also forced a rethink by one of the smallest.

The Meaningful Chocolate Company, based in Manchester, produces a special range of fair trade chocolates for Christmas and Easter with a Christian message.

Last Christmas it sold a range of chocolate Christmas tree decorations with nativity scenes, displayed in a purple packaging – the colour long recognised by the Church as symbolising advent.

But the company has been forced to switch to scarlet wrappers this Christmas after being advised by intellectual property lawyers that it could be infringing Cadbury’s rights.

This seems to be the same kind of bullying that was seen a few years ago when an American firm took over the SPCK Bookshops in the UK, and systematically destroyed them. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, this comes with a hat-tip to the very same Phil Groom who was one of the whistle-blowers on that.

As someone has suggested, perhaps we should extend the Advent Fast to cover Cadbury’s chocolate. We have sometimes eaten their Bournville dark chocolate during the fast, because it is non-dairy, so maybe we’ll drop that now too. I wonder if  Cadburys in South Africa is also owned by Kraft?

Orthodox Christians don’t really do purple for Advent, but that doesn’t mean we can’t sympathise with those who do when they are bullied for it.


Do Americans have any concept of "justice"?

I begin to wonder if the American legal system has any concept of justice at all.

In the course of a discussion about everyday words used as trademarks, someone referred to this:

Seattle woman fights lawsuit for selling Coach purses on eBay | Seattle

A Seattle woman is fighting a trendy handbag designer who accused her of trademark infringement for selling her used purses online.

Gina Kim is a former Coach Inc. employee and planned to sell several of her used Coach bags online. But soon after posting them on eBay, she received a threatening cease-and-desist letter from a New York law firm representing Coach.

In the letter, Kim was accused of trademark infringement and threatened with a $2 million lawsuit. The letter also demanded Kim surrender all her merchandise, never sell any of it again, admit guilt and send a $300 check to Coach.

The problem is, such bullying tactics do not seem to be at all unusual. In other countries there are usually Law Societies that discipline lawyers who engage in unethical practices. But American lawyers seem to do it with impunity.

If this were just an isolated incident, one could say that it was an aberration. You always find a couple of bad apples in the sack. But then I recalled the case of the Brewer brothers and their takeover of the SPCK Bookshops in the UK, and their use of lawyers to bully and intimidate anyone who questioned their unethical (and illegal) business practices. Well, they may have been legal in Texas, but they certainly weren’t in Britain. Cease and Desist: One Year On | SPCK/SSG: News, Notes & Info

Whilst I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a date permanently etched in my memory, it’s a date I certainly won’t forget in a hurry: it’s the date J Mark ‘Bully Boy’ Brewer (shown right, screen grab from Fox News), Principal of Texas law firm, attorneys and counselors, Brewer and Pritchard PC, issued the first of his now notorious ‘Cease and Desist’ messages, threatening me, my friends and my colleagues with legal action if we didn’t stop reporting on his abuse of his staff and his mismanagement of the former SPCK bookshops.

If that weren’t bad enough, I caught part of an interview of a British judge on Sky News. They were asking him about whether Gaddafi, if captured, should face trial locally in Libya or before the International Criminal Court (ICC). The judge said that an ICC trial would be better, because Libya has no independent judiciary and it would take some time to establish one, and so Gaddafi would not face a fair trial in Libya.

He said that there had been the same problem in Iraq eight years ago, where he had been one of those who had taken part in training Iraqi judges in the basic principles of justice.

When it came to the trial of Saddam Hussein, however, the biggest problem was the Americans, who did not want Saddam Hussein tried before the ICC because they would not impose a death sentence. And so he was tried by Iraqi courts, but when the British-trained judges questioned unjust legal practices, they were sacked.

There seems to be quite a big cultural gap, at least, between British and American conceptions of justice. Things that Americans seem to regard as normal inspire anger and revulsion in British people. That is not to say that there are no miscarriages of justice in Britain. There are. But they are not recognised as a normal part of the legal process.

And then comes the last straw: Libya: Scottish Officials Try To Contact Al-Megrahi In Tripoli As Unrest Spreads | UK News | Sky News:

Scottish officials are continuing urgent efforts to contact the Lockerbie bomber, amid the changing situation in Tripoli.

Under the terms of his compassionate release from Greenock Prison two years ago, Abdel Basset al Megrahi has been routinely checked upon by officials from East Renfrewshire Council…

Jim Swire, who lost his daughter Flora in the Lockerbie bombing, believes Megrahi was wrongly convicted and is concerned he could come to harm.

He told Sky News: “I think he might well be assassinated by whoever takes over the part of Tripoli he’s in.

“I believe he could also be handed over to the Americans, or abducted by them.”

And it appears that US politicians are already demanding that al Megrahi be handed over to them. But should anyone be handed over to a nation that has such a corrupt legal system and no conception of civilised justice, but only of tribal vengeance and the blood feud, as is shown by the bullying tactics routinely adopted by its lawyers?

Americans love to criticise Sharia law as being barbarous — but can they demonstrate that their own legal system is any better?

When is bullying acceptable?

A few days ago there was a campaign to get people to wear purple to show their disapproval of bullying of gay people. I agree with the sentiments of my Facebook friend Joseph Slonović when he said Facebook (1) | Joseph Slonović:

I don’t own a single item of purple clothing. And really, I don’t want to. But do take a moment, folks, to reflect on the disgusting bullying and intolerance that has led so many gay teens to resort to suicide — especially lately. It’s terrible, and it should be taken seriously.

But I disagreed with him when he went on to say

And as my friend Lucie pointed out: “can we stop calling it ‘bullying?’ The term seems too benign. Let’s start calling it what is is – bigotry, homophobia, gay-bashing, an epidemic of hate crimes. These aren’t the actions of a few rogue ‘bullies.'”

I disagree about not calling it bullying. Bullying is bad, regardless of who the victims are, or the reason for it. By not calling it bullying you create a perception that certain kinds of bullying are socially acceptable, or at least less socially unacceptable than others.

Is calling it “bigotry” an improvement?

Bigotry is intolerance of any ideas other than ones own, especially about things like religion, race or politics.

I would say it was quite a big and serious step to pass from bigotry to bullying; from rejecting another person’s ideas to actively hurting, persecuting or indimidating them (which is what “bullying” means). In what way can that be described as “benign”?

Calling it “homophobia” rather than bullying singles out one class of victim, and makes it easier to ignore other classes. Can one have a scale of phobias? If bullying is too “benign” for homophobia, is it acceptable for xenophobia? Is it more evil to bully homosexuals than to bully illegal immigrants? Or to bully Somali immigrants just because they are immigrants, regardless of their legal status?

I think bullying is bad, no matter who the victims are. And creating a hierarchy of victims smacks of, well, bigotry.

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