The Guardian

The Guardian March 29, 2000


Culture and Life

by Rob Gowland

Up the Republic!

Did you see the interviews on television with those poor clowns who fly 
out from Britain to whatever country the queen is visiting so they can wave 
their Union Jacks among the spectators? What sad little lives they must 
lead.

They have swallowed the whole royal image thing so completely that, like 
royal groupies, they follow a late-middle-aged woman around the world, so 
they can cheer whenever she drives past.

And who is the object of their adoration? A woman who has never done 
anything remarkable in her whole life. Think of all the women in the world 
who have contributed to the advancement of the human race and human 
society. Elizabeth II is not one of them.

If this royal gaggle followed and cheered one of these women it could 
perhaps be understandable. But to traipse around the world just for the 
chance to obeise yourself before someone whose only claim to fame is that 
her family's inherited wealth, when skilfully augmented from the public 
purse, has increased until she has more of it than any other woman, seems 
to indicate a tragic lack of self respect.

* * *
Governor Bush standing on his record
Internet correspondent Dave Hartley forwards this interesting little item about US presidential contender on behalf of the Republican right, George W Bush. Out of all the US states, Texas where Bush is governor is ranked: 50th in spending for teachers' salaries; 49th in spending on the environment; 48th in per-capita funding for public health; 47th in delivery of social services; 42nd in child-support collections and 41st in per-capita spending on public education. Looked at another way, it's: 5th in percentage of population living in poverty; 1st in air and water pollution; 1st in percentage of poor working parents without insurance; 1st in percentage of children without health insurance and 1st in executions (average one every two weeks for Bush's five years as governor). Just think of what he could do for the country if he were president!
* * *
But will they be called "Guv"?
China, anxious to improve the quality of its police force, has had in place for a couple of years now an exchange scheme with Britain, whereby China's People's Security University, which trains the country's 1.2 million senior police officers, sends small numbers of officers for short courses at the National Police College at Bramshill, Hampshire, or the Scottish Police College near Stirling. So far, some "20 Chinese police chiefs" (according to the Independent) have received training at one or other of these two institutions on community policing and management techniques. It's been a two-way street: British police officers have also gone to China to study Chinese policing techniques. Not exactly controversial, I would have thought. But it has brought harsh criticism from both the left and the right. Right-wing critics in Britain, especially in the Tory party, are aghast: it seems British police are sullying their record by associating with the Chinese police, who are apparently little better than cannibals (accusations of torture and sale of human organs abound). As usual, the demand is made that co-operation must be conditional on China adopting changes to its internal affairs dictated by Britain (or the West). From the left comes the vaguely expressed concern that for China's socialist police officers to attend an imperialist police academy is but further proof of China's drift towards capitalism. Chinese officers returning from Britain will apparently be well versed in stitching up accused persons and intimidating witnesses, as well as covering up racism and the killing of members of racial minorities. The view seems to be that a bourgeois institution can have nothing worthwhile to teach us and will only warp our views and out judgement. If that were the case, no communist should go to school or university under capitalism. Britain's police forces are still regarded as among the best organised and best trained in the world. Exchanging senior officers with them for relatively short study periods is neither illogical nor evidence of political deviation. It's actually quite sensible, which is probably the real reason the Tories are so upset that it's going ahead. While the so-called "left" critics have yet to learn that the earth isn't flat.
* * *
So there!
Austria's premier literary award to promising new writers is the Ingeborg Bachmann prize. The annual award is named after one of the country's most famous poets. Until now it has been financially supported to the tune of 120,000 Austrian schillings by the state government of Carinthia. But Carinthia is currently run by Jorg Haider's neo-fascist Freedom Party (FPO). When the Freedom Party became part of the ruling coalition in Austria in a deal with the conservative People's Party (OVP), the move outraged the arts community in Austria. Bachmann's sister announced that his name could no longer be used in connection with the annual award. Haider reacted in the spoilt child manner of your typical fascist goon, for all his pretense of a veneer of culture: he promptly withdrew all financial support (no matter who the award was named after) and added the peevish comment that award giving "was on the way out and sterile".

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