3 Jul

Dear readers, my dear friend Alec emailed me today and asked me if I was ok, seeing as I had not posted a blog for quite a while. I told him I was suffering from ‘Brexit’ – a condition whereby the brain temporarily exits stage left due to incredulity.

Many years ago my brother Tim came home from primary school to report to our mother that he had been punished for misbehaviour. His teacher, Mrs Kay, had hit him across his hand with a ruler for persistently using the ‘wrong’ colours when colouring in a scene. Orange grass for example, green sky – that sort of perfidy.

The next day our mother steamed in to school and tore several strips off the teacher and the Head. Yet, ever aware of our needs, she asked our neighbour Mike Green (optician) to check Tim’s vision out.

Mike showed my brother a little booklet of Ishihara colour tests and discovered that Tim could read even the most obscure ones (left). Tim is colour blind.

Over the years Tim has turned this minor handicap into a boon, with the leverage of his very flexible scientific mind.

In the 1980’s he was studying for his Ph.D. on oyster biology in Jamaica. He relied on old fashioned histological (microscopy) colour dye test to assess the parasite loads in cultivated oysters (parasites reduce commercial yield). He also needed to ask colleagues to look down his microscope to check the colour reaction, because he could not see it (red).

Eventually he was able to short circuit this problem by developing a new antibody test, that did not rely on colour change, using state of the art molecular technology. His line of research led directly to a very successful career in molecular evolution.

Why might it be useful for all of us to be a little ‘colour blind’?

By now the world has absorbed the shocking reality that the citizens of the ‘Dis-United’ Kingdom have voted to leave the European Common Market in a referendum.

How do we understand this? Have we doughty Brits suddenly found a more lucrative way to peddle our wares and do business?

Well, no. It turns out that a majority of the population are deeply concerned with immigration – to the extent that a significant proportion  may be deeply racist. They would rather pull up the metaphorical rating draw bridge and ‘go back to the way things were’ (three day week, national strikes, bloody awful food, no avocado pears, vile beer….). Clearly some of us are NOT colour blind.

Unlike my brother these people have not recognised the myriad opportunities that colour blindness brings:

Hybrid vigour, cultural exchange, philosophical enrichment, import of skills and the joy of diversity, great food, opportunities to work abroad and so on.

Since the referendum on the EEC at the end of June racist abuse and spontaneous aggression towards Polish, Black, Muslim – indeed anyone not deemed ‘British’ in the eyes of the abuser – have increased significantly.

What are our leaders and betters doing about this? In fact they have no solutions and are busy squabbling over power, convulsed in internecine back biting both Tory and Labour are playing leadership contests. NO ONE seems to be addressing the future of the UK outside the EEC or making a plan.

So this is what I would like to propose:



1. Let us forge a new, written British constitution of rights and responsibilities that enshrine the kinship of all humans on these Islands of ours. Everyone should contribute, but please let’s pay attention to the writings of our neighbours – the Scottish Philosophers (David Hume, Francis Smith, James Hutton and so on – The Scottish Enlightenment and the Importance of Reason– they have plenty to say on the human condition and represent the very best of British Exports – Our Rational Ideas.

It will be an even bigger disaster if, following ‘Brexit’, the United Kingdom loses Scotland to a devolution vote.

2. Educated people are politely asked to please stop looking down their patrician noses at the people who voted ‘out’ and pay attention to what they are really saying. “Pay attention to us”. They are part of British Society too, they need to be given the chance to articulate their fears, address their legitimate concerns and contribute. In this regard let us re-examine Freedom of the Press. Newspapers are never ‘free’ and are certainly not ‘independent’ – we are still easily duped by propaganda it seems.

3. Declare a state of Emergency Colour Blindness. It is time to see through the skin colour of our brothers and sisters to the human being beneath, to open our ears and our hearts and minds. To put the ‘Great’ back into Britain.

How about a national ‘Ishihara’ test? A little booklet of real British people in which we try to guess their heritage and their contribution – to  remind us that colour blindness is a most desirable trait. It is what we do that defines us, not the colour of our skin.IMG_5287.

4 Responses to “Blind”

  1. SignedArouge July 4, 2016 at 2:11 am #

    I really like this post for it speaks wonders!

    It’s really sad to see how many people are suffering from being ‘colour blind’ these days. I wish we could stop judging and work together. Hatred stops love from intervening.

    Good points about where to go from here, everybody still seems to be stuck on the result and are not discussing what to do now.


  2. Ian C. Makin July 4, 2016 at 11:45 pm #

    I read your commentary with interest-one correction I would like to make to your information is that nearly half (49%) of leave voters said the biggest single reason for wanting to leave the EU was “the principle that decisions about the UK should be taken in the UK”. The next biggest reason was that one third (33%) said the main reason was that leaving “offered the best chance for the UK to regain control over immigration and its own borders.” As a very strong leave supporter, for reasons other than these mentioned here, I cannot really understand why the understandably disappointed remain camp keep suggesting that the leavers left mainly because of immigration, when any decent analysis of information eg the link posted here, would suggest otherwise.

    • woodenhenk July 5, 2016 at 4:54 am #

      Fair point, but not germaine to my argument, which concerns the racism in this sceptred isle, which seems to be endemic. My suggestion, which needs no correction, because it is only an idea, is one based upon the principle of conciliation – finding a solution to the schism created by the referendum in a population ill-equipped to cope with democracy. A solution neither camp has been able to provide. Also, as a European by birth and an immigrant defacto, who has been brought up and educated in the UK, I am proud to be British and of my citizenship. I am not convinced the vast majority of my country men and women actually know what it means to be a citizen. We do have a sovereign – the Queen, but we are not citizens sensu stricto, we are her subjects. We, the people have ceded all our power to a parliament elected in an archaic, first-past-the-post non-representational way, which still has to ask the Queen to open her doors to debate. On this one opportunity the public had to express their feelings, they could only do so through the narrowest of tropes: “Should I stay or should I go?” in the words of The Clash. In the end the result was not surprising – we ended up with two ‘camps’. We don’t need to go camping, we need to heal a nation. As you can see, our politicians are unable to even begin to find a way forward – because they too behave like subjects and not citizens. Only Enoch Powell and Tony Benn understood this – polar political opposites, but great intellectuals that they both were. As Auden said – “to the average man in the street, the word intellectual means someone who is untrue to his wife’. Racism is a symptom of anti-intellectualism. Intellectuals need to engage with the man in the street – honestly and not patronisingly (like Cammeron, Farrago, Osborne, Gove…etc) – too many empires have fallen to bloody ruin when they are ignored.

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