Black day as EU fools with place names
April 2, 2005 9:52 AM   Subscribe

The Scotsman's contribution to April Fool's yesterday was a satirical bit on Political Correctness: "European bureaucrats will push forward legislation today to force the Scottish Executive to change place-names that offend or discriminate on the grounds of race and gender. The commissioners in Brussels have demanded 'race and gender-sensitive' names found for towns such as Motherwell, Blackburn, Helensburgh, Fort William, Campbeltown, Peterhead, Lewis and Fraserburgh be changed."
posted by jenleigh (16 comments total)
Actually I wouldn't be surprised that this will happen some day. The whole PC mania sometimes is just redicules. But we have way too many rules here in Europe, like regulating the proper size and shape of banana's etc.
posted by homodigitalis at 9:59 AM on April 2, 2005

Some weak tea there -- it really scrounges at Campbelltown for example: if being based on a surname were offensive half the placenames on earth would go. This is the kind of thin "joke" created by people who like to get outraged at the real thing but can't find enough examples to suit them. A straw man dressed up as a poor April Fool joke, look for this to be cited as fact by ill-informed axe-grinders for years to come.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:35 AM on April 2, 2005

I don't find PC advocates half as ridiculous as those who constantly feel the need to fear-monger about them.
posted by clevershark at 10:45 AM on April 2, 2005

Surprise, surprise, an utterly Europhobic British newspaper chooses an April Fool joke that puts "Brussels" in a bad light.
Well, at least it was published on April 1st. Because in the British press, fake stories about non-existing silly EU regulations don't seem to be limited to that day (e.g., that old "bent banana" chestnut, homodigitalis).
Now, who's the fool?
posted by Skeptic at 10:49 AM on April 2, 2005

Oke, the banana might be a urban (european) legend (yes, I am a fool), but we do have way to many regulations/definitions for stuff.

As much as I am a big fan of the European idea, I despise the growing flood of laws and bürokratie from Brussel.

For the 'normal' european citizen the EU could do much more - instead of financing weird pet projects and doing ever more regulations.

We spent over 40 Billion Euro on farm subsidies - so we consumers pay twice for our cabbage & sausages - once in tax and once at the counter.

So yes - the banana is a EU myth - but thousands of other regulations are not.
posted by homodigitalis at 11:06 AM on April 2, 2005

Has anyone used the phrase "politically correct" in a serious way since about 1992? Is there any movement anywhere that could legitimately classified as for "political correctness," if it's understood to be extreme sensitivity to any conceivable hurt feeling? Do any of these movements have any substantial political support in any region or country, other than Berkeley?

I am of the view that PC is nothing more than name-calling without content, a straw man. Someone once told me that a friend who took offense at overtly racist jokes was just being "PC." But it is not merely the hypersensitive who object to racism and use of the N-word.
posted by ibmcginty at 11:11 AM on April 2, 2005

Moby played a similar joke on the folks at ContactMusic yesterday:

Dance star MOBY refuses to indulge in the popular rock 'n' roll pastime of hosting hotel room parties - because he hates leaving a mess for the "poor migrant" cleaners.

The GO musician admits he's overcome with guilt whenever he allows carefree revellers entry to his hotel room, especially when he considers the extra work staff will be faced with for no additional money.

He says, "It's difficult for me to have big, debauched parties in hotel rooms because I know that some poor migrant worker from Somalia is going to have to come in and clean up.

"I leave money in my room when I check out, too - people who are tidying rooms are not exactly on the upper end of the socio-economic ladder and they might need all the help they can get."
posted by dhoyt at 11:32 AM on April 2, 2005

I don't find PC advocates half as ridiculous as those who constantly feel the need to fear-monger about them.

Alright I give you a nice example.

In Germany we are currently a new Anti-Discrimination law which is very PC and very 'modern' in same way. One of the major aspects and current discussions is - that german society put old people to quick out of work and regards them no longer as active members of society.

But why are so many old and experienced workers cast aside?

Well, since the early seventies the government and companies supported social plans that emphasized 'retiring' perfectly capable older workers (45+) instead of sending them into unemployment. Advantage for the big companies was that they didn't need to fire so many people - since early retirement sounded much better. And the Government loved it, because it kept unemployment figures low.

