HEALTH WARNING: Please note – this blog piece uses the common ‘vulgar’ vernaculars for ethnic minorities, the disabled, the imperfect, the educationally stunted, the deformed, the impaired and a sprinkling of a few others. This is not to shock or provoke. It is simply to point to the fact that these vernaculars are close to if not on the tip of many people’s everyday tongues. And if society chooses to use them or condone them or stay silent in their presence, we must find ourselves culpable in the potential impacts and consequences of their sustained use in our society at what ever level or to whatever degree
The tabloid name for the now infamous home grown IS jihadist has always struck me as something better placed in a Guy Ritchie movie, or one of the slew of razor bottle shooter coke slag blag nonce geezer movies that followed Lock Stock and Two Smoking ‘aitches. It’s exactly how I’d expect the ‘big man’ in the pub to refer to him, regardless of what John actually did.
“…Jihadi John was in earlier – in a right state he was about something – getting all Taliban about some fella who’s ripped him off on some carpets”.
At its most basic it simply says that John is both of middle-eastern extraction and a bit of a hot head – a man both a little ‘trip trigger’ and messianic.
In that way the name Jihadi John has the blunt prosaic brutal logic that is regularly applied by ‘geezers’ for those they know or are familiar with.
Turkish. Cos he’s Mum’s Turkish.
Razors ‘cos he uses one.
Tone the Poofter, because his name’s Tony and he’s a poofter.
Heavy Metal Dave, ‘cos his name is Dave and he likes heavy metal.
And Three Fingers Micky ‘cos… well, you get the idea.
Gangstery name calling; usually done with a very twisted form of respect is just one shade of a far wider reaching cultural phenomenon that is something of a rite of passage in our Great British culture.
We love calling people names. Our tabloids are simply the imprint of the name caller writ large.
We have lots of kinds: names for physical traits. Names for reduced mental agility – and then the really acidic sleights for those with a physical disability.
Regional name-calling requires slighty less creativity A 4-letter word suffix is placed after local tribal delineations like Scouser, Jock, Geordie, Taff, and Cockney. As in “What are you looking at you Cockney *%@* ?”
And let’s not forget the delicate chimes of North South divide – a blunter delineation still of regional nuances – Northern Basstard meets Soft Southern Shite.
And we of course reserve a small pocket of affectionate cultural shading for our ANZAC and Commonwealth cousins – e.g. the Australian ‘Criminal’ – who have shackle marks on their wrists.
Religion offers but a few – tellingly – usually aimed at anyone suspiciously NOT of the marvellous and stalwart CofE kind – Yid for example – though that has been twisted on the terraces of Spurs to turn a slander into a bellicose clarion call – observe the chanting of Yid Army by Spurs fans on the rampage. And the Papal spites of the Catholic Left Footer.
Sexual orientation offers up a host of them.
And then of course we have the more racist name-calling! Mick. Frog. Wop. Paki. Coon. Bub. Chink. Spic. Dago, Towel Head.
The punchier ‘foreigner’ names are still openly and shamelessly used by ‘grown ups’, often in front of their kids, who in turn think its completely normal to refer to someone that way. The children know the words are meant to hurt, upset or denigrate the recipient. Just like the playground spleen of Gingger or Big Ears. They know that broadly, bar a few exceptions (the double edged shadings of Loser for instance can be both a direct put down and a strange form of affectionate dissing between close mates), these are not meant to be a sign of affection.
(Though saying that I have at times been lovingly, though incorrectly, referred to as Spic by some friends of mine in reference to my Italian [WOP] heritage.)
But what takes someone like a ‘Jihadi John’ from being no more than just a chirpy market stall nomer for a hot-tempered young English bloke of foreign extraction to being the nom de guerre of a fierce, sadistic, righteous murderer of hostages.
What is the cause and effect of him?
Is it straight down the line good old-fashioned psychopathy? Poverty? Lack of opportunity? A paucity of decent education? Or is it the staggering power of their religious fervor at work?
Is it that simple? The standard ticker tape list of the victim turned aggressor with a little theological top spin?
Or is our society just a little more culpable than it would like to admit in shaping to even the smallest degree the Jihadi Johns of this world?
