July 26th, 2003


Extra material

We finished watching QAF season one this evening and decided that we did not have time to watch the feature length QAF2 - so we watched the featurette, which was kind of likable and sweet. On the whole.

What it did have that was less pleasing was some of the stuff from Right To Reply with Angela Mason of Stonewall -UK gay rights organization, very middle of the road, sort of thing whose directors get decorations when they pack it in - denouncing QAF as unrepresentative of gay life and perpetrating heterosexist myths of gay behaviour. Along with some little acolyte who claimed to be speaking for all young gay men everywhere or at least him and his mates, or something.

OK context. Angela Mason was worried that the underage sex plot might get used against lowering the age of consent to 16. Whereas of course the whole point about the Nathan plot is that it dramatizes the issue that any age of consent is liable to be arbitrary for some people.

She also claimed that no young gay men have sex with older men - which is absurd. Of course some young gay men have sex with older men and some of them even do so because they find older men attractive.

One of the problems though with getting involved in political activism and community rights is that you get concerned with how things will play. Stonewall was at the time cosying up to New Labour and it was predictable that Angela Mason would want to promote a sanitized version of queer life that was not going to upset anyone.

I remember just after the 97 election going along to a meeting of the Lesbian and Gay Lawyers wearing my Liberty hat and my trans hat - so that was what the dream I had the other night about wearing all those hats held together by stings was about, but I digress - and Angela Mason was doing a panel about the consequences of New Labour.

So I asked 'Hmmm. Lots of New Labour communitarian stuff going on about no rights without responsibilities. New Labour have promised LGBT a whole bunch of rights. What responsibilities are they going to demand of us in return?' Angela got quite waxy about asking questions that rocked boats, so I guess I was on the money there.

Glad as I am to see partnerships recognized and birth certificates changed and Clause 28 abolished, I do worry that the price tag attached in the minds of some New Labour pols, and possibly their allies in the community, is that we all start behaving like very cleancut little boys and girls. Like an LGBT version of 1950s suburbia, where we date for a bit and find nice little partnerships in nice little houses and no-one goes out every night clubbing and shagging.

I may be a sad middle-aged person who sits at home on the net these days, but I went on clubbing into my forties and do not regret a night of it. And I was irresponsible and had inappropriate relationships - and still would given half the chance - and I hate the idea that tolerance of diversity actually means tolerance of people who have blanded out all their rough edges.

This is no more what we fought for back in early GLF days than is the more plastic side of the commerical scene. And yes, I will march tomorrow at Pride and no, I don't pay to go to Pride festivals. I have been on so many Pride marches I lost touch, so I really am not going to pay money for what was free for decades.

The other thing I hate about Angela Mason's behaviour - and this is someone whom on the whole I approve of, and admire - and round whose kitchen table I have sat plotting with her partner - is the assumption that art that comes out of a community has to suit that community's politicians' perception of their political goals and needs. Which is an idea that sucks, majorly.

QAF was one of the best pieces of commercial queer art in recent years - I am stunned by how good it was, coming to it fresh after hardly noticing it at the time. It is a sin and a shame that Stonewall decided to go all Political Commissar on it.

Pirate Morality

Dead men tell no tales...

It does not appear that Uday and Qusay Hussein were ever given the option of surrendering to the US troops who stormed their villa, though it is far from clear that they would have taken it. The record of lynch mobs tearing people into tiny little scraps is as much a feature of Baghdad as elsewhere and there are worse things than dying of gunshot wounds.

Nonetheless, and even accepting that the Hussein brothers might have shot anyone approaching them under a flag of truce and that trying to negotiate a surrender might have cost US lives, I feel strongly that the attempt should have been made. Not for the sake of the Hussein brothers, or even that of the 14-year old son who died with his father, but for the sake of civilized and humane values.

Would I have given Hitler a chance to surrender? And face trial? Churchill favoured summary execution of the Nazi leadership, but in practice it was decided that arrest followed by trial was appropriate. It is fashionable to decry the Nuremburg trials as victor's justice - and the presence among the judges of Soviet figures with their own bloody hands is an argument for that - but they pass one of the major tests of the fairness of trials which is that some people were acquitted and others got lighter sentences.

Hjalmar Schacht was tried for running the German economy in the years leading up to the war and was acquitted on all charges because he could prove that he opposed both the anti-semitic measures and the preparations for war - on economic as much as moral grounds - and in due course resigned and went to jail for his opposition. An unpleasant right-winger in all sorts of ways, but not a Nazi and someone who almost certainly deserved acquittal - there are probably Iraqi equivalents.

And then there was Speer - Speer was far worse than he tried to claim he had been in his memoirs and interviews and yet the decision to sentence him to a long jail stretch was probably pragmatically justified. Speer was given direct orders by Hitler in the last weeks of the war to wreck a Germany which had proved itself unworthy of the Fuhrer and deserved worse than the Allies were planning for it. Had he obeyed those orders, not only Germany, but much of Europe, would have starved that winter. Thirty years was hardly a slap on the wrist, and it was important to establish the idea that even a serious accomplice like Speer could buy his way off the gallows.

I cannot imagine that Uday and Qusay had anything to offer - on the other hand, they did know an awful lot. About, for example, the dealings of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld and the US State Department with their father, as well as about WMDs. Alive, they could say some embarrassing things, many of them true.

And dead men tell no tales...

Anyone care to bet that their father will not be shot trying to escape? I only bet on certainties.