Tag Archives: politics

Just the basic facts? I wish.

When is news … Well … not news but … say … propaganda.

Yes, it’s a little bit of politics this week. Yikes.

News is, and always has been, complicated. However, recently, it seems two things have happened.

  1. We’ve realised this.
  2. We are too busy to read and understand all the reasons underneath everything. We are looking for short cuts. An outlet for news which we know and trust which will tell us everything we need to know.

In short, we seem to be looking less for newspapers these days and more for a reliable friend who will research the facts so we don’t have to and give us a potted summary. I used to enjoy the news on the BBC text service because it would just report what happened. No comment or slant or suggestions as to why. Just the facts.

That’s gone now though.

Maybe there is a parallel with buying products. Take cars. Gone are the days when you could fix something that went wrong easily. These days, most cars, most things to be honest, are so complicated that a normal intelligent person cannot fix them without serious training or expertise – usually in electronics. So these days we have to trust the manufacturer to deliver something that will do what we want it to do without breaking down, blowing up or generally endangering us. As a result, brand has become a lot more important and with so much trust invested in our purchase, maybe that’s why we feel a lot more let down if the product doesn’t live up to our expectations.

News, we have something similar. I’m noticing a trend for people to pick a news service of choice and stick with that. Nothing new there. In earlier days, we all knew and accepted that these outlets had an editorial bias and you took that into account when you read or watched. There seems to have been a shift. News outlets have a much stronger bias and instead of reading them with that bias in mind, people seem to be reading them as truth and then feeling hurt and aggrieved and lied to if the ‘truths’ of their organ of choice are proved wrong.

Perhaps life, political life at any rate, has become too complicated. Perhaps our problem is that while products can be summed up in a nutshell and pitched to us in a catchy soundbite, serious and more complicated issues like news can’t.

The fact is, ‘it feels like the right thing to do’ is fine for deciding what brand or colour of washing machine you have but maybe it’s not going to cut the mustard when you are choosing a political candidate. Surely, when it comes to political or ethical issues our decisions need to be based on more facts. Except that when our news is packaged up in easily digestible soundbites and slickly marketed to us like products the facts are so difficult to ascertain.

We need the facts – without the spin and the NLP trigger words designed to titillate or shock us. The BBC used to be excellent for this and judging by the way the far right and left BOTH decry it for its ‘petty rules’ and bias it is clearly still doing reasonably well at maintaining the middle ground.

But now we have a whole new take on this. First, smaller interests in politics had to be represented – for balance. So it was that the BBC was slammed for only inviting the main contenders to political debates. So individuals like Gordon Fosdyke from the Wombling Alliance who had three followers, one of whom was a dog called Benjy suddenly got prime TV time. So did the far right. And for people with far right leanings, that was an endorsement. They began to feel it was OK to believe the things they secretly believed about people who were a different colour, sexual orientation, gender or heaven forefend, disabled. They began to forget that the reason people have frowned upon views like theirs for so long is because that kind of thinking caused one world leader to start a war a few years back in which sixty million people died. I do hope you are reading, Mr Trump, Leaders of The Caliphate etc.

People who were not aligned with the far left, the far right or those areas of religion more concerned with controlling and judging others than the love your neighbour aspect of their founders began to notice this, and at the same time, people also spotted that there were folks here in the UK preaching hatred on religious grounds. Remember the Muslim cleric preaching hate in North London? Abu Hamza. And so the new crime of inciting hatred was born.

Expressions of hatred toward someone on account of that person’s colour, race, disability, nationality (including citizenship), ethnic or national origin, religion, or sexual orientation is forbidden.” To quote Wikipedia.

