The Killing – an example of TV’s fear of showing intelligence

I missed The Killing the first time it was aired in Britain, which was a silly thing to do. I’ve been watching it over the past few days, and I’m absolutely blown away. I don’t watch a whole lot of TV for the simple reason that it’s mostly a load of toss. As a result, I’m often slightly late to get into some of the fantastic shows that have been produced in the past few years. Band Of Brothers, The Sopranos, The Wire, The Thick of It, The Inbetweeners (I don’t see any incongruity here, it’s a fantastically well-written load of bollocks) and many more; all shows which I’ve only got into once they sold out and stopped writing songs for their real fans. Er, I mean, I’ve only found them after the Guardian or Charlie Brooker (often both, often together) told me I should see them.

The Killing (judging purely from the seven episodes I’ve seen so far) deserves the hype. Frankly, it deserves a lot more hype, as I’m sure that it’s still not getting the viewing figures that it deserves. Quite why shows of this calibre aren’t given as much publicity as they deserve is a mystery to me – TV executives must presumably live in fear of being widely and publicly denounced as boffin twats, or possibly massive gays, and therefore try to put as little intelligent programming on as possible. The BBC tries its best, but still tries to look hard in front of it’s mates, and therefore The Killing, which so far is one of the most masterfully written pieces of art I’ve ever encountered, is tucked away on BBC4 at 10PM, and I bet barely anybody will see it. The BBC is hiding its poetry books in case anybody takes the piss. It should instead be proud to have shows like this on the BBC1 schedule. Perhaps one of the reasons it’s tucked away on BBC4 is that somebody at the BBC really wants to show it, but a lot of other people there are worried that it puts most British drama to shame?

It does.

Justice carries a sword, but even that must be perfectly balanced

What is to be done with the rioters and looters? Many are asking this question, and I fear that the answers are being reached too quickly, without due consideration. The courts are handing out sentences at an astonishing rate – the Guardian reports that ’56 defendants of the 80 who have already been sentenced by magistrates were given immediate prison terms. This 70% rate of imprisonment compares with a “normal” rate of just 2% in magistrates courts.’ There is talk of cessation of benefits and eviction. Theresa May recently told the police that, in future, they need not worry about taking stronger measures on the basis of individual judgement – she will never ‘damn you if you do.’ While I don’t believe that the police in Britain are about to descend upon us all with batons aloft, such a statement makes me twinge.

Police on the beat

It isn’t just because I’m a simpering lefty that the idea of retributive punishment worries me; nor do I find such vague assertions as May’s troublesome merely because I’m an English graduate. The idea that stopping benefit payments to those caught and evicting them from their homes serves justice is absolutely ridiculous. It is plainly not a just punishment. And such vague statements as May’s are dangerous, in that their consequences are too often not considered at all – just as the consequences of draconian punishments are not being considered. One of the fundamental tenets of our justice system is (in theory, if not in practice) that it is rehabilitative, not retributive. Indeed, it is the basic principle behind the very idea of justice. A just punishment does not serve to further seperate the offender from the rehabilitation that he or she needs, and that society demands.

Recent reports suggest that 90% of those involved in looting come from that section of society that has almost nothing to begin with. A few stupid, flashy purchases like an expensve phone, or overpriced name-brand clothes do not neccesarily mean that somebody living on a council estate lives like a prince at the expense of the taxpayer – it only shows that the person in question is extremely bad at spending money wisely. While there are indeed a good many people who are taking liberties with the welfare state, there are far more who are simply so far removed from sensible values that they consider getting ‘next level phone’ and £30 boxers with some dickhead’s name on the waistband to be the most important part of their lives. This is unquestionably due (at least in part) to the ridiculous obsession that modern societies have with overt status symbol – as if true respect can be bought, not earned.

