I think the sum total of the amount of time I've spent watching Channel 4's Big Brother since it began several years ago is... ooh... probably round about twenty minutes. But even I haven't been able to escape the palaver around the alleged racial abuse of one of its current inmates, the Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty. The thing I find most intriguing about this particular tea-cup tornado is that The People are surprised by it. Wake up and smell the ladies and gents. Racism isn't dead. It's just hidden under the sort of behaviour we like to label with terms like political correctness. It's just covered under a thin coating of - dare I say it - chapatti flour.

I'm sure I've expressed similar sentiments on this site before, but my experience of interacting with people in Britain has yet to convince me that the collective psyche isn't split along very strong 'us and them' lines. And more often that not, race is the factor that decides which side of the line you get to stand on. It's a depressing thought, but the response to the goings-on inside the Big Brother house suggests that the country is in a state of mass denial... and you know what they say about how you need to acknowledge that a problem exists before you can solve it...

Of course, things aren't helped by developments such as this one. A couple of weeks ago, MI5 announced that visitors to its site (the fact that MI5 has a site is interesting in itself, but never mind...) can register for 'terrorist threat level alerts' to be sent to them by email. Apparently, there are also plans to set up a system which would send such alerts by text message.

So after a day at work, you stop off at the corner shop to buy a pint of milk from the nice dusky gentleman behind the counter. Then you have a curry for dinner. At 9, you settle down in front of the telly to watch an Indian woman being called a poppadom. And just before going to bed, you get a text message warning you to be on the lookout for suspicious dark-skinned, bearded, young men. The term 'self-fulfilling prophecy' comes to mind.

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