Saturday, 21 March 2009

Tales from Turnpike Lane station 4: Sandra and Jodie.

There’s not been a great deal to grin about this week. Things at home are, well, they’re not easy. Several of my dearest people are all fucked up and there's precious little I can do about it. Last night, having been bailed on for my last appointment of the day, I lit a cigarette outside Kings’Cross and decided to watch the world go by for a while. The weird, hallucinogenic strip-lighting under the awnings, the crush and low, murmuring panic of rush-hour, the smokers in their own little worlds. I didn’t have anywhere special to go, but I didn’t want to go home, and I’ve always found it meditative to snatch a moment of silence in the in-between places, where everyone’s busy going somewhere else. I stood there, blowing smoke at the sooty air, wanting to taste the dirt, feeling sorry for myself.

Then I met Sandra.

Sandra is 48, and her neck is covered in little white scars where the violent husband, who she ran away from, burned her with cigarettes. Despite the associations she sold me a Big Issue and told me her story in exchange for a fiver and a couple of smokes.

‘See that guy over there?’ she gestured to another Big Issue seller, a round guy in his forties who was hassling a weary female commuter. ‘He can get money out of people like that – like that, and he spends it all on heroin ! A woman on the streets, though, noone wants to know. They look at you like you’re trash. It makes me feel like trash, and, I mean I know I am trash, really, dyou see what I mean.

‘Last night I woke up and this dirty old guy had his thing out, right in my face. Disgusting.

‘I’m done with London now, just trying to get home to see my boy – I’d like to bring him some chocolate, he’s mad for chocolate, just like me. Although I can only have it now if it’s melted, dyou see what I mean.’ I do see. Sandra has no teeth.

I gave her all but the three quid I've left to get me home. Feeling like a complete twat, I mutter ed something about going back inside to meet my boss (who left an hour ago) and finished my fag behind a pillar.

Then I met Jodie.

Jodie was standing sobbing in the puddle of dark by the entrance to the underground, with a couple of security guards hovering around about to move her on. She was trying to sell her last Big Issue. You’d have thought that the inconsolably-weeping, strikingly-pretty-blonde-teenager gag would have been enough to make at least one or two commuters stop and offer her some cash, or at least enough to make the hired police go away, but no. This being Britain, most people just slunk past looking vaguely embarrassed.

I gave her a cigarette, and two of my remaining pounds (I could pay back the debt on my oyster tomorrow, that’d be fine, definitely). She now had six of the twenty pounds she needed for a deposit on the hostel she’d got a place for, which would give her a shot at housing benefit and a real place to live. A sweet, scared-looking nineteen year old from Ireland, she’d been in and out of care in London for years. If she was scamming me, she was scamming me for something I didn’t need quite so much as she did right then. But I had nothing left to give, nothing at all to give Jodie to keep her warm and safe whilst I scuttled back to the home that suddenly seemed a lot more inviting. I stammered my apologies, and sloped away.

About halfway down the escalator, hemmed in by briefcases and light-haemmoraging adverts for boob jobs, I thought: no. Fuck this, no.

I scanned the crowd for the richest looking bastard I could see. Fortunately, I can recognise bespoke tailoring when I see it, and within seconds I was bouncing up to a stern looking dude in his late thirties, wearing subtle tweeds and a fetching pink silk tie that probably cost more than everything Jodie owned.

‘Excuse me, sir, I hope you don’t mind – I’m doing some research for a school project – but what job do you do?’

‘I’m a banker.’


At this point, the chap took a quick look down my top, and any qualms I’d had about being manipulative disappeared as if by magic.

So I explained.

I explained that there was a little girl at the top of the station stairs, crying, with nowhere to sleep tonight. I explained that she was cold, and frightened, and in danger, and just wanted a place to go. Could he spare even some of the fifteen pounds she needed?

‘Sorry, I have to go.’

‘Come on,’ I raised my voice, ‘you make a good living. This girl has nothing. She's freezing. She's sick. This isn’t for me. Come on, please. Her name’s Jodie.’

And to my absolute astonishment, the man in the pink silk tie produced a bulging wallet and whipped out a crisp new twenty-pound note from a bunch that constituted more money than I earn in a month. He handed me the twenty with a growl and swept away in a whirl of Prada, not seeming to hear me yell thank you thank you. I never even got his name.