Writing plainly, there are a lot of prats in Britain, and they were out in full force during those stupid days of looting. If one person is a prat, then it may not be the fault of society. When so many of people, numbering thousands upon thousands (not just the looters; there are prats all over the bloody place) are a bunch of prats, then certainly the general society must shoulder some of the blame. We must assess the society and culture which allowed such misplaced values to arise on such a mass scale.I use the word ‘prats’ not completely pejoratively – rather, I hope that it serves as a far more sympathetic alternative to ‘cunts’, which I feel is the first epithet that springs to many minds when we consider recent events.

Did the Bullingdon Club loot Birmingham?

‘Cunts’ would be an expression chosen out of rage, and would serve only to express my anger – not to assess the situation with any objectivity. Prat may still be a subjective noun, but it is still, I feel, a fair (if perhaps a trifle vitriolic) choice. The greatest portion of society, I feel, would agree that a small amount of anger is understandable – but would also concur that the angry hand of justice must not strike out of rage,and nor can justice enraged speak. The hand must hold the scales in balance, and the words of true justice exist only with this balance in mind.

When society is aggrieved, then the offenders must be punished if justice is to be served. It is not justice, however, if we seek blood. If our society is injured, then it does us no benefit if we inflict deeper wounds through rash words and deeds. Sometimes the surgeon needs a needle and thread, not the scalpel.

Britain Needs Sweet Things


Tariq Jahan

Tariq Jahan is an inspiration to us all. If there is one man in Birmingham who could have been justified in an outburst of rage at recent events, surely it is him – the tragically bereaved father of two young men so needlessly killed during the chaos of the early week. Instead of succumbing to rage, he has helped to calm the city. It is not too much of a stretch of the imagination to assume that his words played a part in quelling a (potentially racial) conflict that could have wrought untold destruction on our city. So powerful and heartfelt were his words that even the certifiable fuckwit running the Neo-Nazi Stormfront Twitter account (click here for up-to-the-minute, Web 2.0 bigotry) applauded him, saying ‘The old boy who lost his son in Brum is a legend. Asian or not. That’s a proper man.’ When a Muslim’s words are supported even by a mental fascist, who would in any other circumstance speak only of him in terms not worth typing, then we can easily see that the guy has got to the heart of the matter. Tariq Jahan has articulated what everybody with even the smallest grain of sense is feeling – and has asked us the mother of all questions, the one that must be answered in the days, weeks, months, and years to follow: why?


Birmingham riots

These are depressing times for Birmingham. Barely a single person in Birmingham could have predicted the extent of the damage caused over the past few days – damage not just caused to shops and businesses, not just to individuals tragically caught up in the unfortunate and shocking events (my heart goes out, as I’m sure do the hearts of all the sane amongst us, to the family and friends of those 3 individuals who were injured, two of whom fatally, during a brawl on Dudley Road), but to the social psyche of Birmingham. Let us not allow this chaos, this madness, to further divide our city. This is no longer, if it ever truly was, a protest about politics, or class, or race. These are attacks upon our city, upon our country, upon our society – all of us together. White, black, brown – these things should be irrelevant to us. My heart is warmed by reports of Sikhs and Muslims standing together in the north of our city to defend their homes, businesses, and places of worship, against the – and I fear there is no weaker term available – thieving little bastards who are currently running amok.

I cannot, in general, condone violence – but I can and will condone the necessary use of force in order to protect ones family, friends, and community. The north of Birmingham currently seems like a dangerous area to be in, – in the past few hours, the aforementioned incident on Dudley Rd occured, as well as reports of a shot fired at a police officer. I implore the residents of these areas to stay safe, and not to put themselves in any danger – but at the same time, I feel that those who stand together against those who would attack their community deserve undying praise. We are only strong if we are together. Please, do not put yourselves in any danger – stay indoors if at all possible, and keep in regular contact with people. Call the police if anything happens. I merely wish to offer my support for those who are unfortunate enough to have been forced to defend themselves over these nights, and a hope that this solidarity will continue and, together with police work, end swiftly these unneccesary events.