Is there something in the nature of how we ( and all other over-confident highly emerged ‘arent we terribly civilized’ Christian societies for that matter) see and treat foreigners or anyone with a flavor, shade or spice of something other than our Anglo Saxon Beige that acts as an invidious yet powerful propellant towards something much darker and more dreadful?
For someone of a different hue, the claustrophobic and quietly demeaning nature of living in what I like to call our ‘Fareige’ culture (in homage to the parochial camel-haired mediocrity of Nigel) might perhaps create a far deeper problem that we imagine.
Being relentlessly on the receiving end of the nastier end of great British banter can get a little tiresome at the best of times for even the strongest of people. But, one imagines that if you are overly sensitive or psychologically dysfunctional, these relentless mantras can inflict invisible rips in already fragile identities. We are becoming all too aware of how the spiteful side of this ‘singling out’ can cause terrible psychological trauma in teenagers blighted by the worse of on line bullying: suicide as proof of how brutally this can affect and degrade the mind of the recipient.
Add to this a broader cultural schism of someone already feeling marginalized or for that matter wholly disrespected or demonized and it can get very ugly.
(If, for example, you have had the pleasure of being referred to – or no; let’s go one better: have heard someone refer to a person you dearly love; your father or mother lets say; as a ‘black’ or ‘Paki’ bastard – or perhaps had a few hundred people march down the street you live in requesting quite loudly that you and all the other ‘ filthy stinking [insert racial slang stereotype here] go home’, you might be seeing these names as something more akin to sticks and stones.
And you might wonder whether this society will ever allow you to consider this ‘home’. An therefore cease to see it as such.
This end of the banter/slur/slander/racism spectrum religiously applied at every opportunity can potentially engender a festering shame of identity – a shame that tends to carry itself on the inside.
BUT, even in that instance does this really stand as any kind of excuse?
Name calling at its cruel and tribal worst is a truly ugly little past-time that all too often gets out of hand. It can be a signifier of a far deeper social schisms and malaise but this doesn’t even begin to explain away what compels a reasonably normal human being to do a skype beheading a few thousand miles from ‘home’ while sporting an exotic headdress.
What else could pressure-cook a person into reaching far beyond what seems normal or believable? What other things might pot boil the ‘nutter’ in our midst?
Well let’s not forget that just at the point where children have had a few years sharpening their name-calling – that swiss-army knife in the toolkit of survival and belonging – providing both a form of self assertion, provocative humour, allegiance, individual and collective denigration, and of course attack as the best form of self defence – just as they have started to latch on and home in on the power of identifying and ridiculing the minutiae and differences in each other as a way of jostling for position in the playground – BANG – life plays the cruelest of tricks and adds some fuel to the fire – for either good or bad.
We should never underestimate the role of that most stalwart contender for what makes young people make dramatic reckless stupid and dangerous statements and gestures that stretch the boundaries of sanity, civility and the social norms far beyond name calling.
Puberty and the turbulence of the Teenage Angst.
Happy Day. What a confection. Imagine.
Teenage Angst. What a stock-pot to simmer all those racial sleights and dismissals and sneers inside. What a perfect cooking pot to tumble all of the clinging inner shame and self-loathing into.
Teenagedom. A stroke of cruel genius in the rites of passage department.
A ready-made treadmill of relentless discomfort, sartorial hell, self loathing, fumbling and flailing, cataclysmic social gaffs, trip wires, trapdoors and boobie traps.
Alienation; marginalization; and a lack of understanding seen in every look, gesture, word and demand of the grown up world. Add to that a yearning for identity and a collective sense of self against parents or school or authority that strikes both indivudally and collectively like hormonal tsunami and perhaps we have a glimmer of cause to our Jihadi effect.
Start with mono-sylabic grunting, surliness, sporing skin surfaces, new pungency in the depths, cracks and crevices of your fast developing body – and your stumbling identity takes on the twisted form of a messed up slo-mo Instagram app eternally buffering to no seeming end.
Your common or garden hormone rush can be relied on to deliver a rollercoaster of emotion, a dash of ‘play chicken’, some derring do and a heap of moments of utter fearlessness of the ‘I am immortal I am youth’ variety in most teenagers. That these surges and vortices of madness and inner turmoil demonstrate themselves differently in boys and girls is not really the point. The point is the immutable ‘power’ of them. The way they create compulsions of such extremes.
Simmer lightly in the social networks.
