Wednesday, December 02, 2009

An authentic must-read post

Spent the kind-of-semi-official-4-day-weekend* in Budapest, enjoying a weekend with Mrs H (and without children), and generally having a good time - drank hot wine in Vörösmarty tér at the Christmas market, had an afternoon in the opulent but faded Gellert baths, ate well, and saw various friends. All most agreeable.

(*It wasn't really a 4-day weekend, but as December 1st is a holiday here for Romania's national day, and as the government - not that there is a government at the moment- is forcing public sector workers to take 10 days unpaid holiday, most places used that lonely Monday as one of their 10 days, and gave it as a holiday too)

On the way back, we were in Ferihegy airport and there was a sign advertising the "authentic" Irish pub there in the terminal. Now, at what stage does the word authentic lose all of its meaning? And have we already reached that stage? This is an "authentic" Irish pub in an airport. In an airport in Hungary. Almost certainly with not a single Irish member of staff. That looked nothing like what I imagine a genuine Irish pub to look like (see below). Which didn't even sell Guinness. I mean honestly, there was nothing that could be called even vaguely authentic. It sold beer. I guess that's about it. I think I'm going to start carrying round a marker pen and use it to cross out/highlight any uses of the word authentic I see.

(Ken Wilson tells me that he once saw outside a shop in the US the following "Authentic Antiques - Direct from the Factory")

Here is a picture of absolutely appalling quality which I took of this authentic Irish boozer

After marvelling at this masterpiece of deception, I boarded the plane and became profoundly depressed reading the newspaper which contained news that Switzerland had adopted an openly racist measure following a referendum, that with the support of a few US fundamentalist christians, Uganda is about to introduce the death penalty for homosexuals, and the analysis of the upcoming climate change debate in Copenhagen which made it clear that it was almost certain that nothing will get solved there and that we will carrying on racing headlong towards the precipice. What kind of a fucked up world is this? Makes Romanian politics seems positively bright by comparison.


Ken Wilson said...

Reading one depressing piece of news can slow you down, reading three can make you feel not only that the world is going to hell in a hand-cart, but that you are helpless to do anything about it. The Ugandan story is monumentally awful, and there seems to be nothing that can be done about it. Copenhagen is out of our hands even though we will march this weekend. But then two million of us marched before the war in Iraq, and a fat lot of good THAT did.

But the Swiss story (the referendum vote to ban the construction of minarets) seems nearer, more tangible, and something where your average person might feel they can make a difference. Maybe we should get in touch with all the Swiss people we know and ask them to justify it. If they don't agree with it, let them know that they are supported by like-minded people outside the country and maybe they can demand a new referendum. Or are Swiss referenda binding for a long time?

Anonymous said...

So, many Swiss members of the Christian race are oppressive against the Muslim race?

I find it funny that most countries in which the majoritary race is the Muslims don't even allow the building of churches and that includes Turkey, which has a very tough especially stance against the Protestant races.

A few such countries even have death sentence for all the members of the atheist race. That's on a par with the Nazis!

Now, seriously, the silly thing about Switzerland's stance is that their Muslims are mostly Bosnians, not Pakistani, Algerians or other nations which are more prone to be influenced by the Saudi aggressive brand of Islam, like you can find in other Western European countries.

Andy H said...

My anonymous commenter:

1. I used racist advisedly, because this is clearly not about religion or philospohy, but about directly targeting certain ethnic groups. You can bleat all you like about how there is no such thing as a muslim race, which is of course true, but Islamophobia is very definitely a cover for racism, and that is what is going on here.

2. Have you actually been to Turkey? Which is a secular country. Which has loads of churches (and by the way synagogues) in it, and does not outlaw the building of churches.

3. Not sure what the atheist race is, but I assume you're still riffing on the muslim/race thing. Can you name and show me evidence of a country which executes atheists?

4. Not sure what other countries even have to do with this argument. I'm talking about Switzerland. The Swiss electorate voted to approve an openly racist law. It's fucking appalling.

5. Switzerland used to be proud of its neutrality. now it is the leading nation in the European move towards war on Muslims. It's deeply troubling and sad.

Anonymous said...

Am I racist if I am not in favour of building ortodox churches in Harghita and Covasna counties?
Traditionally churches are built to show the power of the eglise, that is why it is really important how tall is the tower of a church. This is the same with Islamic churches. It is not the question of equal opportunities, but a question of power -- and they really would like to show their power: Swiss people said NO :)

Andy H said...

Same commenter as before, or not?

Anyway - no, that would not be racist as it's (a) not a race issue; and (b) "being not in favour of" something is not the same as banning it.

Just to be clear, I'd actually be happy if no religious buildings were constructed, since I find organised religion to be an extremely negative factor in all societies. Singling out one religion and banning it is deeply discriminatory, and given that the rhetoric used by the Swiss far right and the European anti-islam movement is pure and simple racism, then this is very much a racist move.

Another country near to Switzerland starting singling out and attacking one particular religious/race group not especially long ago. We need to keep that in mind.

That's a very simplistic view of why churches/temples look the way they do. Originally minarets and most church towers were mostly tall to function as watch towers. They then became part of the architectural style. It's not about power, though I concede some of the people who voted for this racist measure were perhaps convinced by this falsehood.

Anonymous said...

In the school they told me that there was only one single human race... The definition is somehow that members of a race can have children and those children can also have children. (Horse-donkey, not one race.)
My prof of history of Holocaust had a joke: he wanted to prove that Jews and black people are both members of the single human race, by making a baby with Naomi Campbell :)
So if you say that the RO-HU thing is not racism, but the EU-Islam is racism, that is what I call racism. Sorry, I do know that you are not racist, I just want to underline a serious implicit incoherency in this anti-racism discourse.

Andy H said...

I think in it's technical biological definiton that is what race means, however, English is a living language and not one moderated by an academy somewhere, and as such it is determined by common usage (wikipedia is quite extensive here:

However, regardless of what "race" does or doesn not mean, "Racism" clearly has a meaning which is not affected by the definition of race (however perverse that may be). (Though obviously the definition of racism is different for different people too).

The perscution of muslims in Switzerland is, I'd submit something which definitely falls under the vast majority of definitions of racism. (as to whether the discrimination between the two major "national" groups in Transylvania is racism - well, I think that's a lot greyer. Especially since I'd be surprised if there's a single Transylvanian who is either a "pure Hungarian" or a "pure Romanian" :-))

What I'm clumsily trying to say is that I think the pedantry that surrounds the term racism detracts from the real fight against the clear abuse of power that historically has existed (and continues to exist). And what has happened in Switzerland fals under that heading to my mind and needs to be opposed.

Stay-At-Home Indie-Pop said...

My sister used to work for a majory brewery, and she told me that in the UK and Ireland there are warehouses full of "authentic" Irish pub fittings (dark wood beams and floorboards, rickety chairs, faded pictures of Joyce etc.) that ship en masse, in whole pub units, to anywhere in the world. My local here just outside Washington DC (the Ri_ra in Bethesda) does have some Irish bar staff, serves good Guinness, and has even banned the group of annoying fiddlers who used to gather in a corner of the pub and play what sounded like the same riff from the same reel for hour after hour. You know, the one that goes dee-diddly-diddly-eye-di. There's even a resident mouse that scurries around the floor. Good watering hole.