I bounded up the stairs two at a time to give Jodie the money she needed plus enough for something hot to eat. I have never been hugged so earnestly and unexpectedly before. Being British, my first sensation was, of course, crushing embarrassment. But heading home, I felt vindicated. Wealth redistribution by public humiliation of the casually loaded may not work as a long term social strategy, but damn it’s fun.

Because look, I know I sound like I'm just about to burst in to song, but life is fucking hard. Your life's hard, my life's hard, Jodie's life is hard, even pink tie man's life is probably hard in its own peculiar way. And it's because life is so fucking hard all the time that as long as I have my faculties I will fight unfairness wherever I see it, and I don't care if that makes me an annoying bitch, actually. I don't care who I have to shock and humiliate and shout at in order to make life that little bit easier - if not for us, then for someone, somewhere. That's guerilla socialist feminism, and it's always easier to look away.

(I did make it home to Turnpike Lane in the end, but I had to jump the barriers, and at 4'11 that's no mean feat. More kicking against the pricks shall follow just as soon as my groin is a little less sprained. Oooh.)


  1. This post really made me smile. Thankyou for helping those women out.

  2. In response to your post surely the question has to be: Why doesn't our society properly care for ALL of its citizens through a properly functioning and easily accessible Social Security system?

    In my opinion human beings should never have been allowed to fall so far into misery, hopelessness and destitution in the way you so eloquently describe. Yet, as you have pointed out, our countrymen, by and large, seem to be adopting the "as long as it's not me I will ignore it" attitude that I saw all the time when I opted to study, as an exchange student, in the United States for twelve months. I would never have agreed to have done this if I knew in advance how shocking and awful the non-academic part of the trip was destined to be.

    In the larger cities of America the homeless and destitute move unseen and ignored like ghosts in daylight. They exist invisibly, ignored by all and sundry, like dreams or nightmares in a parallel world. Often men and women in this situation are blamed by their more fortunate fellows for their "unfortunate" condition; they are stigmatised as being too lazy or indolent and responsible for their own misfortune by a society that prizes career and success over compassion and humanity. How many times did I hear the shout, "Get a job!" whenever a desperate malnourished beggar dressed in rags approached someone hoping against hope that he (or she) would be merciful enough to part with a dollar or two for a sandwich or hot drink. "As a first principle" I was advised by the professor I was studying under at Columbia University, New York, "don't ever give any money to beggars that cross your path. If you do you'll never get rid of them. It will only encourage such people to perpetrate the same scam over and over and molest others. It'll also discourage and disincentive them from grasping the nettle and straightening themselves out properly, once and for all." I really cannot put into words how utterly shocking this was to a European brought up in a country that I thought still believed then in a cradle to grave welfare system.

    But now I can clearly see British citizens beginning to adopt this kind of transatlantic heartlessness en masse. As in America urban myths are sometimes used to justify individual and personal callousness, e.g., "Don't give him/her/them any money because he'll/she'll/they'll only spend it on cigarettes/drink/drugs." One of the oddest examples of this phenomenon that happened to me recently, in the UK, was when a friend saw me give five pounds to a Big Issue seller who had a dog with her. "Idiot!" said my friend. "Don't you know the DSS gives people like that a tenner a week per dog to buy dog food for their animals." This seemed so preposterous a statement that I actually emailed the DSS a couple of days later to determine the truth of the matter and in due course a representative of the department confirmed the nonsense of that snippet of facile prejudice. Sadly, as a nation, we are inexorably moving towards America's chilling disregard for the welfare of the vulnerable. Just look at James Purnell's welfare reform white paper or the parallel Conservative welfare agenda now championed by Teresa May all based on that wanker of a banker David Freud's three week report.

    Our society doesn't have to go down this road where so many innocent people fall by the wayside. What is happening is the result of a deliberate choice made by government in respect to how best to exploit its citizens; perhaps they genuinely believe that the measures they intend to implement will lead to a happier and more productive society, but I personally don't think so. I think what we're seeing are examples of extraordinary cynicism on the part of our politicians to try to garner a few more votes among the pinched lip curling electorate.