Sprinkle in some stalking fear and dark mythology of gangsta yoot lurking around every corner just to keep you on your toes. Douse liberally in a little over amplified celebrity-fuelled ‘look at me’ ness: underwrite it with stammering stuttering performance at school – a twist of crushing heartbreak/first love action and some cyber bullying for good measure and BINGO we’re really running on high.
And let’s not forget that ‘Jihadi John’ is a boy. So he’s already primed from a young age to have a predilection for the morbid study of all things bellicose, military and martial. (Yes, there is the issue of Jihadi Brides, but by the standard of fast food propaganda that seems to be being tweeted currently I will not dwell on them right now as it seems a long way from beheading; though complicity is a powerful thing.)
Boys have a strange attraction to all things uniformed death and armoured mayhem at the best of times – pumped up as they are by a kaleidoscope of inspiration: war books and documentaries; artillery, cavalry and soldiery; the great warriors and battles of Lord Of The Rings, the techno-morph petrol head madness of Transformers; X Men and the epic clashes of Marvel & DC; and of course the chance to play at violent attrition through the likes of Titan Fall and Call Of Duty. And that’s before we even get to the really grown up and darker spaces. As The Dark Knight cocktail of good and evil swirls; and the gamer and comic characters evolve and age; the complexities of them multiply: scarecrow psychosis and inspiring fear becomes a thing of pride, and being a baddie seems like a good thing to do.
We have enough examples in the Mid West of troubled youth harbouring and acting on shoot’em up fantasies of revenge against some sleight of society – and using the symbols characters and tics of their heros as their calling card.
One could posit and many do that The Joker or Marilyn Manson is not responsible for the crime – that is the sole responsibility of the fractured mind that commits it.
Mmmmnnn. Sounds like a load of lefty excuses coming our way
No: its just that if you mix a teenage boy, and all that comes with that with a fractured or fragile mind and the stealth stigmas of second-generation child of an immigrant and their need to reassert themselves in a society that actively demonises them can take on drastic and sometimes horrifying proportions.
Compounding extreme identity issues, a little introversion, cultural alienation – some learning difficulties? A likelihood of bullying perhaps? Just might open a small door to some kind of reason why a young man might feel so marginalized, troubled and insecure that he would even consider for a moment to do what he does,however insane we might find it.
Hang on! Hang on! Sorry I have to say something here. Insecure! Marginalized. Don’t start getting all bleeding heart liberal now. You’ll be telling me to hug a Jihoodi next.
Look, that a disenfranchised second-generation immigrant youth wears a headscarf and carries the flag of IS is only a pointer to which shade of manipulator is using his incendiary passion and aggression to do their dirty work. The ‘costume’ could just as well have been a Joker mask or a Helter Skelter lyric T Shirt. Same misdirected madness. Different Dressing up box.
And anyway, what do you mean by immigrant? There are loads of bloody immigrant families in the UK that lead utterly decent, respectable lives and offer an enormous boon to the UK. And they certainly don’t go around losing their own or anyone else’s head for that matter.
Fair point. Lets be really clear here. Not all immigrants fit the ‘ladder of madness’ profile that might even begin to end at a Jihadi John.
Lets focus on those most vulnerable and predisposed to radicalization – teenagers of of Southern European, Middle Eastern, North African or Asian descent then.
So, we’re talking a teenager with all the incumbent emotional and physical angst of puberty and ‘growing up’; with some twisted fantasist version of boyish military obsession PLUS all the extra baggage that comes from being of a very particular immigrant stock: not from here: and obviously so.
Young, sensitive, impressionable men who have weathered small embarrassments – like that of being bought up eating what their school friends and families might call ‘filthy foreign muck’.
You’ve got it now. ‘You stink. Your house stinks. You smell like that foreign slop you eat’. But whats this got to do with a psycho maniac chopping people’s heads off?
Granted, the alien nature of exotic aromatic food and a Grannie who cant speak English is a really good foundation on which to build a gnawing inner embarrassment, sense of marginalization and even an indelible stain of shame – but it doesn’t really stack up as an excuse for what a Jihadi John chooses to perpetrate.
No shit Sherlock. ‘course not. That’s his mentalist religion? Bloody Islam! He’s a towel-head nutter. It’s religion’s your problem. Like that lot at the Paki shop? Wasn’t that Dusty Bin Laden a paki?
