Reflections On ‘That Mural’ And Other Matters

Is the Mear One Mural, at the centre of the recent controversy, anti-semitic? This is the question being debated on twitter and Facebook at the moment. I’ve read several perspectives on it, ranging from, ‘it screams anti-semitic’ to ‘there is nothing anti-semitic about it whatsoever.’  Whenever I read such opposing views I always tend to shrink back from the whole subject, but this time I have dived in, reading tweets, FB posts and articles which have all helped me reach a settled view which I will try to explain. If you examine the mural from a dispassionate perspective, breaking it up into its constituent parts, you can make the argument against it being anti-semitic. This is a summary of the arguments I have heard to date: the artist strongly denies it is, the eye of providence features on the back of the dollar bill and stems from christianity, it is simply a critique of capitalism, the new world order most likely represents a sweeping away of the capitalist system, the six bankers represented were based on real bankers, two of whom just happen to be Jewish therefore it is not singling out Jews, if it’s anti-semitic to depict a negative character with a large nose are they going to ban Oliver Twist? I’ve probably missed something here, but this is the gist of the challenge to the anti-semitic charge made against the mural.

However there is something important missing amidst this analysis; empathy and understanding toward Jewish people who have a history so unique, so horrendous, their perspective should always be taken very seriously indeed.

I want to add a caveat here. Not all Jewish people see the Mural as anti-semitic, but that does not mean it isn’t for the vast majority. When we look at art, do we all see it the same? Of course not. We all look at art through the filter of our own emotions, lives, experiences, culture, race, gender, age, religion. That is the magic of art. And that is what is happening here. We are all looking at the same Mural and seeing something different. There is nothing wrong with that. And that means the people who don’t see it as anti-semitic are not anti-semitic, and the people who do, are not lying, or milking it to denigrate Jeremy Corbyn, who himself didn’t see any anti-semitism at first glance.

We all need to start being kinder to each other, more empathic on both sides of the fence. Only then can we build a bridge between us. So if you are Jewish, or even a non Jew who sees this Mural as blatantly anti-semitic, please go easy on those that are not seeing it. Explain the emotions it triggers in you. Explain the history of Nazi art and the anti-semitic tropes within it. And if you are failing to see anything anti-semitic in the Mural, please listen to the Jewish people who are telling you they find it disturbing, unsettling and upsetting. Please let’s stop shaming each other and listen to each other. We are all born ignorant. We don’t possess innate knowledge on anything. We just need to open our minds and our hearts to each other, and that way we will learn from each other. We don’t need to be all right, or all wrong. We can just have different views, but all the time respecting that other people might see things differently because of their unique perspective.

I think one of the primary reasons people have grown so defensive on the left is because for the past almost three years we have had to defend, defend and defend, time and time again.

We are either defending Jeremy against false charges of being a terrorist sympathiser, anti-British, anti-semitic, incompetent, sexist (because he didn’t appoint any women in the ‘top’ jobs), a disaster for our electoral chances, arch Brexiteer, communist, a traitor and a Czech spy, or we are defending ourselves against accusations of bullying, sexism, anti-semitism, extremism, naivete, idealism, self indulgence and cult thinking. It is relentless.

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Only yesterday, Government minister Sajid Javid, referred to Momentum as a Neo-fascist group (something he has been challenged to repeat beyond the protective forcefield of Parliament, and which to date he has failed to do). That is the level of extreme abuse and smears we face on an almost daily basis. Currently our party is purported to be a nest of anti-semites. It does not matter that this is not born out by the evidence. There are apparently 74 cases of suspected anti-semitism being investigated against party members, which is 0.01% out of a party of 600,000 members. Of course that is far too many, but when you compare it to a recent survey by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, which found that over a quarter of all British people harboured at least one anti-semitic belief, with just over 2% holding extreme anti-semitic views, it does not seem to hold water to imply that Labour is a hotbed of anti-semitism. We are a party with a proud history of fighting racism and anti-semitism and that is still true. 

No wonder then we bat away any criticism as a smear, and question the motives of those who denigrate us. And we are right to question those motives, because we all know they are not always pure. We know there are some who will not be satisfied until Corbyn resigns, or is annihilated at a General Election. They will take an innocent mistake Jeremy made six years ago, and milk it for all they are worth. I would even go so far as to say it is anti-semitic to exploit very real concerns about anti-semitism to further a quite separate agenda. We all rightly hold Jeremy Corbyn in high regard, and know he is being unjustly accused and targeted, and feel angry and defensive on his behalf. But when it comes to the Mural, I believe we need to respect his efforts to learn from a past mistake, rather than insinuate that he didn’t make one. 