Overall it set the tone till today: if you are old you better retire instead of hanging around the job market where nobody wants you anyway.

So was that a form of discrimination that was politically incorrect? Nope. It was a matter of political convinience and number play. It was actually prefering older people, showering them with gifts from younger people's purses they didn't deserve just yet.

So now this Anti-Discrimination law wants society to treat older people again normal - but that is only on the surface. There is simply no money left around here to pay for hordes or perfectly capable pensioners. With 5 million unemployed and many more 'useable' pensioners the system is under a heavy burden.

This example - like many more of so called political correctness acts - are not based on real political incorrectness - but by pure political wordplay and distortion.

Let me dive into another aspect of political correctness that is currently bothering Europe: the problem of muslim integration (especially in context to the murder of the dutch director Van Gogh, as well as 9/11 and the ascention of Turkey to join the EU).

Europe overall has been very open about immigrants, countries like the UK, Germany, Sweden, Netherland, France and many others have always opened their arms and payed up for immigrants.

Several aspects played a role here. In Germany especially the bad karma of the third Reich - that is why germans tried to be extra tolerant and open. Countries like Britain, France and the Netherlands had strong colonial ties and allowed many former Colonies extra contigents to move in. And there is the usual economic aspects: immigrants were either invited to help the economic boom (like in Germany the Gastarbeiter) or because people sneaked in to lead a better live.

Many muslims here in Europe come from especially poor or depressed areas of their countries, like Anatolia in Turkey or Marocco. Often they have created over the decades societies within societies (very different from true immigration in the US). In some way the muslims in Europe never made any changes like modern Turks did. There are many families out there, where hardly anyone speaks a proper french, dutch or german, even after 30 or more years or integration.

Even second and third generation immigrants hardly cross over to be 'normal' citizens of their host countries, but rather stick to their shadow societies that are hardly up to date to the developments of their home countries.

Europe tried and still tries to treat these people politically correct, pays for their integration, offers special classes (in some schools in Germany there are less german kids but immigrants), allow extra space for non-chistian religions and ignored extremism for a long time (like the PKK in Germany, radical muslims in the UK and France). Europe even generously financed the occupied sections of the palestinians and many developing muslim countries.

Overall very political correct and even willing to compromise.

But overall most muslims immigrant didn't give a shit about it. They simply kept to themselves and their shadow societies. In most cases even so called 'moderate' immigrants despise their host countries, their language and their cultures. Even second generation muslims won't let their kids marry anyone outside their culture or belief system ... now that's not political correct either.

Political correctness overall has one very big flaw: just because you have laws and rules to 'correct' bad for some discriminated 'group' doesn't mean that this group will join or even appreciate the effort.

So please give me a break about people like myself who complain about political correctness - because pc in itself ain't perfect and sometimes there are things to complain about.

FYI: I would consider myself very much a green/left orientated person. I spent over 20 years in a trade union and I am still supporting activly many liberal groups.
posted by homodigitalis at 11:32 AM on April 2, 2005

Did anyone hear the All Things Considered bit on exploding maple trees in Vermont that, left untapped, decapitate and maim about 100 people a year?

Very funny bit. I was just tired enough on a Friday afternoon to believe it for about 45 seconds.
posted by bardic at 12:04 PM on April 2, 2005

homodigitalis, whenever I hear a European whine about immigrants and how non-white they act, I can't help but remember that most european countries got disgustingly, filthy rich by brutally exploiting these immigrants' places of origin, through slavery, genocide, cultural hegemony and other forms of colonialism, and think to myself "karma's a bitch, huh?".
posted by signal at 3:52 PM on April 2, 2005

homodigitalis please stop the whining about both "Brussels" and the immigrants. The EU has to dedicate most of its budget to agricultural subsidies, because that's what the governments of the member countries tell it to do. And even when Germany has requested such EU subsidies to be reduced, it was to substitute them with national subsidies. No national government wants to confront the farm lobby head on, and "Brussels" is merely a useful scapegoat in this matter.

As for immigration, I can only laugh when I hear you say that any country "tried extra hard to be open". What does "Gastarbeiter" mean after all? "Guest worker". Immigrants were invited to come, do their work, and please leave again as soon as they ceased to be productive. Are you surprised then that they didn't integrate? Are you surprised that second and third generation immigrants still don't integrate when they are still refused German citizenship?