Now, I have a varied group of friends and a couple are very right wing, one tells me his news organ of choice is Breitbart, a platform for the smiling face of the alt right, as I believe National Socialism is called these days. These are all guys – and it’s normally guys because it’s a hard job hating women enough to be alt right if you’re a woman – who would be first to extend a helping hand to anyone in need. The Breitbart reading lad is about as morally and spiritually unaligned with the far right as I can imagine. I confess, I have tried to read Breitbart a couple of times, more to try and understand my friend than anything. There are a lot of sweeping judgements being made, a lot of mocking others who are more accepting of the things they decry and a little bit of sick-up into my mouth at the sentiments expressed a lot of the time. Interestingly, there’s a fair bit of anti feeling against people like Mr Abu Hamza in the far right on the grounds they are preaching hate in our country – which they are. But at the same time, many of those folks speaking out against Muslims (they think all Muslims are like him) have attitudes that carbon copy his. Yet they can’t see that. Like Abu Hamza and his ilk, they target groups who are different; disabled people, LGBT people and women of course,  oh yeh, I know the score, no matter what brand of extremism you’re peddling, you all hate me because I’m a lady and I do ladies’ things.

So, obviously, as a female with a love your neighbour, rather than judgemental, religious faith, reading Brietbart is going to be a very uncomfortable experience for me. The comments are the worst bit. So much hatred. So much bile. Jeez.

However, it got me wondering how and why intelligent thinking people abandon mainstream news which is, at least, delivered by journalists who are paid and trained to do research and attempt to be factual, in favour of a site run by people who are not always journalists, nor trained in journalism and who are unapologetically pushing their own political agenda. In this case hatred of everyone who isn’t a fully able white man, as far as I can see. Maybe I’m naive.

Interestingly, a big bug bear for the far right, the religious exrtremes and the far left –  and I’m sorry anyone from either reading this BUT YOU ARE ALL THE FUCKING SAME how are you unable to see that, with the exception of a few key words swapped YOU ARE ALL PEDDLING THE SAME MESSAGE – are protestations that the BBC and other organisations like it are biased and muzzling free speech.

Thinking about it, I’m guessing the BBC has to act within the law. Since preaching hate and hate speak are a crime in the UK where it is based, then technically, I suspect that giving someone a platform Encourage people to hate one another on grounds of sexuality, religion, skin colour, ability or gender group of people is … an ethically grey area. Or to put it another way, vile AND illegal to boot. Especially if those sentiments cross the line from a political argument into the realms of hate speak which they have to, if expressed, because there is no reasoned or scientific reason to think someone’s colour, sexuality or gender makes them inferior. Our forefathers spent seven years discovering where that kind of crap gets us in the 1930s and 40s so that we don’t have to.

Guess which group of people in these pictures killed someone.

Those who had previously been given a platform, albeit briefly, to spread their poison on the BBC are now no longer able to, because preaching hate does not comply with the law of the land – even though Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and The Sun newspaper seem to get away with it on a regular basis. Generally, though, it’s frowned upon. I doubt having someone banging on about people being inferior because they’re female, or coloured or gay ties in with the BBC’s diversity guidelines either.

So, our extremist friends, unwilling to retreat back to obscurity, now pitch themselves as radical new thinkers being silenced. They cry that their ‘right’ to free speech has been curtailed. But frankly, if you preach hate, you forfeit your right to free speech. Furthermore, I can’t help wondering if going after the BBC is these peoples’ way of trying to knock out a main source of reasonably accurate news and one of the few larger ones with a more left wing bias. Clearly it’s a big threat to the extreemists on all sides if they are so keen to take it down.

It’s also important to remember that most of the human race decided, after the holocaust, and the death of sixty million people during world war two, that it was a bad thing to base political rhetoric, let alone government policy around a view that is, basically, the grown up equivalent of a toddler saying, ‘I’m not going to play with you coz you smell.’

It may well be that we need to look at immigration and how people settle here. In my view, if you walk through the streets of Luton chanting ‘death to Britain’ you really do need to have a think about what the fuck you’re doing here. And if you can’t, the government should, perhaps, help you to focus by revoking your citizenship and expelling you to whatever country your grandparents, parents or you originated from … or just expelling you; escorting you to the border and saying, ‘bye-bye mate.’

But of course, treating people who behave in an inhuman manner as anything less than human merely reduces us to being like them. That is what they do to us after all. And if we behave like them our arguments that we are better or more advanced than them become moot. That is what extremes are about, uniting us in our distrust  and suspicion of others. Tribalism, basically, a once useful instinct, but one that counts for little when used in excess or without logic, even if it is very powerful.

