i hope you get cancer™

Sunday, March 26, 2006

The myth of middle England just exploded

Anyone who doubted that the myths of "Englishness" were anything more than a rhetorical device in the service of racism, greed, bigotry and exclusion will have been able to put their mind comprehensively to rest this weekend. I refer to the release of the Christian peace activist Norman Kember and his two Canadian colleagues, and the small demonstration in support of "freedom of speech" that took place yesterday in London.

The bitterness with which Telegraph readers - if they are a barometer of a certain strand of English opinion - greeted Kember's release was illuminating. Little sign here of the soi-disant characteristics of Britishness or Englishness that often get such people so dewy-eyed. No sense of tolerance, respect, humour, but instead the purest venom. Contempt for Kember's religious faith, scorn for his "selfishness" in "putting lives at risk", and the inevitable nonsense about how much "taxpayers' money" had been spent in rescuing the three. One could almost smell the real ale with which these people would be washing down their small-mindedness.

On, then, to the unhappy little gathering in Trafalgar Square. Notable for the excitement it had generated among the knuckle-dragging classes , what was interesting was the apparent engagement between the organiser, Peter Risdon, and Ismaeel Haneef of the Muslim Action Committee. The howls of protest at such dialogue from Risdon's racist congregation were as predictable, and revealing, as the minute turnout.