    I've seen the future in the United States of America and boys and girls it's fucking dismal beyond comprehension or belief.

    All power and praise to you Penny for showing a generosity of spirit and gift of coin to the people you recently met but the problems they face on a daily basis can never be solved only by individual charity. The only effective way to tackle the burden of such human misery is by affording every citizen a universal right to unconditional help and support as and when they need it: financial help; medical help; access to affordable housing of a very high standard with security of tenure; access to educational opportunities etc., etc.

    Would it be costly? Yes! But the alternative is so expensive in terms of the human suffering that results that I think it would be unaffordable.

  3. No offence, and a gentle ribbing and nudge but was this just a bit little made up? The Grudging Banker/Last Big Issue/Small Moral Victory thing seems a bit, well, didactic. Sorry for the micky taking.

    Vixen, there was a brilliant snippet from a television documentary with a homeless working class woman with her young child begging on the streets in the US. Tellingly she said most people who offered her a little help and kind words, were poor working people themselves, along with migrant workers. Most who turned their noses up were "middle class". Class poses one of the biggest problems. To get rid of it, rather than making a fetish of it while in opposition to its injustices.

  4. Of course, all the myths about the DWP's generosity are being shattered as half those who spout them are losing their jobs!

    No free X, Y & Z for them, just £60.50 per week (if they're over 25), & a nice initiation into how the other half live in reality.

  5. Class poses one of the biggest problems. To get rid of it, rather than making a fetish of it while in opposition to its injustices.

    Heartily seconded.

    Also, Laurie, why pretend you were doing a 'school project'? I know you're all about the veneration of youth, but come on.

  6. Nice. Especially the banker bit. Thing is, no-one who actually works in finance would call themselves a "banker". No, they'd say "hedge fund manager", or whatever bit of banking they worked in. "Banker" is a collective layman's term that isn't used within the industry to refer to individuals. This is how I have to agree with padevat. You made it all up in your bedroom, didn't you? I also didn't enjoy the smugness of this post.

    Incidentally, I heard exactly the same story from a crying girl a few weeks ago. I gave her my own twenty pounds and a hug. And no, I'm not a banker, I'm a broke person with no income at all. How's that for the privately-educated middle class?

    ps Haven't you heard of Oyster top-up? Or cash machines? What a load of twaddle. Entertaining twaddle, but twaddle nonetheless.

  7. I'm disappointed in you guys. This really is all true, I promise. And the guy did describe himself as a 'banker'. It was the condescention with which he did so that made me give him the school project line - he looked at me like I was someone who'd probably never heard of hedge funds.

  8. Dandelion, there's no reason he wouldn't say banker. Most people give the simplest possible description of their jobs when they don't really feel like talking.

  9. Also, I don't tend to take my card with me when I don't absolutely need to. I'm bad at not spending money.

    Yes, maybe I was being scammed. I'm pretty sure that someone somewhere has told most homeless people that a convincing story meaning that you need twenty pounds is a good line and amount to ask for. But, yknow what? Even if she needed it for a fix, I don't really mind. Better that than have her withdrawing on a cold March evening. Better twenty quid in her pocket than in the 'banker's' bulging wallet.

    And yeah, give me credit. If I were making it all up in my bedroom, I'd have made up something a little less cliched.

  10. I'm sorry if I pissed you off, Penny Red. Just had suspicions, that's all. Actually, I'm just jealous because you're a better writer than me. Please, don't read that as sarcasm either.

  11. no problem! And, thanks :)

    Also, Vixen? Comment of the week, luv.

  12. Good for you.

    The heartlessness of most people hit me when I realised that in Manchester there are 2.5 million people, and around 400 homeless (according to Lifeline. There are seven according to the government, which tells you everything right there...). Even if that 400 are just those in the city, there's still 440,000 people in the city of Manchester.

    If, on average, people were giving *a quid a week* to homeless people, then the average icome of the homeless people in the city would be more than fifty thousand pounds a year. The fact that it isn't says all you need to know...

  13. Er, your post:

    ‘Excuse me, sir, I hope you don’t mind – I’m doing some research for a school project – but what job do you do?’

    ‘I’m a banker.’

