Jack Whitehall’s ‘Bad Education’ Really is ‘Bad’ (2012-2015)

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Bad Education was commissioned by BBC3 between 2012-2014 and even spawned a film in 2015. Although universally panned (even by the racist Daily Mail), it has received good ratings upon screening, and has sustained reasonable DVD sales. The problem is that this series as a concept is entirely premised upon its creator – Jack Whitehall’s – middle class stereotypes of the working class and ethnic minorities. Furthermore, its depiction of homosexuality is entirely homophobic in nature, but disguised as ‘inclusion’. In fact, all of Whitehall’s characters are nothing but negative gender, ethnic and class stereotypes that are demeaning and disemporing. This should not be surprising, as Whitehall is the product of his own bourgeois socio-economic conditioning. For a responsible parent, the idea of a teacher like Jack Whitehall’s character is distressing and alarming. Failing schools are not funny, and social inequality is not a laughing matter for those not living in a middle class utopia. When a society fails its children due to an asymmetric distribution of wealth and resources, this is ‘child abuse’ and not humour. Ignorant working class children with no responsible adult role models should not be the cannon fodder the Whitehall’s flagging career, but the class prejudice he displays runs much deeper than this. The assistant head master is depicted in an entirely misogynistic manner. This character is made to appear like a male fascist hell-bent on world domination. She is sexually aggressive (whilst depicted as ‘repulsive’), and her sexual preference appears to change with the wind. although Nazi-esque in attitude, Whitehall avoids all mention of Hitler and Nazi Germany, but instead has a Soviet education poster hanging on her office wall. At this point all is implied but nothing is said. Obviously Whitehall is so poorly educated in reality, that he accepts and perpetuates US Cold War propaganda that equates Nazi Germany with the Soviet Union (despite the fact that the USSR was an ally of the UK during WWII, and lost between 27-40 million people fighting Nazi Germany). In a later episode which features the sub-plot that the deputy head has committed suicide, Whitehall has one of his working class thugs stating that she is probably in hell with Stalin – as if Joseph Stalin was a bad person! Again, Whitehall does his best to demonize the Soviet Union whilst protecting the reputation of Nazi Germany. As for disability, Whitehall seems to think that everyone with a disability possesses legs that do not function – that is it.  Probably the most outrageously ‘racist’ element of this ‘comedy’ is the character of Jing Hua – a supposedly Mainland Chinese teenager attending school for some unknown reason in Watford. Whitehall does not seem to understand that Britain possesses its own indigenous Chinese community of children born in the UK. By depicting Jing Hua as he does, he omits from British history the historical Chinese presence in this country – a country that has forcibly deported its Chinese populations twice – once in 1919 and again in 1946 – due to White British racist and xenophobic attitudes. Even if it is argued that there are Mainland Chinese students in the UK (which there undoubtedly are), Whitehall is entirely wrong to cast a Japanese actress (Kae Alexander) in the role of Jing Hua, when there are many fine and capable British born Chinese actresses to choice from. Furthermore, Japan committed atrocities in China during WWIi (and before), killing millions of Chinese men, women and children, crimes that the Japanese government will neither admit to, or apologise for.  The character of Jing Hua appears to have been created by Whitehall for his character to attack Communist China, and make an apparently ‘Chinese’ student the butt of all his racially motivated ‘jokes’. Bad Education is a disgrace in the 21st century, and reminds me of a modern re-make of the notoriously ‘racist’ Mind Your Language from the 1970’s. Jack Whitehall and BBC3 demonstrate that prejudice and racism survives the changing times by adapting the manner in which they manifest.