No. Osama Bin Laden was from a wealthy Saudi Arabian background and educated in the United States. He operated from both within Afghanistan and Pakistan some say with the collusion of the Pakistani military.
Alright smart arse – so, not a Pakistani – but Dusty Bin was just the same – a weird, odd, geeky or dweeby teenage bloke living with issues – ours just happen to live in in the UK but from a slippery Towel Head Muslim culture.
Well no, to be precise, ‘towel head’ is a derogatory slang that refers to the Arabic head wraps favoured by the desert tribes. Arabs can be all kinds of faiths. Not all Arabs are Muslims.
Don’t care. They’re all rag heads.
Make your mind up. Rag head or Towel head
Shut Up. Where were we? Muslims. Terrorists the lot of them.
Which ones in particular?
The filthy terrorist Muslims you speak of: apart from the aspersion regarding their hygiene and potential tendency towards forms of insurgency, when you say Muslim, do you mean Sunni or Shia? As there are different schools of Islamic theology and sub groups of followers to particular shades of the faith.
And the school of Wahabist extremism is very, very particular with fierce adherents.
This is starting to do my head in. ‘just saying that they’re Arab rag head dodgy Muslim murdering filth the lot of them.
What even that nice boy that lives next door?
Especially him. Spends too much time on his computer if you ask me. Probably watching beheadings. You want to watch him. Bit of a creep. Never talks to girls. Something right shifty about him. Said as much on twitter. Weird the lot of them. And as for that bunch outside the mosque.
So to be clear about this, you’re saying that every socially inept boy playing war games in his room; a boy from, what was it you called it, ‘ a filthy towel head terrorist’ culture or background is not to be trusted and preferably asked to leave the country
Yup. Violent, cruel, vicious. And they’re home grown. The worse kind. Went to school with them. They’ve been to my house. Eaten my food …they’ve turned against their home and the culture that they belong to. They are all foreign scum and should all be sent ‘home’.
But that’s the point. Sent ‘home’. Which you cite as somewhere other than here. Haven’t a very vocal part of our society spent a lot of time and money trying to tell them to go ‘home’? So what are they betraying? We’ve told them that this is not their ‘home’; they’re not welcome and made it clear they’re from somewhere else we’d like them to go back to it.
No I don’t think they should ALL be sent home. But you know. Live in our country live by our rules.
But thousands of them do, everyday.
Not the point. I’m talking about the likes of those two fellas that chopped that fellas head off in the high street. I mean the violent bastard that thinks it Ok to do that to a British Soldier – in a British street!!! It’s not on.
What, you think its unprincipled – not on – for a foreign party or agent to use units of terror to unleash extreme violence in someone else’s country?
Bloody right I do.
What’s a drone?
So what separates the motivations of the Jihadi Johns out there and their violence from the dozens of nasty acts of violence undertaken everyday by crime gangs and street gangs in every city across Britain?
Well there you go. They’re all the same. Bunch of bloody foreigners the lot of them. Either your West Indians – your Yardie gangs; the ex IRA paddies up in Archway; and the Turkish mob bringing the Smack in – and your Albanians – now the Somalis – even the bloody Ruskis are at it. Its like the League of f*%*ing nations over here.
What happened to your old school British Crims: at least they had some honour, some codes – they were nothing like this lot.
Oh hang on: feels like we’re moving towards the ‘Kray twins had a code of honour’ cliché excuse for all home-grown white local thuggery, murder and sadism. It was OK to screw someone to the floor with a power tool as long as you loved your mum.
No; granted that’s just sick. But there’s no proof.
And what about the film captured on every CCTV camera in every provincial town across the nation every week? Where young men try and stamp on anther’s head to see if they can make it ‘pop’. And glass someone so hard they almost remove half of their face.
Quite a number of them are old school white working class men: marginalised and futureless. And their violence was ever thus. That’s a whole lot of violence and cruelty without the excuse of theology or religious fervour.
Dunno. You’re getting weird and arsey now.
So, perhaps in the end all the tabloids are doing is helping us (the British public) digest the staggering horror of this all by presenting it in a form more akin to Danny Dyer on Gangs with a sprinkle of East End ‘treacle’ – because the deeper truth is perhaps more unpalatable than we choose to accept or could ever contemplate.
Just a thought…geezer.