    And your comment:

    And the guy did describe himself as a 'banker'. It was the condescention with which he did so that made me give him the school project line

    Yeah, okay. I'm confused or you are. Let's leave it though, this is hardly stimulating stuff.

    Though why collude with the guy's perception of your naivite in the first place, rather than contradicting it?

  14. "If, on average, people were giving *a quid a week* to homeless people, then the average icome of the homeless people in the city would be more than fifty thousand pounds a year. The fact that it isn't says all you need to know..."

    What, that most people aren't morons?

    We knew that already.

    If everyone in the country gave me a quid a week my income would be 300 million a year.

  15. oppps 3 billion


  16. As a social strategy, this is more like enforced Victorian philanthropy than socialism, though, isn't it? The wealthy being hectored into tossing some crumbs to the 'freezing' and the 'sick' by the well-meaning but ever so slightly patronising and self-congratulatory middle classes? It's a start but it's not a model for wealth redistribution that does the left any favours.

  17. Question: What is the collective noun for a group of bankers?

    Answer: A wunch.

    Think about it! Metathetically!

  18. Generally speaking it seems the attitude towards the homeless is a bigger factor to why they're homeless, than why they ended up in that situation in the first place.

  19. How long is you nose now, Pinocchia?

    You little fibber!

  20. Nice one. Random acts of senseless kindness: big, clever, _and_ funny.

  21. This comment has been removed by the author.

  22. Posie Rider.

    A man bumping into you in the aisle of a train does not constitute sexual assault in the United Kingdom any more than somebody "looking at you in a funny way" could be construed as common assault.

    My professional advice would be to keep taking the bisphosphonates and try to remain calm. Your chances of being molested are really quite low because all men know that only left-wing women are really good shags!

  23. Actually Katie, he grabbed my boob, but I suppose that doesn't count as sexual assault either?

    I don't quite understand the jubilant tone of this post though, it sounds a little to me like the banker was the hero? Perhaps if he'd met Jodie and heard her story he'd have given her more (seeing as he gave you any money at all on the basis of a very unconvincing story). Frankly I'd be a little confused if someone confronted me begging for money for a hypothetical third party who I couldn't even see (Jodie)? Surely all you've done is deny him the glow of charity and the warm sense of having helped out someone in distress - the kind of glow that really could have mended his ways? I expect the entire journey home he was furious at having been scammed by you (having not seen Jodie's grateful tears) and perhaps will be more cautious and distrustful of the 'deserving poor' in the future?

    At university my socialist friend gave his entire first year student loan to homeless people he met in Brighton, meaning he had to lodge rent free in a friend's freezing loft for the rest of the year.

    Honestly Penny, there are cash points in Kings Cross, why not put you money where your morals are?

  24. Actually Katie, he grabbed my boob, but I suppose that doesn't count as sexual assault either?

    Do you mind then, Posie Rider, if I ask why you initially said "nearly sexually assaulted"?

    Having read your blog, I'm convinced that you are, as they say, having a laugh (though not necessarily regarding this event), and thus I regard most of your output as in extremely poor taste. That assessment don't fundamentally change in the event that your are, in fact, deadly seriously, although I'd likely find it much funnier (again, excluding this particular event).

  25. Sorry to hijack your thread Laurie, especially having said some less than complimentary things about your recent post, but I have seen in the past that you have been the subject of misogynist and personal attacks becuase of your writing, and I think the attacks I'm currently undergoing on my blog which FStack refers to are very much directed in the same spirit - especially by the helpful Dionysis who feels I am 'corky' and need a good 'heterosexual rogering'.

    I try to keep the tone light on my blog to make readers comfortable and because I naturally turn to humour to make difficult situations feel more tolerable and perhaps hopeful. I find the moral high ground a difficult space to inhabit. I'm sorry if readers believe I am fake or a man, but really what I can do to make them believe otherwise except to quietly 'go away' I don't know.

    I said 'nearly' because of the response of my fellow travellers, which was lacklustre or amused at best. Most of them laughed and told him he was 'in for it now', and no one tried to intervene or back me up when I confronted the man, who jumped off the train laughing. It reminds me of recent coverage of the Hans Blomberg boob attack on German television. Obviously not 'ok', but bad enough to justify legal action or losing one's job in the eyes of most of the public.

