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» This book changed my life

3) Mein Kampf
by Adolf Hitler

Right, let's not lynch me. I've read the Bible, and I'm not Christian. I've read the Koran, and I'm not Muslim. Having read Mein Kampf does not make me a Nazi. Quite the opposite, in fact.

I've always believed in having informed opinions. If I'm going to denounce Christianity as a load of bollocks, surely I need to understand just what it is I'm disagreeing with. It is for this reason that I frequently became disillusioned in history or politics lessons. Nazism = bad was frequently drummed into our heads, without any reason behind it. Sure, Hitler had millions killed; but so did Oliver Cromwell, that doesn't mean that Republics are necessarily bad.

So, armed with this information, we follow Thinker into a year 9 History lesson. The topic, of course, is the Second World War, and Nazism, and how evil the Nazis are, and how every German person was a mixture of stupid and evil.

Surely not, thought I. Surely the German people were just.. mis-informed? Misled? Perhaps there was some vote-rigging? Surely, no mass population would ever vote in a leader on the promise of genocide?

Then, using a combination of dial-up Internet and real paper-based, non-Wiki encyclopaediae, I learned of a book called Mein Kampf. Written by Adolf Hitler, it detailed his mad thoughts, his insane ramblings, his ideals and, most of all, the story of his life.

Intrigued, I tracked a copy down, and bought it. I've no idea where the proceeds went to, actually. Still, a fiver's hardly going to re-establish a Reich, my 14-year-old brain reasoned.

And so, I read it. It was a frightfully boring tome, poorly written, and with the occasional outrageous statement going completely without support or backup. He'd make ridiculous claims about the Jews in general, and their evil, sick tendencies. I noticed, throughout the book, that the Jews were always treated as a collective. As were Communists, Gays, Gypsies and so on. But there were never Jewish scientists. No Jewish doctors, no Gay policemen, no Communists in the army. No, the Jews acted as a collective. One Jew was the same as any other. This helped to dehumanise them.

Of course, I don't want to go into repeating the book, or summarising it, or whatever. If you want to find out what it says, go read it.

The most striking thing, though; the way in which reading this hate-filled literary record of one madman's bile change my life; is how I read, see and hear eerily similar sentiments expressed today.

Replace "Jews" with "Immigrants", and you could be reading the Daily Mail. You could be listening to your favourite yob at the pub, or chav on the street, complaining about "Immigrants". The usual "coming over here, stealing our jobs" stereotype directed at non-whites in general is sickening.

Having read Mein Kampf, and learning about the horrors committed during World War II, I make terrifying extrapolations.

The Germans of the 1930s were no stupider, nor more evil, than the majority of modern Britons. Mein Kampf was nothing more than an early version of the Daily Mail. It politicised the thick, alerted them to the "injustices" against them, and it earned Hitler votes. It got Hitler into power.

With the rise of far-right nationalist parties such as the BNP, I fear the same thing happening in Britain. Ordinary, working-class Britons have no interest in politics. But if the BNP or a worse party could politicise them, feed them bullshit about the injustices they face, alert them to the evils of "the Immigrant".. it's very scary.

I believe that, had I never read Mein Kampf, I wouldn't see this in the same way. I could possibly have just followed, accepted that the Germans were stupid and evil, and that the modern British were above that.

I shudder to imagine myself as a Daily Mail reader. I'd like to thank Adolf Hitler for opening my eyes to what it could possibly lead to. I just wish more people were able to see.

That said, I obviously see how it'd be a bad idea to make Mein Kampf compulsory reading in schools.

Apologies for length. I can only hope it's not as dull and boring as the book itself.
(Tue 20th May 2008, 1:16, More)

» Public Transport Trauma

Back in 2003 - 2005, I found myself in a long-distance relationship. This meant a lot of commuting, and I don't drive. Don't see the point in paying thousands of pounds, just to spend thousands more pounds to go places; etc, etc, etc, I'm sure someone else has mentioned by now the financial benefits of public transport.

Anyway, I was commuting a lot, from my home town of Liverpool, to my place of residence, here in North Derbyshire. Travelling on Sundays meant I needed to change at Manchester, then change again at Sheffield. This meant a lot of time was spent sat around at Manchester Piccadilly, on Platforms 13 & 14. Does anyone know why these Northbound platforms are so far out of the way, outside and exposed to the elements?

It was here, sat on a bench outside, on a warm, sunny late Winter/early Spring day in 2004, that my bizzare encounter began. I was approached by a group of 5 youths, aged around 18-22, and all looked to be of Middle-Eastern ethnicity. They sat next to me, and began speaking in a hybrid of English and their shared native tongue. Being on my own, I was obviously a little worried by this. My fear was not allayed when the youngest of the group suddenly turned to me and said "Good Afternoon", while the rest of the group sniggered.