Decoding Wittgenstein

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Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951) was an outstanding British philosopher of affluent Austrian birth (his father had made his considerable fortune through the steel industry). As a consequence, Wittgenstein had a typical bourgeois upbringing in Austria that can only be described as ‘opulent’ in the extreme (when he finally inherited his father’s fortune in 1913 – he was one of the richest men in Europe), prior to his travelling to the UK to study aeronautical engineering at Manchester University in 1908. Due to his lack of experience in practical labour, Wittgenstein proved inadequate in the practical aspects of engineering, and instead turned his mind toward solving theoretical engineering problems through the use of mathematics – this is how he came into contact with Bertrand Russell’s text entitled ‘The Principles of Mathematics’ (1903). This experience led Wittgenstein on the altogether different path of abstract philosophical enquiry, that resulted in him relocating to Cambridge University, and studying under Bertrand Russell. However, during WWI (1914-1918), and despite his academic associations with the UK, Wittgenstein volunteered for military service in the Austrian Army – where he saw action on the Russian-front. After WWI, Wittgenstein continued to apply his mind to the central question of defining logic. This led to the 1921 publication of his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (Latin for ‘Logico-Philosophical Treatise’). This work is often categorised as the ‘Early Wittgenstein’, and in this 75 page masterpiece, Wittgenstein believes that he solves the problem of logic by stating that all language is comprised of ‘pictures’ that are used to explain or give meaning to thoughts in the mind and objects in the environment. According to Wittgenstein, language statements can be true, false, or meaningless, and that ‘logic’ is simply this language symbolism used in in a truthful or meaningful manner. As a middle class person, Wittgenstein lived the high-life of the true ‘individualistic’ bourgeois person – and this explains why – as a young privileged man – he treated language in ‘isolation’, (as if it only happened to one person at a time), and that the use of language was simply that of many isolated individuals quoting tautologies at one another. Being bi-sexual in nature, even his sexual appetites were as unhindered as his economic circumstance, and highly individualistic in nature. As Wittgenstein was trained as an engineer, it is reasonable to assume that he thought that logic could be (or should be) described as if it where a machine comprised of individually functioning parts, that when operated together, produce the desired ‘manufactured’ object. The Tractatus then, appears to be the product of bourgeois individuality, and mechanical determinism expressed as a cogent (youthful) intellectual idea.  Following the publishing of the Tractatus, Wittgenstein believed that he had solved the problem of logic by defining it as being the product of the individualistic use of a symbolic language (with each letter, word and sentence being a picture expressed in thought, through the voice, or as marks on paper, etc), and retired from the world of academic philosophy. What Wittgenstein did achieve with his early work was to draw the attention of philosophers to the very concept and functionality of the language they routinely used, but never fully or adequately assessed during their formulations of theories, ideas and concepts. As a consequence, Wittgenstein even considered mathematics to simply be an extension of language symbolism that only offers abstract truths about the physical world (but which cannot know anything for certain beyond its own symbolism). This is why Bertrand Russell considered the Tractatus to be a work of genius. After spending time teaching, travelling and partaking in various manual jobs, (including that of gardener in  monastery, and later a porter at London’s Guy’s Hospital), Wittgenstein began to mature through meaningful social interaction in the world, and as a consequence of beginning to experience life as understood by less economically privileged people as himself, his ideas about language (and its purpose and meaning), began to change. This led to his writing of his second work of genus entitled ‘Philosophical Investigations’ which was not published until two years after his death in 1953, but which was finished in reality probably by around 1948. It is evident that Wittgenstein was questioning his own theory of ‘isolated’ or ‘individualistic’ symbolic language as early as 1933, as can be seen from content of the ‘The Blue Book’. The content and conclusions of the ‘Philosophical Investigations’ is generally termed the ‘Latter Wittgenstein’ and differs from his Tractatus in that language is now re-interpreted as a ‘social’ or ‘collective activity that has no inherent meaning if the rules of the game are not understood and applied during meaningful social interaction. Bertrand Russell considered this paper to be mundane and in many ways missing the point Wittgenstein had established in the original Tractatus.

 

London: Gay Pride (8.7.2017)

Gay Pride

A few years ago, me and Gee – with a young Mei-An – took part in the Gay Pride Parade through London, marching with the UNITE Bus. This year, with our new daughter – Kai-lin – we decided to attend all the activities happening all around the Parade. The whole of London was filled with the Rainbow Flag and unbridled love!  London was brought to an absolute stand-still and all went very well.

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