    Perhaps if Laurie had been there to help me clobber him, things would have gone quite differently. My point? Like Hazlitt, I believe that individual interventions and acts do have a positive effect, but cannot be relied upon to encourage meaningful social change.

  26. Posie and others:

    I agree, and I'm just sorry that I've been away from the net so couldn't defend Posie.

    Whether Posie is 'for real' or not does not matter; whether she agrees with me does not matter. I don't want anyone subjected to sexual bullying on this blog, and if Posie feels that that's what's happening, then someone needs to apologise.

    Keep it civilised, guys.

  27. Also, the way you were treated on that tube ride is appalling, and I wish I were more surprised. I have been meaning for a long time to write a post about women's breasts being viewed as public sickens me, it really does.

  28. Huh? What's going on? Who's Posie Rider? Who's been bullying who, sexually or otherwise? When? Where? For what purpose? Can somebody give me the URLs? Is this serious matter or a joke beneath contempt? How long is a piece of string? What is the sound of one hand clapping? Is 10 a solid number? Why does the cosmological constant have the value that it has (is it zero and is it really constant)? Did Lisalotte Tolstrup ever really love me? Oh God... so much to do... so little time...

  29. My God, Penny, you defend Posie from being sexually bullied. Fair enough, if that's what's going on it should stop but you say nothing to her refering to another woman as a tranny prostitute in a previous thread? Where is your consistency?

  30. What you are calling for, Sian, is a will-you-condemn-athon. They always end in tears.

    We've all done or said some crap things in the past - probably most of us will at the very least say some crap things in the future. But none of us deserve to be sexually assaulted, and condemnations of sexual assault do not need to be accompanied by a list of caveats about the victim's past misdemeanours. One reason for this is that life's too short; there are others, though.

    [I'm making the usual exception for Cheney here]

    Chris Williams

  31. Chris Williams: it certainly wouldn't be reasonable for PR to moderate her defence of Posie from unjustifiable acts based on her having said unpleasant things previously. Nobody deserves sexual harassment. But that's not implicit in what S said, which is that Posie should have been challenged at the time that she made vicious transphobic comments.

    If you don't moderate your comments, and come down (rightly) hard on some disgusting language but not others, then the impression is given that the latter cases are OK.

  32. sexual harassment --> sexual assault (obviously, true in both cases, but the situation described is assault)

  33. No I'm not, I'm calling for consistency if this is supposed to be a 'woman friendly' space. Disputing Posie's sexual assualt or wishing one on her is totally not on. But neither is calling some one a tranny prostitute. I merely think the blogmistress should call out all comments or none or reintroduce moderation

  34. Hi, Posie.

    What's a nice girl like you doing on a blog like this?

    Despite your poor opinion of me and with my hand on my heart I can honestly say that I would have defended you, from all manner of harm, if I had been in the carriage when the incident you reported occurred. I would happily have hazarded my life to protect you without thought of reward. Even men like me might possess one or two qualities that you might judge admirable or at least useful when you needed assistance to shield you from the unwelcome attentions of a menacing stranger.

    How sad it is that you spend your days looking for and therefore only seeing darkness in the hearts of men; there's light there too and sometimes it is brilliant.

    The sky has two halves.

  35. Thank you Vermilliona. I think you were more eloquent than me

  36. the way comments work on this blog is: I can either moderate them all, or they all go up and I can't delete them. This will change when I get time to move the blog over to wordpress, but for now I prefer the latter option. For one thing, it's quicker and lets us get a good discussion going.

    I thought that Posie's dubious 'tranny prostitute' comment on an earlier post had already been far enough jumped on. It's not my job to be absolutely even handed in the comments; for one thing, I just don't have time.

  37. Listen gals and guys, Sian,

    I'm really sorry if I've hurt anyone on this blog. If you have a problem with prostitutes or transvestites well I think you need to ask yourself why and remember that we're all beautiful and different.

    I'm sorry and I hope you all sleep well. Posie x

  38. "I used a vicious slur to put down someone, and you object, therefore you are the one with a problem with the people I was unfavourably comparing her to"?