I replied, and conversation started up between us. It was amicable; they asked where I was going, where I'd been, why I'd been there, then they told me where they were heading up to Leeds, and they'd just been to Manchester for the day because they'd been shopping. After a while bitching about train delays, the train arrived, and I decided that it'd be rude to not sit with this group and continue our conversation.

Old Father Time has cast his veil of uncertainty over much of the conversation, but I remember small parts.

- We talked about how my long-distance relationship was going. There was general agreement among my fellow travellers that they couldn't do long-distance relationships.
- This led into a joking reference to the fact that I must masturbate a lot. Unable to argue against this, I said nothing. The eldest of the group pointed to my right arm and told me it was clearly "just a wank muscle", while laughing.
- I asked if there was anything wrong with it, and they told me that they were Muslim, and that my wanking, in their eyes, was a sin, and I was going to hell for it.

Conversation then carried on with these Muslim chaps taking the piss out of one another, each claiming the other was clearly a hell-bound wanker.

I asked if it was difficult being Muslim, and their main complaint was about the white people that won't share a train carriage with them. I admit, I looked around, and the carriage was empty except us. The next carriage was full of people, but ours was empty. Of course, this made me somewhat angry, but more disappointed. These people were alright people, a bit crude, but certainly no more so than any white kids. This was just in the wake of the Madrid train bombings, but surely these would need to be the crappest suicide bombers in the world if they all sat in the same carriage, and had seemed to target just one infidel.

Anyway, I got to Sheffield, got off the train, and headed to my next train. I didn't get a phone number or e-mail address for any of my fellow commuters, but I did get some names. The one that seemed most interested in my relationship was called Shehzad Tanweer. Hasib Hussain was the one that was angriest about the treatment of Muslims on trains.

The conversation stuck with me for a long time, and probably changed my view on Muslims, and I became more aware of their plight in life and on public transport.

Then, of course, Shehzad and Hasib went and blew themselves up on the Tube in London, worsening the nation's view of Muslims further. Were they doing it for heaven? Perhaps they thought it would cancel out their wanking sins. Whatever, they were fucking idiots for doing it, and I found myself feeling very angry at them for it. I'm still angry now. I want to shout at them. The reason the carriage was empty, the reason Hasib was so pissed off, was because of people just like the person he went on to become.

Apologies for length, etc. Writing this out has depressed me a bit, actually.
(Sat 31st May 2008, 11:23, More)

» Pet Peeves

Football fans

It doesn't fucking matter.

Get the fuck over it. Here are grown men, crying because a group of overpaid millionaires didn't get to earn more money for playing a game.

Why are the fortunes of Manchester United, Liverpool or Arsenal any more important to you than the fortunes of Little Soddington U16s Sunday League team? Are you going to mope when the football team made up of local Argos employees loses against the team made up of local Odeon employees? Of course not, because it's just a bunch of people kicking a ball around, having a laugh, in the same way that the Premier League is.

So stop taking it so fucking seriously!
(Tue 6th May 2008, 14:51, More)

» My Biggest Disappointment

Cadbury World
A chocolate factory?!

That sounds like great fun! I bet it'll be just like that other chocolate factory I read about one time!

But no... it's just a factory, that makes chocolate bars, and ships them out. No amount of chocolate bought from the shop would help me get over the crushing disappointment of seeing bored staff, a car park, and a big brown building sitting in the place where there should have been dancing Oompa Lumpas, rivers of chocolate and a forest of sweets.
(Fri 27th Jun 2008, 16:32, More)

» Pointless Experiments

Smile and Wave
A simple experiment, this one.

While travelling through the North of England on a long coach journey, I decided to smile and wave at the people I happened to pass, to see who would wave back. I was on the National Express 060, which goes Liverpool - Salford - Manchester - Falisworth - New Moston - Chadderton - Bradford - Leeds.

The first thing I noted was that more people look up at coaches than I'd realised, so the sample was larger than anticipated.

Without proper recording of the results, I wasn't able to draw up a full and detailed analysis, but I did note trends.

Of the main cities, Liverpool was the most friendly and responsive, then Bradford, then Leeds, and Manchester last. I'm not going to suggest why this may be, as I can't think of any reasons. All the cities involved are pretty similar.

I also found that black people were the happiest, often returning an enthusiastic smile and wave, while Middle-Easten/Asian people were more likely to look puzzled at me. While a few white people waved back, most seemed disinterested. One young white girl saw me, looked at her friends, then looked about her, before sticking her middle finger up to me.

I also found younger people seemed happier than older people, and men seemed happier than women.

Though my being a young-ish white male may have influenced the results a little, I still ponder on it to this day. I often repeat the experiment in other places, on other journeys, even in other countries, and I still find the same age / gender / race trends.
(Mon 28th Jul 2008, 12:13, More)
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