It seems to me that extremism, in any form, never got anyone anywhere long term, it brought us the Pogroms and Stalin, the concentration camps, North Korea and Cambodia under Pol Pot, The Daesh and medieval Bedouin law in a twenty first century state. It never turns out well. It is proven flawed. There are bigots in every religion and every flavour of politics but fighting their bigotry with a different type of our own bigotry doesn’t help. It just makes two groups of bigots where there was one.

So reading the news? Well, I tend to try and do what people used to do. I watch mainstream news aware that agendas are being pushed. I try to look at the facts behind what is happening. If I read the Telegraph, I accept it has a tory agenda, likewise, I accept that the Guardian is more left wing. But I do at least know that the people working there are, mostly, journalists, and that they believe it’s their job to produce well researched, well balanced arguments. If they fail to include hate speak, or refute the rhetoric of hate speak, that’s a bonus to me. It’s definitely not a problem and not a denial of anyone’s ‘rights’. We should have grown beyond the use of hate speak as a political tool.

I leave you with this lovely flyer that a beer company in the States produced in response to a visit from a white supremacist speaker to their town.

NB: Gordon Fosdyke from the Wombling Alliance is not real.

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The Daesh: it’s not because they’re Muslims, it’s because they’re tossers. #WeStandTogether #LondonBridge #wearenotafraid #thingsthatgetbritainreeling

Cynicism/Satire Warning.

This is a very cynical article which generalises a tad, here and there, and I swear and get political in places. And I call ISIS the Daesh all the way through because I gather they don’t like that.

I am also rude about President Trump and anyone else who is stupid enough to think that just because this was done in the name of Islam, all Muslims are bad. Because that’s bollocks. Most of them are pissed off and/or embarrassed.


After last night’s attack I looked at the internet: lots of tweets from very right wing people against Muslims which, barring different words to describe the targets, read like the kinds of tweets the Daesh put out, because whatever they think they believe, extremists tend to be carbon copies of one another, and too fucking stupid, to a man, to realise that, of course.

Go Beer Man!

To that end, I had had an attack of What Would Jesus Do? And I sat down today at my computer thinking that it was important that someone normal spoke out and said something to stop all the over-reactive wanky shit being spewed about Muslims. But there wasn’t anyone normal available so I realised I’d have do it instead.

Luckily, after an American newspaper described us as reeling and panicking because that’s what they would have done, other faster, quicker-witted British people woke up, while I was still phaffing around, and did this: #thingsthatgetbritainreeling

Ah yes, nobody does gallows humour like us Brits.

Seriously though, why does anyone bother to do terrorism here? Barring a brief hiatus where the IRA/UDA and the Daesh did a high five and swapped, we’ve pretty much all grown up with it. And the few of us who haven’t grew up with the war. Keep calm and carry on, etc. It’s just same old same old to us.

More tea vicar?

In the 1970, 80s and early 90s there was a lot of sectarian violence. Basically what happened with that was that two groups of Christians spent a lot of time and effort kicking the living shit out of one another in Northern Ireland and also in a lot of the main ship building cities in mainland Britain when many Northern Irish who’d come from the mainland a generation before, transferred their skills back again. And when nobody took enough notice, they started kicking the living shit out of everyone else. I come from a little village just outside Brighton. One of the groups of Christians blew up the Grand Hotel, one of the biggest in the Borough, along with half the cabinet at the time.

Trust me on this, I saw the hole that left. No photograph does it justice. If you go there today, you can still see how massive it was because the balconies they replaced are slightly different. You could put several houses and a Zeppelin into that hole. It was fucking enormous. But did anyone say, ‘These Christians are all bastards! They should be sent away.’

Nope. Don’t recall it. But then, I suppose they were white and Christians (about as un Christian in attitude as they could get but hey) and a lot of Americans were funding them anyway. Maybe there’s a crossover there.

Later, I lived in London during the bombing campaign in the 1990s. Apparently they sent coded messages beforehand sometimes. But I don’t recall that ever stopping the carnage. I heard two bombs go off, but didn’t see them. Conversely, two of my flat mates were standing outside the Sussex pub in Covent Garden when it blew up. That was pretty grim.