    I call troll.

  39. I can see that, and understand that you have technological constraints, but you're the host - people do pay more attention to what you say and don't than other commentators. Frankly, I don't think discouraging all instances of degrading language counts as being "absolutely even-handed", just basic decent standards (and a couple of people having said "uh, NO" in the previous post hardly counts as jumping on, but anyway).

    At the moment you're letting people piss in your sandbox to no great end, and it's one reason I'm increasingly put off reading.

  40. The problem with suppressing off kilter comments on blogs is that responses to posts end up bland and anodyne and so end up uninteresting.

    A newspaper called "Good News" was founded in the USA because, its proprietors believed, people were tired of reading so much bad news. The bi-weekly refused to publish any bad news and deliberately only printed the good.

    It didn't last very long, however. After just 16 months in operation the paper closed down. The last issue contained the headline "No war declared in 16 weeks".

    If this blog, which I quite enjoy reading and commenting on occasionally, becomes expurgated and bowdlerised I will doubtless lose interest. A debate needs at least two viewpoints. What point would there be in commenting at all if the only comments destined to survive are broadly supportive of and in agreement with the viewpoint of the author?

    While I do personally agree with a lot featured in the Penny Red blog to me, as a man, some of the feminist politics and opinions expressed seem idiosyncratic at best and deranged at worst. The rabid oversensitivity, especially to criticism or insult, exhibited spasmodically by the owner and some of her readership seems unjustified in many cases and even occasionally quite worrying. It makes me wonder what cross section of men randomly crossed the path of some of you feminists to make you so suspicious of and scathing towards the opposite sex. I don't recognise myself as being worthy of such disdain based on my past actions in general or my gender in particular.

    Still, ultimately, it's up to Penny Red to decide policy in respect to whose voice is heard or not heard.

  41. Actually: I'm done with the understanding hand-holding 101 comments, you're an adult and I felt sick with myself for letting this slide. "Tranny prostitute" is NOT 'dubious', it's fucking disgusting language that often functions as a prefix to hate crime, and it makes me sick that you downplay it. I know you're too smart not to get this, so I can't help concluding you don't care as much about trans or SW rights as you do about not frightening the horses and keeping your traffic flowing.

  42. That's brilliant. You should be very proud. However it doesn't make you a socialist. It just means you used your initiative to solve a problem.

    The problem with the Big Issue though is that they don't actually teach the sellers how to sell the magazine. They're still using the sympathy vote tactic. Which just falls on deaf ears in London now.

    I'm waiting for the day that one of them shouts out something like "Find out about Bob Geldoff's latest plan to save Africa". At which point I will walk straight to the cash machine and get a nice crisp £20 note to give to the seller.

  43. Oil on the Water24 March 2009 at 10:29

    @ Vermilliona.

    You are undermining the valid point you have been trying to make by being so outspoken and aggressive.

    Please calm down.

    Thank you.

  44. @ Oil on the Water

    Are you for real? How can the validity of a point possibly be undermined by the manner in which it is expressed?

    Perhaps what you mean is that you are less willing to listen to points expressed in anger. This saddens me, because it means that you will always be ignoring the points that hurt people the most.

  45. Nice post. Shame about the comments, but I liked the post.

    I must take this opportunity to beat the drum for one of my pet Solutions To All Of The Problems In The World: Basic Income. When cadging twenties off London bankers ceases to be enough, we might just need something like that.

  46. Oil on the Water24 March 2009 at 11:25

    @ Library Trainee

    WTF! How dare you message me like that! How bloody damn well dare you! Who the bloody hell do you think you are anyway? Jesus Christ! You make my blood boil! I think your demeanour and choice of words in your comment are outrageous! What bloody well gives you the right to express such a bilious slur against the spotless character of an innocent reader of a blog like this in the public arena? God dammit! Christ! Jesus! Bloody hell!


    People who shout the loudest often have the least worth listening to. Besides, no one can go through life without offending someone. If I eat a ham sandwich I probably offend Muslims, Jews, vegetarians and vegans in one fell swoop: if I champion the cause of industry I will offend ecologists: if I state that a secular humanistic society is something we should aspire to I offend the religious. If I support the abolition of the monarchy I offend the monarchists and little Englanders and so on... and so on... and so on and so forth.

