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I'm hearing trailers on the radio for what sounds like a programme on the BBC World Service celebrating the Suffragette Movement. It would seem that many of the women involved were interviewed in the 1970s and those interviews are being packaged into a radio programme. I hope it's not a celebration. The Suffragettes were a terrorist organisation. They attacked both people and property. Votes for women for a laudable cause. But the ends don't justify the means- including assault, vandalism, fire-raising, destruction of artwork and bombings . There's a strong argument that the violence these women committed set back a good cause and delayed females getting the vote by several years. The hard work done by working class women during the First World War probably did more to win the vote. If those same working class women had behaved the same way as their Upper Class sisters in the Suffragettes, you can bet the forces of law and order would not have been so patient and understanding; though the Glasgow police seem to have rougher with the women than their English counterparts. Around 40% of men didn't have the vote prior to 1918 and my guess is if any of those men  had mounted a suffragette-style campaign, several would have wound up dead at the hands of the agents of Law and Order. So, why would the BBC wish to celebrate the Suffragettes and not the tripling of the number of people entitled to vote in parliamentary elections? It's simple, the women involved were the grandmothers, great-grandmothers and great-great-grandmothers of the people who run the BBC. 

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Longtime readers will know that I don't regard an athletic event in which the winner is decided by judges to be a sport. To me, a sport has a clear undisputed winner; the side or individual with the most goals, or greatest number of target bullseyes, or first across the line, or highest jump, or longest jump, most points scored, or whatever. The judged stuff may involve physical activity but it's not a sport. Gymnastics and figure skating are two prime examples of non-sports which feature in the Olympics. But who am I to deny anyone Olympic glory? And who cares what I think anyway? It's their business. But then I heard something terrible. It would appear that for a long time the girl gymnasts of Team America were all-too often victims of sexual abuse. But until recently their complaints, if they dared even make them, were ignored. It turned out no-one wanted to make a fuss about the adults committing the abuse. And why didn't the girls of their families want to rock the boat? Because gymnastics is a judged event and the judges are drawn from a tight-knit adult network drawn from the gymnastics community. And who else is part of that network? Why. the coaches and doctors who were molesting the little girls. We're moving here from what can be regarded as just a silly non-sporting activity into the Realm of Evil.

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The British Empire had been reduced to a couple of islands by the time I was old enough to pay much attention to it. But having watched a television series about it fronted by Jeremy Paxman, I can only conclude that it was a Bad Thing. It wasn't what Mr Paxman or the people he spoke to said that led me to this conclusion. It was Paxman himself. It struck me that if Paxman had been born 50 or 60 years earlier than he was, he is, just the sort of person who would get a job with the Colonial Office. Just the sort of chap who would thrive in a seedy British colonial administration in say Malaya or Kenya. I would not want to live a country ruled by the likes of Paxman. The colonies may have gone, but the grandchildren, great-great grandchildren and even great-great-great grandchildren of the old British administrators still roam the earth supposedly helping those people not lucky enough to have been born English. Only now this happy privileged few are working for a charity during their "gap year". Some of them even return to the Non-Governmental Organisation industry after they graduate. Even such a respected NGO as Oxfam, which does actually sometimes genuinely make things better for people, is not without its problems. Did the old British administrators in Malaya or Kenya indulge in the same sexual exploitation as their spiritual, if not literal, descendants working for Oxfam did in Haiti? Oh, when I refer to English, I include those born in Scotland whose parents chose to ape their masters by sending the kids to private schools. 

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For a while now I've been intrigued by a radio programme put out by BBC Ulster. It involves two historians, one Catholic and the other Protestant, looking in various controversial aspects of Ireland's past. Apparently, they usually have different takes on events. Sadly, the episode I heard, on the Irish Republic's neutrality in the Second World War (and, yes, I know it was called Eire at the time) they agreed. They agreed that neutrality was the wisest course. But the programme did a very very poor job of examining the issues. Yes, thousands of Irishmen fought for Allies. But there was no mention of the decades of official persecution the 5,000 men who absented themselves from the Irish armed forces to fight the Nazis faced from the Irish government after the war. Yes, Eire exported food to the United Kingdom. But it was the only export market they had and they didn't exactly sell the food cheaply. Yes, folk in Donegal did help build the new Royal Navy facilities on Loch Foyle, but again they didn't do it for free. And it would have saved a lot of time and money if the De Valera government had allowed the Allies to use Irish ports during the Battle of the Atlantic. It was not mentioned that more than half of Eire's population wanted Hitler to win or were certain he would until far into the war. The arguments for Irish Neutrality could equally well be used to justify a British surrender in 1940. As the war went on, Eire's neutrality tilted in favour of the British. But then even the De Valera government knew which country was in the best position to invade them. The Irish Republic deserves no more praise for its application of neutrality than the Swedes and Swiss deserve blame for their pro-German stance in the early years of the war. And lets not go into whether De Valera's official condolences to Germany on Hitler's death in 1945 could be justified as simply diplomatic protocol - other European leader felt the same obligation. I can only think that this sad attempt at history on the wireless was somehow down to some politically inspired desire not to rock the boat in the Northern Ireland of 2018.

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Complaints about tourists disrespecting what are war graves at Culloden, thanks to an interest inspired by the TV series Outlander, have inspired a number of people to point out that a big part of the Government army was Scottish. Most want to debunk the whole "Culloden was a Scottish Vs English" thing. What these people don't seem to know is that the aftermath of the 1745 showed that the English on the whole did regard Culloden as a Scottish Vs English battle. So, I think perhaps we should take it that the English back in 1746 knew what was what and whom was fighting for whom. As George Orwell pointed out, it wasn't a good thing to be a Scot in England in the decades following Culloden. It wasn't just the "rebellious Scots" of the National Anthem who needed crushed according to the bulk of English people, it was all Scots. Yes, from a Caledonian point of view, the 1745 Rebellion was complicated and very much the final chapter of a Scottish civil war that had been going on for the for decades. But Britain could never have held India without the help of Indian soldiers. And technically large parts of the Indian sub-continent, the Princely States, were independent entities. But no-one in their right mind would claim that the British did not rule India until 1947. Maybe India in 1946 and Scotland 200 years earlier had more in common than many people realise. I can't help feeling that many of the Smart Alec's who draw attention to the number of Scots in Cumberland's Army are also apt to declare that the British invented Concentration Camps during the 1899-1902 Boer War. A couple of problems with that. The Spanish had a couple of years earlier introduced a concentration camp system in a bid to cripple the Cuban Uprising. And what were the Indian Reservations in the United States and the Reserves in Canada but concentration camps without barbed-wire?  The Afrikaans population of South Africa  has never forgiven the British for the deaths of up to 25,000 women and children in the concentration camps. But the deaths were not part of any British plan or policy. They were down to the same official stupidity and incompetence that meant the British lost twice as many men, around 13,000, to disease as they did due to enemy action during the war.

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