But you know what the people of London did when these charmers bombed the shit out of us? That’s right, we extended the middle finger, just the way Manchester has done recently and London is doing again now, and we carried on. And yes, I’d say we may even have kept calm. Like this guy.

How many pints this morning Mrs Spigot?

It’s weird, but bombing Britain is pointless, because you should know by now, all we’re going to do is make tasteless jokes about it and ignore you. And what have the recent attacks done? Really? They’ve had Mancuinans and Londoners helping one another, offering strangers, food, tea, blankets and beds for the night. People of different cultures, backgrounds and ethnicity reaching out the hand of friendship to one another. Paying for taxis home for people, putting them up in hotels. For all the sadness and anger, what these acts of hate have also done is cause an outpouring of kindness, love and understanding.

Likewise, I may be a bit out of step with the zeitgeist here, but from what I recall, as I was growing up, most people realised that the people who committed these acts of terrorism back then were not doing it because they were Protestant, or because they were Catholic, not even because they were Irish. Indeed, maybe, by that time, they weren’t even that bothered about acting in the name of their cause. No. The reason they bombed people was actually because they were wankers.

Likewise, the Daesh are not committing atrocities because they are Muslims. They’re doing it because they’re cunts.

What a total bell end.

I think it’s important that people hoist that in – I’m looking at you Trump with your stupid tweet about how much safer it would have been if it had happened in Amurka where everyone is armed. Because yes, three blokes intending to kill can do so much more damage with a knife each and a van (yes it’s a van not a truck you orange, nylon-haired retard) than with the uzis or sub machine guns or whatever they’d have bought over the counter for the purpose in the States. So much safer over there Mr Trump, especially with you in charge.

OK, but on a more serious note now. If you were in last night’s attack, or if you know anyone who was, or even if you end up seeing something similar in future, I think it’s important that I point this out.

One of my flat mates got PTSD. So if you were there, even if you were Beer Man strolling away from the carnage with your pint, you might find it affects you. If you get flashbacks, have trouble sleeping, if you’re afraid of every little noise outside, if you’re afraid you’re being followed when you walk down the street at night … well, you know there might be a reason.

Back in the 1990s my flatmates and I, we didn’t know about PTSD. Looking back on it now, I realise that is what my flatmate suffered. She’s fine now but for a while she had a really hard time. She saw some pretty horrible shizz. People covered in blood, screaming, someone lying on the pavement covered in blood who wasn’t moving. Stuff that haunted her. She also had a disability, so she knew that when it struck, she would lose consciousness and be dependent on others to help her and I think seeing that from the other side, albeit in a totally different way, made it worse.

So, if you or someone you love was there in London, or in Manchester, and survived, it’s absolutely OK to seek help. In fact it’s probably sensible, because even if you don’t realise it, you may need it.

We are going to London in a couple of weeks for a birthday treat. I admit I am nervous but we are still going to go. Indeed, I almost feel it’s my moral duty to do so now – a bit like my parents going on an art tour of Iran three months after 9.11 (‘It was wonderful darling, there was hardly anyone there!’ but that’s another story). And especially after the Manchester kids who were affected exorcising their fears – and demons – by going to the benefit concert, a couple are singing in the choir. That said, I freely admit that I will be having The Conversation about what we would do if horror struck, because I can’t run. Whether, with the adrenaline pumping, it would be possible I don’t know, but I can’t normally because of the pain. So I have to sit McOther down and explain that if the shit hits the fan, he must take McMini to safety and leave me to hide. I will have a phone, after all, and as soon as it is safe, I will call him.

Lastly, if you are worried about relatives or friends who may have been in the London attacks, here are two numbers you can call:  0800 0961233 or 0207 1580197

And Manchester too.

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Oh dear, it’s not them. It IS me. #remain #leave

Well, this has been an interesting week. For better, or worse, Britain has voted to leave the EU. As a mum with an 8 year old in a local state school with a very wide range of nationalities attending, the majority of voters asked in my extensive Playground Polls came up Remain.

There is a reason. This:

Evilposter

A lizard with opposable thumbs in front of a racist poster.

In the absence of any real facts, and after right wring extremists murdered an MP for her pro-IN, pro-refugee, humanitarian beliefs, it was all about sticking it to the racists for us. So what I saw winning, when Leave won, was fascism and a sheep like mass of people voting the way they were told to by the Sun.