The individuals in the police force deserve credit – they are doing a tough job, and deserve credit for their bravery. To see such scenes on home turf is as distressing for them as for any other resident of this city – this is our home. However, their resources appear to be stretched thin. Politicians and the media seem mostly to focus on London, as if it were the only area currently experiencing problems. It is not. There is always a media and political bias in favour of London in our country, but surely now of all times our elected leaders must realise that the wellbeing of every affected area is of equal import, and not treat the problems outside of London as if they happened in a different country?

Finally, I must praise the work of both Sangat TV, a local Sikh-focused station in Birmingham, which has provided tireless coverage and calls for calm over these past fews days, and @CaseyRain, whose blog has provided me and countless other Brummies with information over the past few days. These 2 outlets combined have been far more informative and useful than the entirety of the mainstream media, and deserve credit and praise for their work.

Kaliningrad Zoo

Videos in this post may not be pleasant/safe for work.

On a recent trip to Kaliningrad, I paid a visit to the city zoo.  To say that Kaliningrad Zoo shocked me doesn’t cover the emotion that I felt. I can lay no claim to expertise in animal welfare or conservation, and so therefore cannot write with any true authority upon the matter, but I feel the necessity of sharing what I saw there. Let me state first that I do not accuse the staff of Kaliningrad Zoo of anything; nor do I presume that I am so perceptive as to fully understand the normal working conditions of a zoo, or any of the needs of the animals. I have been informed that similar conditions are to be found in British zoos (whether this is true or not, I cannot truthfully say) – a claim which shocked me further, as to think that such conditions which I considered to be abhorrent are standard for zoos and expected as normal either betrays a deeper level of ignorance on my part, or shows that zoos still do not live up to the childhood myth.

Kaliningrad Zoo is not the most miserable place on earth. In no way do I wish to imply any wilful mistreatment or neglect of the animals under the care of the staff of the zoo. From my understanding, the staff there have long struggled against financial problems, and have on occasion had to resort to feeding the animals out of their own cupboards. For this nobility and dedication to the care of their animals, they deserve applause. Fortunately, in recent years, the zoo has recieved sponsorship from various companies, which has gone some way to help with their financial problems – although exactly how far, I cannot say. Others have noted poor conditions there –  for example, an elephant at the zoo, Pregolja, was briefly the subject of international attention when news of her cramped living conditions became widely known. An appeal was launched for her removal from the zoo, but to no avail. I don’t know whether conditions are the same now as then (certainly, a further public appeal for aid proved fruitful), but they still don’t look pleasant.

Again, I must reiterate that I could be mistaken about things – but, I must say, the zoo really shocked and disturbed me. Maybe I’m soft, but seeing animals in such conditions isn’t pleasant to me in the slightest. When I saw the bears standing, waving, and posing for the crowd, I couldn’t help but wonder whether the animals (so many of which approach anybody who stands near their cage) have been conditioned so that they are not, in fact, any longer the noble beasts of the wild – but are now broken and degraded examples of their respective species, no more representative of their species than an animatronic puppet would be.

Bears Fighting

Finally, I must discuss the birds at the zoo. .The cages are far too small. This video will show it more concisely than I shall be able to write.

Bird Cages

Birds, in general, fly. A small number lack this gift, but for the most part, avialae are characterised by their mastery of the air. A bird denied flight is as a writer denied words – a situation so ridiculous that it defies sane comprehension. Freedom of mobility characterises birds more perhaps than any other type of animal, even free roaming fish of the sea – a pelican may swoop, dive, and return to the sky, but his piscine quarry gains the freedom of the air only in the cage of the avian mouth. Yet, it is considered normal for us to cage birds, to imprison them – to deny them their evolutionary birthright. Surely part of the magic of seeing animals in the flesh is the sense, no matter how small, that these animals are getting on with their day-to-day business with the minimum of disruption from their surroundings and captors? That we are, in some small way, seeing, and perhaps understanding these animals in a way that we just can’t experience through pictures and words? In a way that is lost completely to us, when this is how we see them? I do not propose that we do away wth zoos – but perhaps they should be designed and run in ways that suit the animals more, so that we in turn may better experience them.