Monday, 27 June 2011

Denying the Obvious

   A2 history at my school takes an in-depth look at the Holocaust, despite my initial unease regarding studying such a distressing subject, it has so far proved to be a fascinating, if intense topic. Today we looked at the different interpretations surrounding the issue of blame for such events, for example: whether it should be placed on Hitler, German citizens, other groups of people or perhaps a combination of all the above.
   As a footnote during the discussion, our teacher mentioned the case of prominent holocaust denier David Irving and went on to describe other, similar theories to an utterly bewildered class.  As a group of forward-thinking, intelligent students, there was no one there who would seriously consider the idea of limiting one's freedom of expression. What instead seemed to be the issue was not the idea itself, but how illegitimate and badly thought through it was. For instance, the concept of the death toll being a mere 30, 000 due to natural causes, as oppose to the eleven million of whom evidence suggests were murdered seems just odd. Admittedly, the majority of bodies were cremated however this by no means eradicates the problem of, if they did not die, then where did all of those people go? There is no way of proving they did not exist, photos and records for each person makes their death undeniable, so if they are not dead then where did such vast numbers of people disappear to? Or attempts by Irving to prove that the technology at Birkinu rendered it incapable of killing such large numbers of people which, of course failed as denying the Holocaust is very similar to denying the second world war itself: there is too much evidence and there are too many testimonies for it to be rationally rendered false.
   Curiosity overtook me soon after the lesson, I thought that such a previously well-respected historian surely could not draw such badly considered conclusions concerning historical events? It seemed irrational and so further research seemed necessary, thus leading me to a garish, dated website whose navigation bar at the top of every page had at the top of the drop-down bar 'Mr Irving, please take me to...' where I was invited to chose from a variety of equally patronising options.
   Instead of a series well thought out and planned arguments designed to convince the many sceptics that actually his ideas have some ground there was a web archive listing links on his case, accompanied by blunt, immature remarks on how Mr Irving was clearly wronged. His information on Hitler, the Nazi Regime and History itself showed little of his presumed skill and knowledge, again just lists of links of other people's research concerning the subject again with the same immature remarks. In reality this man seems to have removed himself so far from his once intelligent image and in effect made a laughing stock out of himself by refraining from using detailed points, evidence, explanation then connecting his ideas, a basic technique given to fourteen year old history students. It really does lead to serious questioning regarding the others sharing his views if such a man is dubbed 'the most skillful preacher of Holocaust denial in the world today' and unofficial publicist of their cause. Not to mention the great deal of skepticism it duly raises regarding what their ultimate goals could be as they continue to enthusiastically yet so unconvincingly try to argue something so obvious had never happened.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Intellectual Stereotyping

Over the past year of working as a sales advisor in the childrenswear department of a well-respected, popular high street chain I have witnessed many interesting things. Working with so many different members of the public and getting a chance to examine their shopping as I scan it has, in my opinion given me an amazing insight into the  different things people value as important and worth spending their hard-earned money on.
 Without a moment's hesitation however, I would say that the most interesting aspect of working there is the assumption from the majority of customers that as I am employed within retail, I must therefore be academically inferior. I have been 'corrected' on my mathematical accuracy, my knowledge and understanding of retail law, my grasp of store policy and even what is being reguarly repeated through the tannoy system. Yet the amount of times this correction has been genuine? At a push I think I could count these times on one hand. The unfounded feelings of superiority that are rarely stifled seem out of place, and on a parr with the regular games played by customers of 'guess the college course' in going against basic manners. As it is I am starting on my year 13 work at my local sixth form, I'm studying: history, religious studies, English literature and psychology and getting reasonably good grades, out of the original team of where I work (so when the store itself first opened) I was actually the least qualified there. Every single person there had either a degree already or where working towards them, yet random people still had the audacity to try and tell us we were stupid?
 My personal favorite was when a man was speaking to me in the same tone as would be used on a toddler whilst they were being potty trained when I noticed the book in his hand was a biography of Mao by the Chinese author Jung Chang. Admittedly I haven't yet read the book, however I adore Wild Swans (by the same author) so started quizzing the gentlemen on the book and compared it to Wild Swans and we discussed Chinese Human Rights. It's only small, but still, any victory is good, and the feeling of satisfaction from knowing I'd changed one person's mind, in part made up for the six others over the following weeks inquiring as to how my health and beauty course was going at college....

My first post!

I have finally created a slightly less frivolous blog, which will hopefully give a slightly more meaningful edge to my internet footprint than my habit of repeatedly re blogging photos of long hair on tumblr and gossiping on facebook. I hope this blog will give me a chance to put my views and observations  across in a constructive way, as well as being a window for me to share things which I consider of utmost importance (namely human rights, education, culture and various opinions regarding society). Enjoy! :)