I have the experience of having lived as a foreigner in Belgium, Holland and Germany. Moreover, I'm dark-skinned enough to be mistaken for an Arab or Turk. And let me tell you that your tales of political correctness are total horseshit. There's blatant discrimination and blatant racism and it shouldn't take a Günther Wallraff to find that out.

But fine, keep looking for scapegoats. That's at least something we in Europe are very good at, instead of picking our shit together, start working, stop protecting special interests (farmers, big business cartels and even your beloved trade unions) and do something for the future instead of complaining of how things were better before.
posted by Skeptic at 4:24 PM on April 2, 2005

Countries like Britain, France and the Netherlands had strong colonial ties...
That's such a lovely euphemism for "brutally pillaged, enslaved and massacred", don't you think?
posted by signal at 4:33 PM on April 2, 2005

@Skeptic: I am whinning about the typical Bürokrats and waste in any big system. No system is perfect. Am I not allowed to critisize something I still thing is a great idea?

Are you surprised that second and third generation immigrants still don't integrate when they are still refused German citizenship?

Sorry that assumption is wrong (to my knowledge): Anyone born in Germany can get the german citizenship.

On the subject of discrimination: have I ever denied that racism and other ugly things exist in Europe or Germany?! Of course there are skinheads all over Europe (and xenophobic people are everywhere - it's not an European invention). But ignorance 'grows' on both sides.

And where did I say it was all better before?! I am not looking for scapegoats (maybe you are?) - I am looking at a process I can see around me and see that some stuff simply didn't work out as people hoped for. Oke, let's identify the problems and improve the social development.

Let me rephrase my point from a different perspective: many Germans tried to be pc without being really capable of doing so. So they gave the job of integrating foreigners/immigrant to the government - and the government simply threw money at it. There was only little progress and lots of waste. Instead of integration we (and I include myself as a responsible citizen) grew separation.

Many 'natives' envied the money and social support 'these foreigners' get. This created a lot of discontent instead of integration.

I am hoping/looking for integration that works in 'both' sides. So yes, I am looking into the future - but first I want to learn from the past.
posted by homodigitalis at 5:39 PM on April 2, 2005

Glad to see some voices around here other than from the US/Canada/UK/Antipodes part of the world.
posted by mono blanco at 7:18 PM on April 2, 2005

homo digitalis Blaming the "bureaucrats" is mostly wrong in this case. It's the elected politicians who should carry most of the blame, and us voters who don't take the trouble to bring them to task when they try to blame "Brussels" for their own unpopular decisions. The media who can't get a grasp of how the EU works or of its most technical legislation also have a heavy responsability.

Re. immigration, I think that you do indeed come much closer to the mark when you say that many Germans (but also Europeans in other countries) tried to be pc without being really capable of doing so, and passed on the job to the government. When I speak of discrimination and racism, I don't mean the skinheads, who are just a stupid, minute minority. I mean everyday discrimination by "normal people". I mean petty harassment in the street, sometimes by police. I mean people with "exotic" names or accents being told that a flat has *just* been rented or that they are not quite what was being searched for a certain job. I mean not being able to get a bloody dentist, "because your teeth haven't been properly checked in the past". Never mind slogans like "Kinder statt Inder". The trouble is, if society consistently treats somebody like a criminal, it shouldn't be surprised if he ends acting like a criminal. After all, what has he to lose? If people could spend just one day in an immigrant's skin, this debate would be a lot more muted.

Of course immigrants aren't angels either! And the rosy-tinted paternalism of the PC brigade is, at the end, nearly as racist as any swastika-wielding skinhead. Because it refuses to see immigrants as fellow people, with their virtues but also, crucially, their flaws!

But lately, who remains in the PC camp? Because they seem really silent since a couple of years, unlike those who try to pin the blame of almost every fault in modern European society on immigration.
posted by Skeptic at 1:14 AM on April 3, 2005

Moby played a similar joke on the folks at ContactMusic yesterday:

hah! keeping up with the daily doings of Moby!

is there anything gayer?
posted by Hat Maui at 1:12 PM on April 3, 2005

« Older Halftime Show Of Slow   |   I LOVE SHREDDED WHEAT Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments