New series of Derek begins

Ricky Gervais as Derek

Ricky Gervais’ comedy/drama Derek returned to UK television last week, this time for a full series. The pilot had apparently been controversial for some, but I just remember being pleasantly surprised by Gervais’ kind but coarse treatment of delicate issues such as disability and the care profession. He did so in a way that was both heartwarming, without ever becoming saccharine, and simple, without ever being boring. A lot of critics seemed unconvinced, but I think they were missing the point, assuming that Gervais was either taking cheap shots at vulnerable people, or that he was attempting some sort of ‘clever’ post-modern ‘so-shit-its-cool’ maneuver.  But this is a sitcom only in the loosest definition of the term, and the only people Gervais is deliberately mocking, are those who get offended mainly as a cover for their own thinly-veiled prejudices. I read a rather scathing review of Derek in The Daily Telegraph today. Nuff said.

The first episode had me laughing out loud a few times, it is definitely very funny – but as with the pilot, the new material is as much to do with empathy as it is to do with cracking jokes. Maybe this is where some of the show’s critics are left wanting. They don’t seem to understand that Gervais is taking the piss out of them. He’s having a go at how, when we see someone we perceive to be different to ourselves, we feel the need to categorise them, and that that category can stop us seeing them as real people – with interests, passions, quirks, humour and emotion.

Coupled with his genuine love for the character, it is palpable that Gervais has created Derek in order to get across his statement about society’s attitudes. When the pilot of this show aired in Spring 2012, a lot of people (critics and newspaper columnists in particular) speculated that the character is Autistic – something which Gervais has denied in the press previously (stating in an interview with The Sun in March last year, ‘I’ve never thought of him as disabled’) and which he brazenly referenced towards the end of the first episode of this series. When a Council representative visiting the retirement home insensitively questioned Derek as to whether he had ever been tested for Autism, Derek offered a stream of questions about what would happen, should he be Autistic, such as, ‘Would I die?’, ‘Would I have to go into a hospital?’ and ‘Would it change me in any way as a person?’. Having received a ‘no’ to all of these queries, our eponymous hero simply said ‘Don’t worry about it then’. In this small dialogue, which lasted no more than a minute, Gervais perfectly summed up his feelings: so what if Derek is Autistic? Can’t we just enjoy him for the unassuming, kind-natured person he so clearly is without questioning whether he has a disorder or not? For Gervais to reply to his critics so concisely through the mouth of Derek was perfect and ingenious. From: http://uktvreviewer.wordpress.com/2013/02/03/derek-episode-1-1-review/

Gervais isn’t scared of getting political either – the main theme of the first installment is public sector cuts. The care home is threatened with closure due to shrinking budgets, and Gervais does a very good job of humanizing this modern problem. It makes for compelling viewing and a very effective strike against this current trend for passing the world’s economic woes onto those who struggle to look after themselves.

All of the characters in Derek represent those at the very bottom of the modern economic food chain –  low-paid public sector workers, the disabled, the elderly, the poor and the unemployed – sections of our communities that have been hit hardest by the Tories’ austerity drive, and subsequently demonized by politicians to justify the attack. Derek forms a much needed antidote to this insidious propaganda, and does so simply by being gentle and honest.

Derek is by no means perfect, and some of the criticisms that have been made of it in other reviews are justified – but I would counter that by noting many may be slamming it because they don’t like the politics. Empathy may be a dirty word now in Tory Britain, but this show is chock full of it – which is exactly why I like it.

Check the first episode out here on 4od:

http://www.channel4.com/programmes/derek/4od

Are Right Wingers Scared of Dependency?

Obamacare Protest
I’ve just been alerted to an interesting article in Psychology Today by Michael Bader (a psychologist from San Francisco), hypothesizing that right-wing attitudes to health care reform may come from a deep-seated fear of dependency. There’s some interesting ideas in here, whether you agree with him or not, it certainly gets you thinking. Often people cite the pursuit of freedom as their primary reason for being against Government-run healthcare. But surely this is irrational? If you are desperately sick and can’t afford to pay to see a doctor you are far from ‘free’ in any sense. In these type of cases Obamacare would increase the level of people’s freedoms. Why are people opposing policy that will ultimately benefit them? Is it that they don’t want to accept a societal responsibility to help others who can’t help themselves? Surely freedom and responsibility are two sides of the same coin, and one without the other is an illusion? Bader tries to plumb the deep psychological depths of these questions and comes up with some interesting suggestions.
Read it here

Al Thawra (work still in progress)

Don’t stop fighting for freedom Egypt

owen jones, cringing in the shadow of margaret thatcher

^^^

I’m usually a fan of Owen Jones’ work. I thought ‘Chavs’ was a good book that said some important things that had gone very much un-said in recent times, where even supposed ‘lefties’ started bashing the lowest echelons of our increasingly stratified society. This post from the Commune raises some good points about his views and positioning however; I can’t help but agree with the author that his misplaced faith in New New (One Nation) Labour will lead a lot of his followers and fans to disappointment.

