Sunday, March 11, 2007


There was a debate on the radio this morning following on from Patrick Mercer's sacking from the Tory frontbench for these comments:

"What Patrick Mercer said in the interview

Patrick Mercer, Conservative homeland security spokesman and a former colonel, was asked about racism in the armed forces. This is his reply

Friday March 9, 2007
The Guardian

"I had the good fortune to command a battalion that was racially very mixed. Towards the end, I had five company sergeant majors who were all black. They were without exception UK-born, Nottingham-born men who were English - as English as you and me. They prospered inside my regiment, but if you'd said to them: 'Have you ever been called a nigger?' they would have said: 'Yes.' But equally, a chap with red hair, for example, would also get a hard time - a far harder time than a black man, in fact."

But that's the way it is in the army. If someone is slow on the assault course, you'd get people shouting: 'Come on you fat bastard, come on you ginger bastard, come on you black bastard.'
"I came across a lot of ethnic minority soldiers who were idle and useless, but who used racism as cover for their misdemeanours. I remember one guy from St Anne's (Nottingham) who was constantly absent and who had a lot of girlfriends. When he came back one day I asked him why, and he would say: 'I was racially abused.' And we'd say: 'No you weren't, you were off with your girlfriends again.'

"In my experience, when you put on the uniform then all differences disappear. If you are a good soldier, you will do well. If you are a bad soldier, you will leave prematurely. There is a degree of colour-blindness among the vast majority of soldiers.

"I never came across a piece of nastiness inside the battalion that was based exclusively on racism."

This morning they interviewed a 10 year old who was being bullied and ostracised at school because he had red hair. The most heartbreaking thing was when he was asked, "And what do you friends say about this?" (the bullying) he replied he had no friends.

A man in the studio then said that the bullying the boy was experiencing wasn't as bad a racist abuse as it didn't relate to a history of slavery and exclusion.

That is may be true, but what ten year old, black or white, dark haired or ginger needs to know the backstory to the fact that he's being bullied? I suspect the end result, the hurt and distress is just the same.

My younger brother was bullied at school for being effeminate, and I spent most of my childhood fighting boys who were giving him a hard time. It has left me with a lifetime's distaste for the pack mentality, wherever it occurs.

Until we adults can teach our children to celebrate difference rather than single it out for special attention innocents will continue to suffer.

Nor am I a believer in the theory of breaking someone down to put them back together in a way that fits an organisation's short term need. Break something and the bits rarely go back together again properly, cracks and fissures are usually left.

And as a society we only seem to value an object if it is whole and undamaged. A cracked plate is worth less in this world than a perfect one.

Maybe that's why so many men discharged from the services can't function when they return to Civvy Street. Isn't it time we looked at military training and what we need from it? We seem to be train people for conflict and then we expect them to function well as peace-keepers.

OK rant over.



Blogger Verilion said...

Maybe if we focused more on people being peace makers rather than peace keepers we might halfway towards solving some of these problems.

7:47 pm  
Blogger apprentice said...

I sort of assumed that that was beyond our control. It certainly feels like it is.

11:27 pm  
Blogger Sam, Problem-Child-Bride said...

"A cracked plate is worth less in this world than a perfect one."

"There is a crack in everything; that's how the light gets in." LEONARD COHEN.

This is one of my favourite aphorisms. I love that sentiment.

4:21 pm  
Blogger apprentice said...

Good old Leonard!Wish more people agreed with him though.

5:06 pm  
Blogger chiefbiscuit said...

You make some strong points - I trust they cause a few ripples. Speaking up or out against prejudice and bigotry is never wasted

1:38 am  

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