    Argument should be conducted with a clear head, dispassionately. When people get petulant, heated and start shouting and brawling they only end up making themselves look like children having a tantrum and not as a consequence much worth listening to.

    Grow up.

  47. But the language you give as an example is not representative of Vermilliona's. Certainly just going off on one and swearing continually without a coherent point, as per your example is unproductive and pointless.
    Vermilliona swears once, for emphasis, and her point is clearly and vehemently made. Hysteria or Anger ca undermine an argument but vehemency should certainly be allowed.

  48. @ Oil on the Water

    In your example, there is no valid point underneath the anger. This does not, however, mean that there is never a valid point underlying anger.

    The ability to debate these issues clearly and dispassionately is a massive privilege. People whose lives are directly affected by these issues are more likely to respond in anger, so I choose not to let someone's tone stop me engaging with their points.

    You are, of course, free to ignore the opinions of people whose tone does not sit right with you. Perhaps you will also choose to ignore the opinions of people who don't use perfectly grammatical English - it's not like people who've been failed by the education system, or who've never been trained to debate things dispassionately, could ever have valid ponits to make, now is it?

  49. @Truthsayer: A debate needs at least two viewpoints. What point would there be in commenting at all if the only comments destined to survive are broadly supportive of and in agreement with the viewpoint of the author?

    This really isn't the point under discussion. What is being asked for is not that debate not take place, but that any debate be conducted in language not designed to hurt, insult or offend.

  50. I have a sense that I am persona non grata on this thread at the moment, but I just thought that as I have recently written a post on how to make political comments, specifically though the use of satire, it might be of interest. It was based around a recent satirical article in the Irish Times entitled 'Working Women Caused the Credit Crunch', whose author toys with this idea much in the manner of Swift in his 'Modest Proposal'. I found this article offensive because I felt the satire to be directed at feminists rather than sexists (its 'alledged' victim)and to be little better than internet trolling.

    In respect of the previous discussion re: hysteria vs reason, I do have to side with reason and even jest, in the tradition of rhetoric and the arts of persuasion: anyone who has been at the recieving end of didactic theatre will know that an accusative or aggressive tone makes people shut off thought rather than engage. Just look at Mary Wollstonecraft - she was hopping mad about Women's Rights but she wrote a very convincing book without swearing once.

  51. @Posie Rider: Your blog suggests you are a satirical creation of some kind. Please stop getting in the way.

  52. Posie's right. Mary Wollstonecraft actually used a lot of satire in her fiction.

    You could argue, as critics have, that her method of parodied sensibility grounded her arguments in the body and therefore undermined her efforts to convey the complexity of the situation.

    However, from what I can tell Posie's blog approaches these complexities head on using satire, rather than using satire to approach these issues head on like Wollstonecraft.

    Why can't you learn to look behind the comic? Controversy teaches more than dogmatisim: The whole of literature from Rabelais onwards is basically based on that precept.

    Open your eyes.

  53. Oil on the Water24 March 2009 at 14:09

    @ Everyone.

    So are you all saying that we should descend to the late Jade Goody's level of oratory, where he or she who shouts the loudest gets listened to the most? If that is the new consensus I must remember to pay more attention to the beery ramblings and rantings of the hordes of drunken louts I witness urinating and vomiting in urban town centres every weekend.

    I don't even know who Vermilliona is talking about or where her unattributed quotes originate. Is Vermilliona protesting against Posie Rider for insulting the late Marylin Munroe or insults against transsexuals or Penny Red for not moderating her blog? Or does Milli have some other person or people in her sights for saying something out of turn at some point in time? None of this is clear to me. If Vermilliona had expressed herself more cogently I would have better have been able to understand what her grievance was; as it is I'm all at sea as per what the lady is actually raging about.

    How odd. I am appealing that people use self-restraint and behave in a civilised manner when making their points and I end up the one most criticised. It really is a funny old world. Indeed it is.

    Also how can you debate issues without one side hurting or offending the other. For example I am pro-choice as far as abortion is concerned, which, I know from experience, is highly offensive as far as the Catholic Church and pro-lifers are concerned.

