I post this in breach of promise to write about the Ann Wilson’s whistle interrogation technique, which I will put right next time.
Did I tell you we had a radio? Sladski (our new name for Sweet & Sour) got it for us in a moment of magnanimity during his recent Leonine Era. It sounds great, doesn’t it? But would it surprise you to learn that it’s used as an instrument of torture? We listen to it all the time, and so the batteries constantly run out. They are renewed only if we have been deemed to have behaved in a cooperative manner. Well, lately a couple of things off of the radio have given us plenty of material with which we fill the empty hours that follows a battery failure.
One of them is Prince Harry, and amongst other things, his ideas about confirmation bias, and what was once called casual (or institutionalised) racism. It is very easy to understand confirmation bias. Once, when I was skiing in Austria I was talking to a Norwegian bloke in the bar, après-ski – he was a bit rough, like Philip Seymour Hoffman in The Talented Mr. Ripley, but he was OK. Anyway, whilst we were having a drink, I spotted these two Swedish men approaching, who I’d met the day before, and I said to him, “I’ll introduce you; these boys are from Sweden.”
He replied, “Don’t bother. I fucking hate Swedes.”
To which I replied, “Oh, sorry, they just seemed nice. That’s all.”
They were actually. When he went, they came and talked to me, and before long, they asked, “Hey Dickie, would you like to come with us to our room?”
I didn’t really understand what they meant, until the taller one turned to look at me, not quite winking, but with this sort of fruity smile on his face. Of course, now I could say something like “Oh thanks, but I’ve just changed me pronouns.” But back then, I didn’t really know how to deal with situations like that, so I went back with them to their room, and we stayed in, fingering each other all night.
No, we didn’t. That was a joke. We went Nordic skiing instead* Things like that happened to me a lot in those days; I must have been fleetingly attractive. Of course, it’s the sort of thing that happens to women all the time, given that most men are dogs. It must drive them fucking nuts. I couldn’t stand it when it happened to me once every few months or so, imagine having to deal with it every day? I’ve got off the point – or have I? It’s all about the same thing I suppose – the lazy assumptions we make.
So, yes, what was I saying? Oh yes, this: in assuming that my Swedish and Norwegian friends would get along, I was guilty of a sort of casual, lazy, bias; my Norwegian acquaintance, however, was an actual racist. Though there should perhaps be a better way to describe the bigotry he expressed, given that his was an intolerance of a neighbour who looked like him, unlike fully-fledged racism based on looking or seeming different. His was more like the the racism-lite that the Scottish feel for us in England (and the way that Manchester City fans refuse to acknowledge the higher creed of Manchester United)))). I think that this form of middle-ranking racism should perhaps be termed Localised Jingoism or something like that. I’ve re-digressed, never mind. You see what I’m saying, it’s not enough to say confirmation bias, there are degrees by which we observe particularities and draw generalisations from them, much of which comes from good place (see below)))).
This being the point. On our radio we’ve been listening to this new programme called The Invention of Russia (https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m001gx4h). Turns out, that Russia was invented by Moscow ages ago, much like Rome invented the Roman Empire. Listen to this. But before you do, consider your prejudices against the wonderful people of Russia that have been planted in your brain during the Cold War and the more recent real war in Ukraine.
Knowing them now, as I do, I love them too, I suppose. Mainly, perhaps, for seeing something kindred in them – like the way they’re sarcastic like us.
– do you ever experience that emotion where you acknowledge that you are mentally ill, and you hate your life, but there is something that stops you from seeking help? (note: this isn’t an advert, it’s another digression). As if to take medication, or accept therapy would somehow diminish you, and you’d no longer be the YOU that you know? Or, that you feel compelled to stand in front of train, like little Anna Karenina, but can’t quite bring yourself to do it, because you somehow know that you get life in a way that you know others don’t, so that you’d leave behind a world that isn’t quite as good because you are no longer in it? Is this a common sensation, or is it just me? Well, I think of being British in the same way. It is often, and mostly shite, but, on the other hand, who would you rather be? Who tells jokes like us? Who is as sarcastic and as cynical as us? Perhaps everyone thinks like this too?
Well for me, and us, at least, I have an answer to this: the Russians. I have seen something in them that makes me think that their good bits are just like ours. I’m certain we could be friends, if only we knew how to talk to each other. Next time I am taken by the notion to stand in front of an express train, or sit in Martin Daktari with his exhausts turned inwards, rather than act on it, I’ll get some skis and langlauf me way to Russia instead. Someone will have me. It’s a big place.
What to call this reverse racism? After all, it is most likely based on the same lazy generalisation of its opposite – uber positive confirmation bias-lite, perhaps? Kinda catchy, isn’t it? It can be shortened to UPVC, like the windows, and can also double-up as U-PC, so that it attracts that lot too. That way, we might get it into the tabloids, “Oh aye, mate, I’ve been U-PC for ages, Russian mainly but with a bit of South Korean thrown in too, to be honest.”
Before I go, I must mention a couple of things they do, that are cute and endearing (just in case you think that they are merely cynical and sarcastic)))), which I’d like to introduce to the UK – with the aim of bringing our two countries closer to mutual recognition through our shared lo-brow culture – too much is made of the hi-brow, which most people don’t care about. They are simple little things, but it is just the sort of throwaway nonsense that can catch on, especially with the complacent and biased people who produce tabloids – remember, you heard it here first.
First up: when they make a (sarcastic) joke in brackets, they continue the brackets on like this )))))) like a smile (great innit?)))). Secondly, when they give you a slightly cynical ‘Yes, or no or very,’ they go, даааааа (daaaa); или, нееееет (nyeeeet)или оооооочен (oooootchen), – or just so you know. I will be adopting these two techniques in all written communications from now until it is embraced in all text messages throughout the UK. I will not be explaining it to anyone who hasn’t read this, I’ll just start doing it (yeeeeees, that’s right)))).
Re: Nordic skiing above * the person delivering the service lies between two naked men, and makes cross-country skiing movements with their hands, using any available poles.
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