And we’re at the beginning of the century, the world economy went down the toilet a few years ago and is still only recovering. And despite that recovery it’s left a lot of people in deep, deep financial plop. Which is a worry. Because that’s the kind of climate in which fascism takes root as folks look for someone to blame and some of the rhetoric flying around about immigration and letting in refugees is … disturbingly familiar.

However, I have a handful of highly intelligent, sensible friends voting Leave. They’re good people, decent people, one is about where I am politically, one way to the right but the other two are further left. They are never going to vote for racism, no way, no how – even the right winger. So I asked a couple of them what the hell they were doing.

They put forward lot arguments which made sense – but all the arguments for both sides make sense when you uncover the facts that’s part of the trouble – but the salient point was one about how they believe the people of this country feel about politics.

Which is, that our politicians are condescending, aloof, self important and that they no longer listen to, nor have any respect for the people they are supposed to serve. My Leave friends felt that through the gradual change, over the years, from debate over the issues to personal attacks, most politicians have not so much lost our respect as earned our contempt. We believe what they say about one another. That’s why so many young people don’t or won’t vote, which is bats of them but that’s another story.

Furthermore, many leavers are every day people, but poor people, the folks who feel disenfranchised and without hope, because successive governments have stood by and let their places of work – in some cases, whole industries – die. Leavers are people who worked in our pottery industry, our coal industry, our manufacturing industry, dairy farming, fruit growing, the Cadbury factory, the steel industry. Most of our heavy industry was up north. And that’s why the folks up there are angry. The big agricultural areas in East Anglia voted Leave too. And a lot of the seasiders.

They feel that when their livelihoods and their whole communities were at risk, successive Governments, labour and Conservative stood by, didn’t step in, didn’t help. Failed them. And yes, there are probably more positve things to do than concentrate on your anger and bitterness about a past that is gone and a future that cannot be. But maybe they were just trying all that time to get someone, somewhere, to listen. And heaven knows, I graduated into a recession, I felt washed up, useless, dismissed as junk before my working life even began so I can actually really sympathise with that.

And so when the government asks for their help now their reply was a resounding fuck off, in this case, in the form of a Leave vote, to sock it to the Man. Whereas we in Remain, even if we’d thought of it, would probably have demurred from socking it to the Man when it’s just swapping one Man for another.

I suspect many people, both those voting IN and those voting Leave, may well share some very similar sentiments about our politics and politicians. We just reacted in different ways.

And in that one thing, lies our hope.

MPs have to learn from this, they have to start believing again, they have to relearn humility, that they are public servants, that it’s not about power for them but about working for us. And those who take such things seriously need to make sure that we, the electorate, realise that they, at least, are listening. They need to be Jo Cox, not Boris Johnson.

And as for tomorrow. What’s done is done. This is complicated, and it will be difficult. A lot depends on the negotiations surrounding exit. I hope Scotland and Northern Ireland give it some time to see what we come out with before they vote to leave and the UK is broken. Because it looks as if we, Britain, might actually have a chance at a new beginning, a new start. It’s up to us. It doesn’t have to be about racism, immigration and bigotry. It can be about unity, it can be like the 2012 Olympics.

Because for all my initial horror at the result, and for all the wailing and gnashing of teeth I’ve done on Facebook with my like minded friends, when we get to the bottom of things, it turns out that despite being on opposite sides of the debate, many of the folks who voted Leave are closer are closer to us than we think. And if they are we can work with that.

Here’s hoping.

Some good pro leave posts:

Roughseas – there are some good comments on this one and I had a long chat with her too: https://roughseasinthemed.wordpress.com/2016/06/24/brexit-its-real
Jim Webster, again more comment chat as well: https://jandbvwebster.wordpress.com/2016/06/24/the-road-from-the-bigoted-woman-stops-here/

A couple of good pro remain posts from writers, like myself, who hadn’t even thought of sticking it to the Man:

Chuck Wendig the thinking American’s view: http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2016/06/24/you-want-trump-this-is-how-you-get-trump/
Charlie Stross sums up the initial feeling in Remain at the result: http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2016/06/tomorrow-belongs-to-me.html
Lee Harris – just a nice cynical post about the Remain point of view. http://leeaharris.com/brexit/
I need to comment on these.

 

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Surviving trolls, extremism and other curses of modern life

<<<<POLITICS WARNING read on at your own risk, I can guarantee I’ll offend the entire world with this one.>>>>

A couple of weeks ago, I was standing on a rain soaked road in France in a Barbour which is not at all waterproof looking at this field. In all truth, I didn’t really connect. It looks pretty unremarkable but the odds are that if I’d been there 600 years earlier I’d have seen the bodies of several thousand French soldiers, 3 days dead, most stripped completely naked by looters from the desperately poor local population after the important stuff had been removed by the English (I bet those clothes lasted some local families a couple of generations). That’s because 600 years (and 3 days) previously we are about as sure as we can be sure of anything in history that the battle of Agincourt was fought on this particular field.20151029_114039

As I understand it, one of the defining aspects of the battle was that the ground became a quagmire. People sank in the mud and suffocated, just as they did 500 years later, a few miles down the road, on the Western Front. Once I heard that it made connecting a little bit easier.

There’s no hint of the carnage that took place there now. There’s a museum, a memorial and not much else. It was a bloodbath and it horrified the people of its time just as the first world war did, just as the deaths of those 60,000,000 victims of the second world war (if you count civilians) did, just as 9.11, 7.7 and last week do.

Those Agincourt deaths are not at the forefront of our consciousness any more. As I said, the area is not far from the fields which comprise what was once, part of the front line in WW1. Likewise, apart from the odd memorial and the war graves you wouldn’t necessarily understand the horror of war from what’s there now. Although the bucolic peace belies the truth, farmers are still killed and injured every year by unexploded ordnance buried under the tranquil landscape. They will be for some time. Things are not always as they seem.

Maybe, as wars pass out of living memory, they cease to be so real to us. How do we keep remembering, understanding?

When I grew up there were plenty of people around who had fought in the second world war and still some who had fought in the first. It was in their consciousness at all times, and so it was in ours.

As they die out there is one experience in my life that I begin to value more and more. An RS lesson I was given when I was about 17. It comprised my A level set, three of us, the teacher and a visiting Bishop. He was about 70, Mark Greene his name was, and he was sitting on a rickety arm chair which tipped up, dumping him onto the floor. I remember that. I particularly remember our poor teacher’s flustered efforts to help him up and his calm, unfazed reassurances that he was fine.

But what I really remember about that lesson was the story he told us. At the end of the war he was with a detachment of forces in Germany and on the day it was liberated, he was the 20th allied soldier to walk into Belsen.

We didn’t know that’s what he was, of course, I’m not sure the teacher even did. I don’t even remember how it cropped up. There’s a bit of a memory gap between the chair incident and it suddenly hitting me, very forcefully that this man was telling us what it was like to walk into a death camp for the first time, when you hadn’t realised they existed, when you didn’t understand, first hand, what human beings were capable of doing to one another, or at least, in an era when the general consensus of opinion was that we’d evolved past all that.

He proceeded to tell us about the experience. What he felt, smelled and saw. I have seen videos of what was there since which cast a whole new light on his words and made his understated, calm description of the facts all the more powerful. He wasn’t ’emotional’ as he described it. He cried no tears. But the strength of feeling in his voice was striking. He avoided emotional trigger words, he told us about the smell of excrement and rotting bodies but spared the grisly details. He talked about seeing piles of grey sticks and only realising, at second or third glance, that they were people and that some were still alive, just, and moving. I remember thinking that I was hearing about one of the defining moments of the 20th Century from a man who was actually there. I still get goose pimples when I think about it. Mainly because I suspect I am unlikely ever to come so close to history again.

And then Paris last week. And all the absolute tosh that’s been talked on the internet since about religion, and the Muslim faith. We don’t seem to be learning do we?

Aldus Huxley, I think it was Aldus Huxley, said, “Propaganda is the art of convincing one group of people that another group of people is not human.”

One of the defining things about the concentration and death camps was that the victims were stripped of all humanity. They were not to be dignified with a name. They were given a number. Their names were verboten. They all wore the same uniforms. They were as robots. Nothing.

And that’s how you hate. That’s how the Daesh are able to kill the way they do. Because to them a non Daesh child is not a human child. Then again, I’m not sure how the Daesh manage to have kids because as I understand the tenets of their extreme doctrine, their menfolk believe women aren’t human either.

So how do we beat them? Well, turning their victims away, or ‘Closing the UK’s borders until Isis is defeated’ is patently bollocks. Making all Muslims wear an armband, well, yes, Mr Trump, I refer you back to Belsen. We’ve done that before, quite recently and I don’t recall it working out well. You need to have a word with yourself mate.

Someone at church the other day who said there is an easy way to make all these memorials to past battles mean, or continue to mean, something. Give the dead names. Pick one solider, research him, find out who he was. Suddenly they stop being numbers and turn back into people. And after last week, in Paris, I thought that all the more.

It’s very easy to generalise about people, to isolate ourselves, to become ‘them and us’ about practically everything. Now more than ever we seem to be particularly vulnerable to a black and white generalist view of the world which is simply a lie, a fairy story totally removed from the truth which we tell ourselves because we cannot handle the uncertainty of grey.

I can see it in myself. When it popped up in the news recently that Jihadi John had almost certainly been killed in a bombing raid my first instant thought was, ‘serves him bloody well right. You live by the sword you die by the sword.’ But then I thought about it some more. It’s hard to consider someone like Jihadi John as a human being. Really hard. But somewhere he has parents and family who loved him, some might even be anguished by what he has done. Somewhere there might have been a mother, a father, a wife begging him to turn to compassion and humanity again like the family of an addict begging them to forsake the bottle. We are all equal, we are all human. He was a sad pathetic thing, broken inside, but to deny his humanity, however much he seems to have forfeited his right to be seen as human, maybe that is the cause of the trouble.

People like Jihadi John, people like the lads who killed all those people in Paris, probably get off on the feeling of power or that they are physically doing something to make a difference than politics. It’s in our nature to want to change the world. That’s why we’re high achievers in so many ways. Their acts are inhuman so perhaps the only way we can defeat their inhumanity is by holding onto our humanity.

The minute we cease to see your enemy as a human being, you have given in to hate. In my view, if we give into hate, we’re no better than they are. An ability to love and respect others is what sets normal people apart from the extremists. The way to understand the gravity and the evil of war is not to look at the casualty numbers, it’s to remember that they are people. To give them names.

Every now and again, someone special comes along like Jesus, Budda, Mohamed and the like and they try to persuade people to treat each other as they’d like to be treated themselves. It’s ironic, isn’t it, how fast we manage to turn that into intolerance and hatred. If the devil exists, he must be laughing.

If we have a battle cry, perhaps it should be that of Antoine Leiris, whose wife, Helene was killed at the Bataclan.

“I will not give you the gift of hating you.”

It seems to me that, if ever we need to foster a culture of love and tolerance, it’s now.

 

 

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Politics: MTM’s post election rantathon.

You’re probably wondering whether or not I’m still alive so I thought I’d better put your mind at rest. To be honest, there are three reasons for my absence, first a sudden and abrupt cessation of all free downloads for my books had me scurrying to tweak key words, check categories etc on all the major book retail sites – I’m still none the wiser and thinking I’ll probably have to chalk it up to experience… ‘kismet Hardy’ and all that.

Second, I’ve had to learn to do some stuff and it took a while… more on that story next post.

Third, the election. For those who don’t know, there’s been an election here in the UK and even for politics, this one has left a really bad taste in the mouth. Perhaps I spend too much time on the internet but the whole thing seems to have been fought on the politics of hate: them and us, rich and poor, north and south.  I wanted to post something but I was so annoyed that I couldn’t make it articulate or un ranty enough. At the same time, I couldn’t  manage to post anything else until I’d written about the election. I’m still having difficulty being articulate and it’s still a bit of a rantathon. But it’s been a whole month now and this will have to do.

The aftermath of the election was also grim. There was a lot of silly, shitty ‘people who voted for … are the devil’s spawn’ style generalisations on Facebook. One person even asked that anyone who’d voted for one party to unfriend her because she didn’t want to know them. Like uh? For real?

That seems a little extreme. Perhaps there’s a very real need in all of us for a religion, or something like it. But I wonder how it is that people who are staunch rationalists or atheists are sometimes able to turn to politics with the exact same zeal and blind belief that they mock in those of religion. Maybe the human psyche has to believe ‘passionately’ in something. But believing in a political party? I have strong beliefs on what is right and wrong but the ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ of politics seems quite murky. A party which has some great ideas in its manifesto is guaranteed to have some that, to my mind anyway, are complete pants at best, at worst, wrong or possibly even unwittingly evil. So it’s a case of compromise there’s no perfect absolute. Not for me. I’m drifting from the point though. Back to the them and us.

Doubtless all this categorising of other humans rallies the troops and makes it easier to produce catchy sound bites but unfortunately, it tends to do so at the expense of a huge uplift in pointless, ignorance-based, alienation and hatred. Perhaps I’m sensitive about this, because in the eyes of a sizeable chunk of the population my geographical origins render me unspeakable, so I’ve been on the receiving end of a lot of it over the years.

That’s also why I, personally, can no more think it’s ‘the right thing to do’ to vote blindly for one political party without thought than I could cut my own arm off. Would we put such unthinking trust in a group of fallible humans if they were running a multinational? Should we blindly obey people who want us to vote for their right to wield power and run a whole country? Probably not. Let’s face it, power is guaranteed to bring out the bad side of the strongest among us. So my view is that we need to mix the ruling parties up as regularly as possible so they don’t get too used to it and remember who put them where they are.

However, despite not liking politics, or politicians, very much I think standing with your fingers in your ears going, ‘la la la la I’m not going to play’ and refusing to vote is probably worse. Yes, I’m sure if nobody voted they’d have to change but I doubt that would be with the revolution some folks want. Most likely they’d simply take even less notice of those they are supposed to govern than they do now. Or we’d really have a revolution. Like Syria. There are few things more uncivil than a civil war.

As a child, I grew up in a situation where the people around me came from all walks of life, all social backgrounds and all levels of income, and they were friends. I’ve never quite got the hang of ‘them and us’ because the people in my life have always been too eclectic a mix so support the concept. Everyone was a ‘them’ of some sort. As a result of this, when I vote, I vote for the people I think will do the least damage to the country at the time. I have voted Green, Liberal, Labour and Conservative.

That’s why I found it profoundly depressing: the way that this election seemed to be fought on the politics of hate, with (otherwise) intelligent rational individuals urging us to vote for their respective political parties – on the internet at any rate –  on the grounds that it was ‘the right thing to do’: as if their manifesto was some infallible dictat laid down by God, while at the same time happily mouthing poisonous platitudes from the mother ship decrying the moral turpitude of anyone who voted for a different bunch.

Do we really fall for this ‘everyone in party x is a knob’ style shit?

The fact is this.

THERE WILL ALWAYS BE WANKERS IN THE WORLD. I know! Drop down dead in shock! But yes it’s true. A small minority of the human race are just total tossers. Nothing will change this and it isn’t anyone’s fault. But, contrary to popular belief, their monthly income, accent, occupation, the identity of their antecedents, whether or not they’re vegetarian are allergy sufferers or drive a certain type of car, or drive at all, their birth place, current home, school they went to, parents’ occupation, gender, social standing, social background, stance on animal rights, religion, colour or political affiliation has absolutely NO bearing on whether or not a person will be a twat. In short you cannot just pick a random aspect or experience about their life and say that everyone else who shares it is a tosser, well… I suppose you can, but only if you’re a tosser of epic proportions yourself.

So there we go peps, when you next read a statement that runs along the lines of ‘everyone who voted labour is a twat,’ or conversely, ‘anyone who voted conservative is a knob,’ made by someone pitching it as actual truth, we can all have a quiet chuckle at who the real dick head is.

On the up side, my faith in the British public has been boosted enormously by the fact that UKIP didn’t get in.

For a light hearted take on the way we in the, laughingly named, ‘united’ Kingdom all hate each other, just spool to 2.45 on this vid and watch Andy Parsons sum it up.

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