    In the real world not everything can always be sweetness and light but at least it can be moderate and civilised.

    As I said before, grow up.

  54. Oil on the water: I see absolutely nothing wrong with Vermiliona's use of language here. You're the one who needs to grow up.

    Posie: I'm increasingly inclined to call troll myself - if you're not one, the best thing you can do is refrain from commenting any more on this thread, as you've made a hash of it so far.

    Vermiliona: There's little I can do to stop people pissing in my sandbox; what I can do is try to call out abuse and misogyny, but that's the limit. My policy on this blog is one of extremely light-touch moderation - that's how I prefer to work.

  55. Oil on the Water24 March 2009 at 15:19

    @ Penny Red

    Sorry Mom.

  56. Judge Dreadlock24 March 2009 at 15:49

    This thread stared out well with a passionate and interesting post followed by some thought provoking comments and then suddenly it went downhill, big time, ending up like a gelid mud wrestling match between a pack of foul mouthed pre-menstrual fishwives.

    Try to do better people.

  57. Laurie, to get back to the original post. I tend to disagree with you more than I agree with you (which is not a slur against your writing and certainly not against your thought process) but in this case well done for making me feel incredibly guilty! Truth be told my not talking to Big Issue sellers and the like stems more from my fear of talking to people I don't know than anything else but still... an entertaining anecdote on how we all can and should do more to help those less fortunate. Thanks.

  58. The game is afoot!

    I smell a rat!

    Well, two actually!

    Firstly, Posie Rider is certainly a fabricated entity created by one or more persons for purposes and reasons unknown. After carefully trawling the internet I can find no evidence to support her existence as a published writer, real person or otherwise. Yet why would any sane person or people go to such elaborate lengths to perpetrate a fraud like this on the internet? Odd but interesting.

    Secondly, people seem to be making multiple comments under different aliases. For example, Library Trainee and Sebastienne share the same identifying icon and I infer from this that they are almost certainly one and the same person. Additionally, inspecting the style of comments in this blog leads me to suspect that Penny Red herself sometimes stoops to comment on her own posts, probably in an attempt to drive home some political or other point that is important to her.

    This is all very iffy as far as I am concerned and I am very disappointed to witness such shikanery on a blog like this. Consequently I have decided to refer this matter to the Thought Police.

    I rate this disgraceful and wanton behaviour Doubleplusungood.

  59. Emmanuel Goldstein25 March 2009 at 08:59

    @O'Brian: shikanery

    It's 'chicanery' :) Let's remember what the important issues are here.

  60. @ Emmanuel Goldstein

    Thank you for your goodthinkful comment. The word "chicanery" is an artefact, my dear Emmanuel, from the degenerate epoch of oldthink that preceded Ingsoc. I was using contemporary "street speak" vocabulary, itself a variant of newspeak, in my revelatory comment.

    Shikanery: Urban Dictionary

    As you rightly pointed out language is the dayorder and I admonish you to upsub and be wary in future of the prolefeed on your telescreen.

    I wish you much goodsex :)

  61. Emmanuel Goldstein25 March 2009 at 11:21


    Smartarse :)

    We have always been at war with Urban Dictionary.

  62. babes, I'm not at all convinced you handled the banker thing correctly. You can't go around begging at stations becuase you think someone is better off or could use the money better then someone else. Its really impolite and yes you are small and cute but that doesn't mean that the man wouldn't have felt bullied by you. You may have had the best intentions but if you want to do charity you should give from yourself don't expect others to give for you. In this case this would mean going to the exceptional hassle of tellign the girl to wait there, goign home, collecting your bank card, withdrawing 20 quid and returning.

    Whether or not the banker could feel the loss of 20 quid more easily then you isn't really relevant. For example that 20 quid got the girl a night in a hostel and some food. Would I be justified on jumping on her in a station and bullying her into giving that 20 quid to me so I can give it to a little girl I know in India where 20 quid would pay for her food for a year and her school fees. (not an exageration)

    You don't get to decide how other people should spend their money and you are not justified in behaving in a, in the first place deceitful and in the second place aggressive and bullying manner to get money out of people, even if its for a cause that you personally judge to be more important then whatever purpose that man might have chosen to spend his money on.


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