Nude Egyptian Protests Morsi

FEMEN and antiislamist Egyptian activist Alia al-Mahdi

Femen -  Apocalypse of Muhammad

Today in Stockholm

Femen are certainly not scared of a little controversy – and neither is anti-islamist Egyptian activist Alia Magda al Mahdi, for that matter.

Alia became famous for publishing a nude photo of herself on her blog about a year ago, describing the act as “screams against a society of violence, racism, sexism, sexual harassment and hypocrisy”, positioning herself as a “secular, liberal, feminist, vegetarian, individualist Egyptian” and an atheist since turning 16. She was recently denied entry into France where she was to participate in a nude protest by feminist provocateurs, Femen, outside the Egyptian embassy in Paris. The organisation claimed that Alia had been denied entry into the country by “European secret services”, and that “Unknown forces affecting the management of airlines Lufthansa and Scandinavian airlines” had deprived her of the opportunity to travel to the protest – although there seems to be little evidence for such a conspiracy at the moment.

Alia wrote this about the event on her blog four days ago:

“Yesterday, I was going to protest against the Egyptian draft constitution with Femen and other Arab women in front of the Egyptian embassy in Paris.
One day before, Inna Shevchenko booked me a plane ticket from Gutenberg Landvetter Airport to Paris on Lufthansa and paid for it online, but I couldn’t check-in at the airport. The ticket office woman told me that my ticket was canceled because the payment was not completed. I thought it was an error and had another Femen member buy me a ticket for the next flight on Scandinavian Airlines. I got a boarding pass, checked-in, passed airport security and was waiting for my flight. Then, the same woman came to me and told me that she got a warning about me and I have to show her the credit card used to pay for the ticket and it has to be mine or I will not take that flight. I replied that thousands of people travel with tickets paid for by other people everyday, event holders always pay for participants’ travel expenses, I traveled this way three times before on KLM and Ryan Air and the first ticket was also paid for by someone else. She spoke to me in a not nice way, took the boarding pass and told me to collect my luggage. The woman who gave me my luggage removed the sticker that was stuck to it when I checked-in.

I am disappointed that my freedom of expression is also oppressed in Europe.”

Undeterred by this little hiccup, Femen activists travelled to Stockholm to meet Alia and stage a nude protest there instead – outside the Egyptian embassy.

Femen’s ‘press release’ :

“International women’s movement FEMEN and antiislamist Egyptian activist Alia al-Mahdi have called to say NO to Sharia constitution in Egypt!

Apocalypse of Muhammad

Today in the snowbound Stockholm the world has seen apocalyptic picture. 

International women’s movement FEMEN and antiislamist Egyptian activist Alia al-Mahdi have called to say NO to Sharia constitution in Egypt! Before the decisive day of the referendum in Egypt activists came to the Embassy of Egypt in Stockholm to support Egyptian heroes who are resisting the sharia-dictatorial draft of the constitution of the president Morsi. FEMEN calls people  of Great Egypt to deny this religious bondage of newly appeared prophet Morsi and to give the chance for Egypt for the rightful democratic development.

“Sharia is not a constitution” – it has been written on Alia’s naked body. Her genitals have been covered by the poster shaped like Koran. The three posters in the hands of activists are the symbolic  religious books. In that way  FEMEN warns the world about the danger of the transformation secular constitution into religious. FEMEN warns muslim brother Morsi, if he gave an orders to shoot at his own people then his last resting will be the Nile with crocodiles, not the pyramids. 

Fuck off religious slavery! Viva freedom and human rights!”

Post on Femen website

Alia al-Mahdi’s Blog

Update: This video of the protest has just been posted by Femen on Vimeo


Why Socialism X: Socialised Capital

soviet money

How would a nascent Socialist State get hold of the necessary financial resources to build new services and re-tool old ones? Mammoth opposition from the privileged layers of the old regime will not make it easy…

Read more on Shape

Why the VICE generation are apocalyptic and frightened

Vice Magazine - Looking Beneath the Waves

Vice Magazine’s Alex Miller interviews one of Red Eye’s favourite filmmakers, Adam Curtis, in this new piece called Looking Beneath the Waves. In the article Curtis shares some of his latest theories on why the news (in its current guise) is unable to shed any light on the real reasons for the global financial meltdown, why economics is a failed pseudo-science, why a whole generation has grown up to be supremely cynical and paranoid, and the frightening reality of a world in which no-one really knows what’s happening, including both the journalists and politicians that pretend to have all the answers.

A must read.