So yes, it’s difficult for us on the left to be open hearted and open minded when so many are trying to engineer our downfall. But we must try to tease out the genuine expressions of concern or unhappiness from those with an anti-Corbyn agenda. We must guard against instinctively throwing up our arms to defend ourselves from the punches, and instead take a deep breath, stay calm and seek counsel from people who are neutral on the issue or maybe pro Corbyn, but who are known for their balance and fairness.

And always remember, the Blairites and their Tory friends want us to grow weary, angry and defensive. They want us to attack them, shout liar, bat away legitimate complaints, because that feeds into their narrative of a closed down cult, who worships their leader and can’t see any wrong in anything he has ever done. Let’s NEVER give them what they want.

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The Awakening Of The Mum by Michelle Dorrell

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    When people ask me, why did you become involved in politics?
    That’s when I remind them that I am a mum…and my most basic instinct is to ensure I do everything possible to make sure that not only do my children grow up to become good citizens but that they can go on to have a bright future ahead of them.
    But everything I am doing as a mum, I feel is being undermined by my own government; and that’s a scary prospect.
    I’m raising my children so they work hard for what they want to achieve, that they abide laws and play fair so they have a bright future ahead of them…. but currently I’m watching them facing a worse outcome than I, or even my parents and grandparents had. That terrified me into action, and I started by expanding my reading habits. I read a book called The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist by Robert Tressell. It was written over 100 years ago, but as you read through the pages you find yourself drawing parallels between then and now, to the point where you can imagine the characters in modern society, as if the scenes of the book are playing out in 2018. When I’m looking at my children’s future health care prospects, I see the ever increasing possibility of them facing the same system as our American Cousins. Private Health Care providers and Insurance schemes taking over the system, looking towards the outcome being determined by the amount of cover you can afford or the financial prospects you have; the judge and jury for the treatment you receive. Our NHS won’t survive another 3 years of this current government, look around your GP surgeries and hospitals now (that’s if they haven’t been closed or centralised). So I know they won’t have the same opportunities we’ve enjoyed since 1948.
    What do we say to our children when they attend school? We tell them to “do their best, listen to the teachers and get a good education” but how on earth can we expect them to stand a chance, when they’re being pushed into ever larger classrooms, with less resources, less teaching staff and assistants available to help and encourage their progress? It’s like your fighting a losing battle; and it should never be a case of parents having to move to a new house because of ever decreasing numbers of “good and outstanding” school places for the best prospects, because all children should have the right to a decent education no matter who they are or where they live.  And then what hope for their future housing? Where will they be able to live…will they be able to earn enough to rent or buy somewhere?
    Will they be able to stay local or be forced to move miles away from their family and community? What will the prospects for them be, when you look at the prospects for people now?
    I am a socialist……I always was, I just didn’t know it. Years of main stream media and print press conflating socialism with communism was enough for me in my former years never to bother looking it up or learning its true meaning. But when you come to realise the actual meaning, it smacks you in the face.
    It’s about sharing! You know that thing most parents teach their children to do from a young age. The idea that everyone, no matter who they are should have a decent house to live, somewhere they can call home, lay roots and build a community.
    The idea that everyone should have the right to good and decent education to maximise their potential.
    The idea that everyone should be paying taxes; if they have more, they pay a little more and if they have less they pay a little less. None of this cutting back on public spending, leaving the elderly and vulnerable in precarious states.
    No more allowing large corporations and businesses to avoid paying tax on earnings just because they’re registered offshore. You earn here, you pay here; We have to!
    No more working for a measly minimum wage and with Zero hour contracts, unable to budget for living expenses because you don’t know how many hours work you’ll get.
    No more homelessness rising at alarming rate and people dying on the streets. No changes in school funding, so that many face losing teachers, teaching assistants, bigger classrooms and less resources.
    What happened to us as a society to start normalising the existence of Food Banks? What next WORK HOUSES?? That’s just some of the reasons I’m now more than just “Chelle the Nail Lady.
    I was inspired to throw off my chains, wake from my slumber and rise.
    Not just for my children, but for yours too.
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    